Top positive review
97 people found this helpful
A great way to start exploring
on April 2, 2008
I have been following the development of Hybrid-Digital radio (HD) since I listen to radio more than any other audio source. I finally made the move to an HD tuner recently with the purchase of the Sangaen HDT-1X and I would like to tell you my impressions of the hardware and the sonic quality of the signals I'm receiving. Prior to the HDT-1X my experience with FM tuners has been with vintage equipment from Sony, Sansui and Kenwood.
The HDT-1X is an audio component designed to be used with an additional component such as an integrated amplifier, preamp or receiver. It's sized to fit with other equipment in your rack or audio cabinet. Standard AM and FM signals can also be received with the tuner. It weighs 5.7 pounds (2.6 kilograms) and only comes in black. Sangean markets two other models of HD radio receivers, the HDT-1 and HDR-1. The HDR-1 is a tabletop radio. The HDT-1 has the same appearance as the HDT-1X but there are two important differences that caught my attention.The HDT-1X has a optical-out port and the ability to adjust the brightness of LCD display. Both of these features are important to me. Other differences between the two models are a bit more esoteric and are covered on page 16 of the manual. It's available for download from the Sangean web site.
The unit ships with a remote, a very nice heavy duty dipole FM antenna, AM loop antenna and a set of RCA cables to attach the tuner to another audio component. The power cord is detachable. The remote requires two AAA batteries which are not included. The user manual is 22 pages long, very well written, illustrated and filled with all kinds of interesting and useful information about the unit.
Within minutes after UPS dropped it at my door I had it cabled to a vintage Sansui 7000 receiver. I attached both antennas, the power cord and I was on my way. The layout of the front panel is simple and straightforward. You can read more detail about the controls by downloading the manual from Sangean's web site. I'll just hit the highlights in this review.
Set up is very easy. I managed to tune my first HD station without consulting the manual simply by hitting the HD Seek rocker switch on the right of the tuner. I locked onto WMXD (92.3) which bills itself as a classic soul and contemporary R&B station in Detroit. Wow! It nearly knocked me out of my chair. No hiss, signal strength meter pegged, dead silence when there should have been dead silence. Great, well defined punchy bass, clear midrange without a trace of muddiness. In short, it sounded fantastic! I noticed that the station was broadcasting multiple channels of HD. I hit the tuning rocker and that took me to a great gospel program also being broadcast by WMXD. This stuff sounded fantastic. Far superior to satellite radio and closer to that of a fine audio CD.
I managed to locate a total of 18 stations broadcasting in HD. Thirteen of those were multichannel which means I am able to listen to a total of 31 different music streams on FM. Bouyed by my success I fished out the manual and started reading what else the radio could do.
The Info button controls what information is displayed on the LCD screen. It can be operated from the front or the remote. One of the displays is a more sophisticated signal strength meter composed of 18 bars. The weakest station I was receiving was at 16 bars. This is outstanding performance considering that I am only using the dipole antenna supplied with tuner. Normally, I need an outside antenna to eliminate the hiss I get on regular FM. Although I have never bench tested the HDT-1X the sensitivity seems to be outstanding.
Using the presets is a snap. Very intuitive. It works much like my car radio. Find the frequency you would like to store, hold one of the buttons on the keypad down for two seconds and it's captured. I filled up the FM presets in just a few minutes using the HD Seek switch. You can also input the frequency of the station manually through the keypad as well as using the Tuning switch which walks you through the band one frequency step at a time. There is also a Seek switch which takes you to the next strongest station.
Of course, you can listen to non-HD radio as well. That's good because my favorite station is CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) 2 from Canada and they don't broadcast in HD. I miss the great clarity and rock solid signal when listening to this station but it sounds better than my Sansui or Denon receiver sections.
What's really a kick is listening to AM. The powerhouse station in Detroit is WWJ at around 50,000 watts on 950. This is a news station and I spend a lot of time in my car listening to it to avoid traffic delays. The AM radio in my truck is awful and all the maladies that an AM radio signal is subject to doesn't help either. Pops, clicks, crashes and ignition noise are just part of the game with AM. Not so with HD-AM. AM sounds nearly as good as FM and comes through in stereo. If I didn't know I would have a very hard time telling difference between an AM and FM signal on HD. Of course, the programming would give it away in a second. I can only find two AM stations broadcasting in HD in the Detroit area.
All of this goodness was repeated when I hooked the unit up to my Denon 3805 with one important difference: I used an optical cable to attach the tuner to the receiver instead of the RCA jacks. Whoever invented the optical cable for the interconnection of audio components should get some kind of award. Not only is the connection of equipment simplified but it really cuts down on the cable mess. And I'm really good at cable management too. The Denon is a receiver so it already has a built-in tuner that sounds great. The HDT-1X is attached through an unused port on the Denon and operates separately from the receiver's built-in tuner. It's a relatively inexpensive way to upgrade an existing receiver to HD radio.
My experiences with the Sangaen have been nothing but positive. If I had to search for a flaw it would be the remote which requires you to point the remote directly at the tuner to transmit commands properly. Another item which might bother some people is that the display can not be turned off completely. It can only be dimmed with the HDT-1X. You can at least dim it to a non-obtrusive level. This is the only model of HD radio that Sangaen makes that allows the display to be dimmed.
I would recommend this product to anyone wishing to explore what HD radio is capable of.