Stop Searching. Start Listening

Author: Peter Skiera Page 2 of 4

Rescue Your Records

If you own records like I do, you probably have a few that never saw life on CD, or perhaps they did but the CDs are hard to find or too expensive, yet you’d love to listen to those albums on CD. If you’re technically inclined you could copy the records onto CDs yourself, but you probably wouldn’t be able to eliminate the pops and clicks and generate high definition artwork.

Where To Turn?

I have a few records that were never released on CD and probably never will be. I prefer not to play them since they’re collectibles, yet I wanted to be able to enjoy the music. Yes, I still own and play CDs and I own 2 CD players, yet I didn’t have the ability to transfer the records onto CDs. Even if I did, they would include all the noise from the records. If I used a service to do this, I wanted to be sure my records would be handled with care and I’d end up with something I’d be happy with. I searched the Internet and found a resource I felt comfortable relying on…Record Rescuers in San Diego, CA.

Recordrescuers.com, a division of King Tet Productions, has been in business for almost 30 years and was one of the first to offer this kind of a service. It isn’t a store, a sideline business, or a part time hobby. Owner Eric Van der Wyk is an audio engineer and composer as well as a graphic designer and musician. He plays the electric sitar amongst other stringed instruments and studied Classical Indian music under Ali Akbar Khan. He’s worked on audio and video projects for Warner Brothers, the late Roy Clark, Troma Entertainment, Buck Trent, and many others. His website (link at the end) has numerous glowing reviews from satisfied customers from around the world, be they professionals or regular music lovers like you and me.

The process to turn your records into custom CD-Rs is pretty simple. The first step is to contact Van der Wyk to discuss your needs and coordinate mailing your record(s) to his studio. Pack your records securely, include a check for whatever you owe (or Van der Wyk can invoice you via PayPal after he receives your platters), and send them off. Some of his customers actually have records shipped directly from the sellers they bought them from.

Once received and paid for, Van der Wyk dubs your precious albums onto CD-Rs, and in the process, removes most if not all of the surface and other noise in the records’ grooves. Everything is done in the digital domain in 24 bit/96kHz (high resolution) which Van der Wyk says is twice that of a Blu-Ray DVD movie soundtrack. He’ll also craft the artwork for the CD-Rs if you’ve included that option.

Depending on how busy Van der Wyk is, you’ll generally have your albums and new CD-Rs back to you in about a week, give or take. He does his work in the order received, but rest assured, he won’t allow your albums to sit around for an extended period. He prides himself on turning around his projects promptly.

Despite the company’s name, Record Rescuers isn’t limited to just LP’s. Van der Wyk also works with 78 and 45 RPM records, cassette tapes, reel-to-reel tapes, and DAT tapes. He’s even transferred MiniDiscs to CD-Rs, though you may have to ship him your MD player.

But wait, there’s more, as Flex Tape’s Phil Swift might say. Van der Wyk also repairs cassette tapes and transfers VHS tapes and any kind of film, including Betamax and 8mm, to DVD. It’s one stop shopping for all of your audio and video restoration needs.

Van der Wyk with a draft of the artwork for my RAM CD-R. Photo by Eric Van der Wyk.

Van der Wyk’s graphic design experience kicks in when it comes time to create the high-definition artwork that goes in the front and back of the jewel case and gets printed on the CD-R’s surface (if you’ve paid for that service). This makes him as much an artist as an audio engineer. He has many examples of his finished work on his website and you can see images of the albums he’s recently restored on his facebook page (link at the end).

In my case, after I emailed and then spoke with Van der Wyk, I shipped him 3 albums…Kay Martin’s I Know What He Wants For Christmas (But I Don’t Know How To Wrap It), Paul McCartney’s RAM (in mono), and John Bult’s Julie’s Sixteenth Birthday. Allow me to briefly break down each record and its corresponding Record Rescuers CD-R for you.

  1. I Know What He Wants For Christmas
“I Know What He Wants For Christmas” LP & CD-R. Photo by Peter Skiera.

I wrote extensively about this album in an old “Have A Strange Christmas” blog post, so I’m not going to rehash the details here. For this article, suffice to say it’s an adult Christmas record from 1962 with cheeky songs like Hang Your Balls On The Christmas Tree, Santa’s Doing The Horizontal Twist, and I Want A Casting Couch For Christmas. Side B features live bits from Kay Martin And Her Body Guard’s risqué comedy shows (“Ms. Martin’s received 11 requests and not a damn one of them is for music!”)

This record was reissued in 2015 on RockBeat Records, which is impossible find, but was never released on CD. I have the original pressing on dark green vinyl and I didn’t want to degrade the condition with each play, so I asked Record Rescuers to transfer it to CD-R.

After I received the newly minted CD-R, I popped it into my beloved vintage Technics SL-P999, unsure if it would even play CD-Rs considering it’s 34 years old. It read the TOC. So far, so good. With fingers crossed, I pressed the “Play” button with some degree of hesitancy and was amazed at what my vintage Blueroom Minipod speakers reproduced. The sound quality was eyebrow raising, without a single snap, crackle, or pop from a 61-year-old record! The organ sounded, like, crazy, man. Martin’s voice is somewhat reminiscent of Lola Albright’s with a pinch of Lucille Ball, and it was strong and clear. The mostly spoken word comedy show portion had a few sonic issues that managed to find their way onto the CD, but nowhere near as bad as it sounded on the record.

The album artwork Van der Wyk generated was equally impressive, and he invested quite a bit of time getting it just right. A previous owner had written on the front cover and used Wite-out and colored markers which I asked to be cropped out. Although this personal touch made my copy unique, I didn’t appreciate how it ruined the front cover. All in all, the CD-R is a great acoustic and artistic restoration of a wild vintage holiday album. Kay Martin herself would be titillated.

2. RAM

“RAM” LP & CD-R. Photo by Peter Skiera.

Paul McCartney’s second solo album after the Beatles broke up was RAM from 1971, and what an album it was. Every track was a winner, not just the #1 hit Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey. RAM was issued in stereo, but interestingly, in Brazil, a mono version was also released. Mono versions were also shipped to US AM radio stations (AM stations broadcast in mono) in a white cover with a white label. Other than the Brazil pressing, the mono version was never made available commercially to the public.

That changed in 2021 when the mono version of RAM was remastered at Abbey Road studios in London and re-issued as a limited-edition vinyl record (my copy is stamped #14868). It was never released on CD though there are various bootleg CDs of the album. Why would anyone want to hear this fantastic album in mono? Because the mono version uses a different mix from the stereo version. Some actually prefer the mono mix to the stereo mix.

Record Rescuers came to the rescue again, expertly transferring my record to CD-R. The plain white artwork is hardly exciting but Van der Wyk worked his magic and made the CD-R look great. The quality of the recording was fab. This is one CD that will find itself in my CD player very often.

3. Julie’s Sixteenth Birthday

“Julie’s Sixteenth Birthday” LP & CD-R. Photo by Peter Skiera.

Were it not for this record cover from 1981, country singer John Bult would’ve remained unknown. It’s gone down as one of the worst album covers in history. At first glance, the picture looks like an older man trying to pick up an underage girl in a seedy bar. Or, judging from the expression on her face, perhaps he got her pregnant and he’s trying to comfort her. Interpret the cover however you wish, but you must admit it isn’t exactly Sgt. Pepper. For his part, Bult said he never approved that cover photo and had assumed one from a professional photo shoot was going to be used. He wasn’t a happy camper, and from what I’ve read, apparently still isn’t to this day.

Julie’s Sixteenth Birthday was reissued in a small batch four years later, still using the same embarrassing front cover, but it was never put out on CD. This was another opportunity to put a scarce album on CD-R so I could enjoy it without fear of degrading the original.Here again, I was blown away by Record Rescuers’ work. The artwork for this title, which presented a bit of a challenge, was spot on. The sound was perfect, as if I bought the CD from a record store. I could practically hear the truck accident described in the depressing title track. Not bad for a 42-year-old record!

Here again, I was blown away by Record Rescuers’ work. The artwork for this title, which presented a bit of a challenge, was spot on. The sound was perfect, as if I bought the CD from a record store. I could practically hear the truck accident described in the depressing title track. Not bad for a 42-year-old record!

I reached out to Van der Wyk to get more information about his craft.

Eric Van der Wyk. Photo from https://soundcloud.com/kingtet

Peter: Why did you get into the audio restoration business?

Eric: “As a struggling artist in the 70s, (with no budget for decent recording equipment) I had an idea that by 2000 I would connect my reel to reel tape deck to a computer and use it to make my old tape recordings sound better.
I achieved this in 1996 by creating new interfaces for a computer, that’s when I decided it was a career idea, not a hobby. This lead to my suite of related services for restoring irreplaceable audio recordings from LPs, 45s, 78s, cassettes and reel to reel tapes.”

Peter: Does your background as a musician give you an advantage in this kind of work?

Eric: “I think it helps immeasurably. My broad knowledge of music styles and appreciation for diverse genres helps people to know they’re in good hands. I try to find something to love about every recording that I’m given to remaster. I think it helps to love what you’re doing and have passion for preserving something that’s important to my clients.”

Image from record Rescuers’ facebook page.

Peter: What specific equipment do you use in your home studio?

Eric: “Over the past 25 years I’ve been steadily upgrading and appending the equipment in my studio, the software involved and the techniques that I’m developing. Like a Doctor or a Lawyer, I consider this a “practice” so my work is always evolving and (in my opinion) on the path towards perfection.
I use a professional turntable with a unique interface I developed, it is equipped with 7 unique Pro Cartridges, ranging in value from $200 to $900 each and are selected based on various aspects of the type of record involved.”

Peter: Your process doesn’t involve applying any subjective equalization to the original music, right?

Eric: “For normal LP and 45 conversions, correct. I do what I call an “honest restoration” which means that no frequencies are boosted and no compression is added. Great care is taken to preserve the original stereo image, dynamics and dynamic relationship between the tracks. What you end up with is something cleaner and hotter but technically “flat” so you can apply your own personal EQ settings on playback and it will respond.
Artists and record labels appreciate this because I’m not “ruining” the recording trying to make it sound “modern”, and it is appropriate for re-issues. Many of my clients have stated that my remasters and hot, yet warm, and not “cold” like many digital recordings are considered to be.”

Peter: Do you ever receive records that have so much noise or defects that they’re beyond restoration? What’s the most challenging project you’ve worked on?

Eric: “Most of the 78s I receive are home-made “acetate” recordings which only had a few good plays back in the 1940s. Today these records have more noise than signal, the noise is literally louder than the voice. So, I developed a nine-step process to make them “listenable.” Any recording that can’t sound “stellar” or “excellent” can at least be improved to become “listenable.” These records are typically from 1947, my website for this service is 78toCD.com and there’s a link to a New York Times article about this.”

Peter: What are a few of the more rare or unusual record titles you’ve received from clients over the years? What’s the oldest record you’ve ever handled?

Eric: “I’ve done a few old Edison records that were over 100 years old. Songs like “The Old Grey Mare”, that’s a lot of fun. It really shows the genius of Edison that his “unbreakable” records from over 100 years ago still work! How many “things” today will last that long?”

Screenshot from Record Rescuers’ facebook page.

Peter: Do you have a rough idea of how many records you’ve restored since you started?

Eric: “That’s a great question, I really haven’t kept track. However, when my clients order the optional cover art, I also post a Hi Def jpg of the front cover to my company facebook page. There are now over 5,000 examples of OOP album covers to peruse.

Peter: Your clients are really passionate about their records, aren’t they?

Eric: “Indeed, it makes what I do fulfilling and satisfying.”

Peter: You’ve got the best job ever! You’re your own boss and you get to listen to music all day and get paid for it.

Eric: “I’m grateful every day to be doing such important work for so many interesting people. It’s challenging, stressful, long hours, but I love being busy with such relevant work. It certainly is a blessing to be successful at a business I made up.”

Image from madelineforman.com/

Van der Wyk mentioned a New York Times article. This was perhaps his most famous project. Two years ago, he was asked to restore several 78 RPM records for a then 94-year-old woman who had recorded them back in 1946. Not long after, Madeline Forman packed the records away and forgot about them, knowing her childhood dream of being a professional singer could never become a reality. She rediscovered the dusty records more than 7 decades later during COVID. Her son got in touch with a cousin, who in turn, recommended Record Rescuers to restore the records. The heartwarming story received national press coverage.  

My Record Rescuers CD-Rs. Photo by Peter Skiera.

That’s great, you say, but how much does all of this cost? It’s more affordable than you might think. Each CD-R of a restored album costs $35 which includes a jewel case and a label on the CD-R. If you want glossy color front and back artwork in the jewel case then that costs an additional $10. For “full artwork”, which includes the front and back artwork plus color printing on the front of the CD-R instead of a label, that costs $25. Based on the CD-Rs I received, I’d highly recommend this option. If you want an extra copy of a CD-R, that adds another $5-$8.50 per CD-R depending on what artwork level you prefer. If you send in 78 RPM records, those are $7.50 per side. For a complete menu, refer to Record Rescuers website (link at the end). You’re responsible for the cost to ship your records to Record Rescuers in CA but Van der Wyk ships your first order (up to 5 LPs) back to you via USPS Priority at no charge. From my own experience I can tell you he does an excellent job packing the records to insure they arrive back to you in the same condition you sent them.

Image from Record Rescuers’ facebook page.

With the thousands of albums Van der Wyk has restored over the last 2+ decades, you might wonder why he wouldn’t make a bunch of extra copies and sell them on his website. People would be willing to pay good money to get high quality CD-Rs of rare or obscure records. Van der Wyk knows that wouldn’t be fair to the customers mailing in their records to him. Moreover, it would be illegal under US Copyright law, though there are companies that somehow manage to fly under the radar and make CD-R copies in bulk of records and sell them.

If you’ve got audio media, be they LPs, 78s, 45s, reel-to-reels, cassette tapes, or a combination thereof, and  you want to get them on CD-R and get the best sound quality and visual presentation, I can think of no better company than Record Rescuers to trust your precious music with. You’ll be very pleased with the end results as I was.

And if you’re looking for a unique Christmas or Birthday gift for that special music lover in your life, look no further than Record Rescuers. Imagine their surprise when they see the custom CD-Rs and listen to the music! Unlike some other gifts, this is something they’ll keep forever and enjoy many times over.

Record Rescuers links:

Prices

Main Site

Reel-to-Reels

78 RPMs

Cassettes

Facebook

Trivia (from encyclopaediaoftrivia.blogspot.com/2014/06/compact-disc.html):

“Billy Joel’s “52nd Street” was among the first commercially released on the compact disc format (it was one of 50 CDs released on October 1 in Japan…

“Mercedes-Benz was the first automobile manufacturer to offer a CD player as a factory option in 1984.


“Born in the U.S.A.” became the first compact disc manufactured in the United States for commercial release when CBS and Sony opened its CD manufacturing plant in Terre Haute, Indiana in September 1984. Columbia Records’ CDs previously had been imported from Japan.

“For years after CD players hit the market, they remained unpopular and were mostly limited to fans of classical music. Dire Straits then released “Brothers in Arms”, the first totally digital album. It sold 30 million copies and is credited with launching CD players into the mainstream.

David Bowie was the first major artist to convert his entire catalog to the compact disc format in 1985.

Tony Bennett’s 1987 “The Art Of Excellence” was the first album to be initially released on CD instead of the traditional vinyl format.”

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Disclosure: The CD-Rs reviewed in this article were received at a discount. I do not receive a commission if you do any business with Record Rescuers.

The Burger King

One Sound Burger to go, hold the pickles. Photo by Peter Skiera.

Model: Audio-Technica Sound Burger AT-SB727

Price: $199

Inputs/Outputs: Headphone out, Line out, Bluetooth 5.2.

In the box: Sound Burger,Quick Start Guide, Audio cable, USB-C cable.

Colors: Black, White, and Yellow

Pros: As much fun as you can have without getting arrested. Easy to setup and use. 12-hour playback. Replaceable rechargeable battery. Bluetooth 5.2. Good sound. Great retro style.

Cons: Lifting tone arm can be tricky. Can’t defeat the phono preamp. No volume control. Susceptible to vibration. No place to store locking pin. No non-grip surface. Speed controls are delicate.

Hungry Anyone?

Don’t drive up to your favorite fast-food joint and ask for a Sound Burger. They won’t know what you’re talking about. But chances are, people into vinyl records will. Audio-Technica first released the Sound Burger late last year. It sold out within 2 days and until recently, had been on constant back order. So, what is this thing that had people waiting months to get? The Sound Burger is a new, belt-driven, portable Bluetooth turntable inspired by the original model introduced by AT some 40 years ago. It’s practically become the hottest thing in audio since the phonograph was invented. Nipper now has something cool to listen to when he goes outside to do his business.

Hurry Up & Wait

Image from AT’s facebook page.

I was able to score my Sound Burger through a contact at AT, but still had to wait a few weeks to get it. Burgers are just now starting to show in stock on AT’s website, Amazon, and other places (links provided at the end of my article). I already own 3 turntables, so why get another one? My turntables are heavy, full size, and I don’t have room for them since I was forced to sell my home, so they’re packed up in boxes. I wanted a turntable that was easy to move, wouldn’t take up a lot of real estate, wouldn’t take up an afternoon to setup, and wouldn’t cost a lot. Those cheesy Crosley “suitcase” record players with their ceramic cartridges weren’t even a consideration.

Strange Looks

A portable turntable is a rather odd device when you stop to think about it. Are people really going to lug a box of records around and then plop down in a park, or wherever, and start listening while passersby gawk? It would come in handy if you frequented used record stores or flea markets and wanted to preview albums before you bought them. It would also be a very cool thing for a dorm room, provided no one steals your Burger. In my case, my Sound Burger is staying safely in my house. Besides, I get enough strange looks as it is when I go out in public.

Preparing Your Burger

Setting up the Sound Burger is as easy as deciding what condiments to put on a burger. The first order of business is to unscrew the locking pin on the back. Don’t forget to do this or you’ll damage the tone arm. Disappointingly, there’s no place to store it so be sure not to lose it. The next thing to do is plug in the included USB-C cable and start charging the Li-Ion battery. Now comes the fun part. Lift the lid, lift the tone arm, remove the rubberized clamp, place a record on the platter, apply the clamp (which cleverly doubles as a 45 RPM adapter), close the lid, turn the unit on, select 33 1/3 or 45 speed (sorry, no 78 RPM), and place the tone arm on the record to start the platter spinning. Your Burger is now well done.

Well, not quite. You need to connect it to something for the sound part of the Sound Burger to work. You have 3 options: There’s a stereo 3.5 mm headphone output, 3.5 mm stereo line output (audio cable included), and Bluetooth 5.2. There’s no volume control so if you’re connecting to something that has no volume control then you’re at the mercy of Sound Burger’s fixed level output.

Bite Me

Neither of my headphones have a volume control. Photo by Peter Skiera.

That output, as I discovered, is quite low, to the point where I wasn’t able to enjoy my cherished closed back Oppo PM-3 Planar Magnetic headphones. I switched to my Tin HiFi T4 wired ear buds but the sound level was even lower with those. Unfortunately, neither of those models have a volume control. Why AT failed to include a volume control on the Sound Burger is a mystery. A simple rotary volume control couldn’t have been beyond the realm of human engineering and couldn’t have been that costly.

Public Speaker

This isn’t what it looks like. Photo by Peter Skiera.

Above the Burger’s Power and Speed buttons is a simulated vented area that one might understandably mistake for a speaker grille. To be clear, the Sound Burger doesn’t have a built-in speaker. You must connect it to something to be able to hear it. This might strike you as odd that a portable audio device lacks a speaker, but I’m actually glad AT didn’t include a speaker. It would’ve added to the cost, would’ve been mono, would’ve sounded horrible, and would’ve had no volume control. Hands up anyone who wants to pay more for a useless feature.

Sound Burger’s Sound

The Sound Burger playing with my Cyber Shell Bluetooth speaker. Photo by Peter Skiera.

Putting the unfortunate headphone experience behind me, I next connected my Sound Burger via Bluetooth to my portable Muzen Cyber Shell portable Bluetooth speaker. It paired and connected almost immediately and sounded excellent (thankfully, the Cyber Shell has a volume control). I have read of instances where the Sound Burger’s Bluetooth refuses to play nice with certain Bluetooth speakers and ear buds so you might want to have a plan b from outer space just in case.

Be Nice

What a shelf system! Photo by Peter Skiera.

Speaking of playing nice, the most important Bluetooth test was my Dayton Audio HTA100 hybrid tube integrated amplifier which has a Bluetooth receiver. My Sound Burger refused to pair and connect to it despite repeated attempts and with it literally sitting right next to my integrated amp. This was incredibly disappointing because the HTA100 is my primary audio system which I use daily. Upon further investigation, it turned out my HTA100 was connecting to my Vizio TV’s Bluetooth even though my TV was totally turned off (not in standby)! Huh? I went into the Vizio’s settings menu and instructed the TV to forget the HTA100. Once I did that, the Sound Burger paired and connected to the HTA100 within seconds and remained connected. It then connected automatically every time I used it. Double yay!

What Do You Like On Your Burger?

The Sound Burger singing the blues via Bluetooth. Photo by Peter Skiera.

I was in a jazzy and bluesy mood so I began by playing a few tracks off of Richie Garcia’s vintage “A Message from Garcia” (Modern Harmonic MH-8078). This mono album from 1956 is not exactly the most vibrant recording, but it was enjoyable on the Burger nonetheless.

From there, I turned to the fantastic “Nina Simone Sings the Blues” (RCA LSP-3789). I bought this record a number of years ago through Vinyl Me Please but had never listened to it for various reasons. Now I know what I was missing. The Sound Burger did it justice and if it had a “repeat” function I would’ve used it.

My autographed copy of “The Drifter”. Photo by Peter Skiera.

I turned up the heat even more when I put on “The Drifter” by Mike Flanigin (Black Betty BBST-4068). Believe me when I say there isn’t a bad track on this album. When “Nina” began to play, I cranked up my integrated amp’s volume up to 45% and closed my eyes. It was a Sound Burger in paradise. Vocals were clear and strong, the bass was powerful, and I could hear each individual instrument.

To wind things down, I played my near mint copy of Shadowfax’s “The Dreams of Children” LP (Windham Hill WH-1038). Despite the recording being 38 years old, the music sounded perfect. I’m well acquainted with this record and I was pleased with everything I had heard.

Like A Version

The Sound Burger’s Bluetooth transmitter is version 5.2 which is one level below the latest 5.3 version. There’s not a lot of difference between versions 5.2 and 5.3, but 5.2 is superior to older Bluetooth iterations…version 5.2 is more stable and has improved latency (delay). It also requires less power in order to maximize battery playback time which AT puts at 12 hours on a full Burger charge (a USB-C charging cable is included).

Juice Me Up

Sound Burger’s single rechargeable battery cell. Photo by Peter Skiera.

While I’m on the battery topic, major kudos to AT for making the 2100mAh battery user replaceable. AT doesn’t yet sell replacement batteries but generic replacements can be easily sourced if you get desperate. I’m tired of Bluetooth devices with built-in batteries that aren’t user replaceable, requiring you to dispose of them (and the money you paid for them) when the batteries are spent.

Hum Along

If you want the best sound reproduction, there’s always the old-fashioned wired option via Sound Burger’s 3.5 mm line out (a short, inexpensive audio cable is included). Again, make sure whatever audio device you’re connecting to has a volume control. I need the wireless option since my HTA100 only has one set of analog inputs and they’re taken up by my cable box. One minor complaint- The Sound Burger has a built-in phono pre-amplifier allowing it to be conveniently connected to an auxiliary input. The problem is if you have a stereo receiver, integrated amplifier, powered speakers, etc., that has a dedicated phono input like my HTA100 does, there’s no way to defeat the Sound Burger’s internal pre-amp, meaning you can only connect it to an aux input. There’s also no ground screw on the Sound Burger, but so far, I haven’t noticed a hum problem.

Get To the Point

One of the keys to a turntable’s sound is its cartridge and stylus. In the Sound Burger’s case it’s the moving magnet ATN3600L which retails for $24 and is described by AT as good for “casual listening”. It’s the stock cartridge used on many budget turntables but don’t be put off by that. The ATN3600L enjoys a solid reputation in audio circles for its overall sound quality and tracking, with some claiming it sounds as good as cartridges many times its price. To my ears, it sounds good if slightly bright and aggressive. Regardless, it’ll have to do because there’s no upgrade path. But let’s be honest…the Sound Burger is not an audiophile piece of equipment, nor does it claim to be. Yet I have no complaints when it comes to its sound considering its price point and what it is…a Burger, not a Kobe A5 Wagyu Tomahawk steak.

Where’s The Beef?

Since the Sound Burger only weighs about 8 times that of a McDonalds’ quarter pounder, it’s very susceptible to vibration. Tap on its surface while it’s playing a record and expect to hear a corresponding loud pop from whatever you’re listening to it on. It’s too bad AT didn’t add some weight inside like a hunk of steel for a little more damping and a more quality feel, though I suppose extra weight would be counter to a product designed to be portable.

While we’re on the topic of touch, the Sound Burger’s plastic exterior is smooth and slippery…not the ideal surface for a portable device. Granted, it has a small handle on the back, but whenever I moved it, I instinctively lifted and carried it. I didn’t want it swinging around carefree from its handle and potentially banging into something. A rubberized coating and/or knurled areas to provide a good grip would’ve been appreciated. As a side note, in a couple of weeks I’ll be evaluating a generic carrying case.

Getting Technical

May the tracking force be with you. Photo by Peter Skiera.

Tracking force is the weight required for the stylus to follow the grooves in the record. Too little weight and the tone arm will lift off the record. Too much weight and the sound will be distorted and you could damage your record and stylus. I measured my Burger’s tracking force at 3.35 grams straight out of the box. The ATN3600L user manual recommends 3.0-4.0 grams with 3.5 grams being standard. Mine is within spec but I would’ve preferred it at least meet the standard and there isn’t any way to adjust the weight.

I Got Screwed

The Sound Burger’s two speed adjustment pots. Photo by Peter Skiera.

As you can see from the above graph, my Burger was exceeding the speed limit with 33 1/3 averaging 34.05 RPM, while 45 RPM topped out at 46.24 RPM. Being the anal audiophile that I am (some would say “anal audiophile” is being redundant), I decided to manually adjust the speeds using the 2 access holes on the bottom of the Burger along with a small, flat-head screwdriver. I was successful at adjusting the 45 RPM speed but 33 proved more elusive. The tiny white plastic adjustment piece broke off the potentiometer before I could finish my tinkering. As a result, 33 1/3 is now stuck at 27 RPM rendering it unusable (I’m in the process of getting my Burger repaired through Audio-Technica). Luckily, I saved this speed adjustment task for last. I had already completed my evaluation before tackling the speed issue. My advice to you is unless the speeds are way off, leave the trim pots alone. They’re too delicate to fiddle with and it isn’t worth the risk.

De Colores

Some like their Burger pink in the middle. Photo from AT’s website.

Let’s switch gears from technical to color, or Technicolor. The Sound Burger was first released in a limited-edition red version last November to celebrate AT’s 60th Anniversary and the 7,000 Burgers sold out. Earlier this year the Burger was made available in black and white, and more recently, in yellow, all priced at $199 each. Had it been me, I would’ve made the limited edition in silver which was the original and only color when it debuted back in 1983 as “Mister Disc” in the USA. I would’ve made the red color part of the regular line up. AT would’ve sold many more than 7,000 if red had been a standard color. It’s also a great color for marketing purposes.

“Mister Disc” was a weird name but it fit the era. Besides, the name “Walkman” had already been taken. In the UK and Japan, it was called the “Sound Burger”, and that’s the name AT used for this 2023 reboot. It’s certainly a more playful name though equally weird. Perhaps it was intended to hint at the fun that was in store for the new generation of Burger lovers.

61 Years and Counting

AT’s AT-LP2022 acrylic turntable is clearly different. Photo from AT’s website.

As I mentioned, AT has been around for almost as long as I have. It was founded by Hideo Matsushita in Tokyo in 1962. It was initially a phono cartridge manufacturer starting with the AT-1, the first affordable phono cartridge. Today, the company’s product lineup includes an impressive selection of turntables, headphones, microphones, professional equipment, and of course, phono cartridges. Their limited- edition AT-LP2022 turntable is a head turner with its dense, clear acrylic chassis, platter, and Shibata stylus. At $1,200, it’s a tad more expensive than the $199 Sound Burger.

Need A Lift?

Take care when lifting the Sound Burger’s stylus. Photo by Peter Skiera.

From comments I’ve heard and read, handling the tone arm is apparently the most difficult part of using the Sound Burger. There’s no space for a tone arm lift, so it has to be accomplished manually. I’m right- handed and I have a slight shake in my right hand, which hopefully is nothing serious, yet I had no problem managing the tone arm. There was only 1 instance when I slightly scraped the stylus on the record while lifting the tone arm. That said, I can see it being a little challenging for some users.

Light Me Up

I admit I’m a closet light freak. I love lights on my audio gear and I suspect I’m not alone. We’re part of the great silent audiophile majority. Lights might not make any contribution to sound quality but they definitely raise the fun factor. The Sound Burger has small power/charging/BT and speed lights, but the speed light only comes on when it’s set to 45 RPM. Had I been the Product Manager for this model (AT, if you’re listening, I’m available), I would’ve made the speed LED bi-colored so it would be one color for 33 1/3 and another color for 45 RPM. That way there would be a light on regardless of the speed setting.

While we’re on the topic of lights, I would’ve placed a single blue LED in the center of the Bluetooth pairing button instead of making the power light do triple duty. I also would’ve back lighted the “Sound Burger” name whenever the unit was on. Did I mention I love lights?

Have It Your Way

I’m not done. I would’ve included a downward firing LED mounted to the outside of the lid above the record on the side that houses the tone arm. Not only would it look very cool illuminating a spinning record, it would also aid in placing the stylus if you were looking to drop it on a specific track. The cost of these additions would’ve been minimal as would the power to light them, it would’ve further distinguished the Burger from the original model, and it would’ve multiplied the fun factory by ten.

May I Take Your Order?

Image from AT’s website.

Put simply, Audio-Technica‘s Sound Burger is the Happy Meal of portable turntables. Like fast-food, it’s convenient, fun, provides instant gratification, and sounds delicious. It even has a cover to prevent one’s drool from coating the platter. In a word, you’ll flip over the Sound Burger. Get it? Flip? Burger? See what I did there?

Disclosure: I purchased my Sound Burger at an accommodation price, though not in return for this review.

Main audio system used in this review: Dayton Audio HTA100 hybrid tube integrated amplifier with Bluetooth 5.0, Blueroom Minipod speakers with Transparent Audio Hardwired Speaker Cables on Perlegear speaker stands, Sunfire True Subwoofer Super Junior with SVS SoundPath subwoofer cable, and TrickleStar TS-1104-7 Tier 1 Advanced PowerStrip.

Did you enjoy this article? Help support my blog by becoming a Patreon supporter today for just $1 or make a one-time donation of any amount via PayPal.

See my Sound Burger unboxing pics on my Instagram page.

Trivia (from Wikipedia):Since the late 1990s, Audio-Technica supplied microphones and headphones for US television shows such as ‘Big Brother’, ‘Deal Or No Deal’, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions, and several international events.”

Trivia (from Wikipedia): In 2005, Audio-Technica developed ‘Uniguard’, a method for making microphones resistant to radio frequency interference from cell phones, Bluetooth devices, wireless computer networks, and walkie-talkies. 13 patents were involved in bringing the feature to fruition…”

Links to buy Sound Burger (I don’t receive a commission if you buy one):

AT’s website

Amazon

The New York Station Trifecta

This used to be a modest 1 room cottage. Photo by Peter Skiera.


When I was a kid, my parents owned a primitive beach cottage in southern Rhode Island. Don’t picture anything extravagant. After they bought the one room cabin, they hung a up bed sheet to create a “private” room. The sink had a hand pump that went to a well in the back of the house. There was no TV, no telephone, and no bathroom. Our neighbor across the street let us use their shower until we finally installed one of our own in the shed. It may have been primitive, but it was our little slice of paradise for some 17 summers. My mother nicknamed the cottage “Peace of Mind”. I drove by it last year and the original cottage is long gone, replaced by some monstrosity with central air on tall concrete pilings.

Its location is important to my story because it explains how I was able to pick up AM radio stations from New York. Along with Rhode Island beautiful music station WLKW, I credit these stations for sparking my interest in a career in radio broadcasting. The three NY stations I listened to were WNBC 660AM, WINS 1010AM, and WNEW 1130AM. All 3 are still around today in one form or another.

1. WNBC 66AM

Image from www.facebook.com/WNBCRadioTribute/

When I was a wee listener, WNBC-AM was a talk and “adult top 40” music station. It was the flagship radio station of the NBC radio network. I was around 12 or 13 years old at the time. This station was my gateway drug to Don Imus and Howard Stern, both of whom went on to become national shock jocks. One WNBC poster pictured Stern and Imus with the slogan, “If we weren’t so bad, we wouldn’t be so good.” If my mother had known I was listening to them she would’ve confiscated my radio!

In 1988, General Electric, who had purchased the NBC network, sold off all of NBC’s radio stations per FCC regulations during that time (one company couldn’t own both television and radio stations in the same market for fear of a monopoly). WNBC-AM was sold off and became WFAN-AM, the world’s first 24/7 sports station. WFAN still resides today at 660 on the NY AM dial (I use the word “dial” knowing radio “dials” don’t exist anymore).

Thanks to the miracle of Internet radio, you can listen to original WNBC-AM broadcasts, sans Don Imus and Howard Stern, courtesy of Time Warp Radio out of NY. The station streams at 128 kbps in MP3 but I must warn you, the sound quality of some of the recordings is sub-par. The source material is aircheck tapes. Back in the day, air check tapes were cassettes a DJ would use to record his air shift. The station’s Program Director used the tapes to critique the announcer’s performance. The tapes were typically “scoped”, only capturing the DJ’s chatter (the tape machine automatically went into record mode every time the microphone was turned on), not the music or commercials. However, the quality of such tapes is much better than some of what I’ve heard on this station. I have an aircheck tape from my time in radio and the quality is very good. Perhaps some of these tapes were late generation copies of the originals and/or were in poor condition.

You’ll hear the original announcers (with plenty of reverb, making them sound like they’re broadcasting from deep inside the Bat Cave), news, station jingles, and the original commercials. You’ll hear the music as well, but since these are aircheck tapes, there will also be segments where all you hear is the DJ introducing the songs and speaking at the tail end of songs. In other words, no music. You’ve heard the slogan, “all music, all the time”. During those segments, it’s all DJ’s, all the time. There are also segments where the program ends abruptly, presumably marking the point when the aircheck tape reached its end and stopped recording.

If you’d like a sound quality upgrade and more music, try 66 WNBC. It’s a tribute Internet radio station streaming out of NY that replicates WNBC’s playlists from the late 1970’s to the early 80’s with an occasional original station jingle but no announcers (and no annoying reverb). The first time I tuned in they were playing the top 66 (for “66” WNBC) songs of 1976. Another time they were running down the top 66 songs of 1982. Sweet.

If you want to relive the days when AM radio was still a primary source for listening to music, check out WNBC 660 Time Warp Radio and 66 WNBC. I’ve included the streaming links at the end of this article.

2. WINS 1010AM

WINS was one of the first all-news radio stations in the US and it still exists today on the AM and FM dials and on the Internet. In fact, I was in New Jersey briefly a couple of months ago and rented a car to get to my destination. I punched up WINS 1010 AM on the car’s radio and it instantly brought back memories of listening to WINS at our R.I. beach cottage all those years ago. After WINS switched to an all-news format in 1965, it had the sounds of teletype machines running in the background while the news was being reported. Originally, they had a live microphone stationed at the machines in the newsroom to capture the sound. Sadly, they stopped the teletype SFX several years ago which is a shame. Fast forward many years later when I read the news live on WPRO-AM, I played the sounds of a dot matrix printer in the background.

Be that as it may, if you don’t reside in the tri-state area, you can tune WINS on the Internet and hear what’s going on in New York and around the world. Give them 22 minutes and they’ll give you the world. Unfortunately, your imagination will have to supply the teletype sounds in the background.

3. WNEW 1130AM

Image from facebook.com/groups/148879591795762/

WNEW-AM was a massively popular radio station primarily playing music from the great American Songbook (not to be confused with WNEW-FM or WNEW-TV). So why, at 12 years old, was I listening to this AM music station? What can I say? I was a strange child.

A NY subway advert for WNEW-AM circa 1973. Image from authenticvintageposters.com

I well remember WNEW’s wonderful specialty shows like Tony Bennett Time (Bennett actually recorded a jingle for the station), The Make-Believe Ballroom, and Sinatra Saturdays. Legendary WNEW DJ William B. Williams has been credited as the first to nickname Sinatra the “Chairman of the Board”. I also remember some of the DJ’s occasionally going off the rails and slipping in a Beatles, Bee Gees, or Stevie Wonder hit or some other song that had nothing at all to do with the great American songbook. I never understood that. Don’t get me wrong. I love music as much as the next person, but I also appreciate structure, and WNEW-AM wasn’t a free-form radio station. As a listener, it was like sitting comfortably on a train going 100 MPH and the engineer suddenly hitting the brakes without warning.

WNEW Station Director’s office, 565 5th Ave, NYC. Photo from the Library of Congress LC-G612-T-49671

The station wasn’t only known for its music. It spent a fortune building a first-class radio news team. At its height, WNEW’s newsroom had more than 26 reporters and writers. It was said to be the first music radio station that broadcast local newscasts every hour. According to writer Paul Colford, WNEW’s reporters roamed the country and the world, traveling “to Africa to interview Albert Schweitzer, they roamed the South to size up the civil rights movement, they broadcast from Vatican Square and Cape Canaveral.” 


As time went on, the station began to show its age, as did its listeners, who ranged from 80 to dead. Such an audience was not appealing to advertisers. Fewer advertisers resulted in reduced revenue. This, combined with the fact that the days of AM radio stations playing music were all but over, resulted in WNEW’s death. Colford wrote this obituary: WNEW-AM / 1130, the 58-year-old outlet for the music of Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne, Mel Torme, and America’s greatest songwriters, died today after a long illness marked by financial losses, anemic rating, schizophrenic programming, and the dismissal of practically every personality who made it special.”

The new owners, Bloomberg, changed the call letters and put in place an all-financial format. As the New York Times put it, WNEW went from Sinatra records to stock reports. It was the end of a slow, painful death. Prior to that, the station had been sold in 1986 and the owner’s cut costs and screwed around with the programming, adding talk shows and gutting the newsroom. It marked the beginning of the end…the Titanic started taking on water. The station changed hands again in 1988 and the new owners further contributed to its decline. In December of 1992, WNEW 1130 gently slipped below the airwaves. It’s hard to believe the station has been gone for more than 30 years and that makes me feel old and irrelevant.


Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. WNEW-AM is back! Well, sort of. Time Warp Radio, the same Internet radio network that brings you vintage 66AM WNBC broadcasts, also streams old WNEW-AM broadcasts. As with the WNBC stream, WNEW 1130 Time Machine’s sound quality at times leaves a little something to be desired, though it streams at an above average bit rate of 192 kbps. It also relies on airchecks, meaning there will be segments where you’ll only hear the announcer and no music.

The station’s playlist includes music from the 1920’s and 30’s, which makes no sense to me. All of that said, I’ll take it over nothing at all. In a way, the quality makes it even more authentic since music over AM radio wasn’t exactly high fidelity. It’s a gas to hear the original WNEW announcers, station jingles, weather, news (I heard a story on Watergate), and even the commercials the station played back then (Gimbels, Barneys, ShopRite, etc.).

Here’s a thought- How about WNEW-FM creating an HD2 station for WNEW-AM? WNEW-FM has had a string of failed HD sub-channels…all Christmas music, Smooth Jazz, and even a Russian language station (pause to scratch scalp). I would think a WNEW-AM HD2 channel would be a no brainer.

Other Options

I’m pleased to report there’s another option with consistently better sound quality: Metromedia Radio out of New York City. Metromedia was the company that owned WNEW-AM from 1956 until 1986. Metromedia officially closed in 2014 and Metromedia Radio, launched in 2010, operates with its blessing.

The station features former WNEW announcers and original jingles, yet the shows were recorded after WNEW went silent, which confused me. The station’s description says it streams “in the tradition of WNEW 1130…the world’s greatest radio station…with the help of former WNEW-AM and Metromedia Radio talent and executives.”

Joe Fay. Photo from LinkedIn

I got a hold of Joe Fay, Metromedia Radio’s General Manager, to help me understand what I was listening to. “About 12 years ago”, Fay explained to me in an email, “I was able to buy a large collection of various surviving reel-to-reel tapes from the WNEW-AM archive (about 200). The tapes were largely WNEW jingle packs, various promotional materials, and actual pre-recorded shows such as WNEW Music Spectaculars. I digitized everything and started the Metromedia Radio stream back in 2010. As I digitized, I also edited content, resulting in WNEW bumpers and the voiceovers of [WNEW announcers] Jim Lowe, Ted Brown, and William B Williams. It’s been really fun crafting this station. Thankfully, I have had the support of the Brown and Williams famil[ies].


“I also started a Facebook group”, Fay continued. “Via the group, I met up with former WNEW talent such as Bill Quinn, Dick Carr, and Marty Wilson. In 2014 we started producing radio shows for syndication. Unfortunately, that did not work out, but those shows were put into our Metromedia Radio library. Bill Quinn is still producing shows for us on a weekly basis. Additionally, I was able to connect with Sid Mark, Mark Suduck (former Metromedia Los Angeles) and Jason Wall along with other DJ’s who were interested [in] airing content on the station. Most recently I have been able to find and digitize about 100 mid 1970’s show[s] produced by William B. Williams.” 

As to the origin of the music and the format, Fay told me, “The automated stream of music is from my personal collection. Our streaming of automated music is model[ed] after the Dick Carr, Middle of the Road format. Dick was the Station Manager at WNEW from 1967 through 1969. [The programming] is consistent with the music WNEW played from 1955-1985. Within the archive, I have old tapes labeled ‘Non-Stop Music Hours’ that also served as a source for building out my person music collection and would naturally be added to the automated stream. Artists like David Allen or Jane Morgan [was] unknown to me, until I listened to some of the old tapes. They are now on the playlist.”

That playlist remains much more faithful to the great American Songbook than the WNEW Time Machine stream, but lacks the authentic vibe WNEW 1130 Time Machine provides. You’re listening to actual WNEW-AM broadcasts on the Time Machine, whereas Metromedia Radio is more of a tribute station with Live365 commercials. Still, a high-quality copy can be almost as satisfying as the original, and that’s certainly the case here.

The last WNEW related Internet radio station I’ll mention is The Jonathan Station, named after famed WNEW-AM announcer Jonathan Schwartz. His is the only name (and voice) I remember from those summers listening from Rhode Island so long ago.

One of Schwartz’s record albums.

If his name sounds familiar, it should. Schwartz is the son of composer Arthur Schwartz (That’s Entertainment, You and the Night and the Music, Dancing In The Dark, and By Myself). He’s written several books including an autobiography and recorded a handful of albums. He was on the radio for nearly 60 years, most of that time on WNEW and later, WNYC. He also had a stint at Siriux/XM radio on their Sinatra channel.

Schwartz at the mic in 2018. Photo from Schwartz’s facebook page.

Schwartz’s on-air delivery was unique to say the least. He would talk for lengthy periods with frequent pauses, both of which are third rails for most DJs. He would recount stories of famous singers and songwriters, including Frank Sinatra. According to Wikipedia, “Sinatra himself was amazed by Schwartz’s knowledge of every song he had ever recorded.” Schwartz wrote the liner notes for the Sinatra release, The Voice- The Columbia Years 1943-1952, for which he won a Grammy for Best Album Notes in 1986.


Five years ago on Father’s Day, at the age of 80, Schwartz launched his own Internet radio station called The Jonathan Station. As you might have surmised from Schwartz’s background, it features music from the great American songbook. Surprisingly, Schwartz’s color commentary is nonexistent. You’d think he’d be all over the station since he named it after himself and has the name recognition. He didn’t even record any station IDs. It’s as if he went out of his way not to be on the air, yet his vast knowledge and gentle voice was exactly what I wanted and expected to hear. The Jonathan Station’s website says the station is “the home of Jonathan Schwartz”, yet whenever I tuned in, Jonathan wasn’t home. Schwartz did host live weekend programs on his station before he retired in 2021, but so far, I’ve yet to hear repeats of those shows. Individual shows are accessible for playback on The Jonathan Station website, but I wanted to hear them on my Internet radio as part of the station, not from a computer. After all, it’s The Jonathan Station, not The Jonathan Computer.


Instead, what I did hear was a show called “The Penthouse”. At first, I thought I had tuned the wrong station or that the station’s metadata was incorrect. Strangely, The Jonathan Station’s website makes absolutely no mention of “The Penthouse”. Likewise, The Penthouse’s website makes no reference whatever to The Jonathan Station! I donned my detective’s fedora and requested clarification from The Jonathan Station’s Program Director, Bob Perry, who coincidentally, also happens to be President of the company behind “The Penthouse”. Weeks have passed and I’ve yet to hear back but will certainly update this section if/when I do.

Legend has it, the last Sinatra song WNEW-AM played before going off the air was Frank’s cover of We’ll Meet Again. Thanks to WNEW 1130 Time Machine and Metromedia Radio, we have.


Tony Bennett Time

Tony Bennett, 1926-2023. Photo from Bennett’s facebook page.

One major drawback to such “set and forget” Internet stations is that they rarely break from their standard programming. However, a few days after his passing, Metromedia Radio played an old William B. Williams radio show that featured an excellent interview the announcer did with Bennett along with lots of his music. At least one station was paying attention.

You now have a plethora of stations that will give you a blast from the past. I’ve listed all their streaming links below for your convenience. If you’re a Recommended Stations supporter, your support helps to keep this blog and these kinds of articles going. To become a supporter and discover even more interesting stations, join today for just $1 and get my Recommended Station in your in box every month.


Trivia: During one of his radio shows, Jonathan Schwartz gave a negative review of the third record in Frank Santra’s “Trilogy” album. Unfortunately for Schwartz, Sinatra knew the man who owned the radio station and had Schwartz fired.

Trivia: Both 66 WNBC and 1130 WNEW were advertised as broadcasting in stereo. How could mono AM radio stations be in two channel stereo? In the 1980’s, some AM stations broadcast in stereo using 1 of 5 different competing systems, each requiring dedicated hardware to decode the stereo signal. The FCC adopted Motorola’s C-Quam (Compatible Quadrature Amplitude Modulation) system in 1992 as the AM stereo standard. That standard had already been employed years earlier in Canada, Australia, Mexico, and Japan. According to Wikipedia, there are 43 AM radio stations in the US still broadcasting in stereo using the Motorola system, most of which are small, independent stations.  

Radio from a different era. Image from wnew1130.com

Trivia: In 1966 and 67, WNEW-AM partnered with the Superior Match Company to feature WNEW announcers on matchbook covers. Inside each matchbook was a coupon for free entry into NJ’s Palisades Amusement Park, which at the time cost 40 cents.

Station streams:

WNBC Time Machine

66WNBC

WINS 1010AM

WNEW 1130AM Time Machine

Metromedia Radio

The Jonathan Station


Radio Replay: ATOS Radio

Direct URL stream: http://atosradio.com:8001/;stream/1

Station website: https://atosradio.org/atosradio/landings.html

ATOS website: https://www.atos.org/

I profiled this Hitchhiker Station in January of 2020 when I was writing Recommended Stations for Como Audio’s blog. Theater Organ Radio is the kind of station name that gets my attention. To be honest, when I think organ music, I think of being at a hockey or baseball game, in church, or riding a vintage carousel. ATOS Radio, however, is not that kind of station.

The American Theater Organ Society funds and runs ATOS Theater Organ Radio. The ATOS is focused on the preservation and promotion of the theater pipe organ and its music. Founded in 1955, the non-profit has over 60 chapters worldwide with over 3,000 members. I wonder if their members are organ donors as well. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

It’s hard for us to imagine going into a movie theater today and seeing and hearing a live organ, but in the 1920s and 30s when films were silent, the mighty organ provided the soundtrack. According to Wikipedia, there were over 7,000 organs in US cinemas between 1915-1933. Wurlitzer was perhaps the best-known theater organ and the company built more than 2,000 of them into the early 1940s. According to Smithsonian Magazine, in 1926 at its height, Wurlitzer shipped an organ a day. After the early 1930s, many theater organs were sold or scrapped. Less than 40 organs remain in their original venues today.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes

Since I wrote about this station 3 years ago, there have been some important changes. For one thing, ATOS Theater Organ Radio now streams at 128 kbps in the AAC codec instead of MP3, so the sound quality is even better. Secondly, the station has added more music to their library which now includes 6,000 CD tracks, 2,500 vinyl remasters, 1,200 live concert recordings, 500 archival tracks (78’s etc.), and exclusive content drawn from their archives. There’s even a new station logo.



What will you hear on ATOS Radio? The selections are surprisingly diverse. Here’s a sampling of songs that were piped into my ears during my listening sessions: On the Sunny Side of the Street, My Heart Will Go On, Brahms Lullaby, They Can’t Take That Away From Me, We’ll Meet Again, The White Cliffs of Dover, The Way You Look Tonight, Send In the Clowns, Shaking the Blues Away, How Great Thou Art, As Time Goes By, Baby Elephant Walk, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, Ebb Tide, The Man I Love, Send a Little Love My Way, and Puttin’ on the Ritz.

You won’t hear commercials (the station is funded via listener donations) though there are occasional public service announcements for ATOS sponsored events. There’s only one announcer- Steve Ashley- host of the specialty show, “Hot Pipes”. There’s also two “curated” specialty shows from two of ATOS’ chapters, Dickinson and Eastern Mass.

Summer Camp

One of ATOS’ previous Summer Youth Adventures. Photo from ATOS’ website.

ATOS sponsors a kind of annual organ summer camp mid-this month “designed for young theater organ enthusiasts who are interested in learning, developing, or refining their skills with the theater organ.” That should make for an interesting “what I did over my summer vacation” essay!

ATOS sponsors a kind of annual organ summer camp mid-this month “designed for young theater organ enthusiasts who are interested in learning, developing, or refining their skills with the theater organ.” That should make for a unique “what I did over my summer vacation” essay!

I reached out via email to Steve Worthington who recently retired after 30 years as ATOS Theater Organ Radio Producer, to get the story behind the station:

Peter: When did ATOS Radio first start streaming?

Steve: “The original stream was ‘Theater Organ Replay’ which featured older vinyl records and started in 2000 on live365. ATOS radio started in 2008.”

Peter: What decades does your music library span? What qualifies as “theater music”?

Steve: “Our library runs from 1920’s thru today, so basically 100 years. Theater organ music really spans a mix of entertainment played on the unit orchestra as built by Robert Hope Jones and Wurlitzer and refined by a number of other builders such as Barton, Kimball, Morton, Möller, etc.”

Peter: Do you play any rare recordings?

Steve: “Yes, we have a number of 78 [RPM] and acetate records in the playlist. Some of the most famous are those of Jesse and Helen Crawford.”

Peter: Are the recordings strictly solo organ or do some pieces include other instruments or vocals?

Steve: “There are lots of tracks that include more than just organ, be it vocals or more – examples are Billy Thorburn’s The Organ, The Dance Band & Me or recordings featuring Buddy Cole with [his] orchestra or big band, or Bob Hunter records with orchestra. Another example I’d [cite is] Gerhard Gregor with military bands.”

ATOS’ Steve Worthington. Photo from LinkedIn.


Peter: Do you know what and where the rarest working organ in the USA is?

Steve: “No such thing – lots of operational organs – there are remnants of one of the earliest Wurlitzer organs from Seattle in a Church in Spokane.”


Peter: Does ATOS Radio broadcast any live concerts?

Steve: “We have looked into live broadcasts of concerts but this is now mainly done through YouTube as video is as important as audio. All the concert material is recorded.”

Peter: Why do you encourage people to see organs in action?

Steve: “Not so much see as hear. Pipe Organs are about a presence that needs to be felt not just heard!”

Peter: Is there anything about organs or organ music that most people don’t know?

Steve: “Theater organs and church organs are very different and the repertoire is also different. Theater organs are about entertainment and a wow factor that can only be understood by attending a live theater organ event.”

The bimonthly ATOS Journal includes reviews and informative articles focused on past and present theater organ related activities, plus directories and other factual articles focused on documenting and teaching various aspects of the theater organ.

William Gelhaus sits on ATOS’ board and took over administration of the radio station in January of this year. I hit him up with a few more questions:

Peter: What’s the purpose of the ATOS Theater Organ Radio stream? 

Bill: “To promote Theater Pipe Organs, to make people aware of them and the wide variety of music they can provide. It also provides background music for those that want a more-gentle sound.” 

Peter: What are the top 3 countries where the bulk of your listeners are based?

Bill: “USA, England, Australia.” 

Peter: Are there any particular recordings you’re very fond of?

Bill: “As to favorites, with 12,000 items in the library, it is really hard to pick one. I do tend to enjoy some of the more current interpretations of music from the 60s on. The fun thing is that the Theater Pipe Organ can play almost any type of music with a little work and imagination by the artist.

“One example is one of the younger artists records ‘backing’ tracks with full drums, synthesizer, and other ‘sounds’ and uses that to add to the experience. Others do duets with various instrument and vocalist, one even did several songs with full harp, not something you would expect to see or hear.”

ATOS’ Bill Gelhaus. Photo from ATOS’ website.


Peter: Do you know how low some of the recordings go? For example, 20Hz? Audiophiles and people with subwoofers will be interested!

Bill: “It depends on when and how the original recordings were made, and on which instrument. The pipe organ has a frequency range of 8Hz or below with sub-harmonics from a 64 ft pipe like those on the Atlantic City organ (typically most have 16 ft pipes with some larger instrument having 32 ft or equivalent) to 20kHz and above with the shortest pipe and their overtones (also the tuned percussion like bells, chimes, and the like, have very high harmonics). The instrument can also have a dynamic range of over 120db depending on the size of the instrument and its blower(s) and the voicing. You don’t want to spend a lot of time in a chamber when it’s being played. Of course, the older the recording, the less of a range, but it is surprising as to their quality.

“On the original recordings I’ve made to digital you can definitely see the subwoofer pumping. What’s interesting is if you are listening without it, you might not miss it, and then turn it on and you may not realize it’s there, but when you turn it off it’s like the floor disappeared. With today’s microphones and digital recorder[s] you can capture the full sound of the instrument.”

Peter: Back in the day, live organ music in a movie theater was standard, right?

Bill: “They were designed to accompany silent movies. That’s the reason they have what’s known as traps, percussion, and a toy counter. Today they are used still to accompany silent movies, along with walk-in/out music and stand-alone concerts.”

Peter: Anything else to add, Bill?

Bill: “If it’s in the online library you can request the system to play it, as long as it does not violate any of the streaming rules that exist.

“There are thousands more recordings that need to be saved, restored and transferred to digital in our archive. You can donate to its support at: https://membership.atos.org/donate/by-program

“Much of the current library has been ‘encoded’ over a 30-year period under various standards, requiring us to either re-in-code or ‘re-level’ the online library if the original source material is no longer available. 

“We are also in the process of updating the software and website but it’s going to take a while.”


After the early 1930s, many theater organs were sold or scrapped. Less than 40 organs remain in their original venues today.

If you love the organ, or the theater, or just want to close your eyes and imagine how it felt to sit in a cinema 100 years ago, tune in ATOS Theater Organ Radio…and go ahead and turn up the bass a few notches!

Trivia (from Yamaha.com):“The biggest pipe organ in the world is the organ in the main auditorium of the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, United States. It is so big that the number of pipes is not accurately known. Published documentation suggests there are 33,114 pipes, and it is said that there are at least 32,000.”


Trivia (from Smithsonian Magazine): “The Smithsonian’s instrument is a rare, completely original Wurlitzer donated by the estate of Lowell Ayars, a New Jersey music teacher, in 1993. Ayars kept it in museum-quality condition during the 30-some years it was played in his home. When Ayars died in 1992, he willed it to his friend Brantley Duddy, and Duddy contacted the Smithsonian, which gratefully accepted it for the musical instrument collection of the National Museum of American History. For now, it sits in storage, its burnished white-and-gold console protected by a sheet of plastic. But there are plans to restore it to glory.”

Did you enjoy this article? Learn about other stand-out and unique Internet radio stations every month by becoming a Recommended Stations supporter today for just $1!

Patreon Profile: Catherine Rahal

A couple of months ago I debuted the first Patreon Profile, where I spotlighted a Recommended Stations Elite Supporter. That supporter ran his own beautiful music Internet radio station, WJST, and used to be a truck driver.

In this Profile, I introduce you to charter supporter and Como Audio customer Catherine Rahal. When Como Audio still existed, Catherine would contact me directly when she had issues or questions about her music systems. She became one of my closest acquaintances over the years and I thought it would be interesting for all of us to get to know this author, mother, former financial advisor, and fellow Internet radio enthusiast a little better.


Peter: I’ll start with a rapid-fire round. Where were you born? How many siblings do you have? Do you have children? 

Catherine: I was born in Berlin, a few years after the end of the war. We left for the US when I was about 3 ½ months old. I have a younger brother – he is currently working on a great product – the Velo Chair – for people who have use of their legs but cannot stand or walk for very long. I have two sons, a writer and a chef, who are now in their 40s.

Peter: You recently added “author” to your resume with If You Love Them Leave Them Lists. In a nutshell, what’s your book about?

Catherine: The book is a guide to help people put together in one place the information that will be needed by their power of attorney, their healthcare and financial proxies, and their executor. Particularly important is noting the location of documents and what you want done with your “stuff”.

Peter: You write in your book that you lost your husband in an Air Canada plane accident when you were just 33 years old. To add to the pain, you received a sizable award following a lawsuit against the airline but someone you trusted stole the money from you. Was that part of the motivation for your book?

Catherine: I think that financial loss was the catalyst for becoming a financial advisor, which I was for almost 30 years. I focused on making sure that I educated my clients as much as I could so that what happened to me would not happen to any of them.

When my husband died, we were just starting out and hadn’t accumulated much. A few years later his brother died, also way too young, and he left a notebook for his wife with all of the information she would need to carry on. That stuck with me.

Catherine Rahal. Photo from Catherine Rahal.

Peter: It’s not easy planning for future health or financial issues or for death. These can be uncomfortable conversations to have with family or friends but they’re important. 

Catherine: Most people don’t like confronting their mortality, and those conversations have been considered taboo in some families. My mother categorically forbade me to discuss anything death related with my father in his last years. With her, I forced the issue, though I admit it made me feel that I was being a bit harsh with her.  My parents lived through the second war in Germany, and were forced to confront their own mortality on a daily basis for several years. Perhaps that explains their reluctance to revisit that subject.

Peter: You describe the various documents or lists in an easy-to-understand way. Does your advice apply equally to readers in the USA or just in Canada?

Catherine: I think the book is somewhat universal – most people living in developed countries have broadly similar assets, insurance policies, investments, residences, and our digital footprint crosses all sorts of borders – and is larger than most of us reckon with. Someone has to take care of things when you go, and these lists are the place to let them know what you would like done.

Yes, there are references to Canada, and we have also noted things particular to the US. One thing I learned though, is that even across the US, different states have different requirements. It can even vary from one county to the next, as I have seen in settling my parents’ estates.

Peter: What was it like to write your first book?

Catherine: I have been writing for a long time, but this was my first book for publication. I was blessed indeed to have a wonderful collaborator and designer in Wendy Moenig. Not only is she a top- notch graphic designer, but she was enormously helpful in how the book came together – And she designed the lists.

I have learned a lot about self publishing. I have learned how crucial it is to have distribution, and that you have to put yourself out there to sell books.
I have learned a lot about self publishing. I have learned how crucial it is to have distribution, and that you have to put yourself out there to sell books.

Amazon screen shot.



Peter: How can someone buy a copy?

Catherine: The book is available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indigo (in Canada), and for now, a few local bookstores in Montreal, Quebec and Almonte, Ontario. We are hoping to expand the reach. It is available in print as a large paperback and as an ebook. The easiest way to find it is by going to my website – all of the sales options are there: www.catherinerahal.com

Image from WQXR’s Twitter page.

Peter: Changing gears- What kind of radio programs did you listen to when you were growing up in Canada?

Catherine: I actually grew up in the US and only moved to Canada in 1982. My parents were classical music listeners (Elvis and the Beatles were not allowed – until I got my own radio in my room) so we listened to the local classical stations, notably WQXR in New York. We also listened to the various radio series like Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel, Our Miss Brooks, My Little Susie, The Jack Benny Show, and so on.

We were also fans of WBAI (Pacifica Radio) in the 1960s and 1970s. My father had eclectic taste in music. While he loved Mozart, Beethoven and Bach as much as my mother did, he also listened to everything from the Red Army Chorus to Olatunji, with sprinklings of the Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem and other folk artists thrown in. WBAI offered a lot of that. We also listened to the Goon Show

When I was in high school, a friend turned me on to raconteur Jean Shepherd, who broadcast weeknights at 11 on WOR in New York, and from the Limelight in the Village on Saturday nights. You can hear the old broadcasts these days at Insomnia Theater.

I also listened to The Radio Reader, which came out of Michigan State University and offered 30 minutes on weekday mornings of whatever book host Dick Estell decided to read. Kept me sane while driving kiddie carpool!

My introduction to Canadian radio was the CBC – The Royal Canadian Air Farce, The Max Ferguson Show, and Allan McFee’s Eclectic Circus – not to mention Disc Drive with Jurgen Gothe (who was, like me, Berlin born).

Catherine’s Duetto below a portrait of her grandmother. Photo by Catherine Rahal.

Peter: How did you become interested in Internet radio?

Catherine: I had discovered that I could listen to radio stations on my computer and did that for a while. When Como began its Kickstarter campaign, and when I realized they would be of a quality similar to or better than [the owner’s previous company], I was hooked. I bought a Duetto and a Solo so that I could have one at each end of my apartment. It is so nice to be able to have it all go smoothly with no lag between devices. I bought one for my mother, but she was beyond the point where she could manage it on her own, so I ended up taking back and now have one in each room. It is wonderful. My orchids particularly seem to love baroque music, so when I am away it plays 24/7. I was gone for two weeks – when I came back, they were all in bloom or about to bloom (I have 9 orchids now).

Image from https://lf.org/insomnia/

Peter: What are a few of your favorite Internet radio stations?

Catherine: Because each of my Como radios allow 6 presets, I have 18 of them available, as well as favourites. I tend to listen a lot to WQXR, Radio Klassik from Hamburg, CBC in Montreal (and the French Radio Canada as well). I also have Insomnia Theater pre-set, which, paradoxically, I put on when I sneak a mid afternoon nap – this may be because I listened to Jean Shepherd at night when I was in bed in my high school years, so there may be a vestigial Pavlovian component there. I further have several PBS stations set because if I miss a broadcast on one of them, I can easily flip to a different time zone and catch it there. I have a few oldies stations saved as favourites for when I am feeling nostalgic. Every once in a while I go exploring and have come across some other interesting stations. I also listen to a few podcasts – Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, The Moth, Fast Politics and others.

Peter: You became acquainted with Recommended Stations through Como Audio?

Catherine: I did, and I have been following along and checking out different recommendations.

Image from Patreon’s Twitter page.

a friend turned me on to raconteur Jean Shepherd, who broadcast weeknights at 11 on WOR in New York, and from the Limelight in the Village on Saturday nights.

Peter: For someone unfamiliar with the Recommended Stations articles via Patreon, how would you describe what it’s about and what you personally get out of it?

Catherine: It is a wonderful way to get out of your usual routine and explore something new or different. Yes, I have my particular likes, but it is also great to [listen] to something completely different from the usual fare. There are so many stations that it is difficult to know where to start, so I use Recommended Stations to help me along that search.

Peter: Any parting thoughts?

Catherine: I watch TV and movies too, but for me there is nothing like radio. You can exercise your own imagination when you listen to radio drama, you can drift away on a tune, whether it is a romantic ballad, a glorious symphony or a golden oldie that you danced to in high school.

And one other note – I really enjoy your blog, and…..I am grateful to you personally for all of the help you have provided when I have had questions about my Como radios. I have learned a lot and you make it easy.


My thanks to Catherine Rahal for taking the time to answer my questions. As she mentioned, her book can be purchased from Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, and Amazon.


Trivia (from tonerbuzz.com):

“According to a study conducted by Google Books, there have been 129,864,880 books published since the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press in 1440.

There’s a catch, however. Google Books doesn’t factor in books published after 2010, nor does it include self-published book titles. Digital publishing has risen 246% since 2010, according to Bowker.”


If you’ve been a Recommended Stations Elite Supporter for at least 6 months and would like to be the subject of a future Patreon Profile, drop me a line at stationsguy@gmail.com

Join Patreon

Summer Sounds On A C-Note



Last year around this time I reviewed several portable Bluetooth speakers to help you take your favorite music outdoors as summer approached. This time I’m going old school and focusing on wired outdoor speakers.

Wireless outdoor speakers are all the rage nowadays, so why go wired? I ruled out outdoor Bluetooth speakers because of the potential for unreliable reception and running down my smartphone’s battery. My Wi-Fi coverage outside is shaky at best, so that took Wi-Fi speakers out of the equation. Either would also need to get power which wasn’t an option in my particular installation. Last but not least, I wanted to keep my budget at around $100 which would be tough for good sounding wireless speakers.

Mind you, wired outdoor speakers can be very expensive. High end speaker company Revel makes a pair of outdoor speakers that sell for almost $1,000. B&W has a set for $800. Coastal Source makes a “landscape speaker” with a built-in subwoofer for a cool $3,500 each. You can even buy an outdoor subwoofer if you really want to rock your rock garden. In my case, I wasn’t trying to have my speakers show up on a Richter scale. Would I be able to find a set of good sounding outdoor speakers for $100, or was I setting myself up for certain failure?

Speaker Overboard!

The Outdoor by Henry Kloss. Image from The Outdoor user manual.

My first experience with an outdoor speaker was with Massachusetts-based speaker company Cambridge SoundWorks at their South Portland, Maine store where I was the Assistant Manager. We made (in our Massachusetts factory) an outdoor speaker model called simply “The Outdoor” by Henry Kloss. I don’t remember how much it sold for, but I do remember being told a story about a customer who wrote us a letter (back when people still wrote letters) about his speakers which he had mounted on his boat. One of the speakers became dislodged and fell into the open water as his boat was moving at a good clip. He recounted how he observed the speaker violently bouncing around in the ocean as he brought his boat to a stop. Still connected to its speaker wire, he pulled the speaker in as if reeling in a fish on the end of a fishing line. When he brought it back on board the speaker was still playing music! He wiped it off and returned it back to its original location, making sure it was secure.

Rock Solid Sound

B&W’s Rock Solid Monitor. Image from a vintage Rock Solid B&W sales brochure.

The very first set of wired outdoor speakers I ever owned was a pair of B&W (B&W not BMW) Rock Solid Monitors. Rock Solid was B&W’s entry level plastic speaker line made in Japan. I worked for B&W at the time and fell so much in love with the cute indoor/outdoor speakers that I bought two pair. They sounded fantastic, reaching down to 50Hz when wall mounted, and had integrated metal stands that provided uniquely generous articulation from walls and ceilings. They even included little metal mesh bug screens you could pop in the front bass ports to prevent creepy crawlies from making their home inside the speaker housings. I recall sitting at an outdoor bar on Grand Cayman Island while on vacation almost 2 decades ago and listening to music. I looked up – and you guessed it – it was a pair of Rock Solid Monitors cranking out the tunes. Such was the world-wide popularity of these monitors which you can still find used on eBay.

Natural Sound?

The Yamaha NS-AW350. Image from usa.yamaha.com

My next pair of wired outdoor speakers was a set of Yamaha NS-AW350W’s. These were a considerable step-down from my Rock Solid speakers, both acoustically and cosmetically, but my budget was much smaller and I needed speakers with a smaller footprint. Frankly, they didn’t sound all that great, especially in the bass department, and their wall mounts only had 2 positions which forced me to choose between one or the other. But they allowed me to get my music outside for a reasonable price and they fit the only space I could install them.

Something I’ve never owned is a pair of those so-called “rock speakers”. They tend to sound as bad as they look. I also wasn’t interested in having the sound directed at my fibula instead of my ears, or serenading my plants which are challenged enough as it is with me as their caretaker. Funny enough, I’ve never seen a real rock that plays music and has perforations in a circular pattern.

Speaker Who?

This summer I wanted to find the holy grail of outdoor wired speakers…good sounding speakers (including decent bass) with full motion mounts for around one hundred bucks. I briefly considered buying a used set of Rock Solid Monitors but they were beyond my budget, as were B&W’s LM1’s which replaced the Rock Solid Monitor. I read loads of outdoor speaker reviews, but most of the $100 or less models failed the sound quality test and/or included wall mounts that were a joke. Then I stumbled upon the OSD Audio AP650.

I’ve worked in consumer audio for over 20 years and to be honest, I’d never heard of OSD (Outdoor Speaker Depot) before. Located in Brea, California, OSD does their design work in the USA while their manufacturing is done in Asia. They operate a 45,000 sq. ft. distribution center so whatever you order from them is probably in stock. In addition to a variety of outdoor speaker models, OSD also offers home speakers, amplifiers, mounts, audio cables, and even speaker wire in bulk.

The thought of buying speakers from an audio company with the word “Depot” in its name wasn’t comforting, but there were several things that sold me on the AP650 besides their price. As I mentioned, bass was important to me, and OSD claims the AP650’s bass response is rated down to 35Hz. I didn’t have a way to verify that but even if they’re off by 20Hz, which would be unusual, that’s still good bass for a budget outdoor speaker. The sensitivity is listed at 90dB and efficiency was another key spec since I’m using a low power amplifier. The AP650’s come with 180 degree swivel and 60 degree tilt wall brackets. This was critical because my speakers would be mounted up high and I needed the ability to both angle the speakers downward and toe them in in order to direct the sound at my seating area. Most wall mounts let you to do one or the other depending on whether you mount the speakers vertically or horizontally. Few mounts in this price range allow you to adjust both without having to commit to the orientation of the speaker.

Rock, Scissors, Paper

One thing of concern was the fact that the AP650’s use 6.5” paper cone woofers. Paper cones can yield excellent sound quality and have been used since the advent of loudspeakers, but paper isn’t the best material for outdoor use for obvious reasons. However, OSD treats the AP650’s woofer cones to make them water resistant. With their 23 engineers, you’d think they could’ve managed to obtain similar acoustic performance using polypropylene woofers like almost every other outdoor speaker employs. The speaker housings are sealed (no bass ports), yet only carry an IP54 (Ingress Protection) rating, which isn’t great for an outdoor product. They’ll be under eaves and they won’t be getting hit with a hose or splashes from a pool which should help their longevity. Only time will tell how well they’ll hold up.

Best Value

Disappointingly, my search results didn’t reveal a lot of reviews of the AP650. I found a couple of reviews on YouTube but they were for OSD’s Bluetooth version of these speakers. On Amazon, the AP650’s are rated 4.6 out of 5 stars with such positive comments as, “I would buy this setup again 100 times over”, “these speakers sound amazing”, and “bass is much tighter.” OSD’s website also had reviews but I suspect they only posted the positive ones. Comments ranged from “awesome sound” to ” very happy with them” to “exactly what I was looking for”. The New York Times compared several different outdoor models and rated the AP650’s their best buy, calling them “the best value we’ve found in an outdoor pair. Their clarity beats anything we’ve heard from other models priced under $200 a pair. And they have a full, powerful sound that can easily fill an outdoor space, up to about 1,500 square feet. The AP650 speakers have enough bass for R&B, hip-hop, and rock music…This pair is also better made than most under-$200 outdoor speakers, with a thicker enclosure and a sturdy, powder-coated mounting bracket.”

I should point out that the AP650’s are listed for $195 per pair on Amazon which was almost double my budget. I ended up purchasing mine on eBay directly from OSD for $110 for the pair including shipping. I don’t understand why Outdoor Speaker Depot significantly undercuts their own prices on their website and in their Amazon listing, but ours is not to reason why. Outdoor Speaker Depot also offers the AP850 which boast 8” woofers and bass rated down to 32Hz, but at $300.pair, that wasn’t going to happen.

DIY Speaker Install

You can tell I’m not married because this mess would rate a zero on the Wife Acceptance Factor. Photo by Peter Skiera.

As I awaited the arrival of my new speakers, I set out to get my wiring in place. I wasn’t able to run speaker wire direct to my source, so I dug out my Rocketfish RF-WRSK18 2.4GHz wireless audio transmitter which I had packed away in my garage and connected it to the speaker outputs of my Dayton Audio HTA100 hybrid vacuum tube integrated amplifier. I used the HTA100 because it was my only option, not because I wanted a tube sound outdoors. I wall mounted the companion Rocketfish receiver (which has its own volume control) 19’ away from the transmitter and ran 16-gauge speaker wire from it to the places where I was going to mount each speaker outside. This required drilling a 5” deep hole through an exterior wall to get the speaker wire outside (which I later sealed up with caulk).

Hang In There

A pair in the open air: The OSD AP650’s. Photo by Peter Skiera.

Once I received my speakers, I installed the included wall mounts into studs and then mounted the speakers making sure to position them so they flooded the seating area with music. This wasn’t easy because the speakers weigh 9 pounds each, so juggling one in one hand with a screwdriver in the other while standing on a ladder was somewhat precarious. At nearly a foot tall and 8” wide, these speakers aren’t compact, so be certain your space will accommodate them. If you want outdoor speakers that blend into the background, these aren’t for you.


It’s A Cover Up

A binding post cover on the backside of the AP650. Photo by Peter Skiera.

Interestingly, both speakers came supplied with matching removable rear plastic covers with an exit for the speaker wire to help protect the binding posts from the elements. They also lent the speakers a nice clean look even though no one will probably ever notice them. Of course, the covers make no contribution to the sound quality, but it’s these little touches that let you know OSD’s designers were paying attention. I’ve never encountered such a feature on any other outdoor speaker, at least not in this price range.

Photo from outdoorspeakerdepot.com

My speakers also came with a 70 volt adjustment just above the biding posts which is typically reserved for commercial applications where many speakers are daisy chained together to cover very large spaces. There’s an 8 ohm setting if you’re just using one stereo pair, as in my case, but you can buy the speakers without the 70 volt option if you prefer.

Hi-fi outside: The AP650 outdoor speakers. Photo by Peter Skiera.

After breaking the speakers in for a couple weeks, my overall impression is very favorable. My Rocketfish transmitter is probably a weak link in the audio chain, but for my purposes, the sound quality is more than acceptable, including the bass. My HTA100 has Bluetooth 5.0 so I’m able to stream from the Spotify app and hear it on my outdoor speakers, but mostly I take the audio from my cable’s commercial-free music channels. This also allows me to listen to baseball games, news, etc. while outside. My patio is about as modest as they come…no hot tub, no in ground pool, no outdoor kitchen, no motorized awning, and no outdoor TV, but I still enjoy relaxing outside. Being able to listen to music on quality stereo speakers takes it to a whole other level. Considering what I paid, I think I got a bargain, which doesn’t happen very often in consumer audio. Ready, set, summer.

Full disclosure: I didn’t get the OSD AP650’s for free or at a discount in return for my review nor do I receive a commission should you buy them.

Did you appreciate the information in this article? Please help support my website blog by become a Patreon Supporter today for just $1. In return, you’ll get my Recommended and Hitchhiker Stations in your in box once a month as my thanks.

Links:

AP650 on eBay

Rocketfish Transmitter

Happy Birthday, Gunsmoke!

Direct URL: https://streaming.live365.com/a64449?listenerId=esAdblock0494508&aw_0_1st.playerid=esPlayer&aw_0_1st.skey=1679520472

Website: https://wrcwradio.com/

Once upon a time, there was a popular TV Western called Gunsmoke. The show ran for 20 years, from 1955 to 1975, making it the longest running dramatic TV series ever. Over 630 episodes aired during that time span, not including 5 made-for-TV movies. The show frequently received top ratings and the series won 15 Prime Time Emmy awards. It outlasted NBC’s Bonanza and survived CBS’ infamous “rural purge” of the early 1970’s when it cancelled its Western-themed shows. A few years later, in 1975, without any advance notice to the show’s cast, producers, or the viewing public, CBS unceremoniously pulled the plug on Gunsmoke.

Many of you probably remember the series or have at least heard of it. What some of you may not know is that Gunsmoke the television show was adapted from a radio series by the same name. It was 71 years ago this month when Gunsmoke the radio series first took to the airwaves on the CBS Radio Network. The Western drama aired on the radio every week for 9 years.

For the varmints who don’t know, Gunsmoke was set in Dodge City, Kansas, and centered around Marshal Matt Dillon’s efforts to enforce law and order in the wild west. Other key characters included Dillon’s Deputy, Wesley Proudfoot, Kitty Russell, owner of the local saloon (and Dillon’s love interest), Chester Goode, Dillon’s assistant, and Doctor Charles “Doc” Adams, the town physician.

Whoa, take ‘er easy there, Pilgrim.

During the entire 20 year run of the TV series, actor James Arness played the lead character, U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon. The 6’2” tall Arness looked and acted as if he was born for the part. He bore a slight resemblance to John Wayne and even sounded a bit like Duke. Legend has it Wayne was offered the starring role but turned it down.

In the radio series, however, William Conrad played Matt Dillon. You’ll remember Conrad as the 5’7″, 260 pound detective in the popular 1970’s TV detective series, Cannon. Nobody could’ve looked more the antithesis of an 1870’s Marshal than Conrad. I pity the horse that had to transport him. But this was radio, not television. Conrad had extensive experience in radio and it was his voice, as deep as Hells Canyon, that rightly earned him the part.

Rocky and Bullwinkle

Since I’m focusing on the Gunsmoke radio program and he was the star, allow me to devote a few sentences to Conrad. He was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1920, the son of movie theater owners. He became a fighter pilot in World War II and was a producer-director of the Armed Forces Radio Service. He directed numerous films and TV episodes and acted in many more over his 5-decade long career. He was the narrator for The Fugitive, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons, and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. He married 3 times and had 1 son. His last starring role in a TV series was Jake and the Fat Man, a crime drama that ran on CBS for 5 seasons. Conrad died in February 1994 of a heart attack.

From Mark to Matt

Before the Gunsmoke radio series began, two different pilot episodes were recorded, both in 1949. The Marshal’s name for the pilot episodes was Mark Dillon and Conrad didn’t play the lead role in either episode. Neither ever made it on the air and the hero’s name was later changed from Mark to Matt Dillon.

For Adults Only

Unlike other radio Westerns of the era such as The Cisco Kid and The Lone Ranger, Gunsmoke was strictly geared for adults. It tended to be somber and often featured explicit and violent content, yet is generally regarded as more realistic than its television counterpart. From the radio show’s introduction: “There’s just one way to handle the killers and the spoilers and that’s with a U.S. Marshal and the smell of gun smoke!” Or as William Conrad as Marshal Dillon put it in his baritone voice: “[I’m] the first man they look for and the last they want to meet.”

Being the radio geek that I am and having been employed in said industry for years, I’m continually amazed at the work that went into these old time radio productions. Listening to the Gunsmoke radio shows, I put aside the story lines and concentrated on the other elements…the quality of the scripts, the music, and of course, the all-important, multilayered sound effects. An enormous amount of effort went into each and every weekly episode and the quality still shines through 7 decades later.

James Arness chasing down outlaws on Gunsmoke. Image from insp.com


Watch and Listen


If I’ve managed to inspire you to catch Gunsmoke the TV show, you’ll find the series airing weekday afternoons on the MeTV network (which, incidentally, also airs Cannon). Can’t get enough? The INSP cable network airs Gunsmoke episodes multiple times throughout the day and evening. Tarnation! On the other hand, if you’d prefer to acquaint (or re-acquaint) yourself with the original radio show, check out Internet Radio station WRCW Radio – Home of Gunsmoke, streaming out of Virginia. Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Dodge City, Kansas anymore.

Image from https://gtc.lm.com


Smoke ’em if you got ’em.


Most OTR (Old Time Radio) Internet stations play a variety of old time radio programs. Some OTR stations are genre specific like mystery/science fiction or comedies. There aren’t too many that dedicate themselves to one specific series like WRCW Radio – Home of Gunsmoke does. With WRCW Radio, it’s all Gunsmoke, all the time. I’m talking hundreds of episodes all broadcast on one radio station. You’ll even hear vintage adverts for Vicks cough drops and the original sponsor, L&M cigarettes. Interestingly, L&M was founded in 1873, the same time period the Gunsmoke episodes were set in. It’s bizarre to me to hear cigarettes advertised as having “flavor” and being “light and mild” with an “easy draw”, not to mention the white “miracle tip” filter. The L&M brand still exists today unlike some of their customers.


25 Years of Gunsmoke Radio


There are other Gunsmoke-only Internet radio stations like a similarly named radio station, Home of Gunsmoke. That station only streams at 64 kbps and it’s been my experience that this is typical of the majority of OTR Internet radio stations. WRCW Radio – Home of Gunsmoke streams at 128 kbps. It’s a minor point since the quality of the old time radio mono recordings aren’t exactly high fidelity, but I applaud WRCW Radio for going above and beyond. They’ve also been streaming Gunsmoke longer than most. The station celebrated its 25th Anniversary just last year. In 2005 it was nominated as Live365’s best station.

I spit-shined my Marshal’s badge, hopped on my trusty horse, and tracked down Marlene Micele, WRCW’s Founder. I asked the little lady what her inspiration was to start WCRW Radio – Home of Gunsmoke. “The inspiration to start the station came from my memories of hearing the show on the radio when I was only a few years old”, Micele wrote me. “I didn’t like the TV version of Gunsmoke”, she added.

As I mentioned, WRCW Radio plays all the Gunsmoke shows, well over 400, with one exception. “I air all the episodes that are available”, Micele told me. “There were many repeats during the show’s run, and I have removed them from the broadcast as to not be repetitious.”

Pull Up A Chair

One mystery that still endures…why William Conrad didn’t get the starring role in the Gunsmoke TV series after successfully playing the lead for 9 years on the radio. It’s been implied his girth was the reason behind the snub. Micele commented, “I quote from hearing Dennis Weaver [who was in the TV series] tell it: ‘The scene called for Conrad to jump up from the chair, and when he did, he got stuck because of his weight.’ It was clear Gunsmoke the TV series was either going to need bigger chairs or a thinner Marshal.


Just the facts, ma’am.

WRCW has some sister stations worth noting which also stream at 128 kbps. If Gunsmoke isn’t your cup of wild west whiskey, there’s WRCW Presents Dragnet, dedicated to Dragnet, another very popular TV show that began life as a radio series. WRCW Radio 2 Home of the Old Time Westerns airs Westerns in general, and WRCW Crime Story streams vintage radio crime dramas. Perhaps the “RCW” in WRCW stands for Radio, Crime, Westerns.

“Unlike other radio Westerns of the era such as ‘The Cisco Kid’ and ‘The Lone Ranger’, ‘Gunsmoke’ was strictly geared for adults.”


Without getting ornery, I have two quick cons about this Internet station. First, it’s not non-commercial, so be prepared to hear 2 minute commercial sets beyond the original vintage sponsorships. The commercials help reduce the station’s cost of the streaming platform and is often a necessary evil for Internet stations to exist.

The other quibble I have is that KCRW Radio’s metadata doesn’t identify the original air date of each Gunsmoke episode. The title of every episode is displayed but it would be interesting to know when they first aired. This information is readily available so I don’t understand why it’s not included. To be fair, the other Gunsmoke Internet stations I checked out also failed to indicate the broadcast dates.

Gunsmoke still looks and sounds pretty darn good at 71 years old. Without it, one has to wonder whether shows like Yellowstone, 1883, and 1923 would exist. Unless you’re yellow-bellied, rustle up some Gunsmoke on WRCW Radio or get out of Dodge!


Trivia: William Conrad wrote Gunsmoke radio episode #59, “Sundown”, which aired on June 6, 1953. He also directed two episodes of the TV series.

Trivia: James Anress, who portrayed Matt Dillon in Gunsmoke the TV series, had a famous brother…Peter Graves, who starred in his own hit television series, Mission: Impossible.

Arness is best, but there’s Festus for the rest of us.

Trivia: The Gunsmoke TV character, Festus Haggin, played by Ken Curtis, released several records. Long before Gunsmoke, Curtis was a professional singer and had a brief stint as lead singer with the Tommy Dorsey band in 1941 after Frank Sinatra’s departure.

A sampling of metaphors by Festus Haggin from the Gunsmoke TV series:

He ain’t got the gumption to pound sand down a rat hole.

I thumped him ’till his ears rang like the liberty bell.

Crookeder than a dog’s hind leg.

Hold `yer taters.

I’ll get onto you like ugly on an ape.

He can’t see past the brim of his hat.

This here stew will put muscles in your whiskers.

It’s hot enough to fry a horseshoe.

Tighter than the feathers on a prairie chicken’s rump.

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Most Popular Radio Stations

The Como Audio Musica. Photo courtesy of Como Audio, Inc.


It’s been at least a year, possibly two, since I last published a list of the most tuned Internet radio stations by Como Audio owners around the world. As many of you know, I worked for Como for over 7 years as Vice President of Product Development, and more recently, General Manager. I found it fascinating to learn what stations our customers were listening to and enjoyed bringing these lists to you on a semi-regular basis. With the company shutting its doors literally just a couple of days ago, I thought I’d author one final article on the most popular stations amongst Como Audio users and also amongst the millions of people using the Frontier Silicone platform.

Accordingly, here are the top 50 Internet radio stations ranked from the most to least listened to by Como Audio listeners:

Radio Swiss Jazz
France Inter
WCRB Classical
Rás 1
WQXR 105.9 FM
BBC World Service
mvyradio
NPO Radio 1
BBC Radio 4
Rás 2
BBC Radio 6 Music
VRT Radio 1
WNYC 93.9 FM
Bylgjan 989
WDNA 88.9 FM
Classic FM
NPO Klassiek
France Culture
VRT Klara
FIP
RTL
Radio Swiss Classic
Deutschlandfunk
BBC Radio 3
France Musique
Radio Italia
franceinfo
Ö1
NPO Radio 5
SomaFM – Left Coast 70s
WFMU
NPO Radio 2
WBGO Jazz 88.3FM
WGBH Boston Public Radio
KQED
KEXP 90.3 FM
WBUR 90.9 FM
La Première RTBF
VRT Klara Continuo
98.7 WFMT
Classical California KUSC
BBC Radio 2
Jazz24
Classical California KDFC
VRT Studio Brussel
Hitradio Ö3
Radio Paradise
Radio 10 – 60s & 70s Hits
VRT Radio 2 Oost-Vlaanderen



In scanning through the above list, it’s not surprising to find Radio Swiss Jazz in the top spot. Anytime I’ve published this list it’s always been number one, and for good reason. Radio Swiss Jazz was stored in preset #1 in every radio we made and it was our go-to station whenever we performed product demonstrations. Streaming in the superior AAC audio codec at 100 kbps and playing a great selection of mainstream jazz, the station always sounded fantastic.

Now, here’s the list of the 50 most tuned stations by everyone using a Frontier Silicon platform-based radio of which there are millions around the world.

SWR3
Deutschlandfunk
BBC Radio 4
WDR 4
Radio Nowy Świat
RadioMv – Slavic
France Inter
NDR 1 Niedersachsen Hannover
ANTENNE BAYERN
NDR 2 Niedersachsen
SWR1 Baden-Württemberg
BBC Radio 2
BAYERN 3
Hitradio Ö3
Radio Paloma
BAYERN 1 Oberbayern
1LIVE
RTL
NPO Radio 1
Radio 357
ROCK ANTENNE
RTÉ Radio 1
radioeins
WDR 5
SWR4 Baden-Württemberg
Absolut relax
WDR 2 Rheinland
RMF FM
Klassik Radio
franceinfo
NPO Radio 2
NPO Radio 5
SWR1 Rheinland-Pfalz
OLDIE ANTENNE – Oldies but Goldies
Classic FM
MDR JUMP
hr4
HIT RADIO FFH
hr1
BBC Radio 3
BR-KLASSIK
N-JOY
France Culture
Radio U1 Tirol
MDR THÜRINGEN Erfurt
Sky Radio
Bremen Eins
Radio Swiss Jazz
FIP
BR Heimat



The thing that stands out immediately to me with this list is there’s only 1 or 2 stations from the USA. That’s because the majority of these listeners reside outside the USA. Surprisingly, unlike the Como Audio list, Radio Swiss Jazz ranks almost at the very bottom.

The Como Audio Internet radio station directory currently has over 68,000 free stations and grows every month.



It never fails to surprise me how many people have no idea Internet radio exists or even understand what it is. So, I get very excited when people discover it and the wealth of free entertainment it offers, regardless of what brand radio they use. Unfortunately, many users are discouraged by the amount of effort it sometimes can take to search through almost 70,000 Internet stations. That’s why I launched Recommended Stations via Patreon. With Recommended Stations, I do the searching for you and recommend a different radio station every month in addition to uncovering a bizarre station you never thought would exist. This month’s Recommended Station is unique in that it mixes two different music genres. Most radio stations are dedicated to a single genre, but not this station. Last month’s Hitchhiker Station (the name I give strange stations) is dedicated to the oral orifice. If this sounds interesting, sign up for a free trial using the link at the bottom of this article. And if you’re a Como Audio customer, join at the Elite level and I’ll be available to address any Como Audio tech support questions you might have about your music system.

I get very excited when people discover it and the wealth of free entertainment it offers, regardless of what brand radio they use.

That’s me with Como Audio’s founding CEO Tom DeVesto in our previous Boston office measuring the voltage of a Solo. Photo by WCVB TV.


Farewell Como Audio

As we started to wind down Como Audio last month, I personally received emails from many people thanking me for their music system(s) and for my assistance over the years. It was a lot of work developing and voicing every model while keeping to a totally unrealistic schedule. We also provided over- the-top customer service, especially for a very small company with limited resources. There were many instances where we took care of customers who were very clearly in the wrong or were downright unreasonable, but CEO Tom DeVesto always placed a very high value on customer support. We made our share of mistakes as well, but we always did our best to admit to them and to try to make them right.

The lats 2 years were difficult ones. You have no idea how hard we worked to try to keep the company going and the sacrifices that were made. As part of the cost saving measures my hours were gradually reduced to the point where I was only working 1 day per week. In November of 2022, I was forced to sell my home because I could no longer afford it. As was my luck, the red hot housing market had cooled off by then and I didn’t get the price I should have. I’ll put my violin back in it’s case now.

We were all hoping things would turn around for Como Audio but they never did. In the end, we had to face the reality that the business just wasn’t sustainable. Our most popular model, Musica, proved to be our chief downfall because we couldn’t get them in a timely manner due to parts shortages, high required order quantities, and price increases.

I may not have been a doctor saving lives or a scientist curing diseases, but it was very gratifying to bring music into people’s lives, especially during the pandemic when we were all isolated. Sadly, Como Audio is now history, but Internet radio lives on. As we were fond of saying to our customers- enjoy the music.



A view from Lake Como in Italy. Photo by Peter Skiera.


Trivia: Como Audio was founded 7 years ago last month and was named after beautiful Lake Como in Italy. It’s the third largest lake in Italy. Actor George Clooney owns an 18th century, 25 room mansion on Lake Como which he bought after falling in love with the area while on holiday. He was made an honorary citizen and often spends the summer months there.

Trivia: That’s Como Audio General Manager Peter Skiera’s voice speaking the confirmations from the Como Blu Stereo system.

Trivia: The default preset Internet stations in presets #7 & 8 on Musica were hand picked by Peter Skiera.

Trivia: While brainstorming names for our first two models, Peter Skiera proposed naming them Musica 1 & Musica 2. This was rejected in favor of Solo and Duetto, but our top of the line model was named Musica. Skiera also introduced the hickory finish.

Trivia: Peter Skiera started with Como Audio before the company had an office. He would meet with Tom DeVesto at DeVesto’s home on Cape Cod or at a cafe in Hingham, MA.


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Patreon Profile

Any Elite Supporter of Recommended Stations has the option of being the subject of a profile article which allows fellow supporters an opportunity to get to know them a little better. We’re like a family supporting the same cause so why not get to know each other? In this, my first Patreon Profile, I introduce you to Chris Cromwell, founder of WJST, my Recommended Station nearly 1 year ago.

An American Airlines music tape. Photo from WJST’s Facebook page.



As a reminder, WJST, “Jet Set Radio” out of Lexington, Kentucky plays “easy listening” reel-to-reel analog tapes as originally played over airline entertainment systems in the 1970’s. Other related reel-to-reel tapes of the same vintage are also featured. Cromwell adds occasional “announcements” from his “crew” to reinforce the in-flight experience.

Cromwell was a big rig truck driver and was frequently out on the road, but he’s currently recovering at home from a health issue so it was an opportune time for me to present him with some questions for this profile.

Peter: Where were you born? 

Chris: I was born at the Vandenberg Air Force Base Hospital in California; near Santa Barbara. My dad was in the Air Force at the time.

Peter: Was music a part of your childhood?

Chris: Yes! Definitely! An interesting story behind that! Around late 1967, early 1968, my mom grew more weary of the turning tides of rock music she once liked. First it was the Beatles using drugs and claiming they were more popular than Jesus. She frowned hard on that. Then it was The Rolling Stones’ deeper use of hard drugs, she really didn’t like that! Finally, when she heard Jim Morrison of the Doors on the stereo, that pretty much drove the last nail into the coffin. She was DONE with rock music. So, she started tuning around the FM dial for better music she would enjoy. She stumbled onto Beautiful Easy Listening station KSBY, among several others located around the area; like KPMJ. She quickly fell In love with Beautiful Easy Listening and soon got my dad to love it, too! They always found a Beautiful Easy Listening station no matter where we lived. So when I was born in December 1970, I was born directly into Beautiful Easy Listening Stereo Music and of course Reel To Reel Tapes! My folks had two Sonys back then! I kind of liked Easy Listening, but soon got into the more mellowed out rock music of the mid-late 1970’s. My mom gave Rock music another chance in the mid-late 70’s; especially with disco. But as time went on, she was listening to more Beautiful Music with my dad, and I eventually grew more to like it too, especially as I got further into my 40’s. Now Beautiful Easy Listening music is all I listen to.

Peter: Who are some of the artists in your personal CD/LP/download collection?

Chris: In my 20’s-40’s I was into New Wave Music, (Pet Shop Boys, Til Tuesday, The Ramones, Art Of Noise, New Order, etc.). I was also into Classic Rock, (Eric Clapton, Moody Blues, Heart, Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, etc.). I also had a good decent collection of Disco Music from the Bee Gees and many others. A good variety from almost everybody. But I no longer have my CD/LP collection any longer. I gave away 5 big cases filled with CDs for free. Same thing for my cassette tapes. Everything except my Reel-to-Reel tapes are gone now.

Peter: What was the best concert you’ve ever been to? Did you ever meet a famous music star?

Chris: The only concerts I could go to was Christian music concerts during the 1990’s. Mostly because they were free for me to go to, or really cheap price; working at the Christian AM Radio station back then. There were several, I long forgotten who they were. I think one was Eddie Degarmo & Key, also Rachel Rachel? Or Amy Grant was another maybe.

I did meet Eddie DeGarmo personally for a few minutes to say hello. 

There was one Christian music concert I went to, I forgot who the artist was, but she pointed me out to everyone that I was totally rocking out with her! That was pretty cool! 

Peter: When did you first discover Internet radio as a listener and what about it appealed to you?

Chris: Perhaps the very first time I discovered Internet Radio was in 1998-1999. The dial-up connection of 32-56k was laggy at best, but I was quite surprised to hear different kinds of streaming music playing! At that time, I thought how cool it was to hear any kind of station or music from anywhere, not heard before. A free glimpse into everything!

Peter: How do you usually listen…a computer, an Internet radio, a smartphone app, an Alexa device?

Chris: Most usually I listen through my iPhone 12Pro. I use GetMeRadio or MyTuner Apps; maybe Live365 app. In the car the iPhone will connect through Bluetooth, and I can listen to the apps that way. I do have an Alexa device, but it’s only turned on for testing the WJST Jet Set Skill. Other times I might listen through my PC computer.

Peter: How often do you listen and what stations do you listen to (not including your own)?

Chris: I listen to Internet Radio pretty often, especially to the LoFi Music Stations, such as LoFi Girl.

Peter: Is there anything about Internet radio as a listener you wish you could change or improve upon? 

Chris: I wish Internet Radio could just sound better, instead of the compressed sound all the time. Unfortunately, most legal streaming platforms only give you a low compressed signal for too high a price.

Peter: For anyone interested in listening to Internet radio or starting their own Internet station but afraid to take the plunge thinking it’s too complicated, what would your advice be?

Chris: I would say, if you have the serious passion and drive, go for it! Only the most passionate and creative broadcasters can be successful thinking outside the box.

But if you don’t have much passion or creativity for internet radio, you won’t see much use for it.

In reality, having your own internet station isn’t really all that complicated at all. It’s more about trying to build an audience over time.

Peter: Do you think Internet radio makes a difference in people’s everyday lives?

Chris: I would say it does! I have seen multitudes of positive comments from listeners. They all mention how healing and beneficial the music or programming is. Goes for me too!! Unfortunately, not many people are into sharing a station they like with others. So, nobody knows what they are not told.

 10-4, good buddy. Photo from WJST’s Facebook page.



Peter: You used to be a truck driver. How did you listen to Internet radio when you were out on the road?

Chris: From 2000-2017 I used XM Satellite Radio, or my USB Sticks to listen to my favorite music out over the road. My cellphones didn’t have unlimited data streaming capabilities back then. Eventually in 2018 I began listening to internet radio over the road using my Samsung Android phone. I was able to connect to the truck stereo using [the] Bluetooth connection. The Live365 app being the only one I knew of at the time. I would eventually discover other streaming apps.

Vrrroom. Photo from WJST’s Facebook page.



Peter: I see from your Facebook photos that you own a motorcycle.

Chris: Yes! I still own (currently buying) a used 2011 Harley Davidson Nightster Sportster 1200. Fuel injected with Tachometer, Vance & Hanes exhaust pipes, plenty loud to be noticed with a car horn installed. It’s a pretty nice bike! Good mixture of blue, black and chrome.

It only has a 3.25-gallon tank, so I mostly ride it around locally near the house. Sometimes I might take it down to Richmond, Kentucky or down by Lancaster, Kentucky where my folks live. So not too many interesting places recently.

However, back in 2006, I had a brand new 2006 Harley Davidson Sportster 1200 Low dark metallic red, with all kinds of extra options, chrome, gauges, and goodies! It had a 4.5-gallon tank, so I enjoyed riding it down to Knoxville, Tennessee, around parts of Colorado, and of course, different places in Kentucky. I probably should have just kept the loud Harley instead of trading it in for a 2011 Chevy Camaro. That didn’t turn out too well.

Cromwell behind the mic. Photo from WJST’s Facebook page.



Peter: In 2018 you started your own Internet radio station, WJST. What do you enjoy most about having your own station?

Chris: What I enjoy most is, knowing that me and several others that work with me, are making a positive difference with other listeners. 

I’m told frequently how healing and melancholy the programming is. They think of their past relatives, loved ones, memories, childhood, etc. They appreciate the Easy Listening Relaxing music, compared to the anxiety filled Rock Music of today.



Peter: What changes have you made to WJST since it was named a Recommended Station?

Chris: I have made quite a few new changes since winning the award! It was a motivating factor to introduce a lot of new Easy Listening, Lounge, Exotica & Christmas music! I also introduced a bunch of new poetry that airs overnight during Music Till Dawn! Some of the Poetry is read by Chief Stewardess Something Blue! Late night drink recipes are read by Koop Kooper! Just recently, I added two new weekly shows to WJST! 

“The Tiki Lounge Happy Hour” from D. Argyle Vermouth airs Wednesday at 6PM Eastern Time. Followed by “The Atomic Age Cocktail Party” with Jason Croft! Wednesdays at 8PM Eastern Time. Both programs are one hour long and feature music built around a central theme.

I have also included many new singing jingles. You will often hear a British girl singing about WJST!

Last and certainly not least, I introduced a new Captain to the Jet Set Plane to replace Gary Miles. She is known as “Captain Martha”, and turns out to be my spouse as well! Several listeners told me they really like her sound on WJST.

I recently signed up an account with Strimm and uploaded a good handful of my videos from YouTube to try it out. On January 20th, 2023 at 1:15AM, I launched WJST Jet Set TV 65 on Strimm! Channel 65, meaning the year 1965, when Jet Setting was in full swing, playing popular music reel tapes on Astrostereo. Of course, I had no viewers at all, as nobody knows about it, but it gave me time to learn how everything still works. I am still figuring stuff out…There isn’t a lot of content yet and I have much left to upload in the coming weeks and months.

Last night, I placed WJST Jet Set TV 65 on the WJST Jet Set Website! Everyone is familiar with that, so it should be easy to find and view! You can head over to https://wjstjetset.com, scroll down some, and you will see the large video player; TV Guide included! Eventually I will get it set up for Ad’s, and even for Roku! I will produce promos for the TV station, too. Otherwise, nobody would know where to find my TV station on the Stremm site, even with a link, few people would know of.

The Strimm website came around in 2012, so they aren’t going anywhere that I know of. They claim to have multiple Internet TV stations around the world. It’s  https://strimm.com if you want to take a look, pronounced Stream. This is what I have been working on the past few days.

Jonah Tojo, singer for Twingowind and former member of Metamuse. Photo from WJST’s Facebook page.



Peter: This might be an odd question, but I have to ask…Who is the young boy wearing a WJST T-Shirt on WJST’s Facebook page?

Chris: LOL! It’s easy to think it’s a boy with such short hair and cute face! But that’s actually a 23 year old woman named Jonah Tojo. She lives in Chiba Prefecture Japan, not too far away from Tokyo. Jonah is a popular former JPop Star singer! Her short blue hair is her trademark look. I aired a few of her songs sung in English and Japanese on WJST! I also sent her some WJST T-Shirts to wear. One large WJST shirt I gave her is worn as a nightie! So that is who you see on the FB Page. 

Peter: Why did you become an Elite Supporter of Recommended Stations via Patreon?

Chris: After such a glowing article was written for WJST, I soon had a large increase of new listeners! More people are listening longer than ever! Even more so after winning Runner Up to Station Of The Year! Everyone wants to find out why! So, it’s the least I could do to return the favor, to become an Elite Supporter of Recommended Stations. To say Thank You so very much for listening and for your support!

Peter: What do you enjoy most about the monthly Recommended and Hitchhiker Station articles?

Chris: As I began early in this article, I was amazed to hear new music and stations on dial up internet! So, what I enjoy most is reading about those new or obscure stations anywhere in the world, I wouldn’t have known about earlier. Kind of like stumbling into an unknown dialup BBS site no one else knows of.



Peter: Anything else you’d like to add, Chris?

Chris: Since October 30th, 2022, I have been at home on medical leave; currently not working. I probably won’t return to truck driving, not knowing what other job I can do with my physical limitations.

I constantly worry about keeping WJST Jet Set Radio on the air. The high monthly costs are always due, and my short-term disability pay may not always be there.

I’m asking everyone to please donate to WJST, especially if it really does provide a beneficial service to you.

Otherwise, I might have to ground the Jet Set Plane for an indefinite period of time. People tell me WJST is a station like no other. I would have to say I agree! Let’s keep it flying with your support. Tomorrow is always another day.

Update: A few days after my interview with Chris he sent an email to the folks on his list which read in part: “I’m reaching out to all of you today, our most loyal Jet Set Fliers and listeners. We deeply appreciate every one of you most very much and we definitely love bringing a unique music format not found anywhere else. But we could really use your support at this time. As with the new increased costs from Live365, it may become necessary to ground the Jet Set Plane at Midnight March 1st! WJST will go dark, indefinitely! Please donate today securely to the PayPal Widgets located on the website.”

My thanks to Chris Cromwell for his time and support and I’m sure you join me in wishing him a speedy recovery and all good things for WJST.

If you’d like to make a contribution to WJST or enjoy a musical round trip flight or two, head on over to the station’s website…no need to pack a bag and no long security lines to navigate.

If you’re a Recommended Stations Elite Supporter or upgrade to that level and would like to be the subject of a future Patreon Profile, please get in touch with me directly at: stationsguy@gmail.com


Trivia (from apnews.com): “Boeing bid farewell to an icon on Tuesday [1/31/23], delivering its final 747 jumbo jet as thousands of workers who helped build the planes over the past 55 years looked on.

“Since its first flight in 1969, the giant yet graceful 747 has served as a cargo plane, a commercial aircraft capable of carrying nearly 500 passengers, a transport for NASA’s space shuttles, and the Air Force One presidential aircraft. It revolutionized travel, connecting international cities that had never before had direct routes and helping democratize passenger flight.”

Happy Hee Haw Part II

In Happy Hee Haw New Year Part 1 I wrote about the interesting backstory to the classic country comedy show, Hee Haw, and featured an interview with original cast member Lulu Roman.

In Part 2 I conclude my series with two additional original cast member interviews…Jana Jae and Buck Trent. Sit back and relax. As Roy Clark and Buck Owens said in the opening of one episode, “it’s time for singing and it’s time for jokes, so gather ’round and join us, folks.”

Jana Jae

Jana Jae and her blue violin.


Jana Jae took up the violin at age 2, albeit a miniature version. She has a degree in music and studied at the Vienna Academy of Music. Buck Owens hired her to be in his Buckaroos band which led to multiple performances on Hee Haw. Her repertoire isn’t limited to country music. Jae has played the Montreux Jazz Festival, Wembley Festival, and the New Orleans Jazz Festival. Known as “the first lady of country fiddle”, she’s toured Australia, Africa, Brazil, Japan, and the Philippines. In addition to Buck Owens and Roy Clark, she’s performed with Chet Atkins, Ricky Skaggs, The Oakridge Boys, Mel Tillis, Ray Stevens, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Jae has several albums under her belt and also founded her own Fiddle Camp and Music Festival which takes place in Grove, Oklahoma.

Peter: I know you have many fond memories, but can you share a specific “Hee Haw” memory?

Jana: Working alongside some of the many wonderful guest stars was a real eye-opener to me! Roy Rogers & Dave Evans, Johnny Cash, Kenny Rogers, and so many more – I loved it! One funny thing was when Junior Samples brought his jug to our taping – his real, authentic moonshine jug thrown over his shoulder – sip, sip, sip! I think that was the first and last time on set, but it proved to me he was the real deal!!

Peter: Give me a sense of what it was like during one week of recording for “Hee Haw”. Did you rehearse beforehand?

Jana: Since I was a member of Buck’s band, we planned our time very efficiently. We had recorded some of the tracks ahead of time, and we all generally knew the songs and arrangements, at least Buck’s vocals (which he sang live on set). We would usually put in a full day in front of the cameras, doing all Buck’s songs together, then all of the cast songs together, then all the cornfields, the fence shots, whatever guests were scheduled, any solos or group fiddle numbers, etc. They had a detailed schedule for a couple weeks, then we left. It was really quite efficient – and always great fun!!!

Peter: Do you have a favorite performance from “Hee Haw” or do they all kind of blend together now? Did you perform before an audience or were applause tracks added later? 

Jana: I sure enjoyed the cast songs and the group fiddle numbers, still favorites, but I really enjoyed everything we did on Hee Haw! We performed before a small audience of friends and cast members, seated on hay bales with backs to the cameras. I was so surprised when I first arrived on set – I had expected every show in an auditorium packed full! Not! They filmed, gathered all the footage, then would piece together the shows, add effects or the barnyard animals going across the screen, lots of fun things. We never knew who or what would be in a finished show – it was amazing how each show was done! Genius!!

Peter: Why do you think the show was so popular? 

Jana: Hee Haw was a family show! It was a weekly family event before we had hundreds of channels to choose from, the entire family sat down to laugh and enjoy Hee Haw together – it was a fabulous show that really united families across America!  It was fast-paced, full of fun, corny but funny humor, comedy sketches, and tons of great music, some clap along tunes and also current hits with stars who loved the exposure. And of course, the girls got lots of attention, but still fine for the whole family to enjoy.  Everybody who was anybody wanted to be on the show!!!

Peter: Your famous blue violin was a gift (or an order!) from Buck Owens and you still use it to this day. You weren’t too keen on it at first but it must have become very special to you. Why was Owens insistent you play that specific violin? 

Jana: He thought it would look good on camera and be different from Don Rich’s red-white-and-blue fiddle. And he was right!!  It gets lots of attention!

Peter: You were married to Owens for a short time but you both remained friends until his passing, right? 

Jana: Yes! 

Peter: Buck Owens left “Hee Haw” in 1986. Were you surprised by the comments in Owens’ autobiography about only being a part of “Hee Haw” for the money? He always looked to me like he was genuinely having fun.

Jana: Buck valued money because he grew up poor and really wanted to make plenty so he would never be poor again! He was always fun to be with and I know he genuinely enjoyed being on Hee Haw! We always had a great time!

Friends for life: Jana Jae (left) performing live on stage with Misty Rowe, Lulu Roman, and Buck Trent. Photo from Jae’s Facebook page.



Peter: What’s it like performing alongside some of the original “Hee Haw” cast members again? The Kornfield Friends came about almost by accident, right? 

Jana: After I bought Roy Clark’s bus and we had such fun on the road, I had been talking for years to many managers about a Hee Haw road show. It kind of stayed on my back burner, but no real dramatic interest for a long time. It evolved right after we all were together again for producer Sam Lovullo’s memorial celebration. Sam really united us all – our Big Daddy! We all wanted to pay tribute to him and his contribution to so many of our careers, and after the memorial, where everyone either spoke or performed a song, lots of us went to dinner at Johnny A’s. They had a really good house band, and they kept asking me to play the fiddle (which was all put up and tucked away in the trunk of my car). I finally said I’d play if I could have a little help from my Hee Haw friends, and Misty immediately said, “I’ll dance if you’ll play!” We had a ball, and needless to say, we brought the house down! I talked to Misty about doing a show at one of the three summer festivals I present on Grand Lake in Oklahoma. She came and we absolutely had a hit! So, I added Buck Trent and we did several shows with that configuration, and Misty had a genuine cornfield that was a hit with the crowds. I had booked Lulu on a couple of our festivals also, so I asked Lulu to do some shows with us I formed an LLC, fronted all the initial start-up costs with my band and my bus, and Kornfield Friends was born! I probably won’t ever get my investment back because just as we were really going full steam ahead, COVID hit and wiped out our 2020 year full of bookings! Whatever evolves, it was worth it – and my dream goes on. We’ve taken a breath, but we’re still around, I still have the bus and the band and hope we’ll visit many more towns across the country. It’s a very special thing to meet in person the audiences who have watched us on tv over the years! I always felt the Hee Haw cast was like extended family. I treasure that family, including the wonderful family audiences who watched us over the years! 



Peter: You’ve accomplished a great deal in your life- founded a fiddle camp and music festival, played alongside some big names, and you’re an outstanding musician in your own right. But for many people, you’ll always be Jana Jae with the blue violin from “Hee Haw”. Does that bother you? 

Jana: I love it! At first, I was shocked by the blue fiddle they gave me to play on Hee Haw – I was kind of a purist with my wonderful Italian violin made in 1750 –but after receiving fan mail addressed to “the girl with the blue fiddle”, it became sort of my trademark – I always play the blue fiddle in my country concerts!

Peter: What artists/music do you listen to when you have the time? Do you prefer records, CDs, or downloads? 

Jana: Whatever is handy at the time – I can barely keep up with the opportunities on all the new online music platforms. Great fun to surf a bit, and I still like YouTube for being able to pick and choose easily. Of course, I have tons of vinyl, CDs, etc., but find I listen most online now.

Peter: Do you find music keeps you feeling young and energetic?

Jana: Absolutely – I can’t imagine what I would do without music in my life – it’s definitely in my blood, a life source! It refreshes me every day – and I’d love to spend more time creating music! I just want to stay happy, healthy, and keep making music every day of my life. That is being blessed, and hopefully it blesses others as well! That’s the real joy – to share music!!


Buck Trent

Buck Trent, picking and grinning.


Charles W. “Buck” Trent has played the bajo since age 10. He’s performed with such luminaries as Bill Monroe, Porter Wagoner, Roy Clark, Marty Stuart, and Dolly Parton (he played lead guitar on Parton’s Jolene and I Will Always Love You). He and Roy Clark were the first country music duo to tour the Soviet Union in 1976. Trent’s received many awards over the decades and has appeared on numerous TV shows including The Tonight Show, Mike Douglas Show, and Dinah! He invented the electric banjo but also plays the steel guitar, electric bass, mandolin, and guitar. His latest CD is called Spartanburg Blues and features Dolly Parton, The Oak Ridge Boys, Vince Gill, David Frizzell, and Marty Stuart.

Peter: I’m sure you’ve never been asked this before 😊, but how did your trademark “Oh Yeah!” and thumbs up thing come about?

Buck: The “Oh Yeah!” and thumbs up came about while taping my Talkin’ Blues [song]. After I sang the punchline to the joke, there were a few beats left and I had to have something to say. So, I said “Oh Yeah!” and gave the thumbs up!

Peter: How were you able to tape 13 Kornfield sketches back-to-back without it getting old real fast?

Buck: The Kornfield jokes were usually with different people so it was fun. The jokes were so corny and the more you messed them up the better it was.

Peter: Can you give me one favorite “Hee Haw” memory?

Buck: My favorite memory from Hee Haw was the day Roy Rogers and Dale Evans taped the show. He was my childhood hero. I went over to him to introduce myself and he said, “I know who you are Buck, I watch you every week!” That made my day!

Oh Yeah! Trent in 2019 performing at the Grand Ole Opry House where Hee Haw was taped. Photo from Trent’s Facebook page.


Peter: “Hee Haw” was one of the first shows to air bloopers. Is there one that sticks out in your mind? Did you have any bloopers?

Buck: There were a lot of bloopers. Junior Samples took 14 takes on the word “pollution”. He couldn’t pronounce it. Roy Clark had to get up and down with Junior 14 times. It wore Roy out! I’m sure I had a few but I can’t remember any.

Peter: When did you leave the show and why? 

Buck: I left in 1983 or 1984. The reason I left was I had quit working with Roy Clark and went out on my own. I was just phased out of Hee Haw.

Peter: Was “Hee Haw” a blessing or a curse? What do you think when you watch the reruns today?

Buck: It was a blessing for me and a lot of the others. I like watching the reruns. We did some great picking and singing on that show. We had the best guests on it, too.

 Peter: I have to admit, I got a bit choked up watching you interacting with Roy Clark during the 2012 “Salute To The Kornfield” reunion.

Buck: The reunion was fun. Roy and I just picked up where we left off. It was so special seeing everyone again. There were so many that died after we taped it. So sad to lose so many friends.

Legendary country stars Buck Trent and the late Roy Clark. Photo from Trent’s Facebook page.


Peter: What was it like working with Roy Clark?

Buck: Working with Roy was a lot fun. They said we had a wonderful time! Ha ha! We traveled the world together. Our dueling banjos is still a hit. No one has done it better than us!

Peter: How is it playing with the Kornfield Friends from “Hee Haw“?

Buck: The Kornfield Friends concerts was a lot of fun. I loved it and would like to do more.

Peter: Do you still perform your famous “Talkin’ Blues” song?
Buck: Yes, I do the Talkin’ Blues at the Kornfield shows. Robert Lunn came up with the original one. I did his first verses. Then I had to write my own for every show. 

My last question to Buck, since he also told jokes on Hee Haw, was whether he had heard any good (or bad) jokes lately. He said no, so I’ll steal one from one of his live shows: It was so cold out today, I saw a lawyer with his hands in his own pockets!

Hee Haw was a wholesome program the entire family could enjoy together. There aren’t too many shows you can say that about today. I think the best way for me to close this article is to quote from Hee Haw’s closing theme: “May your pleasures be many, your troubles be few.”

My personal thanks to Lulu Roman, Jana Jae, and Buck Trent for taking time out of their busy schedules to answer my questions. A huge shout out also to Scott Sexton and Jean Trent for facilitating these interviews.

Trivia (from metv.com): “Elvis Presley was reportedly such a big fan of [Hee Haw], he wanted to appear as a guest. Presley also dated two Hee Haw Honeys: Linda Thompson and Diana Goodman. After the legendary singer’s death, his father made an appearance on the show and paid tribute to his late son.” 


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Links:

Lulu Roman

Jana Jae

Buck Trent

Fiddle Camp

Kornfield Friends

Circle TV
Salute to the Kornfield DVD

Hee Haw DVDs

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