A few weeks ago I wrote about my tuner shootout, in which I pitted three old-school analog AM – FM stereo tuners against each other to find the best sound of the bunch. The Carver TX-11b won out with its superb sound and AM and FM reception, although all three have their merits.
Overall, I preferred the Carver to the Sangean HDT-1x, an HD Radio tuner that wasn’t officially part of the test but that I’ve been using for some time due to its ability to decode digital AM and FM. . It arguably sounds best 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 – has all but disappeared. Although there are plenty of FM streams, the only HD station I know of locally on AM is K-Mozart (1260 AM), and they’re too far from me to decode HD. But I continued to use the Sangean for lack of space for the Carver.
That all changed recently when I changed the way I watch TV… I don’t need a big cable type tuner anymore. This not only opened up space in my entertainment center, but 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 change things up and get the Carver back into service.
In doing so, I discovered something quite interesting. Now that KNX broadcasts simultaneously on AM (1070) and FM (97.1), I was able to make a direct comparison of the signals. Surprisingly, to my ears, at least, the AM signal sounds better than FM. AM sounded clear and clean, FM quieter on the treble.
Neither is stereo, by the way. KNX decided after much fanfare to take the signal to FM as stereo was not needed. And to be fair, it’s not. But on AM, at least, stereo doesn’t affect the signal at all (multiplex stereo on FM can degrade the signal under certain circumstances). Wouldn’t it be great if KNX brought analog AM stereo back to the Los Angeles band? Few people could receive it, but there are still a decent number of analog AM stereo radios in cars from the late 1980s and 1990s. It would be kind of fun if the engineers were okay with the idea.
Speaking of KNX-FM
I recently wrote about the “real” KNX-FM, you know, the one that played the soft 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 online entertainment personalities on thememellowsound.net; which caught the attention of Steve Marshall, member of the band behind the tribute and original music director of the broadcast station, who wanted to correct my statement and give a little more history.
“I have only just read your recent article on the KNX/FM tribute internet radio station,” wrote Marshall, “and was delighted, thrilled and humbled by what you had to say about the original. I would like correct one thing you got it wrong… that none of the original “personalities” were on board First of all, Chris Ames, who performs The Odyssey File, was the original KNX/FM News Director during most of the 70s. And then there’s me: I was on the air there from 1970 to 1979. I started out as music director and moved into program director in 1973 .
“The format was concocted by the original PD, Rodger Layng, and myself. We started out as a sort of quasi-slightly hipper version of a MOR station and I refined it into what it eventually became after I became PD. You were absolutely right that we kept CBS’s senior management in New York in the dark about what we were doing. If you wish, I can give you the details of this story another time.
“Anyway, back to the tribute station. Most of the promos and sweepers you hear are me, even though I don’t use my name on the station. I didn’t use it much at the time either, so I put the word ‘personalities’ in quotes. I always felt that the sound and atmosphere we created were the real stars.
Thanks Steve. I appreciate the rating! Although to be clear I wasn’t talking about the people behind the station, I mean I knew that some of the original personalities were meant to be brought back to the station but the pandemic prevented them from going into the studio to do their shows.
And you can bet I’ll get the details of the station’s history…sooner rather than later. Stay tuned!
Richard Wagoner is a freelance columnist from San Pedro covering radio in Southern California. Email [email protected]