Radio Waves: September 2, 2022

Back to the Future

A few weeks ago I wrote about my tuner shoot-out, in which I pitted three old-school analog AM stereo – FM stereo tuners against each other to find the best-sounding of the bunch. Overall, the Carver TX-11b won out with its superb sound and reception on both AM and FM, though all three had their merits.

Overall, I liked the Carver better than even the more modern Sangean HDT-1x — an HD Radio tuner that wasn’t officially part of the test but that I have used for quite some time due to its ability to decode digital AM and FM transmissions: arguably better sound on AM when HD broadcasts are available, and extra channels on FM. 

The problem as of late is that HD radio on AM — the reason HD was originally invented — is pretty much gone. While there are many FM streams, the only HD station I know of locally on AM is K-Mozart (1260 AM), and they are too far away from me to decode the HD. But I continued using the Sangean due to a lack of space for the Carver.

That all changed recently when I changed how I watch television … I no longer need a large cable-type tuner. This not only opened up space in my entertainment center, it reduced interference on the AM band as cable and satellite tuners were notorious for causing interference on the band. So I took the time to switch things around and put the Carver back into service.

In doing so, I discovered something rather interesting. Now that KNX simulcasts on both AM (1070) and FM (97.1), I was able to make a direct comparison of the signals. Surprisingly, to my ears, at least, the sound from the AM signal is superior to that of the FM. The AM sounded bright and clean, the FM more muted on the highs.

Neither is in stereo, by the way. KNX decided after much fanfare taking the signal to FM that stereo wasn’t needed. And to be fair, it isn’t. But on AM, at least, stereo doesn’t affect the signal at all (multiplex stereo on FM can degrade the signal in some circumstances). Wouldn’t it be great for KNX to bring back analog AM stereo to the band in Los Angeles? Few could receive it, but there are still a decent number of analog AM stereo radios in cards from the late 1980s and 1990s. Would be kind of fun if the engineers would agree to the idea.

Speaking of KNX-FM

I recently wrote about the “real” KNX-FM, you know, the one that played the mellow sound on 93.1 FM during the 1970s and part of the 1980s. In that column, I mentioned that the pandemic slowed down the use of personalities on the online recreation at; that caught the attention of Steve Marshall, part of the group behind the tribute and the original music director of the broadcast station, who wanted to correct my statement and give a little more history.

“I only just now got to read your recent article on the KNX/FM tribute Internet radio station,” Marshall wrote, “and I was thrilled, delighted and humbled by what you had to say about the original. I would like to correct one thing you got wrong…that none of the original ‘personalities’ were on board. First, Chris Ames, who voices The Odyssey File, was the original news director of KNX/FM throughout most of the 70s. Then there’s me: I was on the air there from 1970 through 1979. I started as Music Director and moved into the Program Director job in 1973.

“The format was cooked up by the original PD, Rodger Layng, and myself. We started as a kind of quasi, slightly hipper version of an MOR station and I refined it into what it ultimately became after I became PD. You were absolutely correct about the fact that we kept upper CBS management in New York in the dark about what we were doing. If you like, I can give you the details of that story another time.

“Anyway, back to the tribute station. Most of the promos and sweepers that you hear are me, though I don’t use my name on the station. I didn’t use it very much back then either, which is why I put the word ‘personalities’ in quotes. I always felt that the sound and atmosphere that we created were the real stars.”

Thank you, Steve. I do appreciate the note! I was unclear on what I meant, though … I wasn’t referring to the people behind the station, I mean that I knew that some of the original personalities were intended to be brought back to the station but that the pandemic prevented them from making it to the studio to do their shows. 

And you can bet that I will be getting the details of the station’s history … sooner than later.  Stay tuned!