Digital Terrestrial Broadcasting Finally Here - The first home receiver designed to pick up the digital signals that about 300 of the nations radio stations have been broadcasting for some time was delivered to a dealer in Iowa this week. Thus the U.S. is taking the first step toward conversion of both AM and FM broadcasting from analog to digital - with its greater fidelity and freedom from interference and noise. Canada, the UK and some other European countries started years ago. This changeover will be a parallel to that occurring in television, where after 2007 all TVs sold will have to receive digital telecasts in some form. No such regulation with radio. Digital will bring the typical AM broadcast up to the level of average FM and improve FM to CD quality. Broadcasters will finally have a (supposedly) improved technology to replace FM (about 70 years old) and AM (about 85 years old). Terrestrial digital broadcasting (DAB) is not to be confused with the two satellite digital systems currently making inroads in the U.S. - Sirius and XM Radio. But both systems are targeting auto reception at the start.
The biggest advantage for most listeners to FM will be the new systems complete freedom from the dreaded multipath distortion which is so annoying in vehicle reception. This is a similar advantage to digital TV which eliminates ghosting of the image. One of the reasons for the long wait before action being taken was a controversy over whether the digital signal would be broadcast in-band (at the same frequency the station presently used) or in at separate out-of-band frequency. The in-band forces won, the leader in the transmission equipment is Ibiquity Digital Corp. Kenwood, Panasonic and JVC are developing receivers for cars and Onkyo will have a home receiver. Prices for early adopters will be high. Though Ford is one of Ibiquitys investors, digital radios as new car options probably wont be seen (or heard!) before the 2006 model year. It also remains to be heard as to what the fidelity standards of broadcast DAB will be. HI-FI NEWS frequently prints reader mail with listener complaints about excessive data reduction and processing of UK digital broadcasts, and we have also heard some audiophile-user grousing about processing of both digital satellite services signals.
Hi-Def Digital Home Software Suite Introduced - Whole-home entertainment packages are the focus of several manufacturers exhibiting at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week. Ucentric Systems is introducing their package which includes hi-def off-air TV reception, satellite reception, a hi-def photo application, digital video recorder, audio, and data - and all of this directed to multiple TVs and speakers throughout a house. Complete control over recording and playing video of all types is offered at each of the media centers in the home, and the HD photo app allows users to download, access and display their digital photos in HD quality at any of the media centers. An onscreen function menu is designed for consumer friendliness.
3D Re-introduced - A new firm named Sensio is promoting a system of video equipment and special DVDs to distribute and present some of the 3D movies made in the 60s and 80s as well as some newer 3D specials. The system uses a sort of consumer version of the liquid-crystal glasses and rapidly-alternating (30 times a second) left-eye and right-eye screen images of the 70mm IMAX 3D productions, and is said to be compatible with most DVD players, large-screen TVs and projectors. (But do any of those films equal the IMAX 3D/Binaural shows in either content or technical quality? And even IMAX films havent exactly been Academy Award material and few are in 3D...) The story and an interview is in the current issue of WIDESCREEN REVIEW.
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