AM Reception Tips – Part 2 – How to Improve AM Reception and Boost the Signal, By: Dan Van Hoy K7DAN

Whether you are a casual AM radio listener or a radio hobbyist trying to hear distant or low-powered stations, there are many steps you can take to improve AM reception. Before we focus on a few of those steps, let’s take a look at a few myths and misconceptions.

AM RADIO MISCONCEPTIONS

Misconception: The retractable antenna of a radio works for AM. The whip antenna attached to AM/FM or AM/FM/Shortwave radios is not connected to the AM circuit and has virtually no effect on AM reception.

tca from radio

Ferrite Bar AM Antenna found inside a radio

Misconception: You should receive the same AM reception in your home that you receive in your car. Most cars have reasonably good antennas and receivers for AM.  Your car radio will sometimes outperform your portable radio in the house because the car body and antenna together form a very efficient aerial which is outside with no physical objects in the way and is far from noise sources found at home and around buildings. On the other hand, depending on the situation, a high-performance AM radio might equal or outperform a car radio.

TIPS FOR BETTER AM RECEPTION

One of the best ways of improving AM reception is experimenting with different placement and orientation of the radio inside or outside the house.  A little extra effort can lead to improved signals by reducing noise and increasing signal levels.

Almost all AM radios have a built-in antenna.  The antenna i s made of a ferrite bar or rod with one or more coils of very fine insulated wire wrapped around it.  The combination of the ferrite bar and coils of wire make the antenna tunable at the low frequencies used for AM broadcasting. These AM radio antennas are highly directional.  Depending upon how the radio is oriented, you can reduce noise, boost signals or both by just moving the radio around.  So, if the station you want is weak, just move the radio around in a half or full circle to see where it gets stronger and then leave it there.  Moving the radio near a window, especially if you are in a brick, concrete or stucco building may help as well. Also, to help improve the AM reception you can couple your radio with  a good AM antenna signal booster. An antenna is ideal for boosting most AM radio reception problems.

If you know the direction the station is broadcasting from, then your location can make this process a little easier by aiming the front or back of the radio towards that signal. If you don’t know where the transmitter site of a particular radio station is located, call the station and ask. Often the studio is downtown and the transmitter many miles outside the city. If you try some or all of these techniques and still can’t receive the station you want, do your best to reduce interference from noise sources and static and consider buying or making an external antenna that will boost the signal for you.

SOLUTIONS TO A FEW COMMON PROBLEMS

PROBLEM: Good AM signal in the daytime, poor signal at night, or vice versa.

Possible Solution(s): Some AM stations operate daytime hours only or go to lower power levels at night. Others actually change the direction of their signals after dark. A good source for station information, listening distance or range is radiolocator.com. If you don’t have access to the internet you could call the station to confirm their operating hours and ask about night time power reduction. If you live outside the prime coverage area of an AM station you may also hear other stations on the same channel at nighttime that are stronger. Try adjusting the orientation of your radio for possible improvement. This will help to block out those offending signals that override yours.

Stations that have poor signals in the daytime (at your location) but good signals at night are generally because they are far away. They benefit from nighttime conditions on the AM band that often favor distant stations that operate on high power and can reach you easier at night. For a solution to this problem, give the tips we mentioned earlier a try or add an external antenna.

PROBLEM: I can receive the station at work, but cannot at home, which is only five miles away. What’s up?

Possible Solution(s):  Again, some AM stations have very directional signals that cover a very specific area. It’s possible your home is in a weak signal area for that particular station. Mountains and forests between you and the station transmitter can also reduce signal levels, even if the difference is only a few miles.

PROBLEM: The station I want to receive is in Georgia and I am in California.

Possible Solution(s) : This one is easy. Check the stations website to see if the station streams on the Internet. If it does you could try a WiFi radio and listen 24/7 with no static or interference.

Let us know if we can be of any assistance with your radio questions. Happy listening!

C. Crane Attends Public Media Conference in Atlanta

My colleague Jessyca and I (yes, two Jessica’s, just with different spelling) had the pleasure of experiencing some real southern hospitality while attending the Public Media Conference put on in Atlanta July 2013. Talk about a change of pace from California. Don’t get me wrong; I love a lot of things about California but Atlanta was a fantastic city to visit. The people there were so incredibly friendly and everything felt like it was taken down a few notches. We didn’t notice everyone rushing to get to places or connected to an electronic device as much.

I did not have much personal experience with public radio or television outside of a significant amount of Sesame Street on our local PBS station. Jessyca listens to a local NPR station (KHSU) on a regular basis. We were both blown away with how connected these public radio stations are to their listeners. In thinking about it, it makes sense because many are directly dependent on their listeners to stay on air.

We attended as an exhibitor to offer our C. Crane products to stations as premiums for their pledge drives. The number one question we experienced was “Do you have an HD radio?” Many stations have invested a significant amount of money in HD only to have the problem of their listeners not being able to receive the HD signal because they can’t find a device to receive it on.

C Crane Booth Atlanta Public Media Conference

C Crane Booth at Atlanta Public Media Conference

When we answered “No.”, the second question was usually, “Why not?” The short answer is, most of our customers want good AM and FM reception and the HD radios we previously carried or tested do not play nicely with AM (if they even have it at all). The other problem was the return rate. The return rate for us was double to triple our average product return rate. Often the radio was returned because it was thought to be defective when in reality the HD signal radius is just a much smaller footprint. Our experience was that unless you were in about a 10 – 15 mile radius you were unlikely to receive the signal.

One station manager who recently invested in HD, summed it up for us as HD being like BETA when there was BETA and VHS. Whether this is true or not, remains to be seen but my boss, Mr. Crane, has been talking about the potential issues with HD for quite some time. We actually wrote a couple of articles about it back in its inception. We’ll write more in a future post about HD Radio.

Outside of HD, there was a lot of interest in the CC Solar Observer and our CC WiFi Internet radio. With the era of corporate radio consolidation, many of these public radio stations are the only stations that actually have backup power and local staff to stay on air during an emergency. Several of them are located in areas that experience tornadoes or hurricanes every year so offering an emergency radio to their listeners makes a lot of sense. The CC WiFi is an interesting solution to the HD issue since many of the stations also stream the HD content, this radio is a viable solution for listeners to receive the signal. It was a lot of fun to get to demonstrate our products and interact with people who love radio as much as we do.

We can’t think of a better way of serving the radio community than supporting public media. We were honored and humbled to be a part of such a great show and of such a great community. We offered a drawing at the show for participants and we wanted to congratulate the winners:

Jennifer Brake, St. Louis Public Radio
Patrick Smith, WPSU Penn State
Lisa Beckman, WUOT 91.9fm

Atlanta Skyline

Beautiful Night Sky Atlanta!

If you have a favorite Public Radio or Television show or if you just love Atlanta, please leave a comment and let us know,!