The NS-HDRAD, NS-HDRAD2 and NS-HDRAD2 Rev_B are small tabletop HD Radios manufactured by Insignia.  The updated HDRAD2 Rev_B version, as of early 2020, is still available for purchase at Best Buy for $49.99.  The new radio and the “rev A” version usually run $10 less on eBay, while the first version is even more cheaper.

The Insignia NS-HDRAD, NS-HDRAD2, and NS-HDRAD2 Rev_B.

I first purchased my first NS-HDRAD2 in 2017.  It lasted until 2020, when the radio’s antenna became loose and broke internally.  I purchased another HDRAD2 off eBay and also an older HDRAD, as both were cheap and I wanted to test the differences in both radios.  Much to my surprise, the newly-arrived HDRAD2 was slightly different, and I realized that I actually purchased a newly-updated third version of this radio.  I decided to compare all three radios in one consolidated review, replacing the original review that I had before.

NS-HDRAD: First version tuner

The Insignia NS-HDRAD was released in 2012.  It came on board at a time when many manufacturers were cranking out tabletop-sized HD Radio-capable receivers–something that has slowed down somewhat almost a decade later.  The radio is slightly larger than an adult human’s hand, at 8.27″ x 4.5″ x 2.2.”  It has 3.5 mm AUX input, which allows you to use it as a speaker for any audio device with an audio output, provided you have the correct patch cables to connect it.  The radio does not have Bluetooth capabilities.  It comes with a 5.5 V power cord.  The radio can also run on four AA batteries, making it ultra portable.

The Insignia NS-HDRAD tuned to an HD Radio signal.

The radio’s bright pale blue screen is on the top of the radio, where the casing curves upward.  This is a nice touch, since the radio is likely going to be put in a place where someone is looking down on it, such as on a waiting room table in a doctor’s office.  A power button is at the end of a row of tuning, preset, volume, and input (FM or AUX) buttons that rounds out almost all of the radio’s functions.  An HD SEEK button is also on the front of the tuner, allowing users to quickly search an unfamiliar radio dial for HD broadcasts.  On the back, the radio has a 3.5 mm “pigtail antenna” jack, which allows the user to connect a dipole or wire antenna, maximizing reception options in places where using the supplied whip antenna may not be feasible, such as in a child’s bedroom.

The Insignia NS-HDRAD has high selectivity, but low sensitivity.  The radio can easily pick up signals adjacent to strong, local radio stations without any bleedthrough heard on these adjacent frequencies.  For example, I have a strong, local FM station on 101.5 FM.  I hear no trace of that station on 101.3 or 101.7 FM.  A radio with low selectivity would present bleedthrough on these adjacent frequencies, rendering the “DXability” of the radio low.  Having a low sensitivity is also an equal downside.  This means that the radio cannot easily detect as many weak signals that a radio with a high sensitivity, such as the Sony XDR-F1HD, may easily pick up.

Insignia NS-HDRAD tuned into a station not running RDS or HD Radio.

The NS-HDRAD2 tuned into an HD Radio signal.

The HDRAD supposedly decodes RDS, but I found that the unit that I purchased used off of eBay did not do that, even on strong analog-only local signals that display RDS easily on all of my other radios.  I assume that this may be a defect of my unit, as the manual mentions the radio has RDS capabilities.

The radio’s low sensitivity was apparent with HD Radio tuning.  I found that this radio picked up all of my strong, local analog FM signals, but it did not pick up mnay signals beyond 50 miles that even the NS-HDRAD2 could receive.  The radio also failed to decode many of my local HD Radio signals that even the HDRAD2 decoded with ease.

The HDRAD decodes HD Radio on a strong signal in 6.37 seconds.  The user hears the station’s audio broadcast until the digital signal kicks in.  Unlike all of my other HD Radio-capable tuners, the NS-HDRAD does not have any indication that HD Radio is present on a signal until it decodes.  This means that one must wait on a strong FM signal to see if HD decodes, without knowing if it will happen until it does.  The HD SEEK option, however, did land on every one of my HD-broadcasting signals, so one could use that as an option to quickly switch between different HD signals in one area.

NS-HDRAD2: Second version tuner

The Insignia NS-HDRAD2 radio, tuned into an HD Radio station.

A few years after the release of the NS-HDRAD, Insignia debuted an updated version of the tuner, the NS-HDRAD2.  The new tuner boasts an all-new chassis and design, including a brand new screen.  Much like its predecessor, the second version of the tuner has an AUX input, as well as buttons (now arranged on the top of the radio) that allow the user to tune, recall presets, and quickly seek between all of the local HD Radio signals available.  It also can run via AC adaptor or four AA batteries.

The Insignia NS-HD02 tuned into a frequency without RDS or HD Radio.

Insignia NS-RAD2 displaying RDS from a station not broadcasting HD Radio.

The “HD” icon on the top left, and the HD text to the right, flash as the NS-HDRAD2 decodes an HD Radio signal.

The HD Radio callsign precedes a section of text (usually the artist and title of the song currently playing) after the signal is decoded.

The HDRAD2 is more sensitive than the HDRAD, putting it more in line with another Insignia HD Radio, the handheld NS-HD01.  The HDRAD2 picked up many more weak signals than the HDRAD did, although not near the levels of the XDR-F1HD.  The speakers on the HDRAD2 are a huge improvement over the HDRAD.  Although its nowhere near what you would find in a home theater setup, the bass and treble is improved, and the speakers actually sound stereo–even more so after an HD signal is decoded.  HD Radio reception is also improved, and the time it took to decode a signal on the HDRAD2 was roughly the same as the HDRAD.

One glaring omission, however, is that the HDRAD2 did not have the pigtail antenna connector that the first radio had.  This means if the antenna breaks in a spot that the user cannot service (more on that later), the radio is rendered useless.

NS-HDRAD2 Rev_B: Third and current version of tuner

The Insignia NS-HDRAD2 Rev_B tuned into an HD Radio station.

At first glance, the HDRAD2 Rev_B appears identical to the HDRAD2.  I, in fact, had no idea I had a revised model of the radio until I noticed some minor differences in the radio’s operation.

The Rev_B version seems to have everything found in the first iteration of the HDRAD2.  The only real difference I observed was in how the Rev_B version decodes HD Radio.  HD Radio decoding on the Rev_B is slightly slower than the HDRAD and HDRAD2, clocking in at a second longer at 7.9 seconds from tuning to full HD decode on capable signals.  What happens on the screen while an HD signal is decoding on the Rev_B, however, is completely different than the HDRAD2.

The HDRAD2 would show the screen below when decoding an HD Radio station.  The station’s HD Radio callsign (WWDC-FM in the example below) would display, while the HD logo on the top left and the HD text to the right would flash.  At this time, any decoded RDS on-screen would disappear and be replaced with the HD callsign while the signal decoded.

When the signal decoded, the HD callsign was joined by song titles and other information on the lower line, separated by a forward slash.  The frequency and HD text on the top line shifted left, too.

On the Rev_B, the HD callsign appears for a split second, but is then replaced with RDS while the HD icon and HD text to the right of the screen flash.  The decoded signal appears the same as the HDRAD2, with the HD callsign appearing next to song titles.  While this is not a detriment to tuning in and listening to HD Radio signals, it does, sometimes, make the callsign a mystery until the station actually decodes, unless one sees it for the split second it appears during the decode.  I think, however, the only people that would complain about this are DXers like me!  For stations that do not run RDS but run HD Radio, the HD Radio callsign remains on-screen until decode with the Rev_B, much like the HDRAD2.

After realizing the differences in HD Radio decoding, I then looked at the product information tag at the bottom of the radio.  My suspicions were confirmed: this was, in fact, a different radio.

The newer “Rev B” version of the radio has it noted in the model number on the bottom of the radio.

The back of the Rev_B also shows something new: the reintroduction of the pigtail antenna connector that disappeared in the first version of the HDRAD2.  That means that this radio could be used with the supplied wire antenna, or it could be used with any other antenna utilizing a coax connection if you connect a 3.5 mm to coax adapter into the input.

One of two minor differences in the chassis of the NS-HDRAD2 and NS-HDRAD2 Rev_B is the return of the pigtail connector on the Rev_B, seen to the right.


As I have used the “Rev_A” version of the HDRAD2 for three years, this was the radio that I took with me on many trips, such as to Chicago and Minneapolis.  The radio is perfect for traveling.  It easily fits into a carry-on bag.  The only concerns that a traveler needs when traveling with this radio is to make sure its batteries are taken out, as the radio may turn on while in transit if something presses the power button.  Neither version of this radio have a “lock” feature that locks the keypad while traveling.  The screen and surrounding areas can easily be scratched, so one must ensure that the radio is protected in some sort of case when traveling.  I found that this BAGSMART cord organizer bag, pictured below, is a perfect fit for the Insignia radio.

The BAGSMART 10.5″ Tablet cord organizer bag fits the Insignia NS-HDRAD2 perfectly, as well as my Sangean HDR-14, Insignia NS-HD01, plug for the HDRAD2, and a Bluetooth mouse. Another compartment holds over 8 separate cords for electronics.

The antenna also sticks out beyond the back of the unit on all versions of this radio, so one must take care to ensure the antenna doesn’t break off of its plastic holder built into the back of the chassis.  I use a small strip of masking tape, when traveling, to keep the antenna in place as an added piece of mind.

Broken radio

My quest to replace my original HDRAD2 came after the whip antenna on the radio broke in early 2020.  For some time, the antenna on the back of the radio was loose and it would not stay in place when extended.  This was not an issue with where the antenna rod connected to the back of the radio–something that is easily tightned with a screwdriver.  The entire antenna assembly itself was loose on the inside.  One night, I heard an audible snap inside of the radio when extending the antenna.  A local tuned-in HD Radio signal quickly went to static, proving that the antenna system had failed with the snap that I heard.  I knew I would have to open the radio to tighten the assembly from the inside to restore the functionality of the antenna.

I quickly discovered that opening the radio was impossible.  There were two screws holding the radio together that I easily removed, but it appeared that clips or some sort of adhesive kept the rest of the radio in place.  I was unsuccessful in opening the radio, even after using a thin metal device to pry the sides apart.  I knew I had to replace the radio.

I expect that if this same issue had happened on the HDRAD or HDRAD2, I would’ve been able to simply utilize the pigtail antenna connection to restore full antenna abilities.  Now, I don’t care if the whip antenna breaks on the new-to-me HDRAD or the Rev_B, since both have that connection.  For this reason alone, I would advise DXers to not purchase the original HDRAD2 version of the radio, and to instead purchase a used HDRAD or Rev_B that have better antenna flexibility.  I can’t guarantee it, but I would assume new purchases of the device from Best Buy would result in a Rev_B unit, since the product images reflect the inclusion of the pigtail antenna connection on the back.  eBay listings of the radio often show the back of the radio and could reveal if the radio is a Rev_B.

No AM HD Radio

A stunning omission from all three versions of this radio is that there is no AM radio offered.  These radios are all FM only.  This does, however, makes sense, as many casual listeners who would purchase this radio likely only care about FM.  Even so, it would’ve been nice to have AM as a capability.  The lack of AM matches Insignia’s NS-HD01, which is also FM only.

Final verdict

Even with the many detriments of the various models of this radio, I still recommend it to DXers and radio enthusiasts.  The current HDRAD2 Rev_B is likely the cheapest HD Radio out there, so they are perfect for someone who wants HD capability in the kitchen, the garage, or a location in their house where they don’t need a robust and advanced DXing radio like the Sony XDR-F1HD.  Let me repeat, this radio is not the Sony XDR-F1HD and its owner should never expect that.  The bright sides of the HDRAD and HDRAD2 radios are that they travel easily, and would fare very well on a boat or on a trip.  Even though the reception is not the best, it does well with pulling in local signals within 50 miles.  During strong DX events, it will pick up distant signals.  I received a station 246 miles away on this radio at one time, as seen below.

HD Radio received from 89.3 WTEB New Bern, NC at 246 miles away over local 89.3 WPFW on the Insignia NS-HDRAD2.

Even though the NS-HDRAD2 and its Rev_B variant are a huge improvement in many areas over the older HDRAD, I think the HDRAD2’s screen is worse than its predeccessor.  I prefer the HDRAD screen.  Although the contrast is much better on the HDRAD2 screen, there’s a lot of wasted space.  I really like that the HD Radio callsign always appears on the HDRAD’s screen, regardless of whichever radiotext appears from the decoded digital signal.  I want to always know what station is tuned in at any moment when I look at the screen and the only fast way to do that is to have the call letters visible on-screen all the time.  It’s a major dissapointment that the HDRAD2 and Rev_B variants only display the station callsign when the screen scrolls back to the beginning of the row of radiotext.

NS-HDRAD screen.

NS-HDRAD2 screen.

I had high hopes that using the pigtail antenna jack on the back of the first and latest versions of this radio would result in a better sensitivity rivaling what I got with the supplied whip antenas.  I connected my Yagi antenna to the radios and found no discernable difference from using that antenna or the supplied whip antenna.  This is a dissapointment, but it further proves the all versions of this radio a less-than-desirable sensitivity, even if the HDRAD2 versions are slightly better in this area.

Either way, with all of this said, the radio should have a place in your DXing arsenal, even if it isn’t meant to be your main DX radio.

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