That’s how PC World recently described HD Radio. It along with netbooks, municipal Wi-Fi, the Segway, Internet appliances, and seven other technologies made the magazine’s fizzled tech list.
Maybe it was just coincidence, but about the same time the Long Beach Press-Telegram reported:
Radio Shack is essentially out of the HD Radio business. A shame, since the Shack was one of the early supporters. Radio Shack has every one of its house brand HD Radio units on clearance.
Add to that a steady stream of critical comments about HD Radio on the audio “gearhead” forums. Here’s an example of a recent comment:
HD radio sounds awful. Regular FM sounds more pleasing. It (HD) is distorted and crunchy like an old low bitrate MP3. The god awful top end is not worth it.
While tech discussion groups are generally critical of most things, it is nearly impossible to find even HD users praising the service. The best they seem to say is that it isn’t as bad as people claim.
The HD alliance can take some solace that disinterest and criticism of digital radio seems to be international.
London’s Daily Mail reports that analog radios are outselling digital radios three to one in the UK. Slow US HD radio sales are understandable because Americans will be able to listen to analog radio for the foreseeable future.
The U.K. intends to shut down analog radio broadcasting all together once digital penetration reaches 50%, a goal that is moving further and further away as people continue to buy analog radios.
Australian radio is also seeing slow digital sales. Consumers there remain skeptical and complain about quality of service:
In Australia digital radio is suffering from poor reception and in many areas there is no reception. In metropolitan areas such as Sydney digital radio owners are struggling to lock onto a signal.
The fact is, digital radio sales are weak everywhere. Enthusiasm for digital is not growing. If anything, many early adopters have become outspoken critics.
Despite massive marketing efforts, listeners in multiple countries are shrugging their shoulders and telling us that the promised benefits fall well short.
And that’s why technologies fizzle.