Sunday, March 16, 2008

Digital Radio

I seem to have the bug, having discovered how great HD radio is. I was apprehensive at first, mainly because most HD radio’s cost between $200 and $300. However, a search of ebay revealed a number of low cost units. I was initially surprised to discover that bidding on most of these ready to use items went to a level that I thought was rather expensive, but I found an alternative.
While scanning for units, I noticed a number of HD Radio Component Car Tuner Kits for sale. These units are essentially an add-on for existing car radio’s. I figured that so long as I could provide the 12-volts input power, and the output stereo, I could basically make up my own system.
I placed a bid for a couple of Visteon HDZ300 units and won both of them for $10 and $25. The lower cost unit was missing some cables and remote, which was not a problem as I made my own connections. One of the neat features of this add-on unit is that one has the option of using either a line-in for the audio or an FM modulator to send a signal to an in-dash radio receiver.
One of the units has been placed in the Low Cost Entertainment Control unit I mentioned earlier in this journal. I placed a spare transformer and the component tuner box inside the unit, and added a diode to the 12-volt transformer to yield 12.6-volts instead of 13.5-volts which I considered to be a bit high.
I hooked up the RCA cables from the component tuner box to an existing outlet on the Entertainment unit and an outlet lead for the aerial. The controller with its digital display was mounted on the front of the unit, using velcro after making a hole for the interface cable. The Entertainment unit's RCA outlet was then connected to an external audio/video switch box, that feeds the signals to a wall TV, and the audio to an amplifier.
The sound I get is awesome, and I can scan for both analog and digital signals on both AM and FM. Stations using the HD radio technology often multicast a number of channels so you can receive several alternative genres or programs.
The Visteon radio canseek (scan) both conventional signals or just HD signals. The remote is convenient while relaxing.
If I kept my old Chevy, it would be a great replacement for the large radio/cassette player installed in many GM cars that have a very narrow depth. One could easily make up a face plate, add an HD Radio kit, a 12-volt amplifier, also available on ebay, and a dedicated socket for an MP3 player.