Audio

Anybody out there still listening to FM radio?

Norway is doing away with FM -- will the US be next?

Steve Guttenberg/CNET

I grew up with FM radio. It was the portal of choice for music discovery for teenagers. I went for college stations, alternative, or listener-supported outlets. Later I dabbled in talk radio, and I'm a regular National Public Radio listener, but to be honest I haven't listened to much music on FM radio this century.

So when I heard that Norway plans to phase out FM radio this year, I was hardly surprised -- DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) is widespread in Europe as an FM replacement. Some say DAB sounds better than FM, but FM has a diehard following that believes otherwise. Here in the US, we have paid SiriusXM satellite radio subscriptions; I know from personal experience that SiriusXM doesn't hold a candle to the sound quality of FM.

We also have a large number of AM and FM stations broadcasting HD Radio, but a only a relatively small number of listeners using HD Radio receivers. My experiences listening to that broadcasting medium with a Sony XDR-F1HD tuner were less than stellar, thanks to inconsistent reception here in New York City. That's why I lost interest in HD Radio.

The biggest advantage of FM and AM radio is that they're free to the listener -- but then there are those darn commercials, which do drive away some of the audience. NPR and other public radio stations rely on listeners subscriptions and corporate underwriters to survive. The folks who love FM, really love FM, but I'm more likely to listen to NPR online than over the air. The time in my day when I used to listen to the radio has been taken over by Tidal streaming for music, and podcasts like Marc Maron's WTF and The 404.

It's also interesting to note that home FM tuners as a component category died years ago. I reviewed the Sony XDR-F1HD tuner back in 2008, but that might have been the only FM tuner I ever wrote about. Very, very few high-end brands still make FM tuners. Of course stereo and AV receivers all have FM tuners, but I'm not convinced anybody listens to them. So it seems that most FM listeners are in cars.

What about you -- do you listen to FM radio? If you do, where do you listen? If FM disappeared, how would you replace it? Share your thoughts in the Comments section.