Digital radio broadcasting seems to be catching on in San Diego despite the high cost of installation and low listenership. Ibiquity Digital Corporation, sole provider of the FCC-approved IBOC system, built into its growth plan heavy financial incentives, including lower or no license fees for early adopters. Large groups like Clear Channel endorsed the move to IBOC, too.
Ibiquity is working the backend, too. We’re beginning to see and hear commercials boosting HD Radio and mentions of commercial-free subchannels. And radios with digital capability are showing up at Radio Shack, Best Buy, and Fry’s.
So what’s going on in San Diego radio?
Here’s a table of San Diego HD-Radio stations, courtesy of Ibiquity:
|89.5||KPBS-HD1||FM||News/Talk/Info||San Diego State University|
|89.5-2||KPBS-HD2||FM||Groove Salad from NPR||San Diego State University|
|93.3||KHTS-HD1||FM||Top 40||Clear Channel Radio|
|93.3-2||KHTS-HD2||FM||Mega Spanish||Clear Channel Radio|
|94.1||KMYI-HD1||FM||Hot AC||Clear Channel Radio|
|94.1-2||KMYI-HD2||FM||Variety||Clear Channel Radio|
|95.7||KUSS-HD1||FM||Country||Clear Channel Radio|
|95.7-2||KUSS-HD2||FM||New Country||Clear Channel Radio|
|97.3||KSON-HD1||FM||Country||Lincoln Financial Media|
|101.5||KGB-HD1||FM||Classic Rock||Clear Channel Radio|
|101.5-2||KGB-HD2||FM||All Dave, Shelly & Chainsaw||Clear Channel Radio|
|105.3||KIOZ-HD1||FM||Rock||Clear Channel Radio|
|105.3-2||KIOZ-HD2||FM||Rock||Clear Channel Radio|
|600||KOGO-HD||AM||News/Talk||Clear Channel Radio|
I asked three San Diego engineering managers about their HD-Radio projects:
Leon Messenie, KPBS
When did you first hit air?
July 29, 2005
What is on your subchannel?
Groove Salad â€“ KPBSâ€™s secondary digital channel. Groove Salad, a 24-hour music station, is a partnership between National Public Radio and Soma FM; and the result is, well, “groovy.” (From our WEB site, not my wording)
Any notable project stories?
The one thing that sticks in my minds was the first morning we were digital. The newscast came up to the point where we cue the traffic report and there was nothing but silence…dead air…. It seems that none of us Engineering or Programming types thought about the newly induced digital delay in the analog signal. This is done to align the analog and digital program streams for a seamless switch between them. This delay is about 8 seconds.
So here is what happened: The Traffic service listens to KPBS-FM off air. When they heard their cue it was already 8 seconds past the real point when they should have started talking. This confused them so much they just stopped talking for the entire report. The Engineering cell phones lit up like a Christmas tree. Needless to say emergency orders for dedicated mix minus phone lines between KPBS and the Traffic office were installed. I am just glad the Traffic service did not have a helicopter….
Not that I recommend them but we use the Boston Receptor HD desktop receiver. They work pretty well with an outside antenna.
Are you considering a closed service for your reading service?
In May 2006 KPBS-FM was part of a test with NPR to test what is being called the extended digital service. We put the KPBS Radio Reading service into this area and then compared the sound quality and reception to that of the analog Sub Carrier receiver. This test was presented at the IAAIS conference at a hotel in Mission Valley. The Mission or as we in radio call it Missing Valley hotel was the perfect place to test this. In a room with about 150 people we listened to first the analog SCA receiver. The sound quality was terrible and you could barely hear the KPBS Radio Reading Service. When we switched the room audio over to the audio from the digital feed the room of people just gasped. The sound was perfect. It was very cool to be a part of something that was such a success. Work is being done now to make this a closed system in order to broadcast Radio Reading Services around the country without violating copyright laws.
John Rigg, Clear Channel Radio
When did you first hit air?
The Clear Channel San Diego stations were on in May of 2006, with the exception of KGB and KOGO which were on in early 2005.
Any notable obstacles?
No two installations were the same, even though the application for HD is software written by Ibiquity, manufacturers integrate differently and apply their own GUI to the exporters and importers.
Planning, Planning, Planning. If someone has already done this in your group, ask lots of questions, no need to re-invent the wheel.
I have a JVC KDR1 in the car. It’s a great radio, no RDS on the analog though. I’ve heard great things about the Sangean Component Tuner although I’ve not personally seen one.
Is your group adding more HD-Radio stations?
Clear Channel is currently adding stations to the digital offering. I’m not sure of the schedule, but hey, Tucson just did an install.
Eric Schecter, Lincoln Financial Media
What stations have HD-Radio broadcasting? What format?
KSON-FM has country on HD-1. We don’t have an HD-2 yet
When did you first hit air?
December 22, 2006, just in time for Christmas.
Any notable obstacles, funny stories, warnings?
Yes, several. The obstacle that was eventually overcome was getting the data to the Harris Flexstar Exciter from the studio where the Exporter (fancy name for a Linux box with soundcards) lives. We use 7 of 24 time slots in a T-1 Intraplex multiplexer to accomplish this. It appears that the the module adaptors that present a 10 Base T interface only operate at half duplex. In the end, we used a hub rather than a switch at the studio end, and everything seems happy.
In the warning department, first some background: Our transmitter is a Harris HTHD+ and it utilizes a 4CX20000C tube biased AB1 (sort of) to make 18kw transmitter power output (TPO). The FM+HD signal combining occurs in the Flexstar Exciter. This is known as low-level combining. In order for the transmitter system to make spectral compliance, the exciter uses RTAC, or Real Time Adaptive Correction. While you can get away with some VSWR on a regular transmitter, a hybrid digital system really needs to have a flat transmission system (antenna, feedline, fittings, switches) to achieve optimal performance. We have work to do to optimize a system that is about 25 years old.
I’ve evaluated the Boston Acoustics Receptor. With a good antenna, it’s a good performer. With a short piece of wire close to the radio, the display electronics tend to de-sense the receiver, and it’s as deaf as rocks. BA is now supplying folded dipole antennas based on NPR Labs tests. It receives both AM and FM. There are some good hidden menus for the experimenter in all of us.The price point for this fine sounding radio is $299.
I’ve also evaluated a professional tuner by ADA. It’s actually two tuners in one chassis, and is made for tech centers in the stations. It will do both AM and FM HD, displays RDS and HD PAD data, and is a finer performer. Price tag is about $3500.
Do you plan to outfit your other stations?
Yes, KIFM and KBZT.
Mike Prasser, CBS Radio
Which of your stations have HD Radio?
Currently neither of my stations in San Diego are broadcasting HD. We are looking at second quarter of this year for both. The HD2 formats have not been finalized.
Most of the receivers on the market are good. The most exciting thing that I saw at CES last week was a company called Sideport. They have created a single HD chip that contains all of the components needed for HD with a much lower current draw for $20. Currently there are two chips needed one at $15 and one at $20. So this make HD Radio smaller and cheaper to make.