HD radio doesn't sound any better - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 148 Old 09-22-2008, 12:53 PM - Thread Starter
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I got the Sony, and I was surprised that HD sounds pretty much the same as regular FM, at least on the two stations I listen to the most that also transmit HD.

At this point, I'm thinking of returning it.

Are others really finding that it sounds significantly better?

Noah
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post #2 of 148 Old 09-22-2008, 01:10 PM
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You must be living in an area where there's good reception and no HD2/HD3s of interest.
There is an improvement for me, not only in sound quality, but also station selection. For a station that I receive without multipath distortion, there is no improvement. However, whereas some analog stations are fuzzy sounding (sometimes clear one day, fuzzy the next), when the HD stream starts for that station in a second or two, it clears up to perfect audio. Here in Denver, there are some stations that have terrific HD2 and some with HD3 streams, both classical and oldies. I left terrestrial radio about 10 years ago because of obnoxious DJs when I wanted music, tons of commericals, and unreliable reception. HD has brought me back.

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post #3 of 148 Old 09-22-2008, 01:13 PM
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The problem is not with the HD Radio standard, which uses AAC-like compression, allowing for pretty high quality audio, no noise, etc... The problem lies with the stations. Some use the same awful signal compression scheme on both analog and digital. Hopefully, this will change.

Keep the Sony. It's the most sensitive/selective consumer FM tuner ever made.

Btw, could we get some more details about what stations these are, etc...

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post #4 of 148 Old 09-22-2008, 02:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noah katz View Post

I got the Sony, and I was surprised that HD sounds pretty much the same as regular FM, at least on the two stations I listen to the most that also transmit HD.

At this point, I'm thinking of returning it.

Are others really finding that it sounds significantly better?

I didn't, for the most part. It depends a LOT on the stations - how they're processing the audio, and how many subchannels they're splitting their total bit allotment among.

On those few stations in my area that have HD with no subchannels (or are transmitting in MP3 mode), the HD sounds better, sometimes dramatically so. On the others, to me it sounds worse due to the artifacts. YMMV.
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post #5 of 148 Old 09-22-2008, 04:13 PM
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Yes to me it does. KHFI HD-1 and 2 sounds very good KBPA 1 and 2 are great. I love having a dance station back in Austin! KVET sounds really good. Oldies sound good on HD-2 on KKMJ.
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post #6 of 148 Old 09-22-2008, 05:28 PM - Thread Starter
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"You must be living in an area where there's good reception and no HD2/HD3s of interest."

Yes, I live on the San Fran peninsula, and I have a large mast-mounted outdoor antenna.

The stations are KCSM Jazz 91.1, a public radio station, and KKSF 103.7 smooth jazz. The other stations I listen didn't turn up in an HD scan.

What are HD2/3? Varying amounts of compression?

There's a complicating factor; as I said in another thread, when listening with DPLIIx 7.1 (on Onkyo 705) as I normally do, the HD FM has severely less treble; +10 dB treble boost doesn't quite make up the deficit.

If I switch out all processing, it sounds the same, but that's not how I want to use it.

For some reason when in the Onkyo's FM tuner mode the display says "3 ch", but nothing when using the HD tuner connected to the Game input.

Actually, I never went into Setup for that input, maybe I can fix that.

Noah
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post #7 of 148 Old 09-23-2008, 05:04 AM
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The HD2/HD3 I mentioned refers to the multicast channels that some stations are now implementing. There's more info here but in general, an FM station is either analog, analog + HD, or analog + HD + multicast channels. The first channel mirrors their analog, the second has another program and some multicasting stations have a third stream with yet another program. Often these are either broadcasts of some .com that is available from the internet, a mirror of an associated AM or FM station, or a news or comedy network. As posted here by another, some stations really butcher the audio they send out, either analog or digital. Not only is there compression to make music have more punch, but with digital, there's even audio more mangling introduced, both for MP3 and now also multicasting. Some stations are just unlistenable, whether analog or digital, some are fine for car or home background music or talk. IMO, the only advantages of HD Radio are clearer reception and more programming availability, not so much for high-end audio when multicasting. The better ones where I live sound about the same, and some better than distortion-free analog FM in my setup too. My experience with it is very positive.

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post #8 of 148 Old 09-23-2008, 11:37 AM
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I'd say it's about 50/50 here. Some of the HD-1's sound better than the analogs, and some worse.

Doesn't necessarily correlate with how many subs they have, neither.
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post #9 of 148 Old 09-24-2008, 09:09 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the info.

There doesn't seem to be anything in it for me, so back it goes.

Noah
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post #10 of 148 Old 09-24-2008, 12:08 PM
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I hear ya. If anything, HD Radio is a misnomer. Now if HD did for sound what HD did for TV, then we'd have something to get excited about. Unfortunately, for many, it is simply more of the same, but for more $$$. It doesn't have alot going for it for many listeners/ non-listeners. Not that it wasn't capable of delivering outstanding audio. But then, CDs had an HD counterpart at one time (still?? Microsoft bought it and that was the last I heard of it), but there wasn't a large enough market to make it a huge success. (I know, the HD in HD Radio does not stand for High Definition, but anyone not knowing that would certainly make the connection, and would be disappointed. I'm sure there were a couple of other letters that could have been used...).

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post #11 of 148 Old 09-24-2008, 01:58 PM - Thread Starter
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"the HD in HD Radio does not stand for High Definition"

Really? What does it stand for?

Noah
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post #12 of 148 Old 09-24-2008, 02:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noah katz View Post

"the HD in HD Radio does not stand for High Definition"

Really? What does it stand for?

I vaguely recall it was something else which reduced to the misleading initials. OTOH, it is hard to find the words "high definition" strongly linked in any official HD radio docs.

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post #13 of 148 Old 09-24-2008, 02:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noah katz View Post

"the HD in HD Radio does not stand for High Definition"

Really? What does it stand for?

Nothing. It is a trademarked marketing term that has no meaning.
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post #14 of 148 Old 09-24-2008, 02:17 PM
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HD is "Hybrid Digital" since the digital signal piggybacks the analog. One day the analog will go away and the signal will be completely digital.
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post #15 of 148 Old 09-24-2008, 03:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mgibsoj View Post

I hear ya. If anything, HD Radio is a misnomer. Now if HD did for sound what HD did for TV, then we'd have something to get excited about.

HDTV started out great, but it's just gotten worse over the years. Even OTA, with all the subchannels they're adding.
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post #16 of 148 Old 09-24-2008, 03:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Red Rufus View Post

HD is "Hybrid Digital" since the digital signal piggybacks the analog. One day the analog will go away and the signal will be completely digital.

So HD will change its name when it is totally digital? No, it won't. it doesn't have to ... it does not mean hybrid digital.

From Ibiquity's website (http://www.ibiquity.com/press_room/fast_facts):

Note to editors: “HD Radio™” and the HD Radio logo are proprietary trademarks of iBiquity Digital Corporation. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. The “HD” in HD Radio™ is part of iBiquity Digital’s brand name for its advanced digital AM/FM system. It does not mean hybrid digital or high-definition digital; both of these are incorrect.
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post #17 of 148 Old 09-24-2008, 03:26 PM
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One more thing ... to state that the system is hybrid digital (whether or not you say that's what HD stands for) is improper. It may currently be hybrid, but to say "hybrid digital" is saying "analog-digital-digital" since the hybrid itself means both analog and digital.
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post #18 of 148 Old 09-24-2008, 04:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Red Rufus View Post

HD is "Hybrid Digital" since the digital signal piggybacks the analog. One day the analog will go away and the signal will be completely digital.

But they'll still call it HD Radio according to the literature from Ibiquity.

There are lots of terrible sounding HD Radio stations in my area. They're sending them the same level-compressed sound with rolled-off highs that their FM stations need to sound good. Many of these stations are still playing from old systems with MP2 encoded files that are already level compressed and have the highs chopped off. These stations don't know what they're doing or don't care.

There are also a few HD Radio stations that are simply the best sound I have ever heard from a radio. Stations that use the full 96 kbps bit rate tend to sound excellent. These tend to be jazz and classical stations because their listeners can tell the difference.

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post #19 of 148 Old 09-24-2008, 06:04 PM
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Sometimes I'm dumbfounded by the incompetence of radio and TV stations. Local commercials are often clipping or you can hear the mouse click at the end of the recording. One local station had their right channel out for three days straight.

And then there are the compression schemes. One of our local stations amplifies and compressed the midbass so much, female announcers are boomey. Another uses such high gain compression, you can hear the stations noise floor go up during silence.


Once I get my FM antenna up (very soon...) and I can get clean reception, I'll post some examples.

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post #20 of 148 Old 09-25-2008, 12:33 AM - Thread Starter
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"It is a trademarked marketing term that has no meaning."

In that case I'm glad to withdraw my support given that they know good and well that everyone will assume HD stands for "high definition".

Noah
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post #21 of 148 Old 09-25-2008, 11:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noah katz View Post

In that case I'm glad to withdraw my support given that they know good and well that everyone will assume HD stands for "high definition".

HD Radio actually has a lot in common with HDTV. They both use digital transmission to eliminate analog interference and they both use digital compression give improved video/sound at the expense of generating artifacts that are tolerable. They both allow bandwidth to be shared to deliver more programs.

"High definition" television actually has lower resolution than standard definition from time to time but it's an acceptable trade-off for having greater resolution most of the time so its name is somewhat of a lie. Likewise HD Radio will give you better sound overall than analog but you will hear artifacts if you listen carefully.

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post #22 of 148 Old 09-25-2008, 11:17 AM
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Originally Posted by mattdp View Post

And then there are the compression schemes. One of our local stations amplifies and compressed the midbass so much, female announcers are boomey. Another uses such high gain compression, you can hear the stations noise floor go up during silence.

The one I've mentioned before is the classical station that has the announcer's microphone at 100%. Their analog station is so level-compressed, it isn't really a problem when a quiet piece ends and he comes on to say something.

But given the much wider dynamic range of HD Radio, I'm racing to turn the volume down before the guy says anything! His voice is at the same level as the loudest point of any classical music which is intended to be deafening.

I emailed the station about this and they said it would take some work to change it for their digital station since they want their announcers to be heard loud and clear on their analog station. At least they acknowledged it was a problem.

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post #23 of 148 Old 09-25-2008, 03:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scowl View Post

"High definition" television actually has lower resolution than standard definition from time to time but it's an acceptable trade-off for having greater resolution most of the time so its name is somewhat of a lie. Likewise HD Radio will give you better sound overall than analog but you will hear artifacts if you listen carefully.

Not exactly. DIGITAL television, which includes HD and SD, can perhaps have lower resolution. True HD has to have higher resolution, though the source material can be poor.
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post #24 of 148 Old 09-25-2008, 04:48 PM
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The HD in HD radio must have originally stood for something. DVD originally stood for Digital Video Disc. Then DVD-ROM came along and it was Digital Versatile Disc. Now the DVD consortium says that DVD is just letters and don't stand for anything. ESPN originally stood for Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (they originally wanted just SPN without the E, but there was already an SPN Satellite Programming Network (now defunct)). Now Disney says that ESPN dowsn't stand for anything. Oh well, KFC is once again sometimes referring to itself as Kentucky Fried Chicken!

How can we say "the digital transition is complete" when thousands of low power stations are still broadcasting in analog?
LOW POWER ANALOG NEEDS TO DIE NOW!!!
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post #25 of 148 Old 09-25-2008, 04:54 PM
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Originally Posted by rwagoner View Post

Not exactly. DIGITAL television, which includes HD and SD, can perhaps have lower resolution. True HD has to have higher resolution, though the source material can be poor.

No, broadcast HDTV has a constantly varying amount of resolution. It's a unavoidable result of MPEG-2 compression. 1080i can have resolution as high as 1920x1080 but this resolution can drop as low as 120x68 if the encoder is completely overloaded.

Fortunately this rarely happens so the resolution typically varies from 1920x1080 in still scenes down to 480x272 (approximately NTSC resolution) in scenes of heavy motion depending on the bit rate. Fortunately our eyes can't see much when things are moving so the drop in resolution is tolerable to most people.

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post #26 of 148 Old 09-25-2008, 05:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Desert Hawk View Post

The HD in HD radio must have originally stood for something. DVD originally stood for Digital Video Disc. Then DVD-ROM came along and it was Digital Versatile Disc. Now the DVD consortium says that DVD is just letters and don't stand for anything. ESPN originally stood for Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (they originally wanted just SPN without the E, but there was already an SPN Satellite Programming Network (now defunct)). Now Disney says that ESPN dowsn't stand for anything. Oh well, KFC is once again sometimes referring to itself as Kentucky Fried Chicken!

No. Ibiquity chose the name to make people THINK High Definition. But from the very start in their press conferences stated it meant nothing.

I write a weekly radio column and have ben covering IBOC, and talking with people from Ibiquity (formerly two separate companies) long before it even was called HD.
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post #27 of 148 Old 09-25-2008, 05:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scowl View Post

No, broadcast HDTV has a constantly varying amount of resolution. It's a unavoidable result of MPEG-2 compression. 1080i can have resolution as high as 1920x1080 but this resolution can drop as low as 120x68 if the encoder is completely overloaded.

Fortunately this rarely happens so the resolution typically varies from 1920x1080 in still scenes down to 480x272 (approximately NTSC resolution) in scenes of heavy motion depending on the bit rate. Fortunately our eyes can't see much when things are moving so the drop in resolution is tolerable to most people.

But if it drops below 720p, it isn't HD any more, even if it is broadcast on an HD channel, right? I understand that encoding can be different, though I didn't realize it was constantly variable. BUt to be called HD, isn't 720p the minimum? Or are there no HDTV standards either?
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post #28 of 148 Old 09-25-2008, 07:46 PM
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The software require that I have atleast 3 prior posts, this should do it.
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post #29 of 148 Old 09-26-2008, 05:26 AM
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Originally Posted by rwagoner View Post

But if it drops below 720p, it isn't HD any more, even if it is broadcast on an HD channel, right? I understand that encoding can be different, though I didn't realize it was constantly variable. BUt to be called HD, isn't 720p the minimum? Or are there no HDTV standards either?

It varies frame-to-frame, and is true of any MPEG-2 encoding (including DVD). Most frames are adapted from the frame that preceded them rather than being completely "redrawn." If the changes are too extreme for the bitrate, resolution is the first thing that gets thrown out. You've seen the picture go blocky on a fast-moving HD image, right? There you go.

MPEG-2 compression *IS* the standard for broadcast HDTV - it's how they are able to do it with the limited bandwidth available. If you don't like it, feel free to invest in a 35mm film projector.
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post #30 of 148 Old 09-26-2008, 09:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by narkspud View Post

It varies frame-to-frame, and is true of any MPEG-2 encoding (including DVD). Most frames are adapted from the frame that preceded them rather than being completely "redrawn." If the changes are too extreme for the bitrate, resolution is the first thing that gets thrown out. You've seen the picture go blocky on a fast-moving HD image, right? There you go.

Audio compression has similar effects but they're more subtle. When a football player turns into squares you know you're being ripped off but when a cymbal doesn't sound quite the same as it did on CD but still sounds something like a cymbal, are you being ripped off? Yeah, you are to a certain degree but unless you feel that's important you can still enjoy the music.

The 96 kbps sound has very few artifacts. A local station plays lot of recent recordings of big band jazz which I also own on CD. Big bands are as difficult to compress as anything (wide dynamic range, lots of instruments affecting each other's sound) except classical and it's hard for me to tell much difference although I can tell that there is some masking going on. The masking becomes much more obvious at 48 kbps and I can tell that things are missing from the recordings. I also start to hear swirling sounds in crash cymbals which is probably the most obvious artifact but overall it does sound better to me than analog FM, probably because I'd rather have a little masking than the drastic level compression that FM stations use.

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