In Need of a “Tune Up!”


Dear Tara: I have a 1995 JEEP cheerokee complete with a 1995 era radio. I want to upgrade to either HD radio or satellite radio but don’t know much about either. Which would be better for someone who would like access to local news but also music sports as well as national and international news.

– Stephanie
Chicago, Il.


When all is said and done (or should that be “sung” in the case of listening to the radio) the big question is: Do you want to pay a monthly subscriber fee (satellite) or pay the once off cost of buying a HD radio in the knowledge that you will have to listen to more ads?

Satellite radio uses satellites to broadcast its programming. Currently the satellite business model means paying a monthly subscriber fee. And while satellite radio has fewer advertisements than commercial radio, it is by no means ad free.

HD radio is a signal that is layered onto the existing AM and FM spectra and only requires a HD capable receiver to pick up the higher quality broadcasts. Basically HD is a higher fidelity with some multicast programming over the same channel allocation. And because HD is piggybacked onto the traditional broadcast signal, if loss of coverage occurs the radio receiver will revert to the original analog transmission. But, like traditional radio, you are at the mercy of transmission towers for area coverage.

In the case of satellite radio, if bad weather or mechanical mishaps result in loss of signal, well, let’s just hope your car stereo system is iPod compatible or you have a large stack of favorite CDs with you! There’s no backup when satellite goes out.

My advice is to go with HD. There’s no ongoing fees and less chance of losing the signal due to the original analog broadcast. And while I’m not a big fan of advertisements, we have to pay for programming somehow.

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