Robust Rubbish

We posted too soon on this discussion, as it turned even more interesting after Tuesday’s post:

Savage: FM Stereo is “far from robust?” Are you kidding?? I can get the tiniest out-of-market signals to decode in stereo, even on the most pedestrian car radios. It might be noisy, and the pilot may be flickering with some partial blend going on — but the basic image is intact even if imperfect. Compare that with the all-or-nothing nature of HD. And I’d much rather listen to a little picket-fencing than mode-hopping — even if the analog delay is in sync, which is often not the case.

I respectfully disagree that having HD available on select big-market signals, and forget everyone else, is the path to “mainstream” adoption. If it’s not everywhere, it’s nowhere.

At the end of the day: there’s no demand for this thing. It’s been around for eons in terms of consumer electronics “innovations” and has generated precisely zero marketplace interest. If HD hasn’t “happened” by now, 7 years after rollout, it’s not gonna happen.

Further to the current discussion: I refer to The Stroob’s public declaration made in 2002 (and I’m paraphrasing). The iBiquity CEO claimed that “in five years time, you won’t have to ask for an HD Radio, because any radio sold by that time will simply have HD included.”

Yeah. Now THERE’S an object lesson about the hazards inherent in playing corporate soothsayer.

It’s SEVEN years later, and at retail, you’re hard pressed to find any HD products. And forget about finding a retail sales assistant who has even heard of HD Radio, let alone understand it.

Actually, HD radios are scarcer than they were three years ago. And almost no current HD products are AM-FM. So much for HD offering resuscitation to an ailing AM band. All IBOC has done is dramatically ratchet up the noise.

Chuck: Perhaps more notable than the lack of HD radios is the seeming slow but steady growth of stand-alone Internet radio offerings. I saw several new ones in stores this Christmas, including one from Sony which they bill as a “Personal Internet Viewer.” I think they called it the “Dash.” It did a lot more than just let you listen to Internet radio. You can watch videos, chat on Facebook, collect emails, play your own stored audio or video files and also listen to streaming audio. It may do even more. I really didn’t have time to check it out, but it might be a cool toy to own. It was about $150 at my local Best Buy Store which also had several other Internet radios on display to choose from.

Although there are probably some car radios with it built in, the only HD radios I saw were a couple of well hidden Insignia portables and an “Open Box Special” Insignia stand-alone tuner that looks suspiciously like the original Sangean version. That one has been on their shelves for a very long time, at least since last summer, probably a lot longer.

Play Freebird: The old saying “Live and Learn” comes to mind, doesn’t it?

For anyone who cares to research this subject, you’ll find much “corporate soothsaying” on by browsing the iBiquity web site as it appeared 7 or 8 years ago. For example, see this transcript of the official launch of IBOC at NAB in 2002:

Notable 2002 quotes from Mr. Struble:

“… in terms of robustness, what we define as performance against interference, the IBOC is much more durable than existing analog.”

“In terms of coverage, the answer is it replicates the existing analog coverage, and that is all it can do. Not technically, but because of a regulatory reason. We could easily boost the IBOC power, but guess what, then that steps on the station next door.”

In response to a question about nighttime AM IBOC operation: “What the NRSC did say though, and we think this was a great vote of confidence, is, rather than bog down the process and wait for those nighttime results, we know we love it in the daytime, we know it represents, I think their words, a revitalization of the AM band…. We believe we will have a nighttime system; we just need to do a little bit more testing. I would like to add though, even as we speak, this is the most thoroughly tested system in US broadcasting history.”

On the broadcaster licensee fee: “Yes, there is a software license, which is paid to us for the use of the system. It’s a small number, based essentially on the station’s FCC fee, so the stations which will benefit more and which are most able to pay, will pay a little bit more. The stations which are non-commercial, or smaller stations will pay a little bit less.”

Finally, Bob Stuble’s 2002 prediction for near-total conversion of stations to IBOC: “You know, you’ve got 13,000 stations out there if my numbers are correct, I think we sell, guys in the industry, about 1,000 transmitters a year, 800 to 1,000, something like that. So, we have always assumed something like an eight to ten year transition period. If that were to get done in four to five years, instead of eight to ten, I would hazard a guess that these guys would be able to meet that need.  Anything else?”

You can find more at:*/

Savage: Sorry, but I’m going to reject the “red-herring” arguments blaming HD’s demise on (a) a bad economy, (b) a weak USD, (c) the rise of the internet, (d) high-pitched alien voices only Bob Struble can hear telling him to make bad decisions, (e) the NAB had a tummyache that day, (e) “I lost it in the lights.” Give me a giant juicy freakin’ break, already.

HD failed because: it was junk. Crap. Period. It was an attempt at a smash-and-grab by a cadre of greedy MBAs and dimbulb marginally-talented engineering executives at Big Group Radio who all saw HD as their ticket to confiscatory, unearned riches. They thought they could pull the wool over the eyes of similar deadwood at the NAB and FCC, and there — they succeeded.

But they forgot the critical factor they never really understood anyway: the audience. And the marketplace. Those of us possessed of a sense of reality checked out HD and said . . . what, are you kidding??

HD failed . . . because it had to. It’s amazing it got as far as it did. It really shouldn’t have. Never should have seen the light of day. The industry will take a long time to live down “HD Radio.”


2 Responses

  1. Oh, I also started a thread about this on Portland Radio where a lot of the HD Radio cheerleaders hangout:



  2. Some in-dash HD radios look exactly like Satellite radios, thus are designed to confuse consumers. Even the HD Radio logo looks similar to the original XM logo.

    Kudos to Play Freebird for finding this archived information. I now have a link on my blog to iBiquity’s archived pages (should have done that a while ago). I sent the information from Play Freebird’s post to Keefe Bartels and Galax Wolf. Every one of Struble’s quotes are wrapped in deception and deceit. I’ve been trying to find a way to work this into my blog.

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