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August 21, 2015 2:12 pm  #1


What's The Best Sounding Radio Station In The GTA?

When I was a radio-crazed kid a few thousand years ago, my brother used to challenge me to I.D. a radio station just by its sound. He'd put on the ol' transistor, tuned to either CHUM, CKFH, CKOC (and later CFTR) while they were playing a song and ask me what I was listening to. I almost always got it right, because each station had its own specific sound, aided by things like reverb, limiters and the like. 

I'm not sure I'd be able to pass that same test today with FM being where music is now played, but in the end, it doesn't necessarily come down to the music. What I'm talking about is just how a station sounds, regardless of what format it has. If I had to pick one Toronto station that simply sounds better than anyone else my choice would have to be Q107.

I'm not sure how their signal is processed (the late Mark Dailey once told me that the secret of their on-air sound was kept locked away where only a few had access. I was never sure if he was making that up, but anything was possible in those days...) but there's something about Q's presence that's unmistakable. Even though I rarely listen on a regular basis, I always know when I land at 107.1, even if I'm not looking at the dial. (And no, I've never worked there or at any Corus outlet.) 

I'd be curious to know if anyone shares that opinion or if anybody has even thought about this over their varied years of listening. Or should I say you can "sound off" about it? Nah, no one needs to make that bad a pun.

Last edited by RadioActive (August 21, 2015 2:15 pm)

 

August 21, 2015 4:47 pm  #2


Re: What's The Best Sounding Radio Station In The GTA?

I always thought CKFM had a great sound back in the days of Carl Banas and Russ Thompson. I'm not sure if I was imagining it, but to me it sounded better than the others.http://rockradioscrapbook.ca/ckfmmontage.jpg


"The radio craze ... will soon fade." - Thomas Edison, 1922
 

August 22, 2015 1:32 am  #3


Re: What's The Best Sounding Radio Station In The GTA?

Didn't CKFM experiment with quad in the 70s? 

Then again, didn't the music from that period (especially "beautiful music" coming from European pressings) have a bit more dynamic range?  Then again, going from a transistor radio to my parents first "stereo" in the early 70s was a real ear opener no matter what station you listened to.
 

 

August 23, 2015 7:08 pm  #4


Re: What's The Best Sounding Radio Station In The GTA?

They all sound the same when I stream them through my tablet. 

 

November 8, 2019 11:04 am  #5


Re: What's The Best Sounding Radio Station In The GTA?

Resurrecting an old post however, I find CHUM FM has the best most tweaked sound.  Very clear, balanced bass,  almost wouldnt think you are listening to FM Radio.  

CHFI sounds flat and at a slightly lower volume.  BOOM sounds great aswell, perfect for their format. CKFM Virgin sounds just like CHUM. 

 

November 8, 2019 11:18 am  #6


Re: What's The Best Sounding Radio Station In The GTA?

CHUM and Virgin for me. I find the Corus FMs too harsh in the midrange. 590 for AMs.


 
 

November 8, 2019 11:51 am  #7


Re: What's The Best Sounding Radio Station In The GTA?

RadioAaron wrote:

CHUM and Virgin for me. I find the Corus FMs too harsh in the midrange. 590 for AMs.

I agree.  Both Edge and Q sound messy.  

 

November 8, 2019 12:54 pm  #8


Re: What's The Best Sounding Radio Station In The GTA?

How about 88.1 FM? If Edge and 88.1 (by fluke) have the same song playing, there might be  a slight difference...no?

Last edited by Radiowiz (November 8, 2019 12:56 pm)

 

November 8, 2019 1:06 pm  #9


Re: What's The Best Sounding Radio Station In The GTA?

Radiowiz wrote:

How about 88.1 FM? If Edge and 88.1 (by fluke) have the same song playing, there might be  a slight difference...no?

Mostlikely yes - signal alone. 

 

November 8, 2019 1:49 pm  #10


Re: What's The Best Sounding Radio Station In The GTA?

The HD signal sound quality of 99.9, 92.5 and 95.3 are all way superior to CHUM-FM. If only they would turn back on their HD also.

 

November 8, 2019 2:18 pm  #11


Re: What's The Best Sounding Radio Station In The GTA?

Hrick wrote:

The HD signal sound quality of 99.9, 92.5 and 95.3 are all way superior to CHUM-FM. If only they would turn back on their HD also.

might cause a fire again

 

November 8, 2019 2:31 pm  #12


Re: What's The Best Sounding Radio Station In The GTA?

I guess it depends on what you like. I find that BOOM has a more processed or slightly compressed sound than a lot of other FM signals. But their classic top 40 format sort of lends it to that sound. 

CHFI, CHUM and Virgin all have a clean, full sound and less compression. so these are the best sounding to me.

1050 CHUM always sounded flatter to my ears than CFTR,  which was very punchy sounding. Back in the 70,s and 80's a lot of top 40 stations wanted that sound, so signals had a lot of processing. One of the most compressed signals I ever heard on AM radio was CKSL in London. In the 80's during their top 40 era, that station would almost jump out through the speakers.  

 

November 8, 2019 2:35 pm  #13


Re: What's The Best Sounding Radio Station In The GTA?

Hrick wrote:

The HD signal sound quality of 99.9, 92.5 and 95.3 are all way superior to CHUM-FM. If only they would turn back on their HD also.

Well, that's subjective. They're certainly clean, but the high ends are very aritfact-y. The low bitrate really comes through.


 
 

November 8, 2019 2:37 pm  #14


Re: What's The Best Sounding Radio Station In The GTA?

Dale writes, "Always thought CKFM had a great sound back in the days of Carl Banas and Russ Thompson. I'm not sure if I was imagining it, but to me it sounded better than the others."


Your right Dale.  It sounded so good ;as if the announcer was in the room with you. Why?  Because they used absolutely NO COMPRESSION.  It was an incredible live sound.  I was always surprised no one else in the market did the same thing.  However their great sound was back in the day.

Last edited by John D (November 8, 2019 2:54 pm)

 

November 8, 2019 3:51 pm  #15


Re: What's The Best Sounding Radio Station In The GTA?

is the sound done at the transmitter or on some EQ board and just sent to the transmitter?

 

November 8, 2019 3:55 pm  #16


Re: What's The Best Sounding Radio Station In The GTA?

John D wrote:

Dale writes, "Always thought CKFM had a great sound back in the days of Carl Banas and Russ Thompson. I'm not sure if I was imagining it, but to me it sounded better than the others."


Your right Dale.  It sounded so good ;as if the announcer was in the room with you. Why?  Because they used absolutely NO COMPRESSION.  It was an incredible live sound.  I was always surprised no one else in the market did the same thing.  However their great sound was back in the day.

I credit Clive Eastwood, VP of Engineering for Standard Radio, for that no compression policy. He and his family lived next door when I was in my pre-teens. Clive gave us kids a tour of CFRB/CKFM back in the early 70s and that's when I fell in love with radio.

 

November 8, 2019 5:29 pm  #17


Re: What's The Best Sounding Radio Station In The GTA?

Listen to 95.9 CJKX with its main transmitter in Ajax and 50 watts or so in downtown Toronto, and tell me where the two signals overlap. No echo whatsoever. Then listen to 98.7 CBC mid-way between Owen Sound and Peterborough.

 

November 8, 2019 5:40 pm  #18


Re: What's The Best Sounding Radio Station In The GTA?

I like 91.1 Jazz FM and then 94.1 CBC 2


The world would be so good if it weren't for some people...
 

November 8, 2019 8:09 pm  #19


Re: What's The Best Sounding Radio Station In The GTA?

Here are 10 GTA FM's. Some signals are HD and not in order by frequency. Wav file:

Toronto Radio Nov 2019


Cool Airchecks and More:
http://www.lettheuniverseanswer.com/
 

November 8, 2019 8:47 pm  #20


Re: What's The Best Sounding Radio Station In The GTA?

When it was owned by Electrohome / Central Ontario Television Kitchener's CFCA 105.3 always sounded good. On AM CKLW and CFTR sounded good too.

 

November 9, 2019 12:28 am  #21


Re: What's The Best Sounding Radio Station In The GTA?

paterson1 wrote:

1050 CHUM always sounded flatter to my ears than CFTR, which was very punchy sounding. Back in the 70's and 80's a lot of top 40 stations wanted that sound, so signals had a lot of processing. One of the most compressed signals I ever heard on AM radio was CKSL in London. In the 80's during their top 40 era, that station would almost jump out through the speakers.  

Interesting. I always preferred the sound of 1050 CHUM over CFTR. To my ears, 1050 CHUM had the most FM-sounding signal on the dial (during the 80's, at least). Good rich bass, a nice detailed midrange, and some of the cleanest-sounding highs you could ever expect from an AM station. CFTR, to my ears, was all treble and the bass was almost non-existent, but I guess that brash-sounding, trebley, "in-your-face" sound is what a lot of Top 40 stations were going for in the day. CKOC was even thinner-sounding, and to make matters worse, their signal would distort and crackle on the high end, a problem which continued at least until Astral bought them out in the late '00s. By the time Bell bought them out their signal was a lot more fuller-sounding and the distortion was gone, but by then, their music days were numbered.

I guess what we're learning from this thread is that everybody's ears are different, and good sound is truly subjective! 

PJ  
 


Not the same 200 songs over and over!  http://www.classichitsonline.com
 

November 9, 2019 7:47 am  #22


Re: What's The Best Sounding Radio Station In The GTA?

Absolutely right Paul, 1050 CHUM did have more of an FM sounding signal.  Especially in the early 80's when they were playing a lot of new wave music. I didn't mean the flatter sound as a criticism, and if anything I also preferred the more natural sound of CHUM over CFTR. 

CHUM didn't sound like your typical top 40 station back then programming wise, and in terms of sound quality either. CFTR and stations like CKSL in London, CHYM in Kitchener had the more typical processed AM sounding signal. 

 

November 9, 2019 12:29 pm  #23


Re: What's The Best Sounding Radio Station In The GTA?

paterson1 wrote:

Absolutely right Paul, 1050 CHUM did have more of an FM sounding signal.  Especially in the early 80's when they were playing a lot of new wave music. I didn't mean the flatter sound as a criticism, and if anything I also preferred the more natural sound of CHUM over CFTR. 

CHUM didn't sound like your typical top 40 station back then programming wise, and in terms of sound quality either. CFTR and stations like CKSL in London, CHYM in Kitchener had the more typical processed AM sounding signal. 

CHUM was (to me) a CHR format but presented like an AOR.  Out of the news, they would mention "Now from the album .... etc ....etc - here's ..... on CHUM).  I've mentioned this before too, that all of the songs played between 1979 and 1983 were usually LP versions from what I can remember.  Only the censored version of "Highschool Confidential" by Ms Pope and her Trade, and Blondie's "Rapture" were single edits.

I could always recognize CHUM-FM because of a laggy, billowy bass in the early 80s.  I believe some of this was a result of turntable rumble, which tends to rob amplification power at low frequencies.  That's how I usually can identify someone spinning vinyl straight to air.  With some songs though, it lent a unique sound quite frankly.  On "L'Affair du Moutier" by the Box, the artifcact seemed to add a pleasant bounce to the mid-bass.  But on "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" bu U2, the bass distortion was unlistenable (well OK a slight exaggeration ....lol).  I also found that a loud pop on a record would hammer their compressor so badly, that it shot the level down no different than if someone bumped the pot down and gently raised it again.  Probably an overly aggressive attack setting.
 


Cheers,
Jody Thornton
 
 

November 9, 2019 12:41 pm  #24


Re: What's The Best Sounding Radio Station In The GTA?

Paul Jeffries wrote:

CKOC was even thinner-sounding, and to make matters worse, their signal would distort and crackle on the high end, a problem which continued at least until Astral bought them out in the late '00s. 

I found that CKOC's sound was pretty full in the late 1970's and early 80s.  Now it was definitely compressed heavily (and if I'm not mistaken, I think the might've slowed down their turntables half a semi-tone.).  I find slower played audio tends to give the impression of a more bassy sound.

Now one thing: when I listen to music on AM, high-fidelity in never a goal.  Even if I was listening to a wideband, stereo broadcast, I tend to want AM to sound like "pizzazz" rather than accurate.  The S/N ratio is so low, that I find it better to keep AM content "loud" and boisterous.  I want AM to always sound like the "big station" in the "big city".  So to me, CHUM sounded kinda dead back in the 80s.  If I wanted wide dynamic range, I'd listen to an LP.  On AM, I don't want songs to actually "fade"; I prefer the compressor to keep sucking up the level, and have the next song just throw it outta there.  It also allows for more impressive post hits

I guess what I'm saying is that to me, AM should always sound loud, somewhat pumpy, and in your face, because it offsets the format's weak audio quality.  Go for glam rather than accuracy.
 


Cheers,
Jody Thornton
 
 

November 9, 2019 2:30 pm  #25


Re: What's The Best Sounding Radio Station In The GTA?

Jody Thornton wrote:

One thing: when I listen to music on AM, high-fidelity in never a goal.  Even if I was listening to a wideband, stereo broadcast, I tend to want AM to sound like "pizzazz" rather than accurate.  The S/N ratio is so low, that I find it better to keep AM content "loud" and boisterous.  I want AM to always sound like the "big station" in the "big city".  So to me, CHUM sounded kinda dead back in the 80s.  If I wanted wide dynamic range, I'd listen to an LP.  On AM, I don't want songs to actually "fade"; I prefer the compressor to keep sucking up the level, and have the next song just throw it outta there.  It also allows for more impressive post hits

I guess what I'm saying is that to me, AM should always sound loud, somewhat pumpy, and in your face, because it offsets the format's weak audio quality.  Go for glam rather than accuracy.
 

Interesting viewpoint. I think this actually goes back to what I said in my previous post about good sound being subjective.

First off, I do want to say that I agree with you Jody, that high-fidelity audio should never be a goal when listening to AM radio because, no matter how good the station sounds, it'll never be true high fidelity. Having said that, I do expect an audio source to be as good sounding as it possibly can. 

I think maybe listening to 1050 CHUM may have raised the bar (for me, anyway) as to what an AM radio station should sound like. It's interesting that you mentioned "pizzazz" when talking about AM. For me, the fact that 1050 CHUM sounded so much like FM was, in effect, "pizzazz" to my ears. I always found CFTR, in addition to being bass-deficient, to be rather two-dimensional-sounding; the music seemed to lack any real depth, and ultimately it would give me ear fatigue and not want to listen for prolonged periods. But I guess the brash, trebley, "in-your-face" sound worked for many AM Top 40 stations and their audiences, because so many stations were doing it. I do understand what you and other posters have said about CHUM's somewhat "flat" sound, though. Their signal didn't "jump out" at you the way other AM stations traditionally did.  

While we're on the subject of CKOC, I actually found that their signal around 2013 (when Bell bought them out) was quite pleasing to listen to. It sounded like a cross between CFTR and 1050 CHUM: enough treble to be "in your face", but also enough bass and midrange to make it sound well-rounded.

As a footnote: I also seem to remember a thread similar to this around that time. I had mentioned that K-Lite's signal seemed to lack any real "punch"; as though their processing equipment was still set to "beautiful music" and nobody bothered to change it when they transitioned to more contemporary pop. About a week or so later, it seemed like their signal was less flat-sounding and, lo and behold, actually carried more "punch" to it. Most likely a coincidence (and probably my ears playing tricks on me), but it did lead me to believe that someone actually paid attention to my posts (at least for a brief shining moment!) 

Cheers! 

PJ

Last edited by Paul Jeffries (November 9, 2019 2:40 pm)


Not the same 200 songs over and over!  http://www.classichitsonline.com