Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Radio reception Tips

As much as I encourage people to listen to their local non-coms; I thought I should chastise less and prod more. So here is a set of tips and products to improve your radio listening pleasure. FM radio reception can be iffy, especially in the educational portion [88.1-91.9] of the radio dial. AM can be even worse of course due to nighttime-fade-out etc.. There are hundreds of web-pages out there welling toys to improve reception. These run the gamut from utter crap to expensive over kill, to expensive crap.
Let's make this ridiculously simple:
1. Get a good tuner
2. Get a good antenna
3. Position them well
4. Trouble-shooting

1. GETTING A GOOD TUNER
The first step toward quality FM/stereo reception is a quality FM tuner or receiver. However, even with the best equipment money can buy, your tuner may not produce as good a sound as an inexpensive mono FM portable. But, small mono FM radios can still sound good because the speaker will filters out some noise and distortion. There are many good brands of Am/FM tuner. I like the Parasound TDQ1600 and also the Fanfare FT-1A
http://www.fanfare.com/ft1a-sht.html
http://www.parasound.com/service_information/owners_manuals/pdfs/tdq1600om.pdf

2. GETTING A GOOD ANTENNA (FM)
If you have a good receiver you should match it up with a good antenna. Indoors I reccomend a simple dipole wire. You can buy these at radio shack for $2.00. Remember to mount at a 45 degree angle to the wall! For outdoor FM I reccomend a nice Omni from Katherein Scala, or Winegard. If that's too pricey for you there are kits available that are kind of fun if you're into BDSM. Fanfare makes an FM whip antenna tuned fort precision in the educational band, it underperforms at the top of the FM band, but that's not usually where the problems lie.
http://www.winegard.com/offair/prostar1000vhffmyagi.htm#6010
http://www.kathrein-scala.com/catalog/FMO.pdf http://www.fanfare.com/fm-2g-c.html

2. GETTING A GOOD ANTENNA (AM)
For AM antennas I reccomend any of the following. In my experience unless you intend to run ~2250 feet of cable across the back yard, you should focus on positioning. here are some models I have tried with success. Again you can make your own loop. It;s not that hard really. I found a guy online who made one in a hula-hoop.
Outdoor:
Belar LP-1A
http://www.belar.com/AM/lp1.htm
The ramsey Signal Magnet (also indoor)
http://www.ramseyelectronics.com/cgi-bin/commerce.exe?preadd=action&key=SM100 another sheilded loop
http://www.mwpersons.com/RFSystems.html

Indoor:
Select-A-Tenna Model 541-M
http://www.selectatenna.com/
ANY HOMEBREW BOX LOOP THEY ARE ALL THE DAMN SAME:
http://www.frontiernet.net/~jadale/My%20Loop%20Antennas.htm

3. POSITION THEM WELL
Mount FM and AM antennas outdoors above the roof line and if possible above the treeline. If not possible try to at least get away from obvious sources of interference: the Air conditioner, powerlines, LCD screens, Transformers, electric fans etc. AM loop antennas are directional, turn them until they sound best. Positoning is not complicated, only tedious. If you encounter interference, try to get as far from it as possible, and/or sheild your cable run. Quad sheilded coaxial cable will do the job. And don't forget to goround your outdoor antennas so you dont burn down your damn house.

4. TROUBLESHOOTING
Read this: http://www.klcc.org/resources/reception.html
or email me and/or respond to this post.