One of the main reasons why most people dislike listening to AM radios is poor AM signals. Is there a way to boost AM radio reception at home? Yeah, there are and this article explores different ways you can get better AM radio reception at home.
Amplitude Modulation (AM) radio is still popular among radio operators for talk shows, news, sports, and broadcasting; although it has lost its golden glory. Although the rise in modern tech gadgets like smartphones and tablets closed the door of radios, the inferior audio quality is also a culprit. Static and noise in AM signals literally kill the joy of listening to AM radio stations. The hissing, buzzing, and crackling that you hear on your radio is actually a result of interference that may arise from appliances like microwaves, TVs, and monitors. If you’re facing a similar dilemma, there are a few techniques you can employ to receive the strongest signal possible!
What causes poor AM radio reception?
Interference is the key reason for poor AM reception at homes. Several domestic appliances emit signals that may interfere with your AM radio’s reception. These include television, microwave oven, vacuum, dimmer lamps, cellphone chargers, and computers and monitors. Other equipments that may hamper AM signal reception are heaters, fluorescent and Christmas lights, scanners, street lights, and power lines.
Besides electrical appliances, interference may also result from factors such as environment, weather, and positioning of the radio and its antenna. A mountain or tall building may restrict your communication by blocking AM signals. Find out what’s interfering by moving your radio closer to these appliances and observing whether the hissing increases. If yours isn’t a portable transceiver, try switching off the appliances to see if reception improves. Here’s how to identify the type of interference from the sound you’re receiving:
Hissing and buzzing
When an AM radio produces a hissing sound, it’s probably because of a weak signal because the transmitter may be far away or due to obstructions between the radio and signal path. You can overcome this issue and improve reception by opting for an outdoor antenna. Alternately, bring your radio closer to the window or an open space.
A buzzing sound is a sign of electrical interference. As mentioned above, it’s usually a result of interference from nearby appliances. Try moving the radio away from the source or switch off the appliance when using the radio.
Sound distortion on the AM band happens when a user’s receiver uses over one path. You may hear it as a ‘shhh’ sound in place of ‘s’ and ‘z’ sounds. But, why does this happen? This cross-interference results when signals get reflected off by obstructions like tall buildings and hills. If you’re facing a similar issue, it’s a good idea to set up a rooftop antenna as it will pick direct signals and will prevent reflecting of signals.
How to improve AM radio reception?
If you’re looking to cut down on static and enhance the AM signal reception at home, here’s what you need to do.
Purchase the right radio
The first step to improve the AM receptions should start by replacing the AM radio, if it’s an old one. If you have a worn-down radio and you’re looking to upgrade, make sure your next purchase is suitable for picking AM signals. If your previous radio was of lower quality, that’s probably why you weren’t able to pick stronger signals. Older analog models are affordable but are more prone to interference due to weather disturbances. Therefore, digital AM radios are a more reliable choice for stronger signals.
The features you should look for are a shortwave or satellite radio. That’s because a shortwave radio can pick signals even from vast distances. A satellite radio, as the name suggests, picks signals from satellites orbiting the earth. Compared to your conventional radios, satellite radio has the best signal reception. However, it’s only useful for AM radio services transmitting to a satellite.
Get a better antenna
An antenna is the most crucial part of any radio system, as it helps boost reception. If you’re looking to boost the reception on your existing AM radio system, then purchasing a better antenna is the way to go. However, this costs a lot of money; although you can also get antennas that are priced considerably low, but that would mean a trade-off between price and quality.
- The first step is to find out if your AM radio supports an external antenna.
- What you need is an antenna booster or a loop antenna to pick better AM radio signals.
- When you’re using an antenna booster, you will need to first rule out any other source of interference. That’s because even if you upgrade your AM system, you’ll still continue to have poor reception.
And, if you don’t have the budget for a new antenna, you can take up the DIY antenna project. With some basic materials, you can try your hands at making an AM radio antenna.
FM radio transmitter
Besides upgrading the antenna, another way to improve AM radio reception within a building is by getting an FM radio transmitter. The job of the transmitter is to transform the FM signal into AM ones. But, for this method to work, you will need two devices, one that picks signals, and one that transmits it.
Weak signals at night
Certain stations that are available during the day may not be available to listen to at night. That’s because it’s a daytime transmitter. You can only wait till the next day to tune into them and listen to your favorite talk show program.
If your desired AM station doesn’t have enough power to transmit a powerful signal to your location, then what you need is a stronger radio and antenna.
Directional transmitter antennas
Some AM radio stations target their transmissions on a specific geographical location by concentrating their signals on highly populated areas. On the other hand, some stations change their directional broadcasting pattern at night to decrease power. The unclear transmissions you’re receiving may be because your radio is faced in the opposite direction. Therefore, you need to change the direction of your radio and/or antenna to pick these signals better.
One little secret that you may not know is that some radio station transmitters are actually far from their base. So, while you may think they’re in your city, in reality, they’re far off. That’s because the station wants to appear as having a larger reach over a vast geographical area. That’s one reason your AM radio may not be picking the signals despite the station appearing to be from within your city. Try using a stronger radio or antenna. However, keep in mind; you may still cannot pick those far off signals, even with an improved AM antenna.
Consult an expert
If you tried the abovementioned techniques to no avail, the best thing to do is to consult an expert to investigate the radio. If you feel the device needs repairing, do not, under any circumstances, attempt to disassemble the device yourself. Doing so can damage the fragile components and may cause permanent damage. A trained handyperson will effectively identify and resolve the issue. The repairman will also look for parts that may need replacement due to wear and tear.
Tips for reducing AM radio interference
- One of the most important steps is to choose the right antenna. The telescopic, extendable antenna is designed for FM band use. The AM antenna is typically within the radio.
- Ideally, find out the direction of the transmitting tower to reduce interference and enhance reception. AM antenna pick up signals better when they’re coming from a certain direction, because they are designed to be directional. Therefore, facing your radio in the direction of the transmitting tower can do a lot to improve reception.
- Keep your radio away from any device that may cause electrical interference. You should also set your device away from any material that may weaken the signal, such as concrete, steel, and other obstructions.
- If you’re still receiving poor signals, switch to a station that’s within your coverage area.
- If you talk to any expert, they’ll recommend setting up your receiver by the window as it improves reception significantly. That’s because AM signals are affected by bricks, concrete, and aluminum siding.
- However, you may want to note that if you have power lines nearby, it will cause interference as buzzing sounds. In such a situation, you will need to set up your system further away from the window.
- Readjusting equalizer settings is another fantastic way to reduce interference. Setting up the bass, while turning down the treble, can make the signals sound clearer. However, keep in mind; this may limit your device’s dynamic range.
- If you are facing recpetion issues in car, you can read this article on improving your car’s AM radio reception.
Improving AM radio reception becomes necessary when you’re dealing with weak signals, buzzing, hissing, and distorted sounds. To enhance audio quality and signal reception, what you’ll need is a powerful radio and a better antenna. This shall help you pick signals better. If your budget doesn’t allow a high-quality antenna, you can build one yourself through basic material, such as an insulated copper wire. Other tips and tricks include changing the location of your device and antenna along with setting the radio away from electrical appliances.
The Sangean WR-11 is a fine-looking AM radio with a rich sound profile and the perfect choice for long-distance reception. Pair it with the TERK AM Antenna for a premium radio experience. The antenna’s air coil technology works to differentiate between AM and FM signals. It receives signals without any adjustments.