Pros Appropriately simple, sleek design. Sounds excellent given adequate reception. Relatively inexpensive.
Cons Accessing preset stations should be slightly easier. Reception in certain areas is not miraculous.
Summary First off, I bought this device for my father so I've had limited experience with it. He has about 4 favorite AM/FM stations and simply wanted better reception than could be provided by the tuner built in to his receiver. His house is in a valley in a mostly rural area. I spent some time tweaking the placement of the FM antenna (bearing in mind the aesthetic considerations of my mother) to find a consistent HD signal for his favorite classical station but when I found it I must say I was quite satisfied in going from classical music with significant static interference to classical music with no static.
The performance in our area was not *quite* the miracle I was hoping for in that several AM/FM stations of interest were plagued by interference and static as they are with conventional tuners, but overall the performance is very good. It was also necessary for me to explain to my parents that the device would occasionally stutter, echo, or delay when searching for an HD signal or alternating between AM/FM and HD -- unlike conventional radio tuners.
Beyond minor squabbles about its performance, the only other real gripe I have is with one facet of the interface. My father is a child of the 1930's and not a technophile. I'd assumed accessing preset stations would be as simple as assigning them a number and pressing that number (one button). The Sony XDR-F1HD requires a two-to-three button combination: 1) Press 'Band' to select AM or FM, 2) Press the assigned preset number, 3) Press 'Enter'. For radiophiles and/or technologically-minded people this is no problem, but I had to use a minor technical workaround in reprogramming our universal remote control to make things as simple as possible for the old man.
There isn't much to say about the design. I appreciate the ability to alter the content of the display, along with its brightness and contrast. This a relatively simple component that does not require extensive menus or excessive buttons and it has neither. The size of the device is proportional to its functionality, so it's small and fairly unobtrusive.
The Sony XDR-F1HD is a great option for those who listen to the radio on a regular basis and want a significant boost in quality for under $100. It still has the trappings of regular radio in that the clarity is directly affected by the environment and positioning of the antennae, but if you can find it for $80 or less (1/2009) the performance really matches the price.
Pros 1) Easy to use and hook up
2) HD sound quality is much better than standard FM
3) Relatively low priced
Cons 1) Runs a bit warm
2) Lack of audio out options (RCA only)
3) No tagging or other special features
Summary The bottom line is that the Sony XDR-F1HD is a great and simple HD radio receiver (hook-up to your amp). It has a small footprint and even though it runs a tad warm, it's not hot like others have claimed; I suppose it mainly depends on where you place the unit. The sound can be near CD quality, but it really depends on your location. Like standard FM, if you're not in the vicinity of the radio station it's going to sound more static (you can go online to check for your location). To tell if you are receiving the HD signal a simple 'HD' symbol will show up.
Finally, the white LCD screen and black casing (with glossy front) makes it very attractive and fits well with my stereo system.
Pros Recovers degraded analog signals like no other tuner
Cons Lacks comprehensive controls
Pros Fantastic performance. Picks up distant stations with easy using the supplied dipole antenna. Great price that makes HD radio something of a reality and less of a laughing stock.
Cons Backlight remains on even when radio is off. The screen is hard to read from afar - could benefit from more contrast. 20 preset limit is too small. The lack of optical or digital output is frustrating.
Summary After quite a bit of research, I decided that this was the best consumer-grade radio out there capable of receiving HD. Throw in the fact that it's less than $100 and the value this radio offers is undeniable.
Please note this this is a tuner. It must be connected to a receiver or some similar device. It has no speakers. Hook up was straight-forward using RCA cables. (Note that cables and batteries for the remote are not included. Boo, Sony!)
I'm about 18 miles from Boston and it easily pulls in HD signals from Providence and Worcester (30+ miles away). The sound quality is superb and Its small size fits nicely into a cabinet or on a table. It runs circles around my receiver's tuner.
The backlight is kind of bright, even at its lowest setting. It'd be nice if you could shut it off entirely. Hardly a deal breaker, but a minor annoyance nonetheless.
I highly recommend this product. It's price should enable many more consumers to make the leap into HD Radio. I was skeptical at first, but the multi-channel offerings are nice to have.
Pros Clean, undistorted sound. Excellent FM sensitivity. I live about 10 miles from downtown Boston, and pick up all the roughly 40 HD FM stations there. But I can also pick up WFCR, 90 miles west in Amherst. I do have a dedicated FM antenna in attic.
Cons The output from the user is via RCA plugs to one of your receiver's audio inputs, rather than coax to the receivers antenna input. So you lose an audio input, and your receiver's tuner button won't select the Sony.