Finding an HD Radio in Canada

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Finding an HD Radio in Canada

Postby jon » Sun Jan 10, 2016 12:41 pm

Now that we are seeing the beginnings of FM stations in Canada "going IBOC", or "HD Radio" as the technology owner calls it, the question becomes "how am I going to hear this?".

Most Canadian "HD Radio" listeners have discovered that their car radio automatically tunes into the primary HD channel, rather than the analogue signal of an FM station that is running HD channels. Looking around, I've been unable to find any directories on-line that are at all helpful in determining, for a given Make, Model, and Year of vehicle, whether or not the factory radio "does" HD.

And there seems to be no rule of thumb. Normally the luxury brands get the new technology first, but I was able to determine conclusively that the Acura RDX just started HD in 2016, while the MDX has had HD for "years".

What about outside a vehicle, whether at home or elsewhere? I have yet to see any HD receivers in stores, and looking on-line at the sites of Brick and Mortar stores did not turn up any either, though I confined my search to below $300. Amazon.ca and eBay.ca offer U.S. HD radios at pretty outrageous prices.

Recognizing this issue, for Canadians without U.S. postal addresses, the Corus AM stations that have officially launched as HD channels on their FM sisters have worked with a Toronto consulting firm to have the firm sell radio on-line at a pretty good price: if you don't count shipping and GST, you couldn't do much better with Amazon.com's free shipping to a U.S. address, thanks to our seventy cent dollar.

Each Corus AM station's HD Radio page points you to this URL and gives you a code ("CKNW" for CKNW) for a 10% discount: http://www.myhdradio.ca/ [Editor note, September 2016: we now have our own discount code "radiowest"]

I chose this one: http://www.myhdradio.ca/product/shd-tx2/
Because it is is one of the few that also covers AM and IBOC there, not so much for the unlikely event that a Canadian AM station goes IBOC, but to see if I can get any U.S. AM stations running IBOC. In addition, though not documented elsewhere, I did read one seemingly technically competent Amazon reviewer indicate that the radio also displays RDS data on FM stations, something I currently am missing.

A third way to go for HD Radio reception is a dongle for your computer or smartphone. I have not looked into that at all, other than to notice that they are extremely cheap. For example, Gigaware makes one specifically for the iPod Touch and iPhone. One seller had it for $6.95 on eBay.
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Re: Finding an HD Radio in Canada

Postby pave » Sun Jan 10, 2016 7:18 pm

I am reminded, jon, of the "AM Stereo"-scare of the '80's.
Sounded pretty damn whizzy. Utility? Useless.
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Re: Finding an HD Radio in Canada

Postby jon » Sun Jan 10, 2016 8:52 pm

Interesting to get the viewpoint of an American on this one:
Last month I mentioned that we now have a radio station in Vancouver (the big one to the north) that’s operating HD Radio. To their credit they are going where I have rarely seen a US broadcaster go….

Advertising that an AM Station is available on an FM’s HD-2. U.S. broadcasters appear to be scared to death to promote or

(shudder) even mention their HD Radio channels…Apparently out of the fear that this would mean violating the first law of broadcasting (Promoting another station, even if it’s owned by the same company).

Explaining to their listeners what HD Radio is…

We are so excited to let you know that you can now enjoy CKNW in High Definition. HD Radio stations broadcast a digital signal over traditional radio frequencies. This technology enables your receiver to display song titles, album art, and station information so you get the best listening experience.


Explaining why they should consider it …

Our HD channel broadcasts in clear digital quality to your local area making radio static, hiss and fuzz a thing of the past. Experience all news, all talk in crystal clear HD quality!


Explaining how to get the HD station on a car radio…

1. Determine if you have HD radio. Best bet is to check your car manual or check out the list of car manufacturers below
2. Tune your radio to the FM band and dial up to Rock 101
3. Wait about 8 to 10 seconds for HD radio to kick in (you may hear a change in audio when this happens)
4. Use your seek up and down/side to side buttons to switch to channel 2 on your radio – this is where you’ll find us, on HD2
5. Add us to your presets so next time listening to CKNW in HD is just one click away

Get 10% off a new HD Radio with promo code: CKNW

Hats off to our neighbors to the North for having the guts to promote HD Radio – Even if they are late to the party.

(The January 2016 edition of Clay's Corner, prepared by veteran RF Systems Engineer Clay Freinwald for the Seattle Chapter of the Society of Broadcast Engineers newsletter The Waveguide)
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Re: Finding an HD Radio in Canada

Postby pave » Sun Jan 10, 2016 9:07 pm

I have to wonder, jon - and this is just a hairy-assed guess - if station owners don't get on the bandwagon because they may know, even at some frightening, intuitive level, that their stations suck.
Another technical expense with (perceived) limited returns is just too much of a pain.
HD-schmate-D.
There are too many other bigger and meaner barbarians at the gates.
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Re: Finding an HD Radio in Canada

Postby kal » Mon Jan 11, 2016 7:01 pm

I need to replace my car and in my search I've made it a point to ask about HD. I have yet to encounter a dealership where anyone knows about HD, even if it is in their cars. I've even asked colleagues who have HD-equipped cars. They are blissfully unaware that they have this and are completely befuddled if I ask to listen to CKNW on HD.

This campaign, to bring HD to Canadians, may face a tough sell.
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Re: Finding an HD Radio in Canada

Postby radiofan » Mon Jan 11, 2016 9:03 pm

kal wrote:I need to replace my car and in my search I've made it a point to ask about HD. I have yet to encounter a dealership where anyone knows about HD, even if it is in their cars. I've even asked colleagues who have HD-equipped cars. They are blissfully unaware that they have this and are completely befuddled if I ask to listen to CKNW on HD.

This campaign, to bring HD to Canadians, may face a tough sell.


When I got my new car in August, there was no mention of the HD capability. Lots of material about Sirius/XM.

I discovered the HD quite by accident when I was doing an FM bandscan and the HD logo appeared when I tuned in KISM and KAFE.

Last week I did a drive through downtown Vancouver and CKNW's signal was as advertised. Nice to have a decent signal available in the heart of downtown Vancouver.

Note to kal: When your checking out new cars, tune the radio to 101.1. If the radio has HD, it should kick in after a few seconds and will then give you the option of 101.1 HD-1 or HD-2.

Listeners in Calgary should soon have CHQR on 105.1 HD-2 which should solve their challenged signal in areas of downtown Calgary.
Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who couldn't hear the music.
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Re: Finding an HD Radio in Canada

Postby kal » Tue Jan 12, 2016 6:49 am

Yes, I know how to check the capability of the radio for HD. The problem in showrooms is that many vehicles have their batteries removed!

On a related matter I was in a colleague's new car. It has an HD-capable system. He had never heard of HD radio and he certainly didn't ever listen to AM. So I asked to try the 101.1 signal. Yes, HD there but darned if he could figure out how to get to signal 2. So, we never did get to hear 'NW on HD.

It's going to be a tough sell for 'NW. I suspect it is too late. Will we still have AM radio in 5 years?
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Re: Finding an HD Radio in Canada

Postby jon » Tue Jan 12, 2016 8:46 am

For a list of new cars with HD radio, I believe that this list is quite accurate:
http://hdradio.com/get-a-radio/new-car

Even though the site is from the U.S., I suspect the same will apply for Canadian models.

My earlier reference to lack of information was referring to previous model years. Not just buying a used car, but how would someone who is suddenly interested in HD radio figure out if their existing car has it? Sure, they could turn on their radio and give it a try, but it would save trying to find a feature on a complicated entertainment system when that feature (HD Radio) does not exist on that model/year of vehicle.
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Re: Finding an HD Radio in Canada

Postby kal » Tue Jan 12, 2016 10:03 am

The Honda dealer I visited was emphatic that there were no cars with HD radio other than the HRV. That list shows pretty much all of their models as having HD. I tried the Pilot and Odyssey and couldn't find HD.
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Re: Finding an HD Radio in Canada

Postby jon » Tue Jan 12, 2016 12:53 pm

Well, the dealer is wrong. Check this out:
http://www.honda.ca/content/det/H/media ... ecs_en.pdf

The only model of Pilot with HD Radio is the Touring edition.

I haven't checked out the rest but the place to start would be a Google Search like this:
"HD Radio" site:honda.ca
(be sure to use the double quotes)
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Re: Finding an HD Radio in Canada

Postby jon » Tue Jan 12, 2016 4:50 pm

kal wrote:On a related matter I was in a colleague's new car. It has an HD-capable system. He had never heard of HD radio and he certainly didn't ever listen to AM. So I asked to try the 101.1 signal. Yes, HD there but darned if he could figure out how to get to signal 2. So, we never did get to hear 'NW on HD.

CKNW has a link to some car model-specific videos that explain how to receive HD Radio, including the alternate channels:
https://www.youtube.com/user/HDRadioBroadcasting/videos
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Re: Finding an HD Radio in Canada

Postby jon » Sat Jan 16, 2016 7:59 am

My SPARC SHD-TX2 arrived in yesterday's mail.

Neither Corus FM was running IBOC when I checked yesterday afternoon.

On AM, only signal strong enough last night from here in Edmonton was KSL-1160 from Salt Lake City and that was only for a few seconds twice in 15 minutes. Not a lot of interesting information displayed as KSL is News/Talk. Audio certainly improved, and all (Skywave) background noise disappeared. Display indicated stereo, but I did not have headphones or boom box attached to hear it as the radio has only one speaker.

Despite what I read on Amazon's reviews, I could not get any RDS data displayed from any of the local FM stations, even though I've seen it while riding in car dealer shuttle vehicles.

Have researched it, but radio has an emergency alert system that I have turned off. But, while it was on, KSL did briefly display a symbol indicating that the Emergency Alert feature was being detected.
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Re: Finding an HD Radio in Canada

Postby kal » Sat Jan 16, 2016 5:56 pm

Managed to get an HD signal tuned in a Honda CRV today. The dealer insisted there was no such thing in Honda cars but eventually he agreed it was there in the one model of the CRV lineup. Tuned to Rock 101.1 and the HD symbol appeared. Darned though if anyone could figure out how to get to HD-2, the CKNW signal. Tried everything obvious and eventually found that "Seek" would bump the setting from 1 to 2.

This is anecdotal and I'm hoping someone on the engineering side can set me straight. Since Rock 101.1 started carrying the two subs I've noticed that its volume on my old car radio is lower than that of the other stations in my presets. In other words, I have to turn up the volume for 101 to have the same level as say 104.3 or 103.5. Is there anything to this?
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Re: Finding an HD Radio in Canada

Postby kal » Wed Jan 20, 2016 8:34 am

Never did get an answer to the question above.
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Re: Finding an HD Radio in Canada

Postby Teacher » Wed Jan 20, 2016 9:58 am

When introducing the HD mask to the FM frequency the HD system integration limits the analog to a max of 100% modulation (protecting and leaving room for the HD subs). The other stations are probably running at 105-115% mod with their analog only signal. Thus the others sound louder, but are violating IC regs, by deviating more than 75kHz. Note that I say "probably" as I don't want to accuse anyone of anything.
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