Tips for Improving FM Reception

Tuning in an FM station isn’t the same as tuning in an AM station. That’s why, when you have a reception issue, the first thing you’re usually asked is “Which band or station are you trying to receive?”. FM transmissions are line-of-sight. That means that obstacles between you and the transmission you’re trying to receive can block the signal and leave you with poor reception on your radio. A hill, a coliseum, big buildings – all these things can get in the way of your FM reception and even leave you hearing the effects of multi-path interference. You get multipath interference when a signal meets an obstacle of some sort, such as a mountain. Depending on the broadcast strength, the signal might get absorbed or reflected by the mountain. Due to these issues your radio will end up with poor reception as the different paths taken by the reflected signal arrive at your receiver at different intervals.

Fortunately, multi-path interference usually happens when you’re in your car, so it tends to be pretty easy to overcome by finishing your drive around a city loop or the base of a mountain. Still, some people might experience all kinds of radio interference at home as well. That’s where a better antenna might do the trick.

Most portable radios have a whip or telescoping antenna that works fairly well when the radio is set close to a window and away from sources of significant interference. However, if you always have the whip antenna fully extended, you may not be getting the reception you’re expecting. Sometimes you’ll get better reception for a certain station when the whip antenna isn’t fully extended.

Occasionally, pulling in the cleanest signal is accomplished by trial and error. You can experiment by extending the antenna to different lengths and also pointing it in different directions (if the radio’s antenna is designed to rotate, of course).

yagi antennaIf playing around with the antenna or moving the radio around doesn’t improve your reception as much as you like, you may need to move toward a more powerful indoor or outdoor antenna. An outdoor unidirectional antenna, also known as a Yagi, is a powerful option. A Yagi looks like a rooftop TV antenna and is ideal for tuning in distant stations and for reducing multipath interference. By aiming the Yagi at the signal you want to capture, you can tune out most types of interference – be it from competing signals, buildings or a weak signal.

Another alternative in outdoor antennas is an omnidirectional FM antenna. Though omnidirectional antennas might not reduce interference as much as unidirectional antennas, their ability to pick up stations cleanly from all directions make them a good choice for overall reception.

If you don’t have access to the outside of your building, you might want to go for a good dipole antenna. These T-shaped antennas offer pretty decent reception indoors and are easy to hide if necessary. C. Crane carries the FM Reflect antenna.

There’s often confusion around how to connect an external FM antenna to a radio that doesn’t have external FM antenna jacks. We’ve created this diagram to give you an idea of what these jacks might look like.

Whichever antenna you choose, be sure you’ve tried some basic things first. Sometimes just switching to mono rather than stereo, or putting a portable radio in a different location, can improve reception. You might also be lucky enough to improve your reception by just attaching a simple wire to the external FM antenna jacks. If these quick and easy solutions don’t work for you, or if you can hear a signal in your car but not indoors, you may want to consider one of the antennas mentioned above.

Can You Boost Your WiFi Signal?

wifilaptopwithwomanSeems like this would be a really easy question to answer, but there are so many variables and pieces to this puzzle that it can sometimes become overwhelming. We’re here to help you break it down and simplify the process.

You’ll want to answer a few questions to get you started on the right path:

  • What are you trying to accomplish?
    • Are you wanting to share internet with a neighbor?
    • Do you want your child to be able to stream movies in the WiFi devices in their room?
    • Do you want whole house WiFi access?
    • Access the RV Park signal that’s 300 feet away?
  • Where do you want the signal to go?
    • This relates to question one, but you’d be amazed at how many people don’t have the answer for this.
  • What do you want to connect?
    • You’ll need specifics, makes, models, number of devices.

These may seem like straight forward questions, but correctly and honestly answering them can save you hours of frustration by getting you the right solution the first time. Below is a guide you can print out and use for reference when talking to anyone about possible WiFi solutions:

  • Do you have WiFi already? (This is a service that is often set up when you get broadband internet, possibly by your cable or cellular phone provider).
    • (This is a service that is often set up when you get broadband internet, possibly by your cable or cellular phone provider).
      • If Yes, what kind of router do you have? The make and model and knowing whether it has removable antennas or not can help you make an informed decision.
        • Some common brands are D-Link, NetGear and Linksys.
      • If No, how do you plan to access WiFi? Are you using public WiFi (like something at an RV park, coffee shop or hotel). You will not want to purchase any kind of accessory until you know how you are going to connect to WiFi
        • If you plan to use public WiFi there are several nuances you may encounter, we will save those for a different article.
  • Now that you know what router or WiFi access you have, where is it located in relation to where you’re trying to receive the signal? If the location is your house or office a rough diagram will help, especially with approximate distances. Is it 100 feet away through 4 walls and a refrigerator? Is it in the middle of your home but you’re trying to receive in the garage or the mother-in-law cottage next door which is 300 feet away? The more details you have about how far away and what’s in the way (walls, trees, levels of your home etc.) the better the solution will be. If it’s the coffee shop signal you want receiving may be more difficult.
  • The most important part is – what do you want to connect? The reason this is important is some devices like laptops can install drivers. Other devices like tablets, smartphones and gaming systems can’t. Those that cannot eliminate several possibilities for boosting WiFi. If you are planning on using the solution with a laptop, you will also need to know what operating system and version (this would be Windows 7 or MAC OS 9). If you want to connect multiple devices that narrows the solution options significantly.
    • Keep in mind that devices are only tested for operating systems that are currently available at the time the device is created. Sometimes drivers can be updated to work with new operating systems. Sometimes no updates are needed but other times major changes make older devices incompatible with new operating systems. Please be cautious when upgrading operating systems.

Now that you know the details, you can begin to look for the right solution.

  • For computers and laptops, you can choose from one of the USB antennas that connect directly to the USB port on your computer.
  • For routers with removable antennas, you can upgrade to a larger antenna system.
  • For creating a hotspot that multiple devices can connect to (such as smartphones and tablets), a repeater system would be a good place to start.
  • For specialty situations that are a distance of more than a few hundred feet or that require multiple access points (like a hotel or multi-office setup) a standard or custom bridge kit may be needed.

One more consideration: Not all makes and models are designed to work together (especially if you’re purchasing parts from multiple vendors). Compatibility issues may cause sub-par performance. Make sure to do your research and if you have any doubts, ask questions before making the final decision.

We’ve put together this really great chart to help you figure out the best solution for your situation. Still not sure what to do? Use the worksheet above that you’ve completed and give us a call. We can only advise you on solutions that we sell but we can certainly tell you if we don’t have anything that will work for what you’re trying to accomplish.

Not looking to purchase anything right now, here’s some ideas for boosting your WiFi for free.

What is your WiFi challenge? Tell us in the comments and you will be entered to win the Super WiFi Repeater Kit. One entry per person. Drawing will take place on June 1st.

Congratulations to Scott Goggin for winning the Super WiFi Repeater Kit on June 1st. Thank you all who participated! ! C. Crane

AM Reception Tips – Part 3 – Tips for Tricky Reception Areas

One of the toughest places to get radio reception is inside an office or apartment building. Construction materials like brick and metal, and noise from computers and other electronics can all combine to make radio reception nearly impossible to receive. Besides the construction of the building, you sometimes have to account for your location in the building as well. Often people are allowed to listen to music or radio while they work but a radio can be rendered useless by all the interference. Below are some possible solutions to this issue:

Conventional Solution:
The simplest way to improve radio reception it to put a radio in a window. If you can’t do that you still have several options. First using a CCRadio-2E, with its sensitive AM capabilities, is often enough to improve radio reception. If you’ve already done that, you can try running a wire from your radio to an antenna in a window. You could also try running cable along the floor or through the ceiling, or you could even wrap it around a few co-workers if you like (just kidding). But really, running a coax cable (like TV cable) from your radio to a well situated antenna might just do the trick. Two antennas to consider for this type of setup are the Twin Coil Ferrite® AM Antenna or the FM Reflect. If you have an “in” with the super, you might even be able to mount an antenna just outside your window. Not interested in purchasing an antenna? Try building your own for free, using our simple antenna plans.

conventional-solutionWireless Solution:
If you can’t imagine setting up a bunch of wires in your office or home, or it’s just too much trouble to get a cable to run cleanly along the floor or the ceiling, you’re not alone. Another possible solution – go wireless. You can set up any radio that receives the station you want next to the window or in the location you receive the signal. Then plug our FM Transmitter-2 into the headphone jack. You can then send that clear signal – be it AM or FM, to any radio that is strategically placed around your home or office. If you opt for the FM transmitter solution, you can expect up to a 45-ft range in an office setting. That will probably drop about 10 feet for every wall or large object the signal has to pass through. You can view our FAQs to see additional ways to improve the transmit range.cc2-fm-trans-1-500WiFi Internet Solution:
If you have broadband access you can opt for one of our WiFi Internet radios that stream a variety of content. You’ll just want to check and make sure that the show or station you want to listen to is available prior to purchasing. We’ve written several articles explaining in great detail the pros and cons of internet radio and what kind of content you might hear to help you decide if that’s the right solution for you.

Bluetooth Solution:
If you know what you want to listen to is available on an app, like iHeart or TuneIn, you can use your Bluetooth enabled device (such as a smartphone or tablet) with our Senta Ally Bluetooth®  Speaker. It provides much better sound than phones or tablets. Here’s a quick video to explain how it might work for you.

You can also check out Reception Tips 1- Radio Noise Problems & Static and Reception Tips 2 – How to Improve AM Reception and Boost the Signal.

And of course, if you need help figuring out the right solution for you, we’re always here to help.