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HD Radio Backs Headphone Stereo Launch

The HD Digital Radio Alliance is supporting the launch of the country’s first headphone-type portable HD Radio with a pair of radio spots on more than 100 stations in the top 100 radio markets.

Select local stations in the top 10 markets will run promotions giving away the portables later this month and in August, added HD Radio developer iBiquity Digital.

The headphone-style HD Radio was launched by Best Buy in most of its stores this week under its Insignia brand at $49.99, iBiquity said.

The Insignia model, however, won’t be the only HD Radio option that the Alliance will promote for on-the-go music listeners. The Alliance plans radio ads to support the fall launch of Microsoft’s next-generation Zune portable media player (PMP), iBiquity said. The new Zune will be Microsoft’s first Zune with HD Radio, touchscreen, full Web browser and HD video storage. The new Zune was the first headphone-type portable HD Radio to be announced back in May.

The Best Buy model is an FM-only model that delivers multicast FM stations and comes with rechargeable lithium-ion battery delivering up to 10 hours of playing time. The 3.07-inch by 2.06-inch by 0.63-inch device is bundled with ear buds and armband and features 1.5-inch color LCD display to display song metadata. It doesn’t feature iTunes Tagging, which lets users “tag” a broadcast song, storing the song’s title and artist information to facilitate later PC downloading of the title.

Other features of the Insignia model include 10 user-selectable station presets, 3.5mm output jack for headphones or playback through connected stereo systems, and water-resistant case.

The planned Zune, in contrast, is a full-fledged PMP that, like its predecessor, stores downloaded music and video in memory. The new Zune will also feature the ability to tag broadcast songs for later downloading from the Zune web site. The Zune will also receive multicast FM stations.

At least one company, Coby, offers a portable tabletop HD Radio with rechargeable battery. It features AM/FM playback and mono speaker.