The original radio dial

In the January Automobile, Jamie Kitman bewails the current (sub)standard for AM radio in cars:

I have to be careful lest I start sounding like the guy who rhapsodizes on the wonders of vacuum tubes over solid-state circuits and vinyl versus streamed MP3 files, but AM car radios in their heyday sounded pretty good, and — counterintuitively — their reception was much, much better than in most new cars today. New cars all seem to retain an AM radio function — presumably for the day the nuclear weapons go off — but almost all of them suck. I kid you not. I get dramatically better reception in my 1962 MGA and my 1963 Jaguar Mark II than in the $127,000 BMW M6 convertible I drove last week. The BMW is not alone.

We will stipulate that vinyl is by design better than streamed MP3 files, but it’s hard to get vinyl to work in the center stack of a car.

The manufacturers, OEM and aftermarket, have pretty much decided that AM is a talk-only medium now, and they provide only enough frequency response to reproduce something resembling voice. There are only two AM stations I’d bother with for music around here, and one of them, a daytimer, has a 24-hour FM translator with 99 watts.


  1. JT »

    26 November 2012 · 12:21 pm

    99 watts? That would make them one of the most powerful jazz stations in the country.

  2. Dick Stanley »

    26 November 2012 · 12:28 pm

    They’re pretty much right about talk. Other than gospel, it’s pretty hard to find anything but talk on Central Texas receivers.

  3. CGHill »

    26 November 2012 · 1:01 pm

    One of the local NPR outlets runs jazz in the evening. They have a whole 3,000 watts.

  4. Brian »

    26 November 2012 · 8:22 pm

    I’ve always felt it was a waste to run talk on 1520. I have a couple of older radios that sounded wonderful on the old 1520 KOMA. They sounded good on 930 WKY, too, though 1520 always had a more resonant sound.

    1140 always surprised me with its good sound quality. I used to live close enough to its stick to have a very strong signal.

  5. CGHill »

    26 November 2012 · 8:30 pm

    I have a brace of Cambridge Soundworks Model 88s, and they have better-than-decent AM sections; back when KOMA was an AM/FM simulcast, it was sometimes difficult to tell which was which.

    It’s certainly a waste to run a half-assed talk schedule the way KOKC does.

  6. McGehee »

    27 November 2012 · 9:09 am

    Recently on of my pereferred talk radio programs moved to a local station that simulcasts on AM and FM. So now finally I can listen to the program in my truck.

    The aftermarket stereo might as well not have an AM receiver at all, whether for talk or music.

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