AM vs FM Radio: What Are the Differences?

am vs fm radio

AM stands for Amplitude Modulated and FM stands for Frequency Modulated. Names aren’t the only difference between the two radio signals, however. There are several others as well as pros and cons when it comes to AM vs FM radio.

If you need to use the radio for speaking and/or listening, you should learn the most you can about these two. Doing so will help you feel more satisfied with your radio usage. Read this AM vs FM radio guide to improve your radio knowledge and skills.

How Do Radios Produce Sound?

This is probably a review for you radio experts, but as this information is essential to explain AM and FM, it’s necessary to state it. Radios of all types that can transmit signals do so in the form of a carrier wave or signal. This is a static electromagnetic wave that doesn’t change in any way until something needs to be transmitted.

The signal changes via a process called modulation. This, essentially, turns the wave into a code that can only be decoded by the radio that is tuned to a certain frequency. Two of the ways that a signal is modulated are called AM and FM.

What Is AM Radio?

A radio signal that is modulated in an AM way has its amplitude changed. The amplitude can be best described as the ‘height’ of a sound wave from its peaks (highest points) to its valleys (lowest points). To get different AM frequencies, the distance between the peaks and valleys is increased or decreased.

What Is FM Radio?

A radio signal that is modulated in an FM way has its frequency changed. The frequency is the horizontal distance between different peaks and waves. To get different FM frequencies, the distance between peak to peak and valley to valley is increased or decreased.

Pros and Cons of AM vs FM Radio

AM signals can travel a lot farther than FM ones. They’re also not easily interrupted by obstructions such as light and electrical equipment. However, they’re also not as clear as FM signals and use a lot more power to broadcast.

While FM signals can be affected by physical obstructions and don’t travel far, they are not weak to atmospheric changes. Thus, they produce less static overall than AM signals.

Now that you understand the difference, you may want to view this Motorola XPR 7550 and consider putting your new knowledge to use.

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In sum, AM travels farther but is harder to make out. FM only travels a short distance but is clearer. Thus, you may want to consider the purposes of the radio communication you’re putting out before you choose either signal type.

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