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Radio AM to FM: November 30, 2001

Your Holiday Gift List ...

For those that have everything ... except for a favorite local radio station ... comes the Phillips FW-i1000, a mini stereo system that includes the basics (AM/FM radio, three CD changer and dual cassettes) along with something new: an internet audio selector.

Retailing for $499, the system connects to a high speed internet network -- cable modem, DSL or university local area networks will do just fine -- and "tunes in" to internet radio stations, also known as streaming audio files. More than 1000 such stations can be selected by musical genre, language, or geographic region, from a list maintained by Phillips and its partners.

Currently you cannot add your favorite stations if they aren't on "the list," but Phillips promises this feature with a future software upgrade. 40 stations can be preset, and a special information window can download music or band information to your networked computer. Speaking of computers, the stereo will also access and play all those MP3s you legally downloaded from Napster ... (

Not quite what you're looking for? How about a Radio Program Recorder (RPR) that does to radio what a VCR does to your television. Almost, anyway.

An RPR allows you to automatically record your favorite talk show or other program for playback at a later time. It consists of an AM/FM radio, digital recorder and an FM transmitter all in a package that is smaller than a portable CD player.

The unit can work both as a portable radio/audio player using headphones, or its built-in FM transmitter can send the signal to your car stereo for your driving and listening pleasure

Audio is recorded digitally as determined by a timer, with recording lengths varying inversely with quality: the higher the quality, the lower the recording time. At best quality, 1/2 hour to 4.3 hours is the limit, depending on the model; 1.7 to 10.8 hours is possible on lowest quality again, depending on the model. Prices range from $140 to $350. (

If that's too much to spend on your favorite radioholic, how does about $50 sound? That will buy you one of the best AM/FM radios on the market: The GE SuperRadio III.

Housed in an unassuming portable case, the SuperRadio has an FM tuner that pulls in weak signals, along with perhaps the best AM tuner currently available on the market. In fact, if all AM radios sounded this good, KHJ, Ten-Q, KFI, KIIS (AM), The Mighty 690 and KEZY would still be pumpin' out the hits.

The radio features a 6.5 inch woofer, 2 inch cone tweeter, separate bass and treble controls, AM and FM antenna jacks and a headphone jack. (Electronics retailers and discount stores)

Too much time spend listening to the radio and not enough time spent reading? How about reading about radio?

FM, by Richard Neer tells the story of the rise of FM radio, focussing on the brief period when FM was part of the sixties counterculture: "free form" radio, as it were.

This was before station owners found out that they could actually make money off their FM signals, and forced disk jockeys to follow rigid formats -- the very same formats that undid AM top-40.

Neer is a veteran of former free-form FM station, WNEW/New York. (Bookstores everywhere)


Copyright © 2001 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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