Friday, September 23, 2011
Must AM Band Sound Bad? A Debate
Here's a debate on AM audio quality over at Jeff McMahon's Herculodge that was started by some random comments about the Sangean K-200 kitchen radio I purchased recently.
I added the following comments this morning:
I didn't realize until this morning how much discussion this had sparked. I agree that modern AM radio will not sound as good as FM, but I'm not listening to music on it. For news and talk it is fine. This does not pass as an excuse for a poor-sounding AM radio though. The K-200 discussion that started this whole thread has been a bit exaggerated (possibly by my not clarifying the extent of the problem). Yes, it is muffled, but NOT to an unpleasant level. All in all it is much easier to listen to than some of my cheaper pocket models (Degen DE-205 for instance).
There are some radios that make AM very pleasing to listen to though. Even though having adjustable bandwidth is a big help, my best sounding AM radio would probably be my antique Sears Silvertone tube radio. This is followed by the Redsun RP-2000, and the Tecsun PL390. The 390 is limited by speaker size, but has nice clear audio. My SuperRadio III (currently in my mother's senior apartment) is also pleasant enough to not cause migraines. The Kchibo D96L is actually a bit too bright, and sounds better with a dust cloth over the speaker. There is also a strange, and annoying "pumping" affect on strong AM stations (remedied by off-tuning by a couple kHz, but then that causes the soft-mute to kick in).
The small headphone models that the Ultralight DX group recommend also sound very good when amplified through some basic computer or iPod speakers. The Sony SRF-M37 models are a bit too broad on bandwidth for serious DX-ing at times, but that shortcoming makes for great audio with strong local stations. The SRF-59 is also good amplified or through headphones. The mini that really disappoints in the audio department for me is my Degen DE-1123, which excels on FM for its size, but makes AM a bit murky.
The K-200 will continue to play WCBS 880 every morning here on Long Island, and either the local NPR stations or WXPK-FM from White Plains the rest of the time. As I said, up on the fridge the acoustics are actually pleasant. There is a new FM all-news station in NYC now, but it's pretty awful.
By the way, our other AM all-news station, 1010 WINS, still plays the teletype-ticker-tape sound effect in the background during the newscasts. Anyone else out there have this? I find it pretty hilarious.