The station previously broadcast at a frequency of 88.9 MHz (during which time its nickname was Classical 88). The frequency was shifted in 1988 by directive of the FCC, to alleviate interference for nearby frequencies used for aerial navigation, and to allow for a new full-power station to be built on 99.5 in the Salt Lake market. A translator was added at 89.5 FM in Spanish Fork to make up for lost coverage in Utah County.
KBYU began as a carrier current station at 660 AM in 1946. It became available across Provo and the surrounding area in 1948 by using the city's power lines as an antenna. In 1959, BYU was granted a commercial FM license. The new station signed on for the first time on May 9, 1960 under the temporary calls KBRG. After negotiations to get the KBYU calls from a liberty ship, the call letters changed to KBYU on November 9, 1960.
The station presently broadcasts around the clock, having gone to that schedule in 1986. Most of its on-air staff consists of professionals, although students do cover some weeknight and weekend on air shifts. Students also play a key role in behind-the-scenes functions.
The station is operated as a non-profit corporation, and employs three to four fundraisers during the year to raise a portion of its operating revenue. Other funding sources include Brigham Young University, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and local underwriting by businesses and arts organizations.
In 2006, KBYU-FM began broadcasting an 'HD Radio' signal along with its main signal, and subsequently began carrying sports and talk programming from sister station 'BYU Radio' on its HD2 signal.
Classical 89’s purpose is to expand BYU’s public reach as an agent of good—using the medium of radio in the classical music format—by (1) engaging the public in ennobling experiences that are traditionally associated with musical masterpieces, (2) showcasing the university’s commitment to worthy art and helpful ideas, (3) fostering quality discourses in all areas of learning and culture, and (4) encouraging intellectual, spiritual, and physical growth and improvement.