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.
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!