I will try to be as objective as possible in answering your question. I currently own a BA Receptor HD and have also used a Sangean HDR-1 extensively as well.
As far as sound goes, some
stations sound better. It seems that in most areas people agree on the fact that their local NPR, public radio, or college station sounds the best and there is a noticeable difference with IBOC. In my area (Atlanta), our local public radio station (WABE) sounds spectacular and has spurred interested in HD Radio. On my Receptor, people are amazed at the dynamic sound and the additional notes that you hear in HD. This may be also due to the fact that classical music was mastered to sound really good on CD especially with live performaces. Contrarily, contemporary pop, urban, and country music has been mastered to remove these extra notes for optimal sound on analog radio. So for these formats, HD is of little benefit. I have also been told that college stations sound better because they commonly use CDs as a source of music instead of computers like commercial stations. I am not sure if this matters. Here in my area, in addition to the public radio station, the Radio One stations sound significantly better in HD. The bass is the hip hop songs is very well defined. The Cox stations sound marginally better. And, I can barely notice a difference (if at all) on the Clear Channel stations. To be fair, I will also admit that my Receptor makes everything
sound better and enhances the sound of everthing. I use it to output audio of my HDTV and would put it on par with a high-end Bose system. I am not an audiophile and I have read that others do not notice much of a difference, and I am not sure how much of the HD enhancing is done by the processor in my Receptor.
In summary, if HD radio is to be adopted by the masses, it will not be because of the enhanced sound. HD-AM may be an exception if it can get its act together. Honestly, the masses are comfortable listening to the same sound quality that exists on FM today. However, people would be very convinced to purchase an HD radio for the additional stations. If nothing else, the "Stations between the stations" slogan has generated a lot of curiousity in this area about what's out there. Instead of paying $13/month for satellite radio, consumers would be more than willing to purchase a radio to get 20 additional stations for free especially since prices on receivers have dropped recently. Here in Atlanta, two competing community groups complained to WABE. One group wanted more NPR talk programs on the schedule and the other wanted more classical music programs. WABE ran a successful fund raiser to create an HD2 stream (classica music & the arts) and an HD3 stream (news/talk). Beyond being a successful pledge drive with its member base, WABE has claimed that this has spawned "significant" interest in HD radio. Here is the story: http://www.accessatlanta.com/blogs/c...abe_going.html
Now if other stations would learn from this, HD Radio could be successful. Here in Atlanta, many complain that there is no longer any oldies station. Clear Channel had an oldies station on HD2 but replaced it with new country...WTF as if we need another country station here! Star 94 had a Jack type station on HD2 that played a lot of 80's and heavy metal but they killed it saying at the time that they were upgrading the equipment. That was over 8 months ago!
HD could win if stations were smart about it and gave consumers a reason to adopt HD Radio. They could do stuff like simulcast AM talk and sports on sister FM HD2 signals or introduce niche formats like southern gospel, classic country, chillout, dance music, or margaritaville. They are definitely not going to win if they just duplicate other formats already available in the market. The million dollars worth of equipment will be nothing more than scrap metal in a couple of years if broadcasters continue making these stupid decisions!