A few weeks ago I wrote about my tuner shootout in which I pitted three old-school analog AM stereo FM stereo tuners against each other to find the best sounding of the bunch. The Carver TX-11b impressed with its excellent sound and reception on both AM and FM, although all three had their merits.
Overall, I liked the Carver even better than the more modern Sangean HDT-1x – an HD radio tuner that wasn’t officially part of the test, but I’ve had one for quite some time for its ability to decode digital AM and FM broadcasts use . It arguably has better sound on AM when HD broadcasts are available and additional channels on FM.
The problem lately is that HD radio on AM – the reason HD was originally invented – is all but gone. While there are plenty of FM streams, the only HD station I know of locally on AM is K-Mozart (1260 AM) and they are too far from me to decode HD. But I kept using the Sangean because there was no more room for the Carver.
That all changed recently when I changed my TV schedule… I no longer need a big cable tuner. Not only did this free up space in my entertainment center, but it also reduced interference on the AM band, as cable and satellite tuners were known to cause interference on the band. So I took the time to rearrange things and get the Carver up and running again.
In doing so, I discovered something quite interesting. Now that KNX is broadcasting on both AM (1070) and FM (97.1) simultaneously, I was able to compare the signals directly. Surprisingly, to my ears at least, the AM signal sounds superior to FM. The AM sounded bright and clean, the FM rather muffled in the highs.
Both, by the way, not in stereo. After much fanfare, KNX decided to bring the signal to FM that stereo was not needed. And to be fair, it isn’t. But at least with AM, stereo doesn’t affect the signal at all (multiplex stereo with FM can potentially degrade the signal). Wouldn’t it be great for KNX to bring analog AM stereo back to the Los Angeles band? Few were able to pick it up, but there are still a decent number of analog AM stereo radios in cars from the late 1980s and 1990s. Would be kinda funny if the engineers agreed to the idea.
Speaking of KNX FM
I recently wrote about the “real” KNX-FM, you know, playing the smooth sound on 93.1 FM in the 1970’s and part of the 1980’s. In that column I mentioned that the pandemic has slowed down the use of online leisure personalities on themellowsound.net; this caught the attention of Steve Marshall, part of the group behind the tribute and the station’s original music director, who wanted to correct my statement and tell a little more story.
“I have just read your recent article on the KNX/FM Tribute internet radio station,” wrote Marshall, “and I was thrilled, delighted and impressed by what you had to say about the original. I want to correct one thing you misunderstood…that none of the original “personalities” were on board. Firstly, Chris Ames, who speaks The Odyssey File, was the original news director of KNX/FM for most of the 70’s. Then I’m here: I was on the air there from 1970 to 1979. I started out as a music director and in 1973 transitioned to the job of program director.
“The format was invented by the original PD, Rodger Layng, and myself. We started out as a kind of quasi, slightly hipper version of a MOR station and I refined it into what it eventually became after I became PD. They were absolutely right about the fact that we kept top CBS management in New York in the dark about what we were doing. If you want, I can tell you the details of this story another time.
“Anyway, back to the tribute station. Most of the promos and sweepers you hear are mine, although I don’t use my name on the station. I didn’t use it very much at the time either, so I put the word “personalities” in quotation marks. I’ve always felt that the sound and atmosphere we created are the real stars.”
Thank you Steve I am happy about the notification! To be clear, I wasn’t referring to the people behind the station, I mean that I knew some of the original personalities should be brought back to the station, but that the pandemic prevented them from making it into the studio for their shows make.
And you can bet I’ll learn the details of the station’s history…sooner than later. Stay tuned!
Richard Wagoner is a San Pedro-based freelance columnist covering radio in Southern California. Email to firstname.lastname@example.org.