Word of AM Stereo Patent-Holder Leonard Kahn’s Death Spreads

As word of Leonard Kahn’s passing has spread, Radio World has heard from admirers.


Broadcast veteran Herb Squire confirms to Radio World that the head of Kahn Communications passed away from natural causes earlier this month in Florida at the age of 86.


There is no obituary or death notice.


Best known for his AM stereo system that actually dates back to 1960, Kahn also created the “Symmetra-peak” in the late 1950s. This passive device equalized the positive and negative audio peaks being sent to a station’s transmitter and helped increase the modulation density by several decibels in the days before sophisticated multiband audio processing systems, according to Squire.


Squire knew Kahn since 1969. They worked together with the AM stereo system at WQXR and WQEW in New York. “My wife Laurie and I would go to dinner with Leonard and his wife Ruth on numerous occasions. I also was an expert witness for a few of the court cases” Squire recalled.


In addition to AM stereo, Kahn also invented Powerside and its outgrowth, Cam-D, an in-band, on-channel technology for digital radio. Users need special receivers to receive Cam-D.


In 2006, Kahn filed suit in the Southern District Court of New York, claiming that iBiquity Digital, Clear Channel and other entities were behind an effort to block the sale of his Cam-D receivers by favoring iBiquity’s digital radio system. In filings to the FCC on the same subject, Kahn added Radio World to the list. He subsequently created a website called “Wrath of Kahn” to make his point.


Dave Bialik, Project Manager for CBS Radio in New York, called Kahn a genius who was also opinionated, and a broadcast pioneer. “He spoke at many of the sessions I planned at the AES over the years,” according to Bialik.


Radio World contributor Tom Osenkowsky worked with Kahn at WNAQ(AM,) Naugatuck, Conn. to install an STR-84 exciter when Sage Broadcasting bought the station. Osenkowsky called Kahn a “brilliant engineer,” and added that Kahn’s AM stereo system was not effectively promoted.


After Kahn left New York for Florida several years ago, he would call Squire from time to time. The two would discuss the merits of some of the newer technology he was developing. “Although he was eccentric, and single-handedly would take on the world to prove his point, Leonard Kahn was a good friend and will be remembered,” Squire summed up.



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I am certainly sorry to hear about the passing of Leonard Kahn. He was a man ahead of his time. The AM world was all topsy-turvy over the AM Stereo debate, and Leonard was not baseful about promoting his system and arguing the merits of his system over the other contenders. I am sure they all had some merit but, all one had to do was to listen to the various systems side by side to understand that the KAHN AM STEREO was, hands down, the best sounding system. I installed two systems at KNBR in San Francisco, one on the main and a redundant system on the alternate transmitter. Leonard was very helpful to us and made a couple trips to San Francisco to assist in the setup. All three AM Stereo receiver owners in the Bay Area were very complimentary about the big improvement to KNBR's signal. I mention this with a bit of sarcasm as the lack of enthusiasm by the receiver manufacturers was what killed AM Stereo. I should probably also give some credit to the FCC for helping to kill it.
By Bill Newbrough on 7/11/2012
I was very saddened to hear of the passing of Leonard Kahn. First impressions could be one of the “mad scientist”- genius in nature but also a stubborn, righteous ornery character with a hair trigger temper who was never wrong and would do anything he could to make you believe his way was the right way and the only way! BUT, having worked for him at Kahn Communications for well over 20 years I can attest that he was also one of the most honest and sincerely committed individuals I have met in my life. His tempestuousness was only counter balanced by his wife Ruth, who was always congenial,warm and friendly. She had once told my mom that Leonard had a tough exterior but a soft heart. After her passing he was never the same. Hats off to the ‘ol boy, he’s probably up there arguing with God!
By Ray Matuza on 7/8/2012

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