Troubleshooting AM reception is a very common theme here at C. Crane. Many of us have worked here for years so we’ve heard a lot of different scenarios and helped many people figure out what will work best in their given situation. A lot of people are surprised at what we ask them to try and what they learn in the process. I know when I started working here over 16 years ago I had very little knowledge and a lot of misconceptions about radio reception.
The first thing we try to determine is what exactly the issue may be. Which band are you trying to receive? Is it static or noise that is the problem? Is it a particular signal that you want to receive that you currently can’t receive or can only receive at certain times? Is there a signal that is weak or fades in and out?
Figuring these out first helps determine where to go next.
If it is static or noise: Static and noise are troublesome issues that can be tricky to pinpoint. We actually have a checklist for radio noise that has been developed over years of trial and error and troubleshooting in house and with customers. In this day and age of WiFi, cell phones, microwaves, dimmers, flat screen TVs, florescent lights, whole-house automated systems, etc., there is an unlimited source of potential AM interference.
The best place to start is to take a battery operated radio (ideally the one you’re trying to listen to that has the static) and walk around your home while the static is occurring to see if there is any location or device that seems to make it worse. If the static disappears once the radio is on batteries, the noise may actually be coming over the electrical lines so you might try a different outlet or a noise filter/surge protector.
Sometimes it’s really hard to track down so you’ll have to decide how determined you are. In one case, we had a customer who had static every night at a certain time and it turned out to be a neighbor two houses down that turned on the electric air compressor.
In other cases, it only happens during certain times of the year and it’s actually due to solar flares or other changes in the earth’s atmosphere.
Adding an antenna to a radio that has a noise or static problem may actually make the problem worse because most antennas are amplifiers so it is best to locate the source of the noise first.
It used to be that if you couldn’t locate the source of the static or learn to live with it, you were out of luck but with the dawn of a new era, you now have an additional option. Find out if the station streams. If the station you want to listen to streams its signal, then you may be able to use a WiFi internet radio and listen to the show on this radio static free.
If you have tips to share, please leave a comment.
Stay tuned for the next installment of AM Reception Tips – Myths vs. Facts on AM Reception