Author Topic: Why do late-model radios seem worse than 50 y. o. ones?  (Read 317 times)

Offline Maynard Krebs

  • Posts: 85
  • Name: Gerald F. Chase
Why do late-model radios seem worse than 50 y. o. ones?
« on: June 19, 2017, 04:41:49 PM »
Maybe this topic has been addressed before (?)   It seems like a good one for a Winter 'hot-stove discussion time'.   Anyway....

I'm looking for those with experience in Cadillac radios, and can compare 1990s ones versus 1960s ones.   I know that most folks listen to FM these days, but I'm an "AM man".   My memory says that the typical mid-60s Cadillac radio was a lot higher in quality than 'late-model' ones.   Of course, what hurts AM reception now is the lousy 31" antennae (for FM), versus the 'old days' for which car antennae could be raised up to 40-some inches,
which benefits AM reception.

There is a theory out there.. that claims that the radio spectrum is much more filled with noise sources than 40 years ago.   Does anyone have reason to confirm or deny?

The two things that I miss from 'old' Cadillacs are VENT windows and much-superior-to-nowadays Cadillac radios.   What to do?

Offline m-mman

  • Posts: 265
    • CLC Member
      CLC Member #29634
  • Name: J. Crabtree
Re: Why do late-model radios seem worse than 50 y. o. ones?
« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2017, 04:55:07 PM »

I have always felt that a (full orchestral - big band type) melody accompanied by well written lyrics coming in through the many TUBES of a 40s & 50s radio was superior to the two guitars and a drummer coming through a fully transistorized 60s & 70s radio. . . . even on the AM band

Perhaps the sounds were 'deeper' but maybe just having to wait for the system to warm up made it all seem a little more special when the music started.

If you have never listened to a full fidelity performance announced by a golden voiced narrator on a tube set, you have missed one of life's great experiences.
1929 341B Town Sedan
1971 Miller-Meteor Lifeliner ambulance
Other non-Cadillac cars
Near Los Angeles, California

CLC #29634

Online Eric DeVirgilis CLC# 8621

  • Posts: 3572
    • CLC Member
      CLC Member #8621
  • Name: Eric DeVirgilis
Re: Why do late-model radios seem worse than 50 y. o. ones?
« Reply #2 on: June 19, 2017, 06:26:41 PM »
AM reception is pretty rough in these parts, with very few listening choices.

As much as I'd enjoy the sound quality of a modern sound system while driving an older Cadillac, I would never install non original equipment.

A Cadillac Motorcar is a Possession for Which There is no Acceptable Substitute

Online J. Gomez

  • Posts: 1338
    • CLC Member
      CLC Member #23082
  • Name: J. Gomez
Re: Why do late-model radios seem worse than 50 y. o. ones?
« Reply #3 on: June 19, 2017, 07:12:16 PM »
There was multiple issues back then with AM reception from interference from adjacent stations to other electrical noises. The other issue was that tube radios back then did not cope with the narrow band that multiple stations operated on within the city and the overlapping from other stations at night from other places/states/etc.

Changes were dictated by the FCC to the AM station operators to lower their transmitting power (especially at night) to avoid overlapping with others, by then most of the big names were moving to FM. That is why you only see a handful of station broadcasting today

Just a quick reference..!

As for the music/sound quality there is nothing in yesterday or today technology that can beat the vacuum tube for sound quality. If you do a search you will find the top amplifiers makers still use vacuum tubes in the last stage for amplification for the best sound quality.

Vacuum tubes are like the good old vinyl records, nothing can beat them for sound quality..!   ;)
J. Gomez
CLC #23082

Time is irrelevant when you work on your classic car, eventually you will enjoy it..!

Offline bcroe

  • Posts: 1884
    • CLC Member
      CLC Member #14630
Why do late-model radios seem worse than 50 y. o. ones?
« Reply #4 on: June 19, 2017, 08:38:33 PM »
There are a few people who think old radios sound terrible, but probably the sound was
from equipment desperately needing maintenance. 

We do have increased noise, seriously affecting the AM band.  I recently went to a seminar
on the subject; we are finally going to try answer the question, "Just HOW BAD IS the noise?". 
The electronic ignition systems of modern cars are more powerful; I don't see much attempt
to limit their radiation.  And so many cars.  And so much other stuff. 

Bruce Roe

Online Eric DeVirgilis CLC# 8621

  • Posts: 3572
    • CLC Member
      CLC Member #8621
  • Name: Eric DeVirgilis
Re: Why do late-model radios seem worse than 50 y. o. ones?
« Reply #5 on: June 20, 2017, 07:47:10 AM »
When asked the proverbial $64,000 question of which is better, tubes or solid state, McIntosh Laboratory's chief engineer paused for a moment, then answered: If they are designed properly, they should sound the same!   ;D

I have a lot of vintage tube equipment at home which I enjoy collecting as a secondary hobby - and when properly restored can perform every bit as well as modern electronics. However after many years of careful comparing and experimentation, it's my opinion that the notion of vacuum tubes being inherently superior to well designed solid state equipment is largely a myth.

As far as AM car radios go- whether tube or solid state - there is simply no comparison with modern automotive sound systems which are considerably more advanced in every possible way. A number of factory systems are even designed to take into account the acoustic properties of the interior for the best possible sound. This has always been a challenge as automotive interiors are a nightmare from an acoustical standpoint.

In any case, I enjoy the AM radio playing oldies in a classic Cadillac - in all its crackly glory making complete the experience of vintage motoring!  8)
« Last Edit: June 20, 2017, 07:05:17 PM by Eric DeVirgilis CLC# 8621 »
A Cadillac Motorcar is a Possession for Which There is no Acceptable Substitute

Offline Alan Harris CLC#1513

  • Posts: 458
  • Name: A Harris
Re: Why do late-model radios seem worse than 50 y. o. ones?
« Reply #6 on: June 20, 2017, 11:20:41 PM »
I have had discussions about this with a friend who is a broadcast engineer.

Today, the sources of static interference on AM are all around us. Every fluorescent bulb, every computer, every security system in a building, and every electric motor puts out RF interference that can be heard on an AM radio. Fifty years ago, most of these things didn't exist or existed in way smaller numbers.

At the same time, as FM gained popularity and AM lost, the manufacturers started to cheap out more and more on the AM sections of their radios. Less shielding means more noise.

I have a 1932 Philco console that belonged to my grand father. As recently as the seventies, it got excellent reception compared to what it gets now. There is more and more static all over the dial. Remember, fluorescent lights did not exist before 1940 or so. Now, almost every light in a modern house produces interference.

Times change.

Offline The Tassie Devil(le)

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 6948
    • CLC Member
      CLC Member #18992
  • Name: Bruce Reynolds
Re: Why do late-model radios seem worse than 50 y. o. ones?
« Reply #7 on: June 20, 2017, 11:30:32 PM »
One mustn't forget that our own ears get older, and hearing becomes degraded.

Bruce. >:D
'72 Eldorado Convertible (LHD)
'70 Ranchero Squire (RHD)
'55 Buick Special Post Coupe (LHD)
'74 Chris Craft Gull Wing RHH
(Past President Modified Chapter)

Online Eric DeVirgilis CLC# 8621

  • Posts: 3572
    • CLC Member
      CLC Member #8621
  • Name: Eric DeVirgilis
Re: Why do late-model radios seem worse than 50 y. o. ones?
« Reply #8 on: June 21, 2017, 08:58:06 AM »
Alan's comments concerning AM reception are very true.

Given all the newer technology media that have appeared on the scene over the last 15 years, (XM, HD radio, internet streaming, etc), it's almost a miracle AM transmission has manage to hang on this long for which has been very fortunate.
« Last Edit: June 21, 2017, 12:18:10 PM by Eric DeVirgilis CLC# 8621 »
A Cadillac Motorcar is a Possession for Which There is no Acceptable Substitute

Offline TC

  • Posts: 9
  • Name: Tom Stephens
Re: Why do late-model radios seem worse than 50 y. o. ones?
« Reply #9 on: June 23, 2017, 01:26:50 AM »
Regarding all the radio transmissions in the air, I read if you could see everything being transmitted through the air today, you would not be able to see. It would be like a "White-Out" snow storm.

Offline Maynard Krebs

  • Posts: 85
  • Name: Gerald F. Chase
Re: Why do late-model radios seem worse than 50 y. o. ones?
« Reply #10 on: Yesterday at 08:38:22 PM »
We do have increased noise, seriously affecting the AM band.  I recently went to a seminar
on the subject; we are finally going to try answer the question, "Just HOW BAD IS the noise?". 
The electronic ignition systems of modern cars are more powerful; I don't see much attempt
to limit their radiation.  And so many cars.  And so much other stuff. 

Bruce Roe

I believe that Bruce is most accurate in his analysis here, though Alan is also right.

I also believe that it's because tube-types were designed, engineered and built better than latter-day solid state ones----not that one in inherently better than the other.   It cannot be denied, however, that solid-state is more practical for vehicle usage.

To my original point:  I continue to believe that the early solid-state OEM Cad radios from the 1960s remain far better performing than latter-day Cad radios... because of sheer higher quality, better shielding to insulate against electrical noise, and longer-than-31" antennae.   While said 1960s Cad radios may not perform on the AM band as well as they did 40-50 years ago, said radios will perform better today than the late-model radio's AM band these days.   For GM to build such low-quality AM sections in their radios now is a disgrace.   I will believe this.. until demonstrated otherwise, if even possible.   
« Last Edit: Yesterday at 08:46:51 PM by Maynard Krebs »