Audi Drives Toward HD

It’s easy to get blinded by all the i-this or i-that bling. Blu-ray is cool and that steals lots of headlines. And it’s easy to oogle the latest big-screen whatever. But let’s not forget that good, old-fashioned radio is still chugging along.

I know that surprised you, so I’ll wait a second while you wipe the spewed coffee off your keyboard.

Okay. Radio is still being broadcast. Moreover, in addition to the analog variety, there’s digital radio. Placed right on top of the familiar carrier frequencies, many stations broadcast HD Radio. In most cases, it’s a simulcast of the analog station, but it might also contain new multicast content. Currently, approximately 1,800 AM/FM stations broadcast HD Radio, with 900 multicast (extra) HD Radio channels on the FM dial.

Of course, you need an HD Radio receiver to tune in. Since a big chunk of radio listening is done in the car, it makes sense that automakers are offering HD Radio in their vehicles. Audi is the latest automaker to join the ranks, and will offer HD Radio as standard equipment in some new cars.

The feature will appear in many of the 2011 model-year models, as they start arriving in calender year 2010. No details yet on which models get HD, but it most likely will be rolled into models as they are face-lifted or newly introduced. HD Radio has a pretty good presence among many automakers. Hyundai, Ford, and Volvo all offer HD as a standard feature in at least one model. Mercedes Benz, BMW, and Jaguar offer HD Radio as an option.

Here are the particulars: Hyundai offers HD Radio in the navigation system of the 2009 Genesis (a sweet ride, BTW). Ford offers HD Radio as standard or an option on Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury vehicles. Volvo offers HD Radio as standard or an option on several models. HD is an option across the BMW line. Mercedes Benz offers it as part of an optional premium package in certain M-, R-, GL- and G-class SUVs and E-class vehicles. Jaguar offers HD Radio in the XJ sedan.

Throw away your iPod (or better yet, send it to me for recycling) and switch back to radio. It’s the other white meat. —Ken C. Pohlmann