“It has come to my attention that the vast majority of AM receivers on the market are designed with ‘Good Enough’ mentality and quite frankly make anything received sound like mud,” writes AM music station engineer Matt Krick. “I’d like to propose the FCC implement requirements for manufacturers of radios to actually design a decent performing receiver.”
In pursuit of this Krick outlines specifications for “beyond good enough” AM receivers. “People are confused over AM stereo,” he also notes. “I am currently unaware of any modern receivers being built by any major manufacturer today that actually decode C-QUAM. I often see ‘AM – FM Stereo’ receivers marketed, which technically only mean that the FM portion is in stereo.”
C-QUAM is a method of broadcasting an AM signal in stereo developed by Motorola. Advocates of the technology say that it is superior to AM HD radio. The YouTube below offers a comparison, and indeed, the C-QUAM version of sampled Christmas music is so much sharper and clearer that I had to turn down the volume on my receiver.
“I’d therefor propose that if a radio is built with a FM stereo decoder, it should be required to decode C-QUAM AM stereo as well,” Krick continues. “Mono radios with only a single speaker such as pocket transistor style would be exempt, but radios with 2 speakers such as boom boxes and car radios should be required to decode it and stereo walkman type receivers.”
Retired broadcaster Henry B. Ruhwiedel writes to the FCC in a similar vein. I think it is worth quoting much of his assessment in full. “The public has been migrating to other modes, FM, satellite, recorded media in part because the AM spectrum has been degraded to where the high fidelity broadcasts of before 1960, have become impossible,” Ruhwidel contends:
“There is no way of discerning which came first, but the contemporaneous reduction in AM receiver performance in preference to FM receiver performance, the increase in audio processing for the sake of loudness competition in part due to format competition, the promotion of FM’s inherent noise advantage and higher fidelity (15 khz vs 9 Khz aural spectrum) drove much of the audience to FM from AM. A con-commitment of market forces that reduced variety in programming, consolidation of ownerships, removal of localism, simulcasting, and central source programming for thousands of coowned
stations in effort to survive the dwindling audience figures and thus financial stability have added to the reduction in appeal of AM radio. A notable few stations have fared well because of mostly localism, community involvement, that garner community loyalty. I saw few because most outlets simply compete for mass market share with demographic purity of age, ethnicity, or niche interests.
The FCC’s effort to introduce AM Stereo with four competing systems failed to enhance AM as a viable music source, because no one system was chosen as was done in FM and TV stereo. Thus few receivers took advantage of AM stereo, and the public regarded AM stereo much as the RCA video disk, an advance but unworthy of general acceptance unlike the CD and DVD or even the Phillips audio cassette still in use today after more than 50 years.”
Ruhwidel also calls for mandatory AM standards, especially in the area of noise reduction. “Any radio device capable of FM broadcast reception should include AM reception,” he recommends.
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