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JVC KT-HDP1 Portable HD Radio review: JVC KT-HDP1 Portable HD Radio

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The JVC KT-HDP1 can be connected to your car stereo in one of four ways, depending on whether you want to invest in a professional install (or try pulling your dashboard apart on your own), and whether or not your stereo has an auxiliary-input jack. The two more permanent installs require routing the car's own FM antenna through the JVC KT-HDP1's HD connection unit, which is then connected to the antenna port on the back of the car stereo. With this done, output from the JVC KT-HDP1 can be routed to the stereo using either an auxiliary input jack, or, if your car doesn't come with a 1/8-inch input jack, using a wired FM transmitter cable.

For those who don't want to go to the trouble of removing their car stereo--or the expense of paying someone else to do it--the JVC KT-HDP1 can pick up FM and HD programming using a sleeve-type input antenna that uses a thin self-adhesive component, which can be stuck to the inside of the windshield. Output can then be sent to the car's own FM receiver by a patch cable to the auxiliary input jack, or via another output sleeve antenna. The receiver itself also has a built-in FM transmitter, which appears to be adequate for streaming HD, FM, and AM programming at short range.

A 10-band equalizer enables drivers to tweak audio output.

For our evaluation of the JVC KT-HDP1, we hooked it up each of the four possible ways to establish the difference between the HD signal with the various connection methods. As we suspected, the hard-wired connections worked best, although we were surprised at the difference in sound quality between the aux-in connection (which is the only true digital connection of the four options) and the hard-wired FM connection. Using the aux-in jack on our stereo, HD programs sounded crystal clear, with crisp sound separation and a rich output across the acoustic range. With the hard-wired FM connection, the sound was still clear, but we did notice the faint fizzle of FM static. With the sleeve-type antenna, the sound quality was predictably fuzzier, although there was very little difference between the audio quality via the FM transmitter and the aux input. In all four cases, the sound quality of the HD Radio signal via the JVC KT-HDP1 was far clearer than the corresponding programming being broadcast on the FM band.

The JVC KT-HDP1 comes with an impressive range of audio control options, including five preset EQ configurations as well as a 10-band user-configured EQ, tone control for bass and treble, and a setting for loudness. As we found in our test, the EQ controls of the receiver can be combined with those of the car's stereo to compound signal processing, but this can lead to distortion of the output. For the clearest audio output, we found it better to turn up the volume on the JVC KT-HDP1 rather than on the car stereo, despite the fact that this was the more difficult means of adjusting volume as mentioned above.

In sum
The JVC KT-HDP1 is a stylish, inexpensive way to bring HD Radio programming into your car. Despite a couple of design niggles, we are generally impressed with its usability and range of programming options. We also like the multiple options that drivers have for connecting it to their car stereos, but if you want the true audio benefit of HD, we suggest a hard-wired install.

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