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!

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

  1. Andy N4UKP Says:

    I listen to am oldies day and night while driving my car. Always reading c crane website for info on am antennas.

  2. Christopher B. Bailly Says:

    I especially enjoy the EP, for speech users spelled E P, for its budget price, built in sensitivity and selectivity adjustments, good reception on both bands, and that it gets a weak repeater of the NOAA Weather Service on AM locally here at 760 with the right fine tuning and placement of the radio. Showed a friend how to get the same signal in her car, no need for her to have a specialized weather radio. Can neutralize noise by carefully positioning radio. Can enjoy DX or distant reception again., even from within apartment building.

    • Mackke Mathieu Says:

      Did you say that the EP radio has a separate selectivity adjustment?
      I would be interested in getting an EP radio if it did indeed have a
      dedicated Selectivity adjustment knob, because where I live there are
      lots of am stations, and it’s hard to avoid stations over-bleeding into
      other stations. Are you sure there is a Selectivity control? That usually
      requires that a radio have Dual Conversion capability. That’s one thing
      that disturbs me about the C.Crane company. If they are serious about
      designing and producing really top notch portable radios, every model they
      produce should have the Dual Conversion feature, and not just one or two of
      their costliest models. It can’t cost more than a couple of extra dollars per radio
      to equip >>every<< C.Crane radio model with Dual Conversion. If the EP radio
      has D.C.,I will buy it right away. I NEED extra strength selectivity in MY situation,
      but I don't want their large, heavy portables that have it. Just sayin'…

  3. Tom Schulte Says:

    All well and good – as they say.
    I have a slightly different challenge – it’s called AM reception when driving a VAN.
    Last 2 radios worked below average, but acceptable – sort of the discouraging band.
    My newest radio (first a Kenwood, replaced with a Sony) receive ‘0.00’ reception.
    The antenna booster – I’ve tried 2 different mfrs. got reception to @ 5%. I.E., I know it’s Rush Limbaugh (great), but could not understand a sentence. Is this as good as it gets in 2013?

    • jmartinez1222 Says:

      HI Tom! Thanks for the comment. We don’t have much information about car radios and antennas anymore but what I can suggest is taking your van to a local car audio shop to make sure the ground is set up correctly on the vehicle. Sometimes that really makes a difference in reception. Sorry I couldn’t help better, vehicle radios/stereos are really difficult to directly determine the problem.

  4. Chip Bond Says:

    moving my radio is not an option I have separate issues the first 1 is my home radios I have several radios in my home 1 is a combo CD player and radio boom box I have tried moving it with no improvement and I have tried attaching an AM circular hoop antenna with the result being no improvement the other unit is a multi function stereo receiver I have also tried the antenna with no improvement one of the issues is that units are unable to “lock” into a signal the radio station I am trying to tune in is about 35 miles north of home additionally in my car there are certain “dead zones” where I completely lose the signal even though these “dead zones ” are actually physically closer to the radio station than areas further away that receives a strong signal obviously changing direction to face the radio station is not feasible as I will never get anywhere but points north and will eventually drive into Lake Erie I am wondering if the radio station transmitter is just sending weak signals but it’s a nationally owned sports radio station


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