Q: I would like a battery-powered FM transistor radio for my bathroom counter. I had one with decent sound but it quit working, and the ones I have tried since all have sounded tinny. It doesn't need to be waterproof. Any suggestions?
A: "Transistor radio" is an obsolete term now, carried over from when having transistors rather than tubes made small radios possible. It has come to be analogous to a portable, battery-powered radio, so while I will be making some recommendations, they likely will have integrated circuits, rather than transistors.
I recommended the Avantree SP850 a few years ago and it is still a good choice today. It combines an FM radio, Bluetooth speaker and MicroSD media player for $34.99. The rechargeable battery is user-replaceable, and you can add extra batteries for $9.99 each. I have one, and the FM reception is quite good. It can be seen on manufacturer's website avantree.com. The easiest place to buy one is on Amazon.
If you are looking for something fancier, the C. Crane company is synonymous with radio, and they have small, full-featured models starting at $65. Check it out at ccrane.com.
As a final note, readers may find it interesting that when tubes gave way to transistors decades ago, many audiophiles felt that tube amplifiers sounded better. As integrated circuits started becoming more widespread, the audiophile consensus was that solid state amplifiers that relied solely on transistors for amplification (called "discrete") were superior to new designs with integrated circuits in the amplifier section. Most of today's better amps and receivers use discrete circuitry in their amplifiers, though integrated circuits might be used in other parts of the component.
Q: Why does telephone "on hold" waiting music sound so bad? It seems to be that all companies have the same poor quality sound that varies in volume, is very distorted and has noise superimposed on top the "music." Are they trying to get us to hang up?
A: I am far from an expert on telephone hold tactics, but my guess is that the music is highly compressed to save on costs. They likely also are using royalty-free music of very low quality. Plus, your telephone speaker is not a high quality transducer, so any flaws in the sound are likely to be magnified.
I'm not big on conspiracy theories, either. But that being said, the idea that they might be trying to deliberately annoy people into hanging up is an interesting one. If anyone has more information on the poor sound quality of hold music, please contact me and I will provide an update in a future column.
Send questions to Don Lindich at email@example.com.