The outlook for AM radio has generated much interest among Radio World readers, who have reacted to our recent articles on the topic. This is a sampling.
Take Advantage of All-Digital AM
AM radio has seen many attempts to improve the service over the years. There was stereo AM, the NRSC-1 AM standard and then in-band on-channel analog/digital broadcast. IBOC suffered from the digital interfering with the analog of adjacent channels; in the end everyone shut down the digital and considered it a fail.
But in the meantime, for the last 10 years or so, car manufacturers have been providing radios with digital AM stereo capabilities. Sadly there’s no mention, not even a hint, that these radios are digital AM capable. It was not until WWFD in Frederick started broadcasting digital-only that I was able to listen to and evaluate digital AM for myself.
It is surprisingly good. Audio quality is very good. The signal coverage appears to be close if not equal to the analog coverage. Most importantly there is no audible noise. And yes both of my cars — model years 2010 and 2012 —receive digital AM.
As I read and listen to the complaints about AM, I find it amazing that an existing technology that is mostly in place and available is being ignored.
Carmakers are not going to continue to support a technology that no one is using or cares about. AM stations clamored to add FM translators to improve the listening experience; yet most of those stations have a much greater signal coverage on AM, in many cases by hundreds of miles.
Not taking advantage of the technology available could be the beginning of the end for the AM band.
– David Eltzroth, Elkridge, Md.
Quick, Get Me an Ammeter
In his commentary about paid subscriptions (“A Threat Even Bigger Than No Car Radio,” Feb. 1 issue), Jerry Del Colliano wrote: “Fact: Electromagnetic fields generated in non-gasoline engines make AM virtually unlistenable.”
Chrysler apparently found a way around this issue because my 2021 Pacifica EV has a radio that receives AM just fine. I can even do some DXing with it at night. If Chrysler can build a necessary filter, so could other automakers.
The article goes on to say that manufacturers claim AM radio drains the batteries of their electric vehicles. Really? Quick, get me an ammeter; I need to see for myself that the radio draws excessive current while tuned to 570 AM but not for 102.7 FM or “Willy’s Roadhouse” on satellite radio.
C’mon, Radio World, why publish stuff like this? My grandmother told me that paper lies still while we write anything on it. Please don’t make it yours.
– Jeremy Burnham, WA6FEQ, SBE Life Certified CSRE
[Read more stories about the future of AM radio in cars]
No AM? No Thanks
The other day, I took my five-year-old Tesla Model S in because the front touchscreen computer was working sluggishly. They recommended an upgrade to a new computer that also contains a new “modern” media system. The way you get the upgrade is to pay $2,500.
I went home thinking that I had a pretty good solution. However upon further Google research, I found out the new package not only omitted AM radio, but FM radio as well. I decided to not “upgrade.”
I think we need our broadcasters to tell Tesla (and any other manufacturer that removes a radio from their cars) what we think of this “solution.” However, Tesla has dissolved its public relations department, so there may not be a road back.
– Doug Vernier, V-Soft Communications, West Palm Beach, Fla.
Memories of Leonard Kahn
My memory was jogged big time when Brian Winnekins mentioned AM stereo (“Help Farm Radio Fight for Radio,” Feb. 1 issue).
I remember when AM stereo had its start in the early ’80s and its finish in the ’90s, when the FCC made the Motorola C-Quam system the standard. I was the chief engineer of a major New York AM station at the time. We were purchased by Tichenor Media of Texas, which mandated that all its AM stations be on the Motorola system. But before I could convert our station, we were sold again, to Command Broadcast Associates, and we never went AM stereo.
I will say that when you tuned into an AM stereo station you knew it. The sound was great.
I was a good friend of Leonard Kahn and it was generally accepted that his system was the superior of the two. Along with Herb Squire, chief engineer of WQXR(AM/FM), I accompanied Leonard to his patent infringement trial against Motorola in federal court in Uniondale, N.Y. This was a jury trial, with Leonard accusing Motorola of stealing his patent for AM stereo. Herb made a magnificent presentation to show that the Motorola system as it stood had very objectionable platform motion.
Leonard acted as his own lawyer while Motorola had a battery of lawyers. Some of Leonard’s objections made the judge laugh. During a recess I told Leonard that the jury looked bored and was not getting it, but Leonard insisted they were. He lost the trial and this put him in the hospital.
In the meantime fewer and fewer AM stations were transmitting in stereo. I owned a vintage Lincoln Town Car that did have an AM stereo radio, which I enjoyed. But I don’t see it ever returning.
I retired from Univision in 2021. I do believe that AM radio should remain in all new vehicles and that any kinks in electric vehicles can be worked out.
– Richard Ross, New York
Put AI on the Case
The field of RFI filtering using AI is rapidly developing. See for example https://ournetplace.com/rm-noise/.
It may be possible to make AM radio usable in EVs someday by incorporating AI filtering code in the car radio firmware. This would be an inexpensive solution to the problem and make AM radio viable again in automobiles.
– Rob Atkinson, St. Charles, Ill.
[Check Out More Letters at Radio World’s Reader’s Forum Section]