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Thread: The End of AM/FM Radio?

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    The End of AM/FM Radio?

    A new car without a radio?
    It sounds as unthinkable as a new car without floor mats or a heater. But there is a real danger that your next new car might come without an AM/FM receiver.
    Or, might cost you extra.
    Seriously.
    As unthinkable as it sounds - and as undesirable as it would be (based on known consumer preferences; more on that in a minute) there is chatter in Detroit that the car industry is giving thought to retiring the AM/FM receiver in favor of music piped into the car via subscription-based satellite radio, iPods, smartphones and various mobile apps.
    Rather than these technologies supplementing AM/FM radio - as they do right now - they would replace it.
    Leaving you in the dark.
    Well, in the quiet.
    Unless you opened up your wallet and paid for the satellite radio hook-up.
    Think of it as in-car audio on the cable TV model. Which you'd have no choice but to pony up for if the manufacturers stopped including AM/FM receivers in their new cars. You can imagine the effect this would have on the monthly subscription cost of SiriusXM and so on, since they'd have everyone over the proverbial barrel.
    Hold onto your wallet!
    As things stand, SiriusXM has to compete with free radio, which keeps prices low - and also probably keeps programming more varied. If AM/FM went away, with it would go thousands of smaller channels, the source waters for many of the Big Names in major outlet media we're all familiar with today... before they became Big Names. (This includes, by the way, this writer - who is a frequent guest on regional/local AM/FM radio stations across the country.)
    And no matter how much you spent, you'd still be unable to listen to your local stations.
    Satellite radio is great for national news - and a steady stream of '70s hits, if that's your thing. But if you want to hear local people discuss local issues… get local news, local sports, hear local broadcast personalities... well, there isn't an app for that.
    It's not surprising, given all this, that most prospective car buyers are not interested in throwing AM/FM radio in the woods - so to speak - and being effectively forced to buy into fee-for-service audio, such as SiriusXM.
    How many is "most"?
    Well, consider that almost 250 million Americans tune into terrestrial radio each week, according to the Radio Advertising Bureau (see here) and a Feb. 15 IPSOS study (here) of people's listening habits and preferences found that 84 percent still regularly listen to AM/FM. Only about a fourth (22 percent) of current car owners have Sirius/XM - and they use it in addition to their AM/FM receiver.
    Fully 91 percent of those asked about it wanted the traditional radio with knobs and buttons; only 9 percent wanted that to go away in favor of an "app."
    People like satellite, HD, Pandora… but they don't want to be restricted to those options - which typically require them to pay for a service or buy an electronic device (such as an iPad) they may not wish to carry around. They want more options, not fewer options. They want to be able to go from one source to another - not be pigeonholed into using one platform.
    Another factor is that while satellite radio offers a wealth of programming, it is not the same programming as that offered - for free - by AM/FM. Sure, there are commercials on AM/FM radio - but notwithstanding what you may have heard, exactly the same thing is true of satellite radio. Most of the talk/news channels - such as the Howard Stern Show, CNN and Blue Collar Radio do in fact have commercials. Which you're paying to hear.
    There may be commercials on AM/FM, but they're free.
    No cost to you, at any rate. Advertisers hope you'll listen to their pitches, but they can't put their hands into your pockets.
    Also, while FM/AM coverage may be regional, satellite reception is often spotty. If you live in the country or a mountainous area with lots of tree overhang, you may have noticed - if you have Sirius/XM - that the signal sometimes (and sometimes, often) cuts out for as long as 15-30 seconds at a time or even longer. You miss the programming - and the signal come back on just in time for the next 10 minute batch of commercials.
    So, it's odd to hear these whispers (and more) within the car industry about "the end" of terrestrial radio.
    It's still hugely popular - for several very good reasons. This isn't an 8-track tape kind of situation. Apps, ipods and satellite radio are valuable additions to our menu of audio options. But AM/FM provides its own unique content, and in a way that people still very much want.
    Which is why - hopefully - it'll continue to be around for some time to come.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member DonTom's Avatar
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    I will say you get what you pay for. What I like best about XM radio is that I can drive from SSF, CA to Reno with no noticeable difference in signal quality anywhere. Or out in the middle of the NV desert on one of my motorcycles. If I switch channels, it's because I want to listen to something else. And whatever I switch to will be there too. No searching for a signal is necessary. And no advertisements. But some channels still have too much BS--but then, just change the channel.

    I won't miss the old AM and FM radios even if I do have to pay for the XM. It's worth it, IMO. I have it as stock on my Triumph Trophy SE, but I also have another unit that I can easily move between different vehicles, including other motorcycles and RV.

    But so far, all the little XM radios I have seen need an audio system of some type to play through, so if there's no radio installed, that can then be a problem even with the XM radios, unless they change something in the future.

    And BTW, I use XM a lot and the most I have heard it cut out from poor conditions in the mountains is for two seconds per every 20 minutes or so--and even that is very rare.

    And what really surprised me is that XM radio is often terrestrial, not satellite at all. It often works perfectly in tunnels as well as underground casino parking lots as well as the lower deck of the SF Bay Bridge. IOW, "terrestrial repeaters" are often used for XM radio at locations that have no possible way for the satellite coverage. Much more common than I expected.

    Before you knock XM radio, try it!

    However, these days you can load all the music you want on a USB drive and just play it for free anywhere. No talk at all. And is very cheap to install in almost anything.

    My 1984 Yamaha Venture has USB audio as well as XM radio and pays to my helmet via Bluetooth. I added this stuff myself --all very cheaply. I can also use this stuff with the bike's audio system to play on the bike's speakers.

    But for any serious travel, Am/FM radios are almost useless IMO. But perhaps is fine if you stay in one area most of the time, but I often travel far in my vehicles.


    -Don- SSF, CA
    Last edited by DonTom; 04-22-2015 at 05:34 AM.

  3. #3
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    I like XM on the highway, but around here in SoFla we have a lot of tree-lined local streets, and a tree overhead blocks the signal effectively.
    I also get annoyed by paying for the advertising on non-music channels.
    I stopped listening to Howard the last time I heard he and Robin talking about how some minion in his trade had disrespected him.

  4. #4
    Senior Member DonTom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeHalloran View Post
    I like XM on the highway, but around here in SoFla we have a lot of tree-lined local streets, and a tree overhead blocks the signal effectively.I also get annoyed by paying for the advertising on non-music channels.I stopped listening to Howard the last time I heard he and Robin talking about how some minion in his trade had disrespected him.
    The thing I do not like the most about XM radio is too much talk and BS on my favorite channel otherwise, the 60's rock. BS such as "Uncle Brucie" and other such nonsense. I also would never listed to Howard's BS. But the nice thing is that there are so many channels that can be all set for what I do like.

    I guess it works better out here in the west. I know in Great Britain and many other places it does not work at all. It's very rare that I have a problem with my XM radio and it's all hills around here--as well as in the Reno area and drive between.

    The XM radio makes the 230 mile drive seems shorter.

    -Don- SSF, CA
    Last edited by DonTom; 04-23-2015 at 09:53 PM.

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    Cousin Brucie is sort of living history, preserved on Sixties on 6. Same guy, same music, same corny shtick as he used back in the day. I still get a kick out of it, when I listen occasionally.

    I find that on long trips we will listen to XM for maybe ten hours, but eventually end up listening just to the engine.

    I used to listen to Howard on FM in morning drive, mostly because I moved away from Imus's market, and, a long time ago, Howard got Carly Simon to show up at his studio and to sing, a capella, for more than an hour. It was the most beautiful thing I ever heard on the radio.

    I looked forward to hearing Howard on XP, until I actually heard it. Robin's constant flattery of Howard is possibly the ugliest thing I ever heard on the radio. Howard's movie, which is surprisingly good, makes it clear why he keeps her, but I can't stand her voice anymore, and he's just too full of himself now.

    XM could probably cut its prices a lot, and do without advertising, if they dumped Howard, for which they have my vote.

  6. #6
    Senior Member DonTom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeHalloran View Post
    XM could probably cut its prices a lot, and do without advertising, if they dumped Howard, for which they have my vote.
    I never did listen to the HS BS anywhere--just not my thing. But at least on XM radio, I don't have to have him on any of my buttons, so I don't really care what goes on with that channel.

    I also have the internet XM. It has different stuff, such as Forensic Files (as on TV) 24/7, but audio only. It too has advertisements. It's just the music channels that have no advertisements, but some of the talk on some of them are worse than the advertisements, such as that Cousin Brucie crap. But the nice thing is, I can always change the channel and still have the same type of music, such as Classic Rock, the Bridge, the Elvis Channel (But I didn't realize how much garbage Elvis had until I started listening there!) or 1970's rock, (and much, much more to choose from).

    If they get rid of AM/FM radios in cars, and bikes, I won't even miss it. But for now, there has to be some type of audio system for most of the XM radios to work with.

    What we do NOT want, is for them to have the XM radio built into the car, like it is on my 2013 Triumph Trophy SE (TTSE). The problem is that XM radio cannot be removed. That means I must pay for TWO XM radios, one to move around to different vehicles as well as pay for the one in the TTSE. Of course, I could unsubscribe to the TTSE radio and move the portable XM radio to the TTSE as well, but that would be rather flaky compared to using it's own, which is neater and works with the bike's own switches and such.

    I modified my 1984 Venture to be able to use the portable XM radio, as well as play music from USB and SD cards--to either the bike's auto system using the speakers or via Bluetooth to my helmet. It can even do both at the same time, speakers and Bluetooth to helmet, something my TTSE cannot do.

    -Don- SSF, CA

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