The Best FM Radio in Los Angeles

Many moons ago, we did a piece entitled “FM’s Audiophile 10 Best in Los Angeles” for L.A. Audio File. We thought it was high time for a revisit. These were the 10 picks back in 1989 and how they fare today:

ALBUM ARCHIVES - Now called Uncle Joe’s Album Archives, KLSX still plays an album at midnight on weekdays with a clean signal. Notwithstanding Deirdre O’Donoghue’s excellent programs (e.g., The Beatles, 8 am on Sundays), most of KLSX has gone talk radio. With the possible exception of The Howard Stern Show, the bulk of the station’s talk radio is of little redeeming social value.

AUDIOPHILE AUDITION - John Sunier’s syndicated audiophile program. Stations have pressured John to play more music and less audiophile interviews. It has since been bumped out of L.A., but it thrives in the Inland Empire (1 pm on Sundays, KVCR 91.9).

GEE DAD, IT’S A WURLITZER - Hot rodded organs playing all kinds of music—some of it audiophile-quality; some of it not (Sundays at 7 pm, KPCC 89.3).

IN FIDELITY - L.A.’s own talk radio for audiophiles. It recently celebrated its 20th birthday, but Peter Sutheim’s program is now down to an abbreviated 30 minutes. The in-depth interviews are downsized, but the deft editorials and call-in program remain. (9:30 am on Sundays, KPFK 90.7).

JAZZ AT THE WADSWORTH - Live broadcast of jazz performances at the Wadsworth Theater in West L.A. The program is now called Grammy Jazz at the Wadsworth (7 pm, first Sunday of the month; now on KPCC 89.3).

MARION McPARTLAND’S PIANO JAZZ - Syndicated and getting ancient, but it’s still a jewel of a program. Noted pianist and composer Marion McPartland interviews noteworthy jazz artists and jams with them during the show (Thursday at 10 pm and Fridays at 12 noon on KPCC 89.3).

MORNING BECOMES ECLECTIC - Classical, jazz, blues, folk, rock, and alternative - all in one program. Guest artists performing live in the studio. Hosted by Chris Douridas (9 am, M-F, KCRW 89.9). Tom Schnabel hosts Cafe L.A., which brews a similar theme (weekends at 12, KCRW)

NOON CONCERT - Unadulterated jazz station KLON’s weekday offerings - often live on tape. The signal strength leaves something to be desired, however (88.1 on the dial).

SUNDAYS AT FOUR - Live broadcast of chamber and small ensemble performances, now from LACMA’s Leo S Bing Theater. Engineered by In Fidelity’s Peter Sutheim (4 pm on Sundays, KUSC 91.5).

THE WAVE - Clean fuzak (fusion muzak)—at least it used to be. KTWV (94.7) now sounds like it forgot to disengage its loudness button. KTWV has also dropped its new age bent in favor of candlelight R&B.

And here's a few comments from others in the audiophile community that L.A. Audio File received:

“Have you considered Pipedreams, a (mostly) classical pipe organ program produced and hosted by Michael Barone (sp?) out of Minnesota Public Radio and distributed by PRI? KUSC carries it (9-10:30 pm on Sunday evenings). Even though KUSC is squashing the dynamic range of everything, seemingly worse than ever (yes, even Sundays at Four, despite our pristine, uncompressed feed to the station!), the richness and variety of pipe organ sound makes this program a treat. Besides, the host’s voice is my favorite stress reducer. I would sleep better even if he read the Glendale phone book to me for ten minutes every evening.”
- Peter Sutheim, In Fidelity

“I share in the recommendations of Marion McPartland’s Piano Jazz and Jazz at the Wadsworth. And I see KPCC got many of the ten top spots. It is among the stations in Los Angeles with the best sound. [For a dose of good KPCC music, try Tuesday evenings, starting with the excellent Isabel Holt: Solo at 8 pm, followed by JazzSet with Branford Marsalis and then Wynton Marsalis: Making the Music. - RN] I can’t get enough of radio. Not only is it free, but music is ‘served’ to me as well. What more can I ask for.” - Kinhluan Nguyenngoc, The Audiophile Network

RMS adds: Radio station FM 101.9 KSCA periodically broadcasts a live in-studio program called Live From the Music Hall spotlighting artists featured on the radio station. A compact disc is currently available (only at Virgin Megastores) which includes some of the recent live performances. Some of the musicians on the "Volume 3" CD are Lyle Lovett, Sting, Suzanne Vega and the Cowboy Junkies. According to the liner notes, Sting was so happy with the way his performance sounded that he asked KSCA engineer Pat Dorn to accompany him to a few other stations around the country.

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