Does HD radio actually work anywhere in the U.S.?

I rented a Chevrolet Impala in Orlando last week. Orlando would seem to be one of the best places on Earth for radio reception, with the largest hill being about 10′ taller than the surrounding terrain. The car came with an HD radio. When I would tune in a station, the radio would display “Acquiring HD signal” and then sometimes switch to the same sound but at a different volume level. An HD-only station, 90.7 HD-2 classical, would cut in and out for no apparent reason. It was basically impractical. Is there something particular about Orlando or the Chevrolet that makes HD radio more challenging? Or is it broken everywhere and for everyone?

12 Comments

  1. Anthony

    May 5, 2014 @ 11:07 pm

    1

    I had it in a loaner Audi Q5 in Albuquerque, NM and was surprised at how well it worked. I had given up on FM radio in the area due to lack of programming when compared to an Apple/Android phone with a decent data plan for podcasts & Spotify.

  2. cricket

    May 5, 2014 @ 11:49 pm

    2

    Yes. We have a dozen or so. I listen to The Current (2 sub channels), KNOW (3), KQRS (2), Jack FM (2) and Kool 108 (2).

    http://hdradio.com/stations

  3. Trekker

    May 6, 2014 @ 12:04 am

    3

    It works just fine in Los Angeles. Several stations come in clear and have multiple sub-channels. An example is KROC which has KROC 80s on HD2.

  4. Fazal Majid

    May 6, 2014 @ 2:25 am

    4

    It works for me in San Francisco, although the BMW HD Radio tuner can’t get the second station in a multiplex for some unexplained reason.

  5. presidentpicker

    May 6, 2014 @ 7:14 am

    5

    It’s kinda broken here in Baltimore. Depending on the radio the switch between analog and digital mode can be more or less noticeable, but it’s still annoying. HD is a proprietary format. you can’t for example find an open source software that would decode an HD stream on your computer without hooking up a separate “brick” with a licensed chip in it. How did FCC allow this format to slip into the public air waves is a mystery. I wonder if someone got paid off.

  6. philg

    May 6, 2014 @ 9:23 am

    6

    Thanks, guys. Maybe it is a GM thing. Hard to believe that a car manufacturer so distinguished that it was worthy of purchase by the taxpayers does not supply state-of-the-art electronics…

  7. Elisa

    May 6, 2014 @ 1:43 pm

    7

    Works for me in the San Francisco Bay Area with my Toyota Prius C. There is some delay when you first tune in but then it works just fine.

  8. Gregory Close

    May 7, 2014 @ 12:22 pm

    8

    I rented a Chevy Impala in San Diego lately. I’ve never experienced this before, but the driver’s seat was painfully curved, like sitting in a curve. Ouch. I would suggest perhaps the issue isn’t with HD Radio.

  9. Les Elkins

    May 7, 2014 @ 9:11 pm

    9

    A rental Mazda in the DC area had me listening to the bluegrass channel on public radio station WAMU’s HD-2. (WAMU was evening drive time bluegrass ages ago when I first moved to the area, but in spite of apparently strong donor support the powers that be decided we needed a second All Things Considered in the same market instead).

  10. ScottE

    May 9, 2014 @ 6:32 pm

    10

    Seems to work for me with an aftermarket car radio, assuming you aren’t on the edge of reception. Compared to a strong FM analog signal the highly compressed digital “HD” sounds rather annoying, like an overly compressed low bitrate MP3. On AM it provides improvements of frequency response, but even worse digital artifacts.

    Not impressed.

  11. Mark Lutton

    May 9, 2014 @ 11:11 pm

    11

    It seems to me that a flat place would be one of the WORST places for radio reception, with no mountains to put the transmitter tower on top of.

  12. David

    May 11, 2014 @ 9:26 pm

    12

    I live in Washington, DC and my car has HD radio and it works fine. I listen to public radio all the time in HD and have never had a problem. The HD radio came with the car which is a Mercedes.

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