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Radio AM to FM: February 12, 1999

When the music dies, there's static: KRLA's abrupt format change last November, dropping oldies in favor of talk, has highlighted a problem the station has actually faced for years -- an amazingly bad signal.

KRLA's broadcast towers are located on an old tire landfill which, according to the experts I have consulted, is sinking. Due to the poor land quality, KRLA suffers from a poor "ground wave," so named because AM signals travel primarily through the ground during the day. In essence, many of KRLA's 50,000 watts are eaten up trying to get past their own broadcast site.

It wasn't a problem back when the station played music, as music tends to drown out minor static. Under the new talk format, however, static is a major concern. Indeed, I have received letters from people all over the South Bay asking how to receive KRLA more clearly.

My advise? Make sure you have a good radio, and make sure it is connected to a good antenna.

A good radio doesn't have to be expensive. The portable GE SuperRadio III costs about $40 and is one of the best AM radios you can buy. In addition, many of the factory radios from General Motors, Ford and Chrysler feature AM sections that are quite good. Unfortunately cheaper aftermarket radios and many factory radios installed in Japanese imports suffer from poor AM designs. Radios from Blaupunkt are among the better aftermarket radios for AM reception.

Make sure the antenna is good. In your car, make sure the antenna is grounded correctly with solid body contact where the antenna meets the sheet metal and a good ground wire at the radio. At home, locate the radio away from televisions, video recorders, light dimmers, fluorescent lights and computers -- especially monitors. You'd be surprised how far static from a computer can travel in your home. You might also be surprised how just a minor repositioning of a radio can make a huge difference.

Carver Corporation, which once manufactured the phenomenal TX-11b AM stereo/FM stereo tuner, supplied with that unit a plan for making an excellent AM antenna. You can see the plans on my web site,

Of course, once you go through all the trouble to get good reception, you'll be able to hear what KRLA's talk personalities are saying. Then, if you're like me, you'll wonder why you went through all the trouble in the first place ...

Random Thoughts From a Cluttered Mind

What exactly is the difference between the music of "the nineties" and the music of "today" that is played on KEZY? ... Will K-Nicole-Sandler (aka KACD/KBCD) EVER add anyone besides Sandler to the air staff? ... If KGIL really does get sold to the former owners of KIEV, can Los Angeles expect another (lame but laughable) brokered talk format? Will that affect the apparent plans of KRLA and KLSX to broker their weekends? ... Will Jacor ever realize that sports radio will never work in Los Angeles? ... Has anyone else noticed how much better KFWB sounds lately compared with the past two years? ...


Nominations are currently being accepted for this years almost serious edition of the Radio Achievement Awards, The Waggies. Winners of the highly-coveted Waggies will be announced sometime in the near future in an attempt to upstage the Oscars ...


Copyright © 1999 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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