HD Radio -- living large on the low end of the dial

By

Ralph Graves

Ralph Graves is one of Crutchfield's blog editors, and part of the company's social media team. He writes about home audio/video gear, specializing in Apple-related and wireless technologies. Ralph holds a master's degree in music composition, and his works have been released on various labels. He's served as product manager for an independent classical and world music label, produced several recordings, and worked extensively in public broadcasting. Since 1984 he's hosted a weekly classical music program on WTJU, and is also active as a blogger and podcaster.

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Jim Richardson recently posted about some of the exciting programming offered on HD2 channels across the country.

Most stations simply simulcast their regular signal in both standard AM or FM and the digital HD Radio version. But that digital signal can be subdivided into other channels, and as Jim pointed out, some commercial stations are taking advantage of that to offer some innovative programming.

It's a concept that's booming on "the low end of the dial." Public radio stations (who mainly reside in the 87.9 to 93.9 range of the FM dial) have been especially quick to develop and broadcast HD2 and HD3 digital channels.

Many areas only have one public radio station, and public broadcasters see the second and third channel as a way a single station can simultaneously serve different audiences.

 Here's a small sampling of what's going on:

WAMU -- This Washington, DC, station features NPR news and talk on its main channel, and bluegrass (a former mainstay of the station) on HD2. Its HD3 channel features AAA programming (Adult Album Alternative) provided by WTMD in Towson, Maryland.

WDUQ -- This Pittsburgh radio station has split its broadcast schedule between news and jazz. They use their HD2 channel in an innovative way -- they feature the format not currently on their main channel. When WDUQ airs news, WDUC HD2 plays jazz and visa versa. So you can listen to jazz all day long just by going from HD1 to HD2 (or you can listen to news all day long the same way). And their HD3 channel is all blues with a mix of local and national musicians.

Public Radio Tulsa -- this station has two analog frequencies. 89.5FM is their news station, and 88.7FM is their classical music station. 89.5 HD2 plays jazz, and their HD3 channel offers various talk programs. Soon to come are 88.5 HD2 and HD3. While 88.5 will continue to offer standard classical fare, the HD2 channel will feature live performances and local concerts, and HD3 will have programming not included in any of the five other channels Public Radio Tulsa manages.

When you get your HD Radio tuner, remember to check the low end of the dial. There's a lot of interesting stuff going on down there.

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