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What Is the Difference Between AM and FM Radio?

FM Antenna

If you’re like many people, when you think of the difference between AM and FM radio, you might say, “Well, AM is mostly talk radio and FM is mostly music.” While this is somewhat true (there are exceptions with both), it’s certainly not the main characteristic that sets them apart from one another. While AM and FM radio function and operate in the same ways and by the same principles, the biggest difference between the two is the way in which the carrier waves are modulated.

AM Radio

AM stands for “Amplitude Modulation”, as AM radio signals vary their amplitude to adapt to the sound information that is being broadcasted through the wavelengths. While changes in amplitude occur on FM radio as well, they are more noticeable in AM radio because they result in audible static. So, essentially, when you’re switching the channels on an AM radio, you’re hearing changes in amplitude, which is why distant broadcasts with weak signals will come across as very faint with the sound largely dominated by static.

FM Radio

FM stands for “Frequency Modulation,” and, unlike AM radio, sound is transmitted through changes in frequency. While both FM and AM radio signals experience frequent changes in amplitude, they are far less noticeable on FM. During an FM broadcast, slight changes in amplitude go unnoticed because the audio signal is presented to the listener through changes in frequency, not amplitude. So, when you’re switching between stations, your FM antenna is alternating between different frequencies, and not amplitudes, which produces a much cleaner sound and allows for smoother transitions with little to no audible static.

There are pros and cons of both AM and FM radio, but the better sound quality of FM radio makes it more desirable for those who want to transmit clear and clean sounding audio. And while AM radio has a lower bandwidth and can accommodate more stations, FM radio is generally preferred by those who want to start their own low power broadcast.

If you’re interested in broadcasting on your own low power FM radio station, Progressive Concepts has everything you need to produce a professional sounding show, whether you plan on transmitting mostly spoken word, or recorded or live music. With extensive knowledge of all of the equipment needed to produce a radio show, the experts at Progressive Concepts can help you outfit your home studio with everything you need and nothing you don’t. Contact us today to learn more or to order your equipment!