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Radio AM to FM: January 30, 2004

Digital Display ...

"The dramatically improved audio quality from (AM) IBOC service at night is well worth the predicted and limited reductions in analog coverage."

Those are the words of the National Association of Broadcasters' Radio Board, which approved the statement at its semiannual meeting held earlier this month. The statement refers to nighttime use of In-Band, On-Channel digital broadcasting that so far has been approved for use -- other than testing -- only during daytime hours.

What they mean is this: in spite of studies that prove long-distance analog signal coverage will be negatively affected, the potential for better sound in a station's primary (local) coverage area is worth the tradeoff.

How the FCC will respond to the statement is unknown. FCC Chairman Michael Powell is a huge supporter of IBOC, also known as HD Radio (even thought the HD doesn't stand for anything). But the standards-setting National Radio Systems Committee -- cosponsored by the NAB -- has not done anything since it suspended standards-setting last May due to poor sound quality for the AM IBOC system.

Interestingly, while many observers feel that the audio codec has improved the AM IBOC system sound quality substantially since the NRSC's move last May, the company developing IBOC, Ibiquity, has so far refused to run tests comparing high-fidelity analog signals received with a good radio against the IBOC system. And that makes me think they have something to hide.

On the other hand, Ibiquity may have something up its sleeve ...


While the FCC, the NAB and the NRSC work on trying to make IBOC work, work continues on another development for digital radio: surround sound.

Imagine hearing not just stereo on the 8-speaker sound system in your car, but hearing true surround sound. It's not just a dream ... it's coming.

Both satellite subscription radio services, XM and Sirius, demonstrated surround-sound systems at the recent Consumer Electronics Show held in las Vegas January 8th - January 11th. XM uses a system from Neural Audio that features 5.1 technology -- five discrete surround sound signals plus a subwoofer, while Sirius uses Dolby Pro Logic II. Both companies of course say that their own system is better than the other. Suffice to say, both sound good.

But subscription satellite isn't the only radio surround sound system on the horizon: that sleeve I alluded to earlier was Ibiquity exhibiting surround-sound technology for IBOC from SRS Labs. Ibiquity hinted that SRS Circle Surround 5.1 audio will work with both the AM and FM versions of HD Radio.

Where Are They Now?

"While some may mourn the MIA status of a Don Imus or a George Putnam, what about the local longterm absence of a nationally recognized genius: Johnny Magnus?" -- Richard Howard, Redondo Beach.

Nationally recognized is right: Magnus -- "the host who loves you most" -- is actually heard just about everywhere except Southern California these days.

Magnus came to the United States at the age of ten from Germany. he learned English by listening to the radio, spending hours with Golden-Age programming such as The Shadow.

He landed his first Los Angeles radio gig at KGFJ in 1957, and through the years worked his way through KMPC, KRLA, KGIL, KBRT, KIQQ, KPRZ , KJQY and KLAC. Currently he can be found doing the evening (or late night, depending on your time zone) shift on the syndicated Music of Your Life format that airs throughout the country ... except, of course, here.

Hear him yourself via the MOYL website, Magnus is on from 7 PM to 12 midnight.


Copyright © 2004 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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