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JVC's KD HDR1 is one of the few in-car stereos on the market that comes with a built-in HD (hybrid digital) radio tuner. HD radio works by sending out a traditional analog signal as well as digital signal, which can be used to transmit text data such as song and artist details. Radios with a built-in HD receiver sort through the multiple signals and reproduce the original broadcast without the multipath distortion associated with standard analog FM and AM reception. The KD HDR1 can also play MP3 and WMA discs and can be connected to iPods and satellite radio via add-on modules.
Like other products from JVC's KD range we've seen, the single-DIN-size KD HDR1 features a well-designed control interface with a good combination of buttons and dials for selecting and tweaking audio sources. On the left of the KD HDR1's faceplate, a backlit D pad provides the means of skipping tracks and folders (for disc-based audio) and radio channels (including multicast programs on HD radio); it also acts as a proxy control interface for iPods, which are connected via an optional module.
A volume dial and a standard row of hard buttons along the bottom of the system's single-line monochrome display rounds out the picture. While we are not crazy about the size of the display and the fact that it is limited to showing eight characters at a time, it is bright enough to be visible from the driver's seat, even in direct sunlight.
Features and performance
The KD HDR1's headlining feature is its built-in HD radio receiver. Comparing the sound quality of HD- and standard- analog broadcast on the KD HDR1 is easy, as it takes up to 10 seconds for the device to pick up the radio channel's HD signal after it has found the regular analog signal. During the time it takes to lock onto the digital signal, an HD icon flashes in the bottom right-hand corner of the display. The difference between the two signals is startling: when the HD mode kicks in, the audio output becomes far clearer, with the hissing and fuzz associated with regular FM broadcasts completely eliminated. In HD mode, the KD HDR1 reproduces instruments and voices with greater clarity, and acoustic separation is far more distinct than in analog mode.
Another benefit of HD radio (other than its being free) is its ability to carry multiple channels of music from the same radio station--so-called "multicasts." Most HD stations have only one or two channels on each channel to date, but there is potential for up to seven channels to be multicast on a single FM or AM frequency.