MPBR (aka PRM) and HD Radio

          If you listen to classical music on MPBR, by now you may be aware that High Definition Radio (HD Radio) is coming to MPBR, and that this will enable an additional channel (for arts and classical music) as well as higher quality sound. You may also be aware that you may need to have a new radio to take advantage of these improvements. This raises several questions, which I will try to answer, based on conversations with Greg Waxberg & Jason Klein of MPBR, and several phone calls and visits to local audio vendors.

Que: What will the two channels be called?
Ans: MPB Radio and MPB Arts and Culture (or MPBR and MPBRAC, or HD-1 and HD-2)

Que: What will I hear if I tune to MPBR with my present FM radio?
Ans: MPB Radio, just as you hear now.

Que: What will be the content of the two channels?
Ans: MPBR will have much the same content as at present, at least for the time being. MPBRAC will include more music and arts programming, occasionally duplicating what is on MPBR (at least for the present). One of the new programs will be The World of Opera. The Metropolitan Opera will not participate (their decision, not MPBR's).

Que: Specifically, what about PipeDreams and MS Concert Hall?
Ans: For the present PipeDreams will be available on the analog channel, perhaps at a different time. MS Concert Hall will also continue on the analog channel. The final schedule has not been determined.

Que: Where can I find the program schedule?
Ans: The easiest way is to go to www.mpbonline.org, click on "Radio", and then the "Radio Schedule". Because MPBRAC is not yet officially on the air, only the MPBR schedule will be shown. The MPBRAC schedule should be available after Jan 1.

Que: With an HD radio, will I be able to hear MPBR (the analog channel)?
Ans:Yes, but it will be in HD. The FCC requires that when a station broadcasts in HD, it must duplicate one of the HD channels in analog.

Que: Are HD radios available locally?
Ans: Yes, but not yet widely. Best Buy has Sony and other HD tuners (but as yet no free-standing HD radios). Other manufacturers have different models, which can be found on the internet, but they may not be available locally at this time.

Que: How will I get the two HD channels on only one frequency (91.3 mhz, for example)?
Ans: To tune from one station to the next takes two clicks of the tuning knob. To get MPBR, tune to 91.3 (in the Jackson area). To get MPBRAC, move the knob one click up (i.e.,toward 91.5).

Que: What about in my car?
Ans: Aftermarket HD radios are coming available. In particular Ford has adopted HD as a standard option for new vehicles. If you already have a Ford, you may be able to get a radio - or an adapter - installed by your Ford dealer. Best Buy can also install at the present.

Que: What about portable HD radios, headphone sets in particular?
Ans: The chipset used in current HD radios draws too much current for battery operation to be practical, so there are no portable HD radios available at this time. Manufacturers do have new technology available to make this possible, so portables will be available in the future.

Que: Will I be able to connect the output of my HD radio to my home stereo system?
Ans: Yes, but only if your HD radio has an audio output jack. Table-top radios probably won't have this, while tuners will. You should inquire about this before you buy.

Que: Is January 1 the starting date?
Ans: Yes, it is a target. It takes some time for an individual station to be converted. Some of the MS stations are already broadcasting in HD. You can also hear HD broadcast (MPBR and MPBRAC) on your computer at the present time.

Que: How do I listen on my computer?
Ans: It is very easy (assuming you have a high speed internet connection). Go to www.mpbonline.org, click on "Radio", scroll down to and click on one of the two large icons titled "Click Here to Listen...", and you will go to a screen with four choices: MPBR for PCs, MPBR for Macs, MPBRAC for PCs, and MPBRAC for Macs. Click on your choice and you should be in business. If your computer is old, you may need to download a player. All this is explained on screen.

Que: How will I perceive the improved quality?
Ans: First, in your vehicle the main benefit will be access to MPBRAC. Automobiles are often quite noisy, so that the wider dynamic range on HD (ppp to fff - a whisper to a roar) may not be appreciated. In a quiet setting the quality will become apparent. One improvement is that when you turn the volume up there won't be the background of static and/or hiss you have with analog signals. Remember also that in reproducing sound electronically, the two weakest links are still the interfaces between sound waves and an electrical signal; that is, microphones and loudspeakers/earphones. While you can't do anything about the microphones, you can choose quality speakers and headphones.

Glenn A. Gentry