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iBiquity Switches Codecs To Boost Performance

New York — iBiquity has scrapped its PAC codec, replacing it with a proprietary codec to meet broadcaster objections over digital AM sound quality.

So far, the codec’s AM and FM sound quality has been received favorably by the small number of broadcasters and broadcast-equipment executives who heard it during demonstrations in recent weeks. A larger group of people has been invited by iBiquity to audition the codec next week at NPR’s Washington D.C. studios.

Just as important, the codec changeover won’t require receiver manufacturers to redesign prototype hardware as previously feared, enabling Kenwood to offer a car tuner later this year if additional auditions and NRSC testing goers well, said Kenwood VP Bob Law. Kenwood needs only to load the codec onto its existing hardware platform, he said. Likewise, radio broadcasters who have already installed iBiquity hardware need only insert a CD to upload the new codec, as expected.

If demonstrations and testing go well, Kenwood plans its first production runs in September, mainly to offer units to broadcasters for testing and to radio stations to promote digital radio, Law said. If Kenwood decides to ship to retailers this year, it won’t be any sooner than November, and shipments will be limited, he added. The expected everyday price of Kenwood’s add-on car tuner is $350-$500.

Yamaha, however, postponed plans for a home receiver incorporating iBiquity’s HD Radio technology. Delphi previously planned 2003 shipments for 2004 model-year cars, and a handful of other suppliers, including Audiovox and Harman Kardon, had targeted 2003 shipments for car and home products, respectively.

Law said he doubted any manufacturers would ship home or aftermarket car products this year but would “be ready for 2004.” Kenwood’s home product will be out in the first quarter of 2004, he added.

The new codec delivers digital AM sound quality that’s “virtually indistinguishable” from today’s FM quality, said Milford Smith, chairman of the digital audio broadcasting subcommittee of the National Radio Systems Committee (NRSC). Digital FM, Smith added, “is virtually indistinguishable from the original CD source” and “is probably better than satellite radio.”

Smith, NRSC chairman Charlie Morgan, and executives of Clear Channel and Journal Broadcasting heard the demo early this week. “Everyone came away” from this week’s demo believing that the codec issue “has been resolved,” Smith said.

Kenwood’s Law said he was “very impressed” by the demos that he heard.