hdradioHey guys, remember the future of radio? When it was announced, HD Radio sounded like a dream come true: 5.1 surround sound, the ability for radio stations to have side channels of niche programming, and a display of the song and artist is currently playing. Problem is, it was announced years ago, and while it’s been making advances at a snails pace, other technology hasn’t slowed down. While many stations around the country are now using HD technology, there are a few obstacles keeping it from really catching on. Price and portability have been two factors, but Insignia may just addressed them by coming out with a $50 portable HD Radio. The radio, which features a color screen and 10 hours of play via a lithium charged battery, is available exclusively at Best Buy.

While that’s great and everything, it might be a case of too little too late.  The iPod generation has had eight years of listening to portable music without radio, and as nice as this radio might be, it’s probably not going to make anyone convert back. And while the HD side channels might be cool and sound great, there isn’t a Howard Stern or other killer app luring listeners there yet. In fact, many people surveyed still confuse HD Radio with satellite radio, so as much as the NAB buys ads on radio, the message apparently isn’t getting through.  

On the plus side, $50 is just about the price point where it might not just be early adopters shelling out for a new listening experience. And when the new Zune comes out, it will also have an HD Radio built in. So the first widespread group of HD Radio users might be listening portably.