Jake Bechtold, CBT,
posted this image on his Twitter feed with the comment, “The AM stereo light
has been turned back on on 1660. Thank you HD3 simulcast!”
He is assistant engineer/IT for Radio FM Media, based in Fargo, N.D., and
the station that turned AM stereo back on is KQWB West Fargo.
I asked him for the story behind the picture; he shares:
KQWB, which was on 1550 at the time, added AM stereo when
it was the big thing back in the 1980s. In the mid-’90s KQWB(AM) changed studio
locations. From their then-new location, they couldn’t get a clear STL shot to
the transmitter. So they installed an equalized phone line to the old studio,
and then reused the old STL to the transmitter. The problem, however, is the
phone line only supported one channel of audio. But since it was a talk station
at the time, it wasn’t a huge deal, and they shut the AM stereo off.
In 2000, they got permission to move to expanded band AM, and
go to 1660. Part of the deal with doing that was they had to keep AM stereo, so
the new 1660 transmitter was ordered with the ability to do AM stereo (although
stereo stayed off… not quite sure how that
Fast forward to about two years ago. We were
still using the phone line to the old STL to get our audio out there and we now
have a music format. The current owners of the old studio where the STL
transmit point is located gave us a two-year notice to vacate; we have to be
out May 2015. So we started coming up with solutions to not only rebuild the
STL but also get stereo back while we were at it.
didn’t really care either way about the AM stereo; but my
partner in crime, Mark Borchert, and I both take the position that if we
have the ability to be in AM stereo, we should do it. Unfortunately, a T1 or
any sort of Internet is not available at the site (it’s quite a ways out of
town), and even though we moved studios since, we still cannot get a clear STL
shot to the transmitter.
Now, about two months ago, one
of our FMs, KBVB, became the first in the market to go HD Radio. And since that
site has Internet (and we’re running out of time to get an STL solution in
place), we put KQWB’s audio on KBVB-HD3. We installed a Telos Z/IP One codec to
go from the studio to the KBVB transmitter, installed an HD tuner at the AM
transmitter site and we’re pulling the HD3 signal off air to put on the AM.
We just finished putting that in last week and we turned on
the stereo pilot yesterday. The eventual plan is to find some sort of way to
get a real STL or T1 link in place, but for now that will have to do.
As for the tuner, that belongs to Mark. It’s a Realistic
TM-152. He brought it into the office so we could monitor the AM stereo signal.
I actually had to open up the radio and tweak the receiver a bit so it could do
1660… its “limit”
was 1630 and 1660 was just a little
scratchy. A little adjusting of the IF and I got it dialed
in perfectly. Besides the modulation monitor at the site, we don’t have
any other radios that can do AM stereo.
And up until
this morning I had never heard our station in AM stereo,
so I was really excited to hear what it sounds like. Needless to say I’m now
scouring eBay for more radios… ha! Very pleased with the sound.
Thanks to Jake. I love sharing fun engineering experiences
with readers; write me at email@example.com.