What is HD Radio?
HD Radio stations utilize traditional analog radio frequencies to broadcast up to three additional digital stations of content. To access these additional stations, you will need to use a HD Radio compatible device, luckily this technology is becoming more common. HD Radio provides digital quality broadcasting, without the hiss and fuzz that often appears over analog frequencies. It also allows stations to transmit song titles, album art, and additional station information. This extra information is why many HD Radio devices come with a screen, allowing you easy access to info about what you’re listening to.
How to tune-in:
You can listen to HD Radio on an HD compatible radio, in many new cars, and even on your smartphone. To find out if your vehicle’s radio is HD Radio compatible, visit here.
You can also purchase stand-alone HD Radios, and on many smartphones the FM tuner can be used to listen to HD Radio.
On your HD Radio device, tune to your favorite local radio station, if the station provides HD Radio, you will be listening to their HD1 station. Your HD Radio will be “locked” onto that station, now you can click your tuner dial once to access the HD2 station, click it again for the HD3, and again for the HD4.
How to tune-in on your phone:
Most smartphones manufactured today include an FM radio tuner, but many phones have their FM tuner disabled by their carriers requiring you to use mobile data to stream music. To find out if your smartphone has its FM tuner enabled, go here.
- Listen through your phone’s FM tuner: Typically if your phone has an enabled FM tuner, it will come with a pre-downloaded app that you can utilize to listen to the radio. If it doesn’t have one, you can use the NextRadio app, this is a free app that can be downloaded, and instantly grants you access to the local FM broadcasts in your area. Learn more and download the NextRadio app here.
- Listen without an FM tuner on your rooted Android smartphone: If you don’t have an FM tuner chip built-in to your phone, you can still listen with Spirit2: Real FM Radio 4 AOSP on your device’s existing receiver chips. Spirit2 FM can only be used on a rooted Android device, and you must be running AOSP firmware like CyanogenMod or stock Android. This is a more complicated option, but allows you to listen without using data or streaming through the internet. To download Spirit2: Real FM Radio 4 AOSP from the Google Play store, go here.
- Listen with a streaming app on your phone: There are several phone app options for streaming music, many are subscription based, but others are free, or have “premium features” that can be opted into for a fee. It should be noted that these options will use data from your phone carrier if you aren’t connected to Wifi. Here are some apps that allow you to listen to live traditional radio stations through your phone:
- TuneIn Radio has more than 100,000 radio stations and several million podcasts available in their free version. You can listen live to your local radio stations, and with their premium version you can have access to sports broadcasting, audiobooks, and not have advertising appear in the app. The paid version’s price varies based on your geographic location. Download it from iTunes here, and download it from the Google Play store here. (Plays all our stations)
- iHeartRadio is one of the most popular radio/listening apps currently available. You can listen to live radio, iHeartRadio playlists, and it can be used with Chromecast, and Android Wear. It’s free, but there are two paid options that allow more control if you’re interested. Download it from iTunes here, and download it from the Google Play store here. (they have WICR and WBAA, no WNIN or WBOI/WBNI)
- XiliaLive Internet Radio has over 50,000 live radio stations, it allows you to save your favorite stations, and customize the look of the app with themes. You can also manage the amount of data it uses, use their equalizer feature, and manage the Bluetooth options. It has a paid option, but the free version is pretty all-encompassing. Download it from iTunes here, and download it from the Google Play store here. (they have WICR, WBOI, and WNIN, not WBAA)
- Radio Online – PCRadio is a simpler radio app, with hundreds of Internet-hosted radio stations, and some FM stations that support online streaming. It does have a “pro” version that allows you to do live radio recording, a sleep timer, and other features. But for your basic live radio listening needs, this app has you covered. Download it from iTunes here, and download it from the Google Play store here. (they only have WICR)
- Your local radio station might also have an app that you can use to stream their live radio broadcasting. To find it you can search their call letters on the Google Play store or the iTunes store, or you can see if their website can direct you to where to download it directly. This is the best option if you want to just listen to your local station on your phone and don’t need all the other features a lot of these above apps include. (has app: WICR, WBOI and WBNI, and WBAA; no WNIN app)
How to tune-in on Amazon Echo and with Google Home:
Your Amazon Echo already has the TuneIn and iHeartRadio apps installed, so you can simply tell it “Alexa, play [radio call letters] from TuneIn” and it will stream their live radio. It’s best to use the call letters and not the station numbers, because Alexa will find the station immediately.
Google Home also has iHeartRadio and the TuneIn apps preloaded. You will use it much the same way, telling it “Ok Google, play [radio call letters],” adding “from TuneIn” or “from iHeartRadio” isn’t always necessary but sometimes if the device isn’t catching what you’re asking it to do, adding the extra directive is helpful. For more info on how to listen to the radio on Google Home, go here.
Does HD Radio have the same coverage as traditional analog radio stations?
The FCC currently requires that digital transmitters operate at a lower power level than their traditional analog counterpart. This can mean that many stations have a lower coverage area for their HD Radio offerings, sometimes 60% of the analog coverage area. These limits are expected to be raised by the FCC for digital broadcast power in the future, which would make the digital coverage close to, but not exactly the same area as the traditional analog station.