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Clean Sound
02-27-2008, 07:21 PM
Pioneer HD Radio Tuner

I had been very interested in acquiring an HD Radio tuner for my car stereo and so, when Pioneer finally released its long anticipated HD radio module, I quickly called Cruthchfild and ordered the unit. The HD radio tuner would be paired with my Pioneer deh p780mp which has a beautiful screen and presumably would be perfect for displaying HD radio's digital text output. Crutchfield's site and the radio packaging listed the 780 as compatible.

Install
No problem with the install. I already had the iPod adapter and plugging the two add-on units together and into the deck was not a problem.

HD Reception/Signal
Pretty good. I live on the Md side of the Washington DC metropolis and the unit picks up all the stations that I listen to in HD. In fact, it seems that virtually every station in this area comes in HD. You also get the multicast version of the stations. On some of the farther away stations the HD signal does drop in and out. But to its credit, the unit seemlessly alternates HD with the analog signal.

The Display
In a word, disappointing. I had high hopes that the HD digital text would flow across the 780's large color screen much like the IPod does but to no avail. What you get is one line of text limited to 8 characters in the upper right hand corner. I would imagine that on the newer 2008 units this is done much better. Still the unit does let you choose what you see by allowing you to cycle through the Station data, Artist and Song title displays. You can also store stations and chose HD only if you desire.

Sound Quality.
There is no question that the HD SQ signal is superior to the analog radio signal. There is better stereo separation, staging, and frequency response. And of course it is clear and devoid of static. The problem is that it is still deeply compressed music and the more you turn it up, or the better your stereo, the more of the compression you hear. I would say the overall sound quality is superior to radio or even satellite radio but certainly not the quality of CD's or even high bit rate (256 or above) mp3's. The songs running through my ipod interface are far superior to the HD radio.

Overall
The unit delivers sound quality that improves the radio listening experience and does display the digital text, albeit only eight characters and one line at a time. It would be nice if there was less compression and if Pioneer could improve the digital texting interface. I give it a B.