Review: iHD171 HD Radio Receiver with iTunes Tagging - Macenstein

Review: iHD171 HD Radio Receiver with iTunes Tagging

iPod alarm clocks have been around since time began (which was apparently 12:00AM), but none of them were as cool as iLuv’s iHD171.

I have seen many iPod alarm clocks come and go over the years and never got all that excited over them, but the iHD171 grabbed my attention enough to request a review unit because of the fact that in addition to being an iPod alarm clock with all the features you might expect (and a few you might not) the iHD171 is also an HD radio receiver. Being a satellite radio fan (as well as internet radio fan) who had long since sworn off “terrestrial radio”, I was interested in seeing what the big deal was about HD radio. For those who are not familiar, HD radio allows radio stations to broadcast multiple stations in “high definition sound” on the same channel. So for instance in my area (NYC) tuning into the station 101.1 FM gives you an oldies station. But when you tune into that same station on an HD radio, you actually can select one of THREE HD stations being broadcast on channel 101.1 – one HD1 you get the original oldies station (but in better quality), a classic rock station on HD2, and a news station on HD3. Even in a heavily populated market such as the New York City area, radio stations are not all that diverse. The addition of HD radio means you now have two to three times as many stations to choose from, and most secondary and tertiary stations tend to play “deeper” cuts or even entirely different genres than their flagship stations. Not all stations broadcast multiple channels, but in most metropolitan areas, most stations at least broadcast their main station in HD.


The iHD171 HD is a bit of a jack-of-all trades, and its value will depend a bit on how many of the devices it can replace you currently own. First and foremost, the iHD171 HD is an alarm clock, and a damn good one. You can set 2 different alarms with a choice of waking to a standard alarm, a radio station (AM, FM, or HD), or an iPod or iPhone. You can set a different volume for each alarm, and the volume ramps up a bit so as to not be completely jarring. The snooze is a standard 9 minute snooze, and there is a sleep timer which can again have its own volume setting which will gradually fade out over time. One of my pet peeves with alarm clocks is that they often are too bright at night, but the iHD171 HD has 3 brightness settings, as well as an “off” setting for those of us who prefer to sleep in total darkness.

In addition to an alarm clock, the iHD171 HD is of course also a radio. Tuning stations is done via turning one of the silver knobs on the front of the unit (the other controls volume). When you reach the a station which is broadcasting in HD, the letters “HD” will appear on the display, as well as a signal strength indicator. Once the radio locks into the HD signal, you will hear a change over from standard FM to the HD signal, and the quality difference is noticeable. For some reason I found it really fun to listen to the changeover, and found myself tuning around just for fun. Turning the tuning knob when on an HD station will go through the additional HD stations, if any, on that station. The display on the radio will show the song title and artist as well, which is a nice feature of satellite and internet radio.

iPod/iPhone integration

When listening to an iPod, the iHD171 HD has a couple pretty cool iPod-centric features that make it stand out from other iPod alarm clocks I have tested. First, the iHD171 HD features time syncing between your iPhone/iPod touch and the unit. When activated, it will sync the time of the clock to the time on your device, so in the event of a power failure, reprogramming the time is not a big deal (the iHD171 HD does have battery backup, of course). Second, the iHD171 HD features “iTunes tagging” which is a pretty cool feature, somewhat similar to that found in many iPhone internet radio apps. When your iPhone is docked in the iHD171 HD, and you are listening to the radio, if you like a song, hit the “iTunes Tag” button on the top of the unit and it will store the song info on your iPhone. The next time you hook your iPhone to your computer, you will see a new playlist with all your tagged songs. Double clicking them will bring you to the song in the iTunes store, and let you purchase them. Skipping tracks on your iPod is accomplished by turning the tuning knob, which lets you scrub through your songs.

Other nice features rounding out the iHD171 HD are an IR remote, an AUX jack for listening to other audio sources, such as a CD player or other non-Apple MP3 player, as well as a video out jack that lets you watch the video on your iPhone or iPod on an external TV. I would imagine most people would have this clock radio in their bedroom or kitchen, however I could see the video out feature being a nice option for students looking to consolidate gadgets. There is also an audio out in case you wish to hook it to a larger sound system to listen to your HD stations. By the way, internet radio such as Slacker radio plays fine in the iHD171 HD when the iPhone is docked, although when you select the “iPod” input, it will launch your iPhone’s iPod app, which you will need to first quit.


The iHD171 HD sounds like a very nice alarm clock radio, but does not sound as good as a regular $179 pair of iPod speakers. It is important to remember, however, that you are getting a wealth of functionality that standard iPod speakers do not offer, so a sound quality trade-off is to be expected. The bass is lacking, as you would assume, and some mid range mudiness is present, but in general they sound as good or better than you would expect, and the benefit of a clear HD radio signal helps the iHD171 HD tremendously over a standard FM radio.


There is not much bad to say about the iHD171 HD, as it delivers all it claims to and sounds as good or better than you might expect. My only real issue was I was surprised to find that while I live relatively close to New York City, I had quite a few instances where my HD radio signal would drop out and the station would revert to standard FM broadcasts. Sometimes the iHD171 HD would show a full HD signal strength, then inexplicably drop to zero bars, without moving the antennae or radio. I suppose HD radio suffers from the same atmospheric anomalies as regular radio in that respect, but I have not experienced this with my satellite radio receiver, so that’s still a plus for them. Maybe a better antennae would help.


You may think the $179 price tag is a bit steep for an alarm clock, but the wealth of features the iHD171 offers come very close to justifying its price. The decision to buy depends largely on how many of the features it offers you already have. The iHD171 HD serves as not only an alarm clock, but: an HD radio, an iPod docking/charging station, an iPod video jack, and iPod speaker system (with remote). Add up those items individually and you would likely come close to or pass the iHD171 HD’s price tag, and odds are you would not have something nearly so sleek and compact. The iHD171 HD is one of those items I hate sending back as a reviewer, as it has done something that I did not think possible – it got me actually listening to “regular” radio again, and I may have to now go buy one.

Price: $179.99 ($129 Amazon)
Pros: HD radio brings better audio quality and larger selection of stations, iTunes tagging lets you save songs you like for later purchasing, great alarm options, sleep timers, and video out
Cons: HD radio reception can occasionally be flaky, just as with regular radio. Value decreases if you already own an HD radio or iPod alarm clock

4 Responses to “Review: iHD171 HD Radio Receiver with iTunes Tagging”
  1. Tom Foolery says:

    This Looks Amazing….

    Could you also review other ipod clock radios, such as the Luna X2, or iHome stations

  2. Trip Mitchell says:

    have you looked at the Teac HD-1 HD Clock Radio with iPod/iPhone Docking? I have enjoyed Teac sound quality in the past and this unit is available for 150 bucks on amazon and $99 at CostCo… love to hear your comparisons.

  3. Jonro says:

    It’s interesting, but the only time I listen to an alarm clock is when it goes off in the morning. Maybe this would be useful if I lived in a dorm, but this product seems like a solution in search of a problem, to me.

  4. Hindsight says:

    I want an alarm clock that projects a holographic image of me sitting in my office talking on the phone and sipping coffee. Until that happens, gimme a $10 rig with a hard to miss snooze button that’s simple enough for me to operate on 3 braincells.

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