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AM Radio Reception

Are you receiving me? How to improve AM radio reception at home

We all know that hiss, crackling or buzzing noise radios makes when the reception is less than perfect. It’ll have you leaping out of your seat and trying to place the aerial at different angles, though this isn’t always guaranteed to work. In the worst case scenario, you can’t even tune your radio after fully extending its aerial and moving from room to room. If this dilemma sounds all too familiar, then Radio Fidelity has the perfect blend of tips and tricks you can use to improve your AM radio reception, and boost the AM radio signal.

Sounds associated with AM radio interference

Before we address the issue of how to improve AM radio reception at home, we’ll first try to identify the type of interference that’s affecting your listening pleasure most.

The most common interferences are:

Hissing: If your radio tends to produce a hissing sound, this could probably be because of a weak signal. This may be the result of being too far from a transmitter, or having large structures between your radio and the signal path. To deal with this accordingly, you might have to invest in  an outdoor antenna, or place your radio closer to the window.

Distorted ‘s’ sounds: This is characterized by ‘s’ and ‘z’ sounds being distorted to ‘shhhh’, and comes about when the signal being transmitted to the listeners receiver uses more than one path. This is usually the result of the cross-interference between signals getting reflected off tall buildings or hills, and direct signals. If this sounds like your ailment, you might want to consider installing a rooftop antenna. This antenna will only pick up direct signals from the transmitter, and avoid any reflected signals that may be bouncing off nearby landscape features.

Twittering: This type of interference normally occurs when your home or workplace is in very close proximity to the transmitter. It is as a result of the radio signal being overloaded. Fortunately, dealing with it requires a very simple fix. All you’d need to do is purchase an attenuator, and have it plugged between the aerial and the aerial socket.

Buzzing: Last but not least we have the buzzing sound, which is normally a sign of electrical interference. This is most likely to be an appliance that’s not too far from where the radio sits. Sorting this out would mean switching the appliance off, moving it, or moving the radio further away from the source of interference.

AM Radio Reception

How to improve AM reception at home

Since this piece is focused on how to improve AM radio reception at home, we’ve narrowed down the list of domestic appliances known to produce radio signals that may interfere with radio reception. These include:

  • Vacuum cleaners
  • TV’s
  • Microwave ovens
  • Fluorescent lights
  • Cell phone chargers
  • Electric blankets
  • Scanners
  • Christmas lights
  • Electronic bug zappers
  • Electric motors
  • Monitors and computers
  • Ultrasonic motion detectors
  • Incandescent lights
  • Electrostatic air purifiers

Confirming that one or more of these appliances is the cause of interference is much easier if you have a portable radio. You’d have to get your radio closer to a microwave oven for example, and observe whether or not the buzzing sound increases as you get closer to it. If this isn’t an option, because your radio doesn’t take batteries, for example, then you could try switching off these appliances individually to see whether or not the reception gets better. You’d have to go about this one at a time until you come across the pesky appliance that makes the most difference to the reception of your radio.

In more involving situations, you could be having a number of interference sources that you really cannot turn off. These include things like hard-wired smoke detectors, aquarium heaters, faulty electrical switches, or even automatic yard lights. In these situations, the best alternative would be to see how you can maximise your radio’s signal reception by applying a few simple tips.

Tips to boost AM radio signal reception at home

To begin with, it’s important to note that the telescopic antenna that is extendable from your radio is only meant for FM radio stations. The one that picks up AM signals is located inside the radio, usually based toward the rear of the until. To improve AM reception, it’d be best to know at least the direction in which the transmitting tower is based, so that you can have the back of the radio faced in that direction. This is because the antenna is built to be directional; meaning that it picks up signals from some directions a lot better than from others. Also, setting your radio near a window is guaranteed to improve your reception, unless you have power lines stretching meters away from your view. This will likely cause interference, in which case it would be better to move your radio as far away from the window as possible.

Lastly, another great hack would be to readjust your equalizer settings – assuming your radio has this feature. For instance, turning up the bass and reducing the treble can help, but this is a relatively severe course of action as it restricts the dynamic range of your appliance. This should help reduce a lot of the distortion, especially if you happen to be listening to a talk show or discussion.

AM Radio Reception

What to purchase to improve AM radio reception

If the hacks that we’ve listed above don’t do much to enhance your reception and listening pleasure, there are a number of add-ons that you could purchase to cut down on AM radio static – and even get better radio reception in a non radio-friendly building. Some of the add-ons you could purchase to deal with AM radio interference include:

Antenna: Trying a better antenna is a sure way to boost your reception. What you need to be sure about however is how much you’re willing to spend. There are antennas that cost a considerable sum of money, and others that are very affordable. The aim however is to ensure that you do not compromise on quality.

Before you head off to the store to look for an external antenna, make sure to check your radio and see whether your radio has an input for an AM antenna. If it does, look for a wire that’s about a foot in length, and attach it to the AM input and see if this improves AM reception.

If you try that and it still doesn’t work, then maybe an AM radio antenna booster, or a loop antenna could be a great alternative. A loop antenna is basically an ordinary radio antenna that is shaped into a loop. This shape allows it to receive radio signals more efficiently. For the best results, we recommend placing the loop antenna in the direction that it could be rolled towards the station if it were a wheel. If you feel like you have the technical ability, you can also learn how to make a simple AM radio booster by checking out resources on YouTube. If you’d rather throw money at the problem, then consider passing by your local TV or electrical repair shop and asking for the best AM radio antenna they have in stock.

One thing you should be wary of is the fact that you’ll need to have sorted out any points of interference that may be causing any radio noise. This might be any of the electrical equipment we listed earlier in this article. Failure to do might mean you’ll get even more interference, regardless of the quality of the AM antenna fitted to your radio.

FM transmitter: For those also wondering about how to get better radio reception in a building, another great alternative is getting an FM radio transmitter. This would essentially turn the FM signal into an AM one and transmit it. All you’d have to do is to plug it into your radio. For this to work however, you’d need to use two radios, so that the second one picks up the signals from the FM transmitter that you’ve attached to the first one.

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Timed radio recording: Timed radio recording is a great alternative for users whose favorite stations only broadcast during the day. It works really well for users who may want to record a daytime program while they sleep or while at work to listen to at night. One way to do this would be through the use of an automatic timer. You’d have to do it by plugging your radio-tape recorder into the anti-burglar timer, and have the anti-burglar timer connected to a wall socket. This way, your radio’s power source is the timer. You’d then have to set the on switch to be the time that your program starts, and the off switch to be the time that it ends. You’d have to leave the play and record buttons simultaneously pressed so that when the time comes, electricity flows through from the timer to the radio thus powering it to start recording. The same concept also applies if you’d like to use your VCR, but this would be a bit more difficult to execute.

Purchasing a better radio: If all else fails, then your last resort would be to purchase a new radio, which has a couple of features that make it suitable for easily picking up AM signals. Two perfect examples include either a shortwave radio or a satellite radio. A shortwave radio would be great because of its ability to pick up signals over very long distances, while a satellite radio picks up its signals from a satellite that’s orbiting the earth. The reception of a satellite radio is better than a conventional radio, though your AM radio service would have to be transmitting to a satellite for this to work best.

AM Radio Reception

Improving your AM reception: Transmitter issues

In some instances, you might actually find out that even after applying most of the tips and tricks that we’ve listed in this guide, your reception is still not as good as you’d want it to be. This might be because of other underlying factors that you really have no control over.

These include:

Daytime broadcasting: The particular station that you enjoy listening to during the day might not be available at night due to the fact that it is a daytime transmitter. This is one of the situations where you’ll just have to wait for daytime to listen to your favorite radio program.

Small transmitter: The AM station that you want to listen to might just not have the required power to transmit a strong signal to your area. The best you could do at this stage might be to purchase a stronger AM radio or antenna. However, you’re still not guaranteed of improving your AM reception.

Directional transmitter antennas: A good number of stations actually tend to focus their transmission on a specific geographical area. This is done to concentrate the signal on areas with the largest population. In other instances, some stations even tend to change their directional pattern at night either to reduce power or to change their broadcasting pattern.

Transmitter location: More often than not, radio stations have their transmitters located away from their base. This may make things confusing especially if the station keeps announcing their presence in “your city”. They do this to appear to have a wider geographical reach, and therefore assert themselves as a station that has a clear authority over their airwaves. If you know of a station that claims to be broadcasting in your location yet you, and those around you can’t seem to capture their signal, then this is likely to be the case.

AM Radio Reception

How to improve reception at home: FAQs

Q: What causes AM radio interference?

AM radio interference is caused by the cross section of AM radio signals and other radio signals, or the presence of any large buildings or hills in the signal path between the transmitter and the radio receiver.

Q: How do I get better AM reception?

You can get better AM reception by using an external antenna such as a loop antenna, placing your radio near the window with its rear facing outside, or switching off/moving away any electrical appliances that have been proven to interfere with your radio’s reception.

Q: How can I improve my home radio reception?

This will depend on what exactly you have established to be the cause of interference with your radio signals. Home reception can however be improved by tuning the bass up and the treble down. This helps in masking reception issues, but comes at a cost in terms of listening experience.

Q: How do I get rid of AM radio static?

By improving your reception, moving the radio away from electrical appliances and supplementing it with a loop aerial. If all attempts to remove static fail, then consider purchasing a satellite or shortwave radio.

Stay tuned to the latest radio industry insights with Radio Fidelity.

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