FM radio in Chicagoland

For those of you that are "rock music oriented", you might want to try tuning in 99.9 on your dial. While the call letters are WRZA, they bill themselves as "The 9 FM". This station was recently purchased and changed formats. What was a Peotone / Kankakee based Mexican station is now a Park Forest based "rock" station. As to their format, they say it best. That is, "we play anything".

While this type of format ( or "lack of format" ) could be a real mess of thrown together music, the station is being run by many "old school" FM DJ's that you'll surely recognize. Names like Sky Daniel's from the Loop ( WLUP ) of late 70's / early 80's vintage, Mitch Michael's from the Loop & WCKG, Johnny Mars of WXRT, etc... are all on board and offer a great diversity of flavours.

From what i can gather, this station went on the air in the middle of June. Somehow, i just found them today. As such, i have to wonder how many others haven't found them yet. Given the fact that i've actually been VERY happy with the musical selections / diversity that i've heard for the last 8+ hours, i wanted to turn others onto this station. I've heard everything from Patti Smith to Snow Patrol to Bruce Springsteen to The Hives to Jimmy Buffet to Queens of the Stone Age to The Cure to Joan Jett to Metallica to Robert Palmer to the Breederz. This is not to mention a few "sneak attacks" from the likes of Snoop Dog and ( i think ) Queen Latifah thrown in. While this might sound like a mess, it's so varied that you don't mind the drastic changes of styles. Even if you do, it doesn't last long and it is MUCH better than hearing the same songs over and over again every day or two / three days.

As a side note and even more of a benefit, this station is "introducing itself" to Chicagoland with 9,999 songs in a row without a commercial. Good tunes that are quite diverse with no commercials on broadcast FM is surely a pleasant change of pace. The fact that they state that they'll never play more than 3 minutes of commercial in a row OR more than 9 minutes of commercials in any given hour once they start promoting advertising is still MUCH better than the other "rock" stations in the area.

There is one drawback to this station though. Even though they are running 50,000 watts of broadcast power, their far southside location and lack of elevation really hurt their range. Some folks on the north side & suburbs may have a hard time picking this station up. That is, unless they've got a good tuner with a decent outdoor antenna. Check it out and see what you think. If you can find their website, which they've announced but i could never catch, please post it here. Sean

PS... For those that are interested in such things, i found a pretty neat FM Radio based website that pertains to the Chicagoland area. It lists the various stations, their call letters, how much power they are transmitting, their locations, etc... I'm really quite surprised at how little power some of the stations are using, but then again, the FCC is now going by "EFP" or "Effective Radiated Power". This method takes into account antenna height along with actual transmitter power.
They are playing Never from HEART at 11:30 PM on
Thursday. So, far it`s alright. I`ll keep my ear open.
Thanks Sean, I listen to the radio quite a bit, but don't really surf and would have never found this station without your suggestion. I'm up by Long Grove and pick it up at 4.5 out of 5 on my signal strength meter. So I hope most people up here should be able to get it.

One peculiar thing is that they come in stronger at 99.890, than at 99.900. If they were to transmit at the right freq, it may help their signal on less flexible tuners (ex.-cars, inexpensive home and boat receivers.) For being on air such a short time, they shouldn't have drifted so far off. Maybe they didn't recalibrate after the acquisition.

More importantly, programming has really been pretty good so far. Thank you again for the suggestion. I'll have to find a way to repay the favor. Best Regards,
Thanks Sean,

I also listen to the radio alot while at my office in Lansing, Illinois and while on the road (which is quite a bit as well). I've been a pretty steady listener of the Drive, 'XRT and WNUA for the past few years, trying to get a decent mixture of new and old pop, rock and jazz. I remember back in the day (I'll be 40 this year) when 'XRT use to mix it up and vary their playlist alot more and better than they do these days (nothin' against Peter Gabriel but if I hear "Sledgehammer" or "Shock The Monkey" one more time...) so your discovery of this station is a welcome one for sure!

Might be the reason why 'XRT is now playin' the likes of Diana Krall, Mindy Smith, Nickel Creek, Dave Koz, etc.

Sean, is it just me or does the music coming from the Drive (97.1) sound excellent? Do they still use a lot of vinyl?

99.9 playlist while I've been typing this:
Liz Phair - Duran Duran - Thompson Twins - Coldplay

Isellstuff: Hey, i didn't say they were perfect, i just said that they played a wider variety than most : )

Aaron: I was listening to them mostly at work and in the car. My shop is SOOO close to them and they are SOOO strong out by my shop that they overload the generic "radio" that i have there. They not only come in at 99.9, but everywhere from 99.8 up to 100.3 or so. Since i'm only a couple of miles away from them and they are running 50,000 watts, i'm sure that it's a matter of front end overload.

In terms of listening in my car, i simply tuned to 99.9 and let it play. Given that i'm still so close to them on the way home, it literally blasts the tuner in terms of signal strength.

I just checked them out on of my analogue tuners and it showed to be center tuned at 99.9 as it should be. Having said that, i think that they are running a greater amount of deviation than what most other stations do, making them louder / splatter more over the sides of center channel.

I've got some new test equipment coming into the shop and i'll be able to monitor their signal as good or better than they can very shortly. We used to do this to WLS many years ago and would call up their technical engineers and tell them to correct their over-modulation. They would argue with us that they weren't over-modulated and hang up. Then we would watch the envelope of their signal shrink as they corrected the problem : )

It's possible that they are coming in better at 99.8 out by you due to signal reflections / multipath. You have to remember that they are out in the "boondocks", so the signal path from their transmitter to your antenna will be drastically different than most other stations that are based off of the Sears or Hancock.

Beatlebum: I agree about XRT. Their musical diversity is what drew me to the station, but they've lost most of that over the years. I can remember hearing classical pieces interspersed with rock "way back when" on XRT. Now THAT wide of a format ( or lack of one ) was out of place : )

As to the Drive, they do use and play vinyl. They even have "special days" where they play nothing but vinyl. They've commented that they've gotten phone calls asking for more vinyl as the listeners seem to think that this sounds "better" ( chalk one up for the "average listener" ). The fact that the WDRV tends to use less compression and has a pretty even coverage pattern tends to help them out in the area of sonics also. Too bad these guys tend to play the same songs every day or too. Sean

PS... While i was typing this, they played Foghat and then went to Franz Ferdinand. Tell me that's not pretty diverse : )

While drivin' yesterday, I heard the following, in this order...

Violent Femmes - Kelly Clarkson - Judas Priest - Eric Clapton - U2 - De La Soul - Shelby Lynne..

Whoa! I've told some of my fellow co-workers about this station and they cannot believe the musical variety and apparent lack of format.

I was listening again in the car today (came in GREAT in Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville). Like Beatlebum says, great song lists!! Hope they don't get too successful (!) and go conventional/corporate.
Thanks for pointing 99.9 out. I'm listening and enjoying. I think they can go far if they don't do what XRT did... I can barely listen to that station anymore (unless I need a good fix of commercials).
I agree about XRT. They are like the other stations now i.e. have their own format ( still wider than most ) but repeat the same songs every day / every other day or so. On top of that, they DO have WAY too many commercials.

As far as "9" goes, their variety is sometimes "TOO" wide for my tastes, but what the heck. Just because i don't like it doesn't mean that somebody else didn't request it. So long as they don't stick with the same specific type of music multiple songs in a row ( one "disco" or "country" tune is enough per batch ), it's not that bad. When you have Kelly Clarkson followed by a disco tune followed by a country tune, it's time to change the station. While diversity in music is great, you've got to draw the line somewhere in terms of "taste" and developing a sense of musical flow. Doing it for "shock value" and to display just how diverse your programing is gets kind of old real fast.

One thing that I have noticed is that they are already beginning to play certain bands on a very regular basis. For an example, you can hear "The Darkness" at least twice a day now. Two different songs, but that's still at least one song by them too many times per day and about 4 or 5 times too often per week. Even if both songs are "decent", do you really want to hear them both every day of the week??? After all, how many other MILLIONS of songs by millions of other bands are there that they could be playing? I'd rather here some of the good but lesser commercialized songs by well known bands, let alone good tunes from bands that never really made it big. This is one area where satellite radio really whips "The 9's" ass....

Along those same lines, has anybody else noticed that they don't play much music from the punk / new wave era of 77 - 85 or so i.e. not even the "commercial stuff" that made it onto the radio? I'm talking about "mellow" stuff like Elvis Costello, Devo, early Talking Heads, Gary Numan, XTC, Nick Lowe, English Beat, etc... I'm not expecting to hear the Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks ( although they were the greatest "rockin' pop" band ever with phenomenally catchy hooks and rhythms ), Sham 69, etc... As such, this station does offer diversity, but it is still drastically lacking in some areas. It's good, but it could be better. Sean