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Taking HD Radio on the Road

By Jeff Winston
Provided you can secure a signal, HD Radio is an inexpensive way to enhance the quality of your car radio.

Shopping for a new in-dash car stereo and want some sweet sounding music? Satellite radio is an option, but if free sounds better, you should consider HD Radio. HD Radio allows any AM or FM station to broadcast their programming (and for FM, up to 2 alternate channels), in a pristine digital format. AM HD sounds as good as regular FM, and FM HD is CD-quality. HD Radio was years in the making, and today you can buy HD-Radio models for no more than mid-priced non-HD units. After listening for a few weeks now, I can attest that it does sound great. The only question is whether you can receive it.

Dual, Jensen and JVC make one-piece car CD receivers with HD Radio built-in. A few manufacturers (such as Sony) offer it as an option, which means that after paying $100 for the main unit, you need to shell out another $100 or more for an attached HD Radio module that resides under the dash. That seemed like a lot of cost and hassle, so I researched the one-piece units, eventually buying the Dual XHD6425 (I couldn't resist the USB input). The two Dual units (XHD6420, $100; and XHD6425, $130), as well as the Jensen units (HD-5212, $160; and KD-AHD39, $180) all had excellent, and identical, tuner specifications. Apparently the Dual units (from Korean company Namsung), and the Jensen units (from Audiovox) use the same Samsung HD Radio chip.

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