On The Radio Columns: March 2009 Archives

Commentary by Art Vuolo, Jr.

On The RadioIt was an attempt at humor when I used to jokingly say that I hope Paul Harvey has already pre-recorded his own eulogy because no one else could do one better. Yet, there was nothing to smile about when the bulletin came across the news that Paul Harvey had died at his winter home in Phoenix, AZ Saturday February 28th.

When his beloved wife, Lynn "Angel" Harvey passed away from leukemia less than a year ago, I feared we would not able to enjoy this radio icon for very much longer. Even his vocal quality seemed to lose its vibrant and distinctive sound.

After Angel died, Harvey was off the air for several weeks, and some of his affiliates felt he might not come back and dropped his morning and noontime news and commentary reports. WJR Radio in Detroit was not one of them, and kept the program on the air with a number of substitute reporters for weeks on end.

The first time I met Paul Harvey, at his North Michigan Avenue studio in Chicago, I knew I was in the presence of greatness. He was born in 1918 as Paul Harvey Aurandt, but professionally used his middle name as his last. He was as nice as any broadcaster I have ever met and since I was a fan since the early 1960's, it was truly awesome to be sitting in the same studio with him as he fed his noontime report down the network to thousands of stations across the country.

I recall a trip to Chicago when I went up to see the famous studios of WLS Radio on the 5th floor of the Stone Container Building at Wacker and Michigan Avenue. Down on the 4th floor was the FM, known then as WDAI, but also on that floor was the office and studio for Paul Harvey News. There he was pecking out his newscast on a manual typewriter and I just walked in and said hello. I told him a cute story about my mother who, at that time, worked as a lecturer for Weight Watchers. He found the story funny and used it that day in his famous final story.

"Our for what it's worth department hears from Amy Vuolo of Ann Arbor, Michigan whose Weight Watchers class featured a bumper sticker that reads 'my spare tire is in the trunk.' Well one of the ladies in her class put it on her car, which was then broken into and they stole the spare tire!....Paul Harvey, Good Day."

By the end of that day, people from all across the country had heard about my mother on Paul Harvey News.

Through the years we saw each other at countless radio conventions, and at one NAB confab he actually introduced me to Dr. Amar G. Bose, who founded the company that makes the famous Wave Radio and top-quality speakers. Mr. Harvey was a longtime spokesman for Bose Sound Systems.

When WGN Chicago morning personality Bob Collins was killed in a light plane crash in February of 2000, Paul Harvey, who was carried by the powerful AM station, did an on-air eulogy that could make a grown man cry. He concluded with a statement that "someone will take his job....no one will take is place." That certainly applies as well to Mr. Harvey himself.

My greatest thrill was being able to videotape his riveting 17 minute address at the R&R (Radio & Records) Talk Radio Seminar at the Marina del Rey Marriott on March 8, 2003. Numerous people said to me "do you realize what you have there?" I said "yes a really great keynote from a radio legend." Most, however, insisted that I might have just taped Paul Harvey's last speech to the radio industry, and indeed it was. I treasure that recording now, more than ever.

Truly, the Voice of America has been silenced, Paul Harvey and his soul-mate Angel are together again, and the radio waves are washing ashore in a way that suggests that our audio landscape is a little less colorful as broadcasting's most articulate wordsmith moves on, with a distinctive pause.....to Page Two.

 


 

Note: Art was on WWJ AM 950 late last night discussing Paul Harvey with Bill Rapada. Listen to an excerpt of that discussion here. (audio courtesy of WWJ/CBS Radio Detroit and The Michigan Atrium)

 


 

Art Vuolo has published the Radio Guide for more than 30 years and runs Vuolovideo.com. Contact him at artvuolo@aol.com.

 

Commentary by Mike Austerman

On The RadioSo, I'm in Costco the other day and I notice they are selling a tabletop HD radio with an iPod doc for $99 (after a $30 instant rebate). And since I've always been a fan of radio, I figured that it was well past the time to actually take home my first HD radio.

The Teac HD-1 HD Clock Radio with iPod/iPhone Docking is the first HD set I've seen for under $100 that has enough features to make it worth the money. But it, and the HD technology and implementation here in Detroit, still leaves a lot to be desired. That's not to say there aren't some cool things too - and I'm definitely keeping it and find it to be a good value. Below is a pretty comprehensive review of my experience so far.

A word of warning: although it's marketed as a clock radio, in my opinion the display is not good for a bedroom. The clock digits are too small and they are not available at all when you're listening to the AM/FM tuners. Although the display can be turned completely off, at its lowest on level it's just way too bright for use in a bedroom. It's brighter than most nightlights I've ever seen. I used it for exactly one night as a clock radio, then promptly moved it to our hobby room. Teac needs to go back to the drawing board on the display.

TEAC HD-1The biggest highlight of the radio for me has been the selectivity of the FM tuner. From my home in the northwest part of Sterling Heights, it easily receives the strongest 'in between' stations from southwestern Ontario, Pt. Huron/Sarnia, and Flint's WCRZ on 107.9. Reorienting the included double-wire T antenna allows me to switch between Q107 from Pt. Huron and Ann Arbor's 107-1. Reception is also good for many fringe stations on the non-commercial FM band. As far as the in-market stations on FM, they are all rock solid, including the sometimes harder to receive stations like 89X and 93.9 The River. I currently don't own a DX-ing type receiver, so it's very easy for me to say this is the best FM tuner I have in the house right now. It easily compares with the reception of our car radios, if not a little better.

The AM receiver however is quite disappointing. I admit that many of my issues are likely self-inflicted as my home is full of dimmer switches, compact florescent lights, and other interference causing items. Even with efforts to make sure as many of things as possible are turned off, AM reception leaves something to be desired. WDTW 1310 is very hard to receive, even with the radio in several different locations in my home, and with just about every imaginable position of the provided loop antenna. Other fringe stations from my location like WDRJ 1440, WDEO 990, and CHOK 1070 are similarly very hard to listen to reliably (and none of them are ever clear).

TEAC HD-1After using the HD features of the Teac HD-1, I can certainly understand both the excitement and the scourge that others have commented on. HD on FM is easy and reliable thanks to the selective tuner and receiving all the HD signals from the local stations is relatively straightforward. Just tune to the desired station and wait for the HD signal to display, then turn the knob one a notch to get the HD2 station if you'd like (it automatically switches from analog to digital on the HD1 signals). I'll get into the specifics of what kind of programming is currently being offered in another column ... but suffice it to say the quality and value to the listener varies enormously.

In my suburban location, HD reception on FM is rock solid - I have found no drifting between analog and digital. The HD-1 is probably not the best showcase for any sound quality advantages of listening to FM in analog versus digital. While there is a difference, there isn't enough of a contrast to get me excited. For sure, the most enticing thing about HD on FM is the availability of more programming.

TEAC HD-1AM HD is quite the different experience. When (and if) you can get a station to lock in on HD, the sound difference is certainly incredible. Listening to an interference and hum free AM broadcast is nothing short of remarkable. But ... it's incredibly difficult to achieve. I have had the most success with WWJ 950, WDFN 1130, WCHB 1200, and WXYT 1270 ... but not without significant adjustment of the loop antenna. And drifting / HD drop out unfortunately happens too often unless the antenna has truly found a sweet spot (which varies from day to day and even from morning to afternoon). Judging by what I've read elsewhere and what I've experienced on AM, I feel pretty confident in saying that the extra interference on AM is not worth the enhanced listening capability. It's maddening to try and listen to a program when it's shifting in between analog and digital. And even more frustrating to try and listen to stations on AM that years ago would be easy to hear relatively noise-free.

I wish I could be more sure about the reasons my AM reception stinks with the HD-1 - but the fact is that most consumers don't have the patience to fiddle around the way I have with the AM band. It's pretty clear that AM radio right now is pretty much broken as far as most in-home users are concerned and no HD radio is going to fix that without a lot of effort and money.

TEAC HD-1Sound quality overall is very good for a smallish desktop radio -- although this one has a good deal of heft to it. It has both line in and line out jacks, helpful for outputting otherwise inaccessible HD stations to a component system that doesn't have an HD receiver. The input allows me to use my portable satellite radio receiver with the HD-1. The remote control is incredibly bulky and heavy -- it's not cumbersome by any means, but it's easily the beefiest remote I've ever owned for something of this size. The HD-1 also features iTunes tagging, which works great when you have an iPod docked.

All in all, I'm happy I bought this unit - it gives our hobby room a nice little desktop radio that can also be used with an iPod and satellite receiver if desired. The FM radio is great -- but don't expect much out of AM.

Comments and questions are welcomed -- I'll do my best to respond as best as I can.

 

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the On The Radio Columns category from March 2009.

On The Radio Columns: February 2009 is the previous archive.

On The Radio Columns: April 2009 is the next archive.

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