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What is the deference between AM radio and FM radio?

Updated on March 17, 2009
Sound Wave
Sound Wave
Am/FM dial
Am/FM dial

The Signal

When I heard that someone didn’t know what the difference was between AM and FM radio, I laughed (not to be arrogant, I honestly thought it was funny) and replied, “Dude, have you ever listened to AM radio?” When FM radio was invented, holy crap, it was the greatest invention ever! The music was so clear and there was less static. People were amazed by the FM radio.

To start off, let’s first describe what the heck AM and FM mean. Amplitude modulation and Frequency modulation (AM and FM) are similar yet extremely different. It’s a sound wave and a wave goes up and down (duh). For those of you who have taken extensive math classes and learn about sin and cos- one of the things you have to find is the Amplitude. Amplitude is how big the wave is. AM radio can be heard for hundreds even thousands of miles. As a matter of fact, in Yankton, SD there is a Transmitter so large that when it sends the AM signal, it can be heard in New Zealand. This transmitter was used as an emergency broadcast system in case of a national crisis. The transmitter is so big, they had to build the building around it (in case you didn’t know, a transmitter is a unit that sends out the signal so you can hear it on the radio).

FM, Frequency modulation, clarifies the sound creating richer tones. It’s a condensed version of AM and because of this, it doesn’t reach long distances. Really good FM transmitters can reach a little under 200 miles. Now there’s a digital transition in radio now that carries the signal a bit further and makes the signal clearer.

Now, although FM does seem like the better of the two, we just can’t get rid of AM because of its signal strength. Trust me, if the world were to end, AM radio would be the first to tell you.


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      Warren Quick 14 months ago

      Very cool to know the facts,very helpful , thanks..

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      fatima bello 14 months ago

      thanks so intresting

    • profile image

      Neelam 2 years ago


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      Mark 2 years ago

      Your article was very informative -- thank you!!!

    • profile image

      Aubrey 3 years ago


    • juliyarathore2011 profile image

      juliyarathore2011 6 years ago from bangalore

      nice article

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      brook 7 years ago

      touche.. the actual wave transmitted is an energy wave, what your radio produces is a sound wave... thanks for the response

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      rashid 7 years ago

      If you think that either wave is a sound wave you're in trouble

    • hubber-2009 profile image

      hubber-2009 8 years ago from India

      Well, the clarity of FM is much better then AM Radio. Thanks for posting this page for my Request..