KUAF Goes HD: High Definition Means Better Sound, More Programs

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — University of Arkansas Public Radio, KUAF-91.3 FM, is the first radio station in northwest and western Arkansas to begin broadcasting in high definition, or HD-Radio. The immediate result is that listeners with HD-Radio receivers will hear CD quality sound. But that’s just the beginning, according to KUAF general manager Rick Stockdell.

     “HD-Radio is going to let us to increase programming for our listeners by enabling us to broadcast on more than one channel at the same time. The most common request we get from listeners is that they want more,” Stockdell said. “Classical music lovers want more classical music; fans of NPR news want more news programs. With HD-Radio we can do both.”

      KUAF-HD is on the air now and, simulcasting the programming on KUAF-FM. By this summer Stockdell says a second HD channel, KUAF-HD 2, will begin broadcasting a mirror image of the first channel. When classical music is on KUAF-HD, NPR news/talk shows that are currently unavailable on KUAF-FM will be heard on HD-2. When KUAF-HD is airing NPR news programs such as “Morning Edition” or “All Things Considered,” HD-2 will play classical music.

       “A lover of classical music will have his or her favorite programming available on one station or the other 24 hours a day,” Stockdell explained. “West and northwest Arkansas public radio news listeners will have a greater variety of NPR news/talk programs available 24 hours a day as well.” 

Stockdell says HD-Radio was developed as a way for radio stations to compete with satellite and web radio, with their multitude of channels and program formats. He says that four HD commercial stations are broadcasting in Little Rock, and predicts that commercial HD-Radio will arrive in the Northwest Arkansas and Fort Smith markets by the end of the year. By then he hopes that KUAF has one and possibly two additional channels on the air.

“This is the most exciting thing to come along for us in radio since the change from AM to FM in the late 60’s,” he said.

KUAF listeners will have to invest in an HD-Radio set to hear KUAF-HD. Current prices for a desk top set are around $300, but Stockdell says that price is down substantially from a year ago. He says industry officials are predicting the price will be closer to $100 by the fall of this year. Companies currently offering HD radios include: ADA, Alpine, Boston Acoustics, DaySequerra, Eclipse, JVC, Kenwood, Panasonic, Polk Audio, Radiosophy, Rotel, Sanyo, and Yamaha.

Stockdell says a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting paid 60 percent of the cost of the equipment needed to put KUAF-HD on the air, with the rest of the funding coming from listeners’ donations. He says the station is waiting to install a new satellite receive system, and a new automation system before it can add additional channels.

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