Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a column about technology, multimedia, and digital entertainment:
JACK FM has been like those massive spaceships from the movie Independence Day, coming from a foreign land (Canada) to hover over American cities before deploying their beam of massive personality destruction. When it landed on WCBS -FM in New York two years ago, fans of the station's previous oldies format were aghast as their favorite station was unceremoniously tossed off the air. Today, though, while its once signature deejay, radio hall of fame inductee Bruce "Cousin Brucie" Morrow, has moved on to more Sirius pursuits, the old songs and familiar jingle of ye ole WCBS-FM can be heard better than ever at 101.1 FM on the New York radio dial -- if you have an HD Radio receiver, that is.
Approved by the FCC in October 2002 as the digital heir to terrestrial analog radio, HD Radio has seen slow growth up to this point. In contrast to XM and Sirius, which competed with each other to gain subscribers and subsidized receivers in a model torn from the playbook of cellular carriers, HD Radio has no terrestrial competition and it's free. As with satellite radio, much of HD Radio receiver growth will ultimately come by way of car manufacturers including it in vehicles. Yet today, even though 1,300 stations now broadcast in HD Radio, most HD Radio-capable products up to this point have been high-end aftermarket car stereos or tony table radios available from the likes of Boston Acoustics for hundreds of dollars.
However, with a big advertising push coming this spring, more affordable receivers are starting to appear. Sony has signed on to incorporate HD Radio in its products over the next few years. The Accurian Tabletop HD Radio, appropriately available at Radio Shack, sells for $159 before rebate. And now Silicon Prarie startup Radiosophy is offering the boombox-like HD100 receiver for merely $59 after rebate. This makes it the least expensive HD Radio on the market.