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Summary:

I thought that Microsoft’s Zune HD would be the first portable HD Radio unit for sale, but it wasn’t meant to be. Electronics retailer Best Buy won the race that nobody is watching. Actually, at least one person was watching. Dave Zatz hopped over to his local […]

hd-radio-insignia6-420x315I thought that Microsoft’s Zune HD would be the first portable HD Radio unit for sale, but it wasn’t meant to be. Electronics retailer Best Buy won the race that nobody is watching. Actually, at least one person was watching. Dave Zatz hopped over to his local Best Buy and dropped $50 to get an HD Radio for totable tunes. He bought an Insignia model, which is the “house brand” for Best Buy.

At $50, the NS-HD01 is more of a bare-bones device than a high-end portable. There’s no AC adapter included, for example. To charge the device, you connect it to a computer with the included USB cable. The included earbuds aren’t the highest quality, either. Using a set of third-party headphones might be hit or miss as well, based on Dave’s tests. He had to position the headphone jack just right in order for it to make the proper stereo connection. However, there is a nice armband included, making this a nice unit to accompany you during exercise.

Although I’m tempted, at $50, for higher-quality sound and a greater number of digital radio stations, I’m going to pass. If I could track my running activities with the NS-ND01, like I can with my iPhone, then maybe I’d drop the coin. For now, I’ll let Dave enjoy this one solo.

HD Radio has always appealed to me, but I’m thinking the opportunity for it is passing. I realize not everyone wants to carry a phone or a digital audio player with pre-loaded music, but there are so many other options today: Slacker, Pandora, and even satellite radio. More vehicles are getting configured with easy-to-use auxiliary jacks, USB ports and Bluetooth, too. Is it too late for HD Radio to become a major player?

  1. i have to agree with ya kevin. i think the microsoft has the righ idea about hd radio with the zune hd.. slap a hd radio tuner in an mp3 player and tout as an additional feature. the few times i’ve had to revert, it has killed me to have to listen to regular radio.. insignia’s mp3 players arent that bad really, just add the hd tuner to it and run with it. hd radio is not a strong enough feature as a one trick pony..

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  2. No it’s not too late. One thing that satellite, pandora and others fail at is delivering up to date content regarding weather situations or other civil defense needs. Radio works better for this in multiple ways because it has a much lower energy footprint than a computer equipped with a 3G connection. The iPod has the same footprint as does the iPhone, except the iPhone uses up it’s battery much faster than a HD Radio would. HD Radio is still very viable and for 50 bucks…I think I will get one! :D

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    1. a good point, but i don’t need weather and civil defense updates in hi def, but, at $50 bucks, it really isn’t a major investment to worry about. i just think they’d better served on popping that tuner in their mp3 player lineup. that being said, for a store brand, i have been generally pleased with insignia’s product line.

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    2. gorcon,

      There are other sources for weather and civil defense information. NOAA Weather Radio (http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/) is a free (actually taxpayer funded) provider of current and forecast weather information. Plus they broadcast emergency alerts about earthquakes, avalanches, oil/chemical spills, and public safety announcements like Amber Alerts. NOAA has over a thousand transmitters covering all 50 states, adjacent coastal waters, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the U.S. Pacific Territories.

      Sirius/XM channel 247 provides national weather and emergency alerts. They also have about a dozen channels providing weather and traffic information for specific metro areas. And they have about a dozen news channels catering to every color of the political spectrum.

      No, I think radio has dragged its feet too long and the upgrade to HD won’t help them from a business perspective any more than newspaper’s belated embrace of the Web. Instead of leading the way into the digital age the old media companies spent too much time/money trying to protect obsolete business models.

      I will continue supporting NPR and several public radio stations because I value their reporting and content, but I’ll mostly listen to them on my computers, satellite receivers and phones.

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  3. In addition to netbooks, I am a general gadget addict, and while generally I don’t jump on things as an early adopter, this just looked too good to be true. Having never been thrilled with either the performance or physical design of HD receivers at RS and others available, the thought of having this capability in such a small package was something too good to resist.

    After placing an order locally, I found the NS-HD01 at
    ONE Best Buy. I have been trying it out this morning and have to say this is one little wonderful gadget.

    The color screen gets high marks. Tuning is absolutely simple —you seek tune and then can use the UP/DWN buttons to scroll through the available HD subchannels. Reception sensitivity here in the DC area is superb — playing it through my home multi-speaker setup yields excellent sound, great volume.

    I have experienced no fading or breakup of local HD channels. Just the minijack into my home system suffices perfectly for every HD channel in this geographic area.

    Now — for my purposes, I would make this recommendation
    to Best Buy/Insignia — put another fixed level audio output on the radio — this would enable recording of signals in addition to just being able to listen. And the next obvious step would be to incorporate a
    solid state recording capability, with say a 2 GB minimum capacity.

    If they are really smart they would design the next version of this along the lines of the CC Witness which enables use of both internal and SDHC card recording as well as a multi-event timer. In fact, CCrane could take a hint from this.

    But that’s for the future — the Insignia just shows that you don’t really need to get a large HD receiver if you want to take advantage of the new technology. What a great addition to the HD market!

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  4. I think it’s too late for HD Radio. We’re moving towards a more customizable listening experience than FM can provide.

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