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New England's first all-digital AM station goes live, right here in the Boston area

WSRO-AM at 650 on your dial, yesterday became the first AM station in New England to convert to the digital HD format, the folks at the Boston Radio Interest mailing list report.

If you have a car or plain old radio that gets HD signals, tune to 650 and, like magic, the little HD icon will light up, like it usually does on FM but never did on AM.

The change will supposedly mean better quality reception - no more static - for the station's current jazz and 30's-era music.

But unless you're in MetroWest, be prepared for the station to suddenly disappear on you at night if you pass by a hill or large building between you and the station - which drops its power output at night. Unlike traditional AM, which slowly degrades, digital signals are sort of all or nothing - either it comes in really well or, boom, not at all, at least until you get out from under, oh, the West Roxbury Parkway side of Bellevue Hill in West Roxbury.

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Comments

Worry the bottle Mamma, it's grapefruit wine
Kick off your high heel sneakers, it's party time
The girls don't seem to care what's on
As long as they play 'til dawn
Nothin' but blues and Elvis
And somebody else's favorite song
Give her some funked up muzak, she treats you nice
Feed her some hungry reggae, she'll love you twice
The girls don't seem to care tonight
As long as the mood is right
No static at all (no static, no static at all)
FM (no static at all)
Give her some funked up muzak, she treats you nice
Feed her some hungry reggae, she'll love you twice
The girls don't seem to care tonight
As long as the mood is right
No static at all (no static, no static at all)
FM (no static at all)

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Voting closed 18

I’ve never tuned in to be able to compare, but today? It’s pure static - can’t tell if it’s higher quality HD static or not.

15 miles NW from Boston.

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Voting closed 9

I don't fault the station for making the switch -- it's probably a good move considering most people listen to AM in cars where HD receivers are sightly more common.

For old radio guys the move it bittersweet. "HD radio" never really caught on in the US and it's not even common for car radios. (At least in the cheap cars I drive/rent.) It's obviously absent from 99% of home radios. HD radio desktop receivers are expensive and it's not found in the alarm-clock variety. (Not that anyone is still buying radio alarm clocks.)

Many people of a certain age remember a fun electronics project was building a primitive AM receiver. No batteries or power required! It was like magic.

At this point the only thing on AM I ever tune to is WJIB in Cambridge.

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Voting closed 19

... seem to be pretty "extinct".

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Voting closed 9

Although it is on FM now too, I only listen on AM.

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Voting closed 15

Many people of a certain age remember a fun electronics project was building a primitive AM receiver. No batteries or power required! It was like magic.

One of my favorite Christmas presents was a crystal radio set. It WAS like magic, as a kid, to know that you could actually build a working AM radio. I just looked them up and apparently you can still buy kits for as little as $15. I assume SOME kids would still find it fascinating.

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Voting closed 13

I guess they only changed to the Jazz format last Dec. I never really listened to AM since it's usually just talk, but was messing around with my bedside clock-radio earlier this year and came across this station, and for most of this year, I've been falling asleep to it while playing at low volume. Since they only have a daytime license (ie, low-power at night), it came-in half-static. But at low volume, it kind of worked well as white noise with background music for falling asleep to. But my clock-radio isn't HD, so the all-or-nothing aspect of digital means that it doesn't come-in at all now.

I do have a small portable HD radio, and it comes-in perfectly both day and night in my living room, but not at all next to my bed, which is really the only place I listen to the station. Oh well... The AM band has much more overlap and interference amongst stations, especially with AM covering larger distance by nature, and especially at night. Using a hybrid analog/digital signal uses more bandwidth and leads to conflicts with adjacent stations, which is why most AM stations don't bother with HD (or like WBZ, translates their AM signal to an FM HD subchannel). But doing digital-only uses less bandwidth and avoids conflicts (and thus lawsuits), so this isn't too surprising for a small station.

I used an internet streaming clock-radio for over a decade, but went back to terrestrial radio for the simplicity a few years ago. At least Boston does have several exceptional college stations on the FM band, like WMBR, WZBC, WHRB, WERS, which is largely what keeps me listening to terrestrial radio vs. streaming only.

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Voting closed 9

Here. Try their stream:

159.89.0.23:8000/wsro

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Voting closed 4

all-digital AM station

What a time to be alive.

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Voting closed 16

Unlike traditional AM, which slowly degrades, digital signals are sort of all or nothing

I remember as a kid searching the AM dial for distant 50kW stations from all over the country. Guessing in this Internet era people don't do that anymore, so it doesn't really matter if that capability goes away (if HD AM ever get traction...).

As of a few years ago I was able to get WBZ in Michigan (and, conversely, WJR from Detroit here).

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Voting closed 16

Yep! WOWO in Indianapolis, WGN in Chicago, WWL in New Orleans and, if you played your cards right, even a Cuban station or two (one of which used to battle with some Quebec station, I think). Even now, if I happen to be driving at night, sometimes I'll tune into 1010 just to hear WINS in New York (OK, not that far away) crank up the teletype and go "You give us 22 minutes, we'll give you the world" (although they've toned down the teletype over the last few years) and then I'll listen to the traffic reports from the BQE and the Cross-Bronx.

Supposedly the real fun was late Sunday into Monday, when all the low-powered stations at the upper end of the AM band would sign off for the night and you could try to pick up really distant stations out west, which would still be on.

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Voting closed 9

Got the stations you mentioned, plus WLS and WCFL in Chicago, KDKA in Pittsburgh, KYW in Philadelphia, WGY in Schenectady, WJR in Detroit, WCBS and WABC in New York, WBZ in Boston (yes, I listened to Jerry Williams, Lovell Dyett, and Larry Glick as a teenager), CKLW in Windsor, and others.

Minor correction: WOWO is in Fort Wayne, not Indianapolis.

You could buy a magazine called White's Radio Log at your local drugstore which had a complete list of every licensed station in the entire US.

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Voting closed 10

Prior to ESPN, back in the day before you could get a score anytime you wanted on the 'net or a cell, if one gambled on sports it was good to know the location of the local broadcasts on the AM dial. If it was a decent night for receiving, you could easily follow your bet in New York or Philly. On better nights, Baltimore, Cleveland, Washington DC, and other remote outposts could bring you the play-by-play.

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Voting closed 9

WBZ is one of the few "clear channel" licenses issued way, way back. A clear channel license clears the frequency (by not granting the frequency to others) for WBZ through much of N America, or at least this side of the Mississippi. That's why Mexican radio stations were famous for being heard in much of the US, or at least west of the Mississippi.

The formerly-named Clear Channel company effectively emulated this, by buying many local stations, then forcing all the local stations to play the same centrally-maintained playlist.

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Voting closed 13

Around 1970, I was on a family trip to DC during the Bruins playoffs with the Canadiens and was desperately trying to listen to the Boston station. It was staticy and would fade in and out - really tough to follow, but what a series

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Voting closed 14

It must have been fun listening to radio in the 1930's. WLW has the distinction of being the only radio station in the country that had authorization to broadcast using 500,000 watts, in 1934, initially under experimental call W8XO, then as WLW. This lasted until December 1934 when they were instructed to drop the signal down to 50,000 watts.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WLW

https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=JHEbAAAAIBAJ&sjid=eEsEAAAAIBAJ&pg=...

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Voting closed 6

1470am Broadcast from small building of Rte 20 in Marlboro. It went off the air at sunset.

What a convoluted life metrowest am radio has had....

http://everything.explained.today/WSRO/

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Voting closed 5