Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Radio, AM Stereo, Formats lost, etc...

On a lark, I happened to visit the PDX Radio Guide discussion forums. Lots of radio junkie talk there to read through. I found the whole thing interesting. Worth a look if you are in the Portland Oregon area.

I think we missed a big chance with AM Stereo. During the early 90's, Portland had a very nice AM Stereo Station called KBBT AM 970 The Beat. Played an interesting mix of alternative and 80's music mostly missed here in Portland. Their format really appealed, so I went out and found a Delco AM Stereo. (The kind found in the K car.)

To my surprise, the format was very listenable. AM Stereo had a number of advantages over FM, the primary one being very good mid to fringe area stereo reception. The noise floor would come up a bit, but you really got spoiled from the lack of 'fuzz' so typical of even strong FM stations heard on good equipment. Only a few stations broadcast today, due to conflicting standards and a mostly 'hands off' FCC stance.

If you enjoy talk radio, nothing compares to the quality found in an AM Stereo broadcast of a well produced talk show. The imaging and eq qualities AM has really does the human voice justice. You would think the talkers would push this, the additional fidelity makes for more compelling content production. Talkers sometimes use music today and it sucks. Could have been better I tell 'ya.

Thinking back to another failed format, FM Dolby Stereo. FM 105.1 KSKD broadcast it here in the Portland area during the late 80's. They used an interesting low talk adult format that respected the music. Few cutoffs, nice transitions, short imaging, strong station identity all combined with an interesting 80's mix format was addictive. (SAGA, FIXX, Moody Blues, After the Fire, Falco, Laura Brannigan, Buggles, Jefferson Starship... you get the idea.) Being the sucker I am, I also obtained FM Dolby gear. The distinct lack of FUZZ combined with first class pre-processing spoiled me early and led to me exploring AM Stereo.

I am all for loose regulations and such, but these two failed technologies would have really made a difference in radio today. Perhaps we need new rules aimed more at our interests instead of the broadcasters.

Those two radios still sit waiting for something to listen to...


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