The 11 Best Metro Phoenix Radio Stations
Believe it or not, people still listen to the radio these days, and not just for those fleeting moments before switching to Pandora or Spotify. Despite the popularity of the many alternatives to old-fashioned terrestrial radio, jamming the tunes broadcast over the Valley Airwaves is still a thing.
Metro Phoenix’s radio dial is populated with stations offering a variety of genres, from powerhouses like KYOT and KNIX playing popular songs to underpowered broadcasters like indie favorite KWSS.
We’ve compiled a list of the best resorts the Valley has to offer, many of which previously featured in our annual Best of Phoenix issues. It includes longtime favorites like KUPD (which has been blasting hard rock and metal since the late 70s), hip-hop standbys Power 98.3, and some quaint and quirky selections.
Take a look, then listen.
Best Country Station
KNIX 102.5 FM
No offense to the fancy rock stations in Phoenix, but if you really want to hear party music — stuff in the tradition of Bon Jovi and Motley Crue — you should turn your dial to KNIX. Modern country has its detractors, but it’s hard to deny the cold beer and swagger of KNIX’s playlist, stacked with the likes of Jason Aldean, Lee Brice, Blake Shelton and LoCash – country artists who haven’t not afraid of a little hip-hop-inspired low-end or arena-rock crunch. Sure, they may stray from the sonic touchstones of classic country, but the attitude and ethos are “outlaw” in their own right.
Best Classical Country Station
KSWG 96.3 FM
KSWG doesn’t exclusively play vintage country – you’ll hear hits from Darius Rucker, Brad Paisley, and even some of that “bro-country” stuff that’s always all the rage – but the station leans towards old-school Western sounds, which means DJs like Erika Smith Royal, Terri Clark, Ralph Davis and morning man Rick Kelly will be spinning classics from old-school artists. Tune in and you might hear vintage hits from George Strait, Wynonna Judd, Terri Gibbs, The Statler Brothers and dozens more. Broadcasting from Wickenburg, a town with Western appeal to spare, Real Country’s vibe isn’t BS and artisanal, and its DJs sound right at home on the airwaves.
Best hip hop station
The predictability of hip-hop FM stations is much lamented, but the staff at Power 98.3 have struck a delicate balance: delivering the hits Top 40 listeners want to hear with bold programming like The Dana Cortez Show, the first nationally syndicated radio show hosted by Latina, every weekday morning. On weekends, the station’s Power Mix features local DJs like Madd Rich, Javin and Complex who spin modern hip-hop standards with classics and deep cuts. It’s the kind of soundtrack you might hear in a club and the kind of fresh, live content that commercial radio is so sorely lacking.
Best R&B Radio Station
Mega 104.3 FM
Walking a tightrope between old-school soul, funk and selections from contemporary artists, Mega 104.3 is the kind of station that knows how to draw the line between Justin Timberlake’s “Suit & Tie” and Earth Wind’s “Shining Star”. and Fire. “Things always stay funky, whether that funk comes from the Bee Gees or Parliament-Funkadelic or Janet Jackson, and like its sister station 101.1 The Beat, the grooves here seem tailor-made for smooth, languorous listening. The station is often a lifesaver on the backed-up Phoenix highways: a soft, chewy balm for road rage.
Best Spanish Language Station
La Campesina 101.9 FM
The Phoenix branch of Radio Campesina (there are also stations in Yuma, Las Vegas and Central California) has the hottest mixes in Spanish in the valley, pumping out tunes from renowned regional Latin and Mexican pop artists like Paulina Rubio, Gerardo Ortíz, Caliber 50 and Los Tucanes de Tijuana. You can also regularly hear tracks from trailblazers like norteño innovator Marco Antonio Solis and ranchero legend Vicente Fernandez. La Campesina also offers weekday radio programs focused on issues facing immigrant families. Whether listeners are looking for hot tunes or want to speak out on issues, Radio Campesina has them covered.
Best Alternative Station
KWSS 93.9 FM
KWSS is the local radio station that could. The Independent Operation, which can be found at 93.9 on your FM dial, has been airing choice selections of indie and alternative rock over the Valley airwaves 24/7 for the past 15 years. And it gained an audience and a fanbase by doing it. The station’s success, however, was not fueled by the backing of a multimillion-dollar media conglomerate, well-known sponsors, or high-profile advertising campaigns. Instead, KWSS has survived and thrives thanks to the tireless efforts of its small but passionate staff, including Dani Cutler, Jay Cairo, Dubs Witma and owner Frank Magarelli.
They’ve rounded up the station’s playlists (which include deep cuts, rarities, and old-school alt and indie rock tracks, not to mention music from up-and-coming and established local bands), host daily shows and weekly and manage other behind-the-scenes duties. KWSS is also the only place in the Valley where you can hear esteemed radio personality Jonathan L. stream audio oddities via his legendary Unbalanced world of L program, as well as the kind of tracks that aren’t on other local rock stations. In a landscape dominated by wave giants, KWSS is a bit taller than the rest.
Best Hard Rock Station
KUPD 97.9 FM
More than any station in town, KUPD knows its demo, pumping it up to 11 with the kind of heavy-rock flamboyance that’s been making ears bleed since Iron Butterfly got lost. in a gadda da vida. KUPD serves up a mix of modern (The Pretty Reckless, Motionless in White), classic (Metallica, Pearl Jam) and almost forgotten (Sponge) in equal measure, but the common denominators are volume and attitude. It’s a decidedly loud fare that hits directly at the air guitar virtuoso in all of us.
Best Classic Rock Station
KCDX 103.1 FM
We’ll freely admit that part of the appeal of KCDX is mystery. Broadcast from the desert, there’s no DJ, just a long, endless stream of free-form music. You might hear progressive rock crashing over country rock, or soft folk rock colliding with chiming power pop, but you’ll rarely hear the same song more than once for weeks. The big stations don’t play the Jayhawks or the Smithereens like KCDX, but you don’t necessarily tune in to hear anything specific. You let the mysterious “guru” who runs the show simply surprise you with a song you haven’t heard in years, or better yet, never heard on the radio.
Best Jazz/Blues Stations
KJZZ 91.5 FM
During the day, KJZZ airs NPR content and exclusive reports on Phoenix news and culture, but at night the controls are given to jazz DJs like Blaise Lantana and Bryan Houston. On Sunday evenings, the station devotes five hours to These lowdown blues, blues musician and club owner Bob Corritore, the 30-year-old blues program, which features the disc jockey spinning dirty Delta blues, gritty R&B and gospel. From hard bop to soft progressive tunes, KJZZ remains the standard for jazz and blues in the Valley.
Best Classic Station
KBAQ 89.5 FM
Still the Valley’s only classical music station, KBAQ differs little from the shag outlets found in other major US cities – it’s backed by the public (and therefore subject to periodic begging for a week of pledges), run by a college-based educational station, and gets some of its programming courtesy of National Public Radio. Still, the reliable ‘K-Bach’ offers a tasty mix of specialist programming, including eerily perfect early morning wake-up music. And while the classic format probably requires the least of a programmer to keep up to date, KBAQ does an admirable job of staying on the cutting edge of early music, mixing musty old bits from Vivaldi and Tchaikovsky with weird takes on Brahms by the French choral ensemble Accentus. and Chinese songs by Grammy-winning Chanticleer.
Best Oldies Station
Retro 92.7 FM/1440 AM
We were pretty nervous when “AZ Gold” KAZG was relaunched and renamed in 2016 as Oldies 92.7, but luckily for us there’s still a lot to love. The station, which still simulcasts at 2:40 p.m., leans much more into the ’70s than before, but the tracks are guaranteed winners, like Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move” and “Alone Again (Naturally )” by Gilbert O’Sullivan. ”; Plus, there are throwbacks to the ’60s with songs like Gene Chandler’s classic “Duke of Earl” and the Standells’ garage rock hit “Dirty Water.”