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Catching up with the mail
The article on codecs in the January 2005 issue of Radio magazine is very informative and well written. You covered all the bases and it is a good educational piece.
Phasors can stun
Thanks very much for your clear-as-crystal overview of phasors, etc., as published in the December issue of Radio magazine. I recall that there were a couple of questions in this area on the FCC First Class Ticket exam back in 1960 or whenever it was that I took it. Reading your article makes this clearer. Please continue to offer these easy-to-understand articles. In a time when a degree in math seems essential in getting a signal from point A to point B, simple explanations are as welcome as breath of fresh air on a hot day.
Santa Cruz, CA
Thanks for the memories
I just wanted to drop you a note of thanks and appreciation for your Sign Off articles each month. Your articles on various pieces of equipment from radio's past sure bring back memories. When I opened the November issue and what did I find on page 82? Our old production board (the Gates Producer)! We still have it but it is no longer in service.
WVCY is a Christian station operated by VCY America out of Milwaukee. The station went on the air in 1969 under different owners, who used a host of Gates products, including the BC-250GY 250W AM transmitter. It's still in continuous use and operates in near-flawless fashion.
Thanks again, Kari, and keep up the great work!
Just wanted to drop a note after reading Sign Off from the November issue of Radio magazine about The Gates Producer mixer. It may or may not surprise you that we were using one of those up until about a year ago in our production studio at KDLR.
Devils Lake, ND
Thanks for the note. I'm glad you enjoy Sign Off. I am always looking for information, photos and descriptions of vintage and legacy equipment and facilities. Whether it's tried-and-true, well known equipment or something rare and unusual, if you have something in your files or your collection, please tell me about it.
— Kari Taylor
I enjoyed your Viewpoint in the November issue. I have been in radio since June 1962 and I have seen a lot of things happen.
I have always been amazed that the AM owners let the receiver manufactures put junk on the market beginning in the late 60's and early 70's. Today you are hard pressed to find an AM receiver in a Walmart, Kmart or Target store that you could turn on and get a signal in the store with. I have tried it and even some of the FMs receivers aren't what they should be.
I think this one factor has done more to kill AM radio than anything else, except possibly for some of the just awful programming you find on some AM stations. And don't even get my started on the processing — or lack thereof on many of them.
My hope is that with IBOC, maybe, just maybe, the receiver manufactures will again build a good AM radio. I think it's past due.
Bryan-College Station, TX
Dear Mr. Scherer:
I strongly suggest that you, along with Mr. Littlejohn, VP of engineering for Clear Channel, Mr. Powell, Chairman of the FCC, and the FCC take the latter part of your headline very seriously. [Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way.] I can see, if you believe in your premise, how you would come to the conclusions expressed in your November 2004 Viewpoint. Just as I could understand if you believed in the premise of a flat world, you would have concerns about sailing over the edge as did some of the crew members of Christopher Columbus.
The exception I take is not with your conclusions; it is with your premise and of those individuals mentioned. I see this not as a technical issue, because if we open the AM bandwidth to 15kHz, it is quite acceptable for listening and will gain audience.
Allow me therefore to express an alternative, one that worked before you were born. Vertical monopolies. Many stations throughout the nation per company, one or two of several in a community owned by one company. Drop the worthless stations that are plugging the wheels of broadcasting. An example would be a 1kW that could not have any audience because it is 15 miles from a metropolitan area with six AMs and eight FMs pulling everything from the market of the little 1kW. Give the incentives to turn the license in, reallocate for efficient use of the spectrum, and be a fair friend to AM rather than an elitist thinking AM is something from the past, no longer worthy of any real consideration.
Mr. Littlejohn's, Mr. Powell's, as well as your own limited horizons are the reasons that radio is currently past its prime. Yet, unlike us, and especially you three, radio will be reborn, not from gimmicks, but folks entertaining folks, simply and honestly.
Many years ago, I installed a McMartin 10kW AM transmitter, S/N 1, in Fargo, ND. I had seen the McMartin in test modulate more than 100percent at 10kHz for hours without getting more than comfortably warm. I proofed the overall system mic through transmitter output past 25kHz before it was down 6dB.
It had a wonderful clear sound on the air, and people commented for a long time about how easy it was to find and tune in on car radios. As a listener-supported station, ease of finding it was a real benefit, and high audio quality was helpful too. Folks liked the clear sound.
And on a good receiver, the AM sounded as good as, if not better, than the FM.
I worry that, in the rush to make money, radio is dumbing down people's ears. Are the engineers who say that it sounds as good at 5kHz as at 7.5kHz able to show their hearing is not sagging at the high frequencies so they really cannot hear the difference?
Seems to me that the analysis of sharp waveforms, as beaten drums, and plucked guitars, and struck piano notes shows very appreciable high frequency content, which makes the percussive sound crisp and clear. This showed up at the Fargo installation in that the bits of high frequencies associated with the percussive sounds were what you found first as you tuned across the band, and drew people to zero in on the station.
I don't think there is any way to avoid muffling and blurring the percussive sounds and filter out all the high frequencies also. I think the math is against it.
Now maybe we wish to raise generations to come thinking a snare drum goes "thufd thufd" and not "ratatat."I do not enjoy that type of sound, however.
However, I see one thing: kids today are going for the humongous bass sound. Lets bite the bullet, forget the clarity of the highs, and reduce the top end to 3kHz so that only the bass end comes through. That way we only have to invest in cheap audio gear, and we reach the kids well.
Maybe we ought to raise the low end also to 300Hz while we are at it. And allow 5 to 10 percent audio distortion. That way AM radio can sound like an ancient telephone, and we can save money by not having to invest in high-grade, low-distortion consoles or digital audio.
Then those stations that want to sound better can go to other methods. While the rest can cater to a deafened populace that likes it loud, bassy, and distorted.
And then we can go to 7kHz spacing, and make room for even more stations.
I remember how good AM can sound. And I feel badly that it is constantly being downgraded, and more so that people in general really seem not to notice the difference, save maybe in listener fatigue factor going up.
Quantity, not quality, these days, seems in everything.
I know this is radical, but could we set aside 250kHz at the low end and at the high end, for stations that would broadcast full audio quality? Maybe even space the channels 15 to 20kHz apart, and then put the rest on a 6 to 7kHz spacing, allow 10 percent distortion and require audio response from 300Hz to 2.5kHz ±5db? And encourage IBOC in this part of the spectrum.
I'd also like to see the FCC permit the stations in the quality part of the band to run the Kahn AM stereo system if they wish, since it does not require new expensive receivers to get acceptable stereo.
FM is limited in range in rugged country like I live in, and a quality AM signal I could follow a long ways would be nice. I'd even favor reserving a low-end channel or two for NPR.
I see great potential for such a plan, in that manufacturers still get lots of money for new equipment, and the public is offered a greater choice, and I believe that the general stations could prosper well giving the general public a bare minimal sound quality. Plus if I figure correctly, the general stations at 7kHz spacing would have about 20 percent more channels than they do now even with the set-asides for quality AM broadcasting.
This means more stations in more markets, more profits for the greedy, more fees to the FCC, more equipment sales to stations in both areas, and eventually more radio and radio upgrades for the public. Win-win-win-win-win; right? Not to mention proof that quality and ancient modulation are not contradictory.
Tower Hill Services
The 5kHz debate continues
I must disagree with Clear Channel engineer Jeff Littlejohn re: the narrowing of AM bandwith on his stations - we listeners do notice a difference and we don't need wide-band radios to know that something is amiss. Even on the narrow-band radio in my car KFI 640 sounds like a “telephone”. In fact, I joked to a friend of mine that it sounded like Littlejohn had installed one of those horrible old CRL processors in his audio chain. Even my 74-year-old father (a non-radio person, but a long-time KFI listener) noticed and asked me why KFI sounded so tinny. As it stands, I can no longer listen to KFI — other than to marvel at how bad the radio station sounds.
Los Alamitos, CA
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