Something us radio enthusiasts always dream of, receiving or even broadcasting to listeners outside of normal signal range! You maybe wondering, how would that be even possible? For those that didn't grow up with AM Radio, you may need to keep scrolling since I will tell you the details. For the people that did grow up listening to their old transistor radio at night will understand, but a refresher wouldn't hurt.

What does AM Radio stand for?

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AM is short for amplitude modulation, which refers to the means of encoding the audio signal on the carrier frequency.  In many countries, AM radio stations are known as "mediumwave" stations. They are also sometimes referred to as "standard broadcast stations" because AM was the first form used to transmit broadcast radio signals to the public.  Many AM stations are either daytime-only stations or stations authorized to operate at very low power levels at night as a result of “sky wave” propagation, which occurs when the AM signal is reflected off the ionosphere and back to the earth.

Why do we still broadcast on AM if we broadcast on FM? 1230 broadcast tower

Besides legal reasons for what they call FM translators which requires an "AM-parent frequency" for example 1230 AM being the parent for 94.7 FM and 860 AM being the parent for 94.1 FM. That's one of the reasons. However, AM has one important advantage over FM, and that is its broadcast range. Imagine you are taking a cross-country road trip from Los Angeles to New York. Or, suppose you would like to go through Colorado, but you heard there has been a big snowstorm there and your are not sure whether the freeway you want to take will be open.

How does AM travel so far?

Since AM radio operates at a lower frequency, it has much larger wavelengths. Larger wavelength waves can travel farther because they can travel well through solid objects. FM radio waves on the other hand do not travel well through solid objects. This is the reason FM stations sometimes fade in and out when driving in mountainous areas. Another reason why AM radio waves can be heard far away is that they can be reflected off the ionosphere surrounding the earth. Lower frequency waves tend to be reflected better than high frequency waves. Due to this upper atmosphere reflection, under the right conditions, it is possible for an AM station to be broadcast around the world.

Which is exactly what happened last weekend for New Country 94.7's AM 1230 frequency!

Andy Lawendel
Andy Lawendel

When I came into work Monday morning, I received an email from ham radio enthusiast Andy Lawendel from Milan, Italy requesting me to look back at our log if "As Good As I Once Was” by Toby Keith was playing just before 1 a.m. our time but 7 a.m. their time. Sure enough, that's exactly what he heard! Check out the audio clip below as the first 20 seconds Keith's song is reaching good peaks and at 56" seconds the first two letters of the call are somewhat "audible" according to Mr. Lawendel.

(Good quality headphones recommended) 1230 Transmitter Building 1230 Transmitter Building

As a radio enthusiast myself, this truly festinates me! Considering the fact that The distance between L'Ago (a village of La Spezia province, an important military and commercial Mediterranean port, East of Genoa) and North Adams is approximatively 3965 mile, or 6400 kilometers a part from each other! According to Mr. Lawendal, This kind of reception can occur both at local sunset here locally, or more commonly nowadays in their dawn hours, usually for a short time slot (often less than a few minutes).

Andrew Lawendel is a 63 year young freelance journalist, mainly covering technology and business topics and is married with a 25 year old son who studies for his second master in History. Mr. Lawendal started listening to far distant stations on shortwave and mediumwave going back around 1975.

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