Tuesday, November 14, 2006

HD Radio in Radio Shack

Old time engineers have bemoaned the lack of radios in Radio Shack for some time now. But Radio Shack is taking the lead, sort of, when it comes to "HD Radio" (aka "digital radio" or "IBOC"). They're the first major nationwide retailer (AFAIK) to start selling HD Radios in their stores. Locally, Tweeter ETC has been selling the Boston Acoustics Recepter HD for several months, but Tweeter isn't as ubiquitus as Radio Shack is.

Unfortunately, Radio Shack's "You've got questions, we've got confusion" mantra is still sort of in play. The early versions of the Recepter HD radio had a gawdawful "rat tail" antenna that made it next to impossible to reliably receive any radio signals, much less HD Radio signals. I stopped by my local Radio Shack and discovered that they had the rat tail and, sure enough, I couldn't get any HD signals reliably.

Now, to this Radio Shack's employees' credit...when I suggested they put a pair of "rabbit ears" antenna on the Recepter HD, and when it took a few adapters to make that work...not only did they gladly do so, they were pretty enthusiastic about the improved reception.

However, it pains me to think that these nice folks didn't know that to begin with. Why didn't they at least try another antenna? Even a [shudder] amplified one? That simple rabbit ear solution was under $10 and 10 minutes of work, and it made an unjustifiable $250 for a radio suddenly "worth it" because customers could now actually hear the multicast channels.

Moreover, why aren't local radio stations...that have shelled out $75k, $100k, $250k for their HD Radio transmitters...going around to all the local retailers and making sure they're aware of this stuff? How else can they expect listeners to pay for those HD Radios to hear their big investments?

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