With many of the stations in the market broadcasting an HD Radio signal I was looking for an affordable off-air monitor. I wanted a device that I could place in the station to demonstrate HD Radio for my fellow employees. I found an inexpensive device in the Sangean HDT-1 radio component tuner.
Out of the box the tuner looks like any standard component stereo piece of equipment. Its black finish fits nicely in any component stereo setup and is suitable for placement in a standard 19” rack by itself. The unit comes with the following accessories: a remote control, detachable power cord, RCA audio output cable, an FM dipole and AM loop antenna. It also comes with an instruction manual, which is good but not too intuitive.
On the front of the tuner from left to right you will find a standby/on button, number keys, an LCD (white and blue) display, and buttons for preset, frequency, info and band, along with a tuning, seek and HD seek rockers. Located on the back, from left to right, is the type F FM antenna input connector, an AM loop antenna socket, RCA audio output connection and ac power input. Inside the box you will mostly find empty space with the power supply, amplifier, I/O, front panel, and the display controller along with the LG-Innotek DSP HD Radio module.
Performance at a glance
PLL synthesized digital tuning
Backlit LCD display
Displays PAD and RBDS
External antenna input
Line-out (stereo RCA)
Installation is straightforward. Connect both antennas and the power cord, connect the audio output and turn it on. The tuner can receive AM and FM HD Radio signals to include the multicasts, along with AM and FM analog to include C-QUAM AM stereo.
Device operation is simple, and it displays lots of information. All the functions are available from the remote control or the front panel. If the unit is in the stand-by mode a red LED lights and the time is displayed in the LCD window. This time may need to be reset if the unit ever loses power, but the good news is that it does retain its presets. There are a total of 20 for each AM and FM. To set them, select the band (FM 1, FM 2, AM 1 or AM 2), press the preset button and the number of the desired station. Frequencies can also be entered directly by pressing the frequency button and entering the desired frequency.
Once a station is selected, the receiver will display the program-associated data for HD Radio or the FM RBDS data with PS, PTY, RT and CT on the LCD display. The radio will toggle between HD Radio and analog on its own. Manually toggling between the digital and analog mode is not possible. It is also not possible to split the analog and digital between the left and right outputs to verify the audio sync.
A closer view of the HDT-1 controls and display.
The info button cycles through the following information: radio text, time, signal quality, frequency and spectrum. By holding the info button for two seconds it cycles through another menu that displays contrast (LCD display), bit-error rate, carrier-to-noise ratio, fuse bit check, transmission mode, station ID and unit version.
The features that I found most useful were the contrast and the carrier-to-noise ratio. The LCD display can be bright, especially in a room with total darkness. The carrier-to-noise ratio was useful when I aimed the antenna.
The tuning rocker moves up or down the dial one channel at a time. The seek rocker finds the next usable signal and the HD Radio seek rocker only stops on stations broadcasting in HD Radio. To find an HD Radio multicast channel use the tuning rocker. The HD rocker will not do this. There will be an indicator if the unit is locked on to a HD Radio signal. There is no FM stereo light for analog reception.
In my opinion the radio sounds great. This was never more evident as when I turned it on in my house and both of my sons asked me why the radio sounded so much clearer. Depending on how the stations are processing their signals the blend from analog to digital can be subtle. But some stations are using the same processing for both signals and the difference is noticeable when listened to in HD Radio. Even the HD-2 streams sound good. Again, the quality is chiefly dependent on the station processing.
For a first-generation HD Radio component tuner, Sangean has done a good job. There are a few bugs as I noted, but these can always be updated in future models. The clock in my unit seems to lose about two to three minutes per month.
While the unit cannot be used to verify time sync between the analog and digital streams, it is very capable as an off-air monitor.
Trask is director of engineering, Lincoln Financial Media of Georgia in Atlanta.
Editor's note: Field Reports are an exclusive Radio magazine feature for radio broadcasters. Each report is prepared by well-qualified staff at a radio station, production facility or consulting company.
These reports are performed by the industry, for the industry. Manufacturer support is limited to providing loan equipment and to aiding the author if requested.
It is the responsibility of Radio magazine to publish the results of any device tested, positive or negative. No report should be considered an endorsement or disapproval by Radio magazine.