Today's Car Radios on AM

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Today's Car Radios on AM

Postby jon » Sat Oct 29, 2011 10:13 am

I'm posting in this section, because I truly lament the state of car radios today, when it comes to AM reception. But I am mainly asking for those of you who drive to comment on your car radio. Preferably in a car built in the last 10 years.

Thanks to someone who backed into my car while it was parked a week ago, and it is no longer drivable, I have been able to do some comparisons between three brands of (rental) cars when it comes to AM radio reception. Assumption is that there is probably only one AM radio design used across all models of a given car brand.

Of the three, Chrysler came out the winner in terms of the two things I look for in an AM car radio:
  1. highs, lows and generally how music sounds off a radio station with a decent audio chain for music -- I used W-14-40 for my tests
  2. DX
I tested an Acura and a Ford and both seemed to severely cut off the bass, presumably in a bid to reduce ignition, electrical (power lines) and other noise. The Acura also cut off the highs, presumably trying to get rid of hiss. Admittedly, since AM radio is mostly about Talk these days, I can certainly see where they are coming from.

Chrysler takes a more novel approach. They do not appear to have a (RF) noise suppressor on the ignition itself, but I suspect no one does anymore. Taking that into account, more lengthy tests on my previous car, a 2003 PT Cruiser, indicated that the AM radio has a Squelch-like mechanism that zeroes in on ignition noise -- at least from the PT's engine, not the car next to you -- and creates silence whenever the audio would be dominated by ignition noise. It took me years to realize this, until I turned off the engine at night and left the radio on: wow, instantly the receiver seemed a lot more sensitive and I was getting some interesting DX on frequencies that had been silent with the engine on.

While I'm not suggest anyone buy a car based on the quality of the AM radio, I am surprised that car manufacturers (or, more accurately, their suppliers) make the effort to thoughtfully design the AM side of the radio. Then again, despite the cries that "AM is Dead", there is almost always an AM station at or near the top of the ratings.
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Re: Today's Car Radios on AM

Postby albertaboy4life » Sat Oct 29, 2011 6:41 pm

I have a 2009 General Motors product. It's AM radio reception is okay. The FM reception is okay but the frequency range is poor, especially at the high-end. I think it tops out at 9 kHz, which isn't much better than an AMAX Am Stereo rated receiver provides. FM Stereo stations sound tinny and way too much mid-range even with it turned down as low as possible. My car's stereo has 3 graphic equalizers for low, mid and (what they deem to be) high ranges. The pre-programmed equalizations are not ones my ears like. AM audio is tolerable. I miss the old GM Delco radios of the '80s and '90s which had some decent bass. My only experiences with a Chrysler radio were in two vehicles. One from 1985 and the other from 1989. The '89 had an infinity radio which had no bass and poor reception but decent AM Stereo sound with its Motorola C-QUAM processor. The '85 had an ambience sliding control that was good at killing any stereo separation when the echo effect became too much to handle. It too had a decent AM Stereo receiver in terms of sound but again reception was poor. Even if the Chrysler vehicles' engines were turned off they still had poor reception regardless if it was AM or FM.
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Re: Today's Car Radios on AM

Postby Paul P » Sat Oct 29, 2011 6:48 pm

In the last 2 cars I've bought, I've told them to pull out the stock one and replace it with one I supplied.
Never a question or charge.
Note this though... if you're buying a back-up camera, make sure it's a hard-wired one, and not wireless. They haven't quite figured out how to have it not interfered with by engine noise, or have it mess up cell signals. (Despite what a salesman will tell you)
Being nice is my resolve - in 2012
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Re: Today's Car Radios on AM

Postby CKNF » Sun Oct 30, 2011 7:23 am

Paul P wrote:In the last 2 cars I've bought, I've told them to pull out the stock one and replace it with one I supplied.
Never a question or charge.

A lot of cars these days don't even have an actual 'deck' to remove or replace at all. There's a screen of some sorts and a knob or a few buttons and that's your AM/FM radio, Sat radio, navigation center, climate control, fuel economy, tire pressure, trip calculator and maintenance computer... all integrated into the center console with no predefining boundaries showing an actual 'unit'. I suspect that one would have to take the dashboard apart either partially or completely to get at it. I personally have never had to do this. The last two cars I've had since 2006 have had this type of a setup and I suspect that eventually all cars will have a similar setup. The 'car radio' is being replaced by an in-dash integrated computer. One thing that I have noticed that is consistent with these types of systems with cars I've owned, rented or have seen others drive, is that AM reception and audio quality are generally very poor....actually, that seems to be the case with any modern receiver whether it's car audio or not.
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Re: Today's Car Radios on AM

Postby Jack Bennest » Sun Oct 30, 2011 1:58 pm

what kind of radios in high end cars, bmw, mercedes, audi, cadillac?
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Re: Today's Car Radios on AM

Postby J Kendrick » Sun Oct 30, 2011 5:45 pm

Jack Bennest wrote:what kind of radios in high end cars, bmw, mercedes, audi, cadillac?


Doesn't much matter which kind of car you're in if you're trying to listen to "The Dog". The signal drops out all over town, no matter how good the radio. :neutral:
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Re: Today's Car Radios on AM

Postby radiofan » Tue Nov 01, 2011 9:56 pm

The worst AM radio I've ever had in a car was the one in my 01 VW Beetle. The radio was great for FM, but AM really sucked. The radio might have been fine, the problem could have been where they placed the antenna. It was on an angle off the back of the roof rather than a vertical rod antenna. My stock GM or Delco radio I have in my current vehicle is great for AM and FM. Any GM product I've ever had, has always had great AM radios.
Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who couldn't hear the music.
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