Tag Archives: AM Radio

WSJ: AM radio and electric cars don’t mix

(Source: Wall Street Journal via Bob LaRose W6ACU

Cars and AM radio go back a long way, but there’s a rough road ahead for the old travel buddies.

The same types of electric-powered motors that propel Teslas past 150 mph and the Chevy Bolt as far as 238 miles on a charge, are a total buzz kill for AM reception. Instead of sports, oldies or news, it’s more like all-static, all-the-time radio.

As auto makers race headlong into an electrified future, AM radios are getting kicked to the curb, joining cassette decks, eight-track players and ashtrays.

Daniel Rich is a fan of both San Francisco’s KNBR-AM 680 and his Chevy Bolt. That means his commute isn’t as easygoing as it used to be. “All my other cars over the years could receive that station just fine, despite the distance,” the 58-year-old eye surgeon said. “Not the Bolt.”

A General Motors Co. spokeswoman said GM was aware of the issue in the Bolt and has “taken steps,” but declined to say exactly what they are.[…]

Click here to read the full article at the Wall Street Journal.

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Review Update: CCRadio-EP Pro’s major improvements!

In April, I posted a review of C. Crane’s latest iteration of the much-loved EP series: the C. Crane CCRadio-EP Pro.

Although the new Pro model had the makings of a great, simple DXer-grade receiver, the first production run was plagued with issues that, in the end, prevented me from recommending it to radio enthusiasts and DXers. Frankly speaking, I was quite disappointed.

I evaluated the original CCRadio-EP Pro over the course of several weeks, documenting my findings in detail and sharing them with C. Crane both during the evaluation period and in my full review.

But to C. Crane’s credit––being a company of integrity––they responded to each point of criticism, promising to address the issues in the receiver’s second production run.

Enter the second production run…

About six weeks ago, I took delivery of a second-production-run CCRadio-EP Pro.

The second-run units have actually been shipping for a few months now, but due to nearly two months of travel and a hectic schedule following, my evaluation took longer than I had hoped. And if you’ve been following the SWLing Post for long, you’ll have noticed that I never rush a radio evaluation…and for good reason. Post readers are placing their trust in my review, so I must feel confident it’s as accurate––and as transparent––as I can make it.

Speaking of transparency, by the way, please note that C. Crane provided the initial and second production evaluation units at no cost to me.

What follows is a review of the second-run CCRadio-EP Pro. I would encourage you to read my original review before proceeding, because I am (only) addressing all of the negatives I listed from the previous review.  However, for your convenience, I’ve included quotes from the original here.

In a nutshell?  C. Crane listened to my list of concerns, and I’m very pleased!

Muting between frequencies?

 

From my first production run review:

[M]echanically-tuned DSP radios, like the new CCRadio-EP Pro, may look like analog sets, but inside, they’re entirely digital. And one drawback to all of the mechanically-tuned DSP radios I’ve tested so far is a tendency to mute between frequencies. With each 10 kHz frequency step, you’ll hear a short audio mute. If you tune across the dial quickly, audio mutes until you land on a frequency.

I’m pleased to report that C. Crane has significantly decreased the amount of muting between frequencies. Indeed, even on the AM band (which was most affected in the first production run), muting no longer distracts me from the experience of band scanning.

Unlike an analog receiver, if you tune quickly across the band, the EP Pro essentially mutes audio completely.  This is common with analog-tuned DSP receivers. This is still the case with the second production run unit, but this does not concern me, as I rarely move quickly across the bands while hunting weak signals.

Imaging?

From my first production run review:

Crane actually includes a note about weak images which you might find below and/or above your target signal. Weak images are an unfortunate reality of the CCRadio-EP Pro; they’re prevalent on both AM and FM.

On the initial production receiver, here’s how you might experience the images by way of example: let’s say you’re tuning to a strong local AM station on 630 kHz, noting that the EP Pro has 10 kHz tuning increments. As you tune to 630 kHz, you’ll hear the station on 620 kHz, though it won’t be as strong as it is on 630 kHz. Then if you tune to 640 kHz, you’ll likely hear a weaker image of the station there, as well. In my experience, images are present on both sides of the target station if the station is strong. If it’s a weak station, you might only hear it, say, 10 kHz lower but not above (or vise versa).

As you might imagine, this poses a problem for the weak signal AM broadcast band DXer.

I’m pleased to report that C. Crane has eliminated the false peaks around signals. This was a major negative from the original review. Now, as you tune across the bands, it feels more fluid, and when you hear a station you can be confident you’re actually on frequency as it seamlessly “locks” into place.

Well done, C. Crane!

Inaccurate dial?

At the top end of the band, the EP Pro tuned to 1600 kHz

From the first production run review:

I’ve also discovered that, on my unit, the top half of the AM dial is inaccurate. I estimate that the slide rule dial is off by about 40-50 kHz at the top end of the band. It’s much more accurate below 1,200 kHz, however.

I’m pleased to report that the dial on this second production run unit is now as accurate as any analog radio. I tested frequency accuracy across the entire AM/FM bands, and can reliably find stations. Another major negative C. Crane fixed!

Audio “pop” with power on?

From the first production run review:

[A]ny time you turn on the CCRadio-EP Pro, you’ll hear an audio “pop.” This is happening when power is applied to the audio amplifier. The pop is not soft, but fairly audible, and is present even if you turn the volume down all the way. The audio pop is prevalent via both the internal speaker and when using headphones. Fortunately, it’s much less pronounced via headphones.  While not a major negative, I find it a bit annoying, and don’t doubt that other listeners will, too.

C. Crane has managed to minimize–not eliminate–the audio pop. It’s much improved over the first production run unit. I think I would still make note of it in the “cons” section if this were my first review of the radio, but it’s truly a very minor complaint at this point.

AM frequency steps limited to 10 kHz?

Note the new 9/10 kHz switch below the AM Antenna switch

From the first production run review:

My initial production run EP Pro is limited to 10 kHz frequency steps. This radio is primarily marketed to North America where 10 kHz increments are standard. Of course, if you’re trying to use the EP Pro to snag Transatlantic or Transpacific DX, you’ll miss the ability to tune between those broad 10 kHz steps. But, again, due to the imaging mention above, I think the CCRadio-EP Pro is simply not suited for DXing.

I’m pleased to report that C. Crane has added a switch that allows the listener to toggle between 9 and 10 kHz AM steps! This was an essential upgrade for those of us planning to use the CCRadio-EP Pro outside North America, or for those of us attempting to chase signals from across the ocean. Very nice, C. Crane!

Conclusion

To their credit, C. Crane has addressed all of the major negatives I listed in my review of the first production run units.

And as a result, I can now recommend the CCRadio-EP Pro with confidence.

I should add that during the course of this evaluation, I spent some valuable time on the mediumwave/AM broadcast band and have been very impressed with the EP Pro’s sensitivity and selectivity. The AGC can cope with weak signals quite well; I noted none of the soft muting which plagues a number of other DSP receivers. And the Twin Coil Ferrite tuning can substantially improve reception of weak signals––don’t ignore that control on the right side of the radio! Very useful.

With renewed confidence in the EP Pro, when I have time this fall or winter, I plan to take it to the field and pit it against my beloved (and recently re-capped!) Panasonic RF-2200. I’m beginning to think it might be a real competitor. We will see.

I would encourage you to also check out Guy Atkins’ recent evaluation of the EP Pro. I’m in agreement with his assessment, which leads me to believe quality control is also consistent in the production run. Good news all around. I’m very happy that C. Crane fixed early production run issues with both the CCRadio-EP Pro and the CC Skywave SSB. Well done!  I’m so glad C. Crane paid attention.

You can purchase the CCRadio-EP Pro from the following retailers:

How to identify a second (or later) production run unit

I know I’m going to receive emails and comments about how to tell if one has a first or second production EP Pro. The answer is very simple…

If your unit has a 9/10 kHz step switch on the back (see photo directly above) then you have a second production run unit or later.  

While the first production run EP Pro will please most average radio listeners, I couldn’t recommend it for the level of radio enthusiast and DXer who spends time reading reviews on the SWLing Post.

If you plan to purchase the CCRadio-EP Pro this year, I would encourage you to check with the retailer to make sure you’re getting a unit from the second production run or later.


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NY Times Op Ed: “My Love Affair With AM Radio”

Many thanks to a number of SWLing Post contributors, including The Professor, Patrick Stenbacka, and Larry W, for sharing a link to this opinion piece in the New York Times by author Erin Aubry Kaplan:

LOS ANGELES — Like many people who grew up in the 1970s, I came of age with AM radio. Everybody I knew — the black kids on my block, the white and Asian kids at my junior high school — followed the Top 40 and discussed the merits of the newest releases by Elton John and Eddie Kendricks.

[…]At home, the kitchen-counter radio was always tuned to KABC. It aired restaurant shows, call-in psychologist shows, news shows, all featuring sophisticated discussions of things I had only vague ideas about. My mother listened while she ironed or cooked or sat at the table paying bills. The radio was her company, and because I admired her (but didn’t quite know how to talk to her), it became mine, too.

To my ears the hosts — people like Michael Jackson, Dr. Toni Grant, Geoff Witcher — sounded like my mother: impassioned but thoughtful, often witty, opinionated but not obnoxiously so.[…]

Read this full Op Ed piece at the New York Times.

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Peter Tannenwald asks, “Are we really ‘revitalizing’ AM?”

(Source: RadioWorld via Bill Patalon)

On AM revitalization, Peter Tannenwald asks, Are we really “revitalizing” AM, or are we walking around in circles?

Late on Friday, October 5, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) released a Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in a five-year ongoing effort to “revitalize” the AM radio broadcast service. The new proposals continue a trend toward allowing higher power operation by smaller stations, by reducing nighttime signal protection for some 60 Class A AM stations located in the continental United States and 16 stations in Alaska. The end result would be less wide area coverage and more local radio service to the public.

To understand why the FCC is considering this action, it helps to understand a bit of the science behind AM signal propagation. AM radio signals travel through both the ground and through the air. At night, the airborne signal component (“skywave”) is reflected back to the earth from the ionosphere — a layer of the atmosphere extending from about 50 to 600 miles above the earth’s surface. The reflected signals may come back down to earth hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away from a station’s transmitter. Class A AM stations — formerly known as “clear channel” stations (no relation to Clear Channel/now iHeartMedia) — are powerhouses, transmitting with 50 kilowatts of power 24 hours a day – 200 or more times the power of the smallest AM stations.

[…]Signal reflection doesn’t work so well during the day, so the FCC has allowed other stations to occupy the Class A frequencies in other markets. But those stations have to curtail power during “critical hours” (two hours before sunrise and after sunset) and often have to reduce power to nearly nothing or shut down altogether at night. In today’s 24-hour-a-day, nonstop world, not being able to reach an audience at night is a losing proposition; so the FCC has yielded to constant pressure over the years to allow more power and longer hours of operation by those “other” stations, at the expense of long distance reception of Class A signals.

Now the FCC is proposing to go further, rolling back some previous restrictions on non-Class A AM stations and perhaps eliminating whatever remains (and it’s not much) of the protection of far-away reception. Under the proposals, which are sufficiently complicated that you should talk to your engineer if you really want to understand the details, Class A AM stations would be protected only within a higher strength signal contour (and so within a smaller area) than they are now; at least some, if not all, skywave protection would be eliminated.[…]

Click here to read the full article at RadioWorld.

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Are industry bodies the secret sauce for some broadcasting markets?

(Source: RadioInfo via William Lee)

Radio Tomorrow with James Cridland

I’m writing this in London, where the doors are (as I type) just about to open for Next Radio, the radio conference that I run here with my friend Matt Deegan. It’s a positive radio conference with an uplifting feel.

Go to a radio conference in the US or Canada, and there won’t be very many smiling faces. There’s a general feeling in the US and Canada that radio is managing decline. But in other countries, radio is behaving differently.

The UK commercial industry has grown, over the past year, by 5.2%. It’s now a US $887m market.

Australian commercial radio has grown too – over the past year, metro stations growing 3.8% to a US $573m market (and there’s more from the regions, too).

Commercial radio in Finland is growing, too. Their figures are harder to decipher, but July grew by 6.6% over June; and June grew by 17% over May. The market’s comparatively small at about US $93m – but it’s doing better than the UK if you bear in mind Finland’s small population.

These aren’t the stories you hear from the US and Canada; and I’m often asked why.

It’s not an easy answer.

[…]In the UK, commercial radio has an effective industry body, Radiocentre. They promote the medium to agencies, lobby government, and sing radio’s praises. They’re really very good at it.

In Australia, commercial radio, too, has an effective industry body. It’s called Commercial Radio Australia, and they, too, promote the medium to agencies, lobby government, and sing radio’s praises. They’re tenacious and efficient.

And in Finland, their industry body is Radio Media. They lobby government, promote the medium to agencies, and market radio as well: to great effect.[…]

Click here to view the full article at RadioInfo.

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