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Amplitude modulation

Amplitude modulation (AM) is a technique used in electronic communication, most commonly for transmitting information via a radio carrier wave. AM works by varying the strength of the transmitted signal in relation to the information being sent. For example, changes in the signal strength can be used to specify the sounds to be reproduced by a loudspeaker, or the light intensity of television pixels. (Contrast this with frequency modulation, also commonly used for sound transmissions, in which the frequency is varied; and phase modulation, often used in remote controls, in which the phase is varied) In the mid-1870s, a form of amplitude modulationinitially called "undulatory currents"was the first method to successfully produce quality audio over telephone lines. Beginning with Reginald Fessenden's audio demonstrations in 1906, it was also the original method used for audio radio transmissions, and remains in use today by many forms of communication"AM" is often used to refer to the mediumwave broadcast band (see AM radio).

Fig 1: An audio signal (top) may be carried by an AM or FM radio wave.

Forms of amplitude modulation

In radio communication, a continuous wave radio-frequency signal (a sinusoidal carrier wave) has its amplitude modulated by an audio waveform before being transmitted. In the frequency domain, amplitude modulation produces a signal with power concentrated at the carrier frequency and in two adjacent sidebands. Each sideband is equal in bandwidth to that of the modulating signal and is a mirror image of the other. Amplitude modulation that results in two sidebands and a carrier is often called double-sideband amplitude modulation (DSB-AM). Amplitude modulation is inefficient in terms of power usage. At least two-thirds of the power is concentrated in the carrier signal, which carries no useful information (beyond the fact that a signal is present). To increase transmitter efficiency, the carrier can be removed (suppressed) from the AM signal. This produces a reduced-carrier transmission or double-sideband suppressed-carrier (DSBSC)

signal. A suppressed-carrier amplitude modulation scheme is three times more power-efficient than traditional DSB-AM. If the carrier is only partially suppressed, a double-sideband reducedcarrier (DSBRC) signal results. DSBSC and DSBRC signals need their carrier to be regenerated (by a beat frequency oscillator, for instance) to be demodulated using conventional techniques. Improved bandwidth efficiency is achievedat the expense of increased transmitter and receiver complexityby completely suppressing both the carrier and one of the sidebands. This is singlesideband modulation, widely used in amateur radio due to its efficient use of both power and bandwidth. A simple form of AM often used for digital communications is on-off keying, a type of amplitude-shift keying by which binary data is represented as the presence or absence of a carrier wave. This is commonly used at radio frequencies to transmit Morse code, referred to as continuous wave (CW) operation.

Frequency modulation
In telecommunications and signal processing, frequency modulation (FM) conveys information over a carrier wave by varying its instantaneous frequency. This is in contrast with amplitude modulation, in which the amplitude of the carrier is varied while its frequency remains constant. In analog applications, the difference between the instantaneous and the base frequency of the carrier is directly proportional to the instantaneous value of the input signal amplitude. Digital data can be sent by shifting the carrier's frequency among a set of discrete values, a technique known as frequency-shift keying. Frequency modulation can be regarded as phase modulation where the carrier phase modulation is the time integral of the FM modulating signal. FM is widely used for broadcasting of music and speech, and in two-way radio systems, in magnetic tape recording systems, and certain video transmission systems. In radio systems, frequency modulation with sufficient bandwidth provides an advantage in cancelling naturally-occurring noise. Frequency-shift keying (digital FM) is widely used in data and fax modems.

The Difference between AM and FM

AM and FM are two very popular and very different methods of sending information over the airwaves. AM is amplitude modulation while FM is frequency modulation. But what is modulation? It is the act of modifying a certain aspect of the carrier frequency in accordance to the information being sent. It is then clear that AM modifies the amplitude of the carrier frequency while FM modifies its frequency.

AM is the older an easier of the two technologies to implement. The receiver detects the changes in the carrier frequencys amplitude and amplifies it to drive a speaker. The simplicity of the technology made it easy to build radio receivers in great quantities. The main problem associated with AM broadcasting is the fact that it is very susceptible to various weather conditions that deteriorate and distort the signal. The simplicity of the design also limits the broadcast to a single audio channel, making it inadequate for stereo sound. FM is a development over AM broadcasting and it provides a lot of substantial benefits thus it is much more complex compared to AM. The first and most substantial benefit is its ability to send out two channels of information at the same time with the use of advanced algorithms. This allows the station to broadcast left and right audio channels for full stereo sound. Since most environmental factors that distort radio waves only affect its amplitude and not the frequency where FM stores the actual voice signal, the data in the FM signal doesnt degrade as easily as AM. This also means that FM signal quality doesnt degrade linearly as you get further from the transmitting station. Range wise, AM takes the cake with its much greater distance travelled. FM signals usually drop of at around 50 miles from the station, but AM waves can be refracted in the atmosphere resulting in greater range. The range is also one of the reasons why talk radio prefers AM even if the sound quality is not very high. The advancement in technology also meant that the degree in complexity and price between AM and FM receivers have become moot. Most manufacturers can even manage to place the whole circuitry for both AM and FM inside a single chip, turning them into a package instead of competing against each other. Summary: 1. AM broadcasting is simpler than FM but the difference in complexity and price are very marginal at present. 2. AM is more prone to signal distortion and degradation compared to FM. 3. FM doesnt degrade linearly with distance. 4. AM usually broadcasts in mono which makes it sufficient for talk radio. 5. FM can transmit in stereo making it ideal for music. 6. AM has a longer range than FM.