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Letter: AM Is Simple, Digital Is Overly Complicated

What's wrong with Class B modulators and Class C RF amps anyway?

I would like to thank Frank Karkota for the excellent article “No to Digital AM” and I have to agree with him 100%. AM radio works, it always works; neither rain nor sleet nor gloom of night makes it fail (with the exception of the daytimers).

I have a real hatred for digital RF. I am one of those people who live in a rural area, where we still use outside antennas for television. Back in the good old NTSC days we could watch all of the channels we could receive, some maybe a little snowy, but we could watch them all. Now with this digital stuff, only on the second Tuesday of the odd months when the moon is in its third quarter can we watch half as many stations because the audio and or video are constantly breaking up.

Now, digital FM. I put together a Class C HD station a few years ago. I can hear the very clean analog signal on a fair automobile radio in stereo up to about 50 miles from the transmitter, while the HD signal is gone in 15.

I am a volunteer fireman, have been for 50 years. Our county switched from analog to digital two-way. Well, let me say, if I go into a burning building, I won’t take a digital HT; they either work or they don’t, and in a hot fire scene, they don’t. The old analog HTs maybe get a little noisy; but if I am trapped inside, the analog radio will get me out.

Now that I have expounded on my distaste of digital RF, let’s go into AM. Frank hits the nail on the head: You can receive AM radio on anything. How many people remember the razor blade radio, it’s a crystal set but used a piece of graphite and a razor blade edge for a detector.

AM is simple, digital is overly complicated. The way things are going in this world, it might not be long before we are all hiding in foxholes trying to build an AM receiver.

Frank also mentions quality. I personally couldn’t care less if the radio station has a response from DC to light at .00000001% harmonic distortion and -125 dB S/N; if the programming sucks, I won’t listen, case closed. I would much prefer any AM  station that is programmed with what I want to hear, and don’t care if the response limit is 3 kHz with 10% distortion in the middle of a thunderstorm.

Radio listening is down not because it needs to be digital, it’s down because much of the programming is just plain bad. Everything voice tracked, no local personalities,very limited music rotation, dollar a holler 40 minute stop sets, it’s bad.

I gave up on most FM years ago although there still are a few good small-owner FMs around here in Iowa. The AMs for the most part dial up stuff on the old XDS receiver and walk away. So what’s the difference; make AM all digital and the programming will still stink. There have been some improvements in AM programming because of the FM translators, but the AMs just sound like automated FMs with nobody home.

I have to agree 100% with Frank, let’s keep at least one form of communications reliable: good old tried-and-true analog AM. With the newer receivers it sounds good and works. Maybe at night with the skywave it fades in and out, but it will never go to complete nothing, as when a digital data stream gets  the slightest glitch. It’s another case where “we built something now let’s force it down their throats to create a market.”

What’s wrong with Class B modulators and Class C RF amps anyway?

[Related: “Don’t Shrug Off Benefits of AM in Digital”]