Improving radio reception

I have a small portable AM/FM radio on the kitchen window sill that I like to listen to while I’m cooking or doing dishes. It picks up the major FM stations decently but when I try to tune in my favorite college radio station way down at the left end of the dial the reception is lousy. I can get it to sound fine while I’m tuning in the station but when I remove my hand from the radio it gets all static on me. Same thing when I move the antenna. As long as I’m holding it reception is clear. But let go, and …static. Any way to improve reception?

One small bump for Peanuthead. One giant bump for mankind.

You are talking about FM, right? You say you can “move the antenna,” but is it external or internal? If there’s an external antenna connection on the back, try getting a simple dipole antenna from Radio Shack and mounting it as high as you can. Orientation can be important, too.

I have this problem too, with an NPR station way down near the left end of the dial. I’ve often wondered if it could be something atmospheric-related, since it seems to happen most often for a couple weeks in the spring and again in the fall. (It’s how I know fund-raising time is near, when I start losing reception!)

I was told (and later started a thread here about it here) that putting opposing magnets around the base of the antenna improve reception. I don’t know if it works, but this sounds like a great opportunity to test it out.

Please give the magnet idea a try and report back to me.

When you are touching the radio, you are bringing your body closer to the antenna, which kinda/sorta helps the antenna. I took a few classes in this back in college, and could dig out the books and try to explain the antenna theory and electromagnetics, but you’d fall asleep before I finished this post. :smiley:

Anyway, the best thing for antennas is altitude. The higher the antenna, the more signal it can pull in. Obstructions like buildings, trees, other ground clutter, and the curvature of the earth weaken signal strength–thus, people antennae up high to avoid all that. The next best thing is length. Yeah, you could run a mile of wire in your house, but that’d be overkill.

What I’d recommend, is that you find a piece of wire: either speaker wire, thin guage electrical wire (braided, preferably), or something similar, and thumbtack it into the top corner of the window frame discreetly. Or if you’ve got that much gumption, run it out the window and up the side of the house. Get it up as high as you can, and then tie the lowest end into the radio antenna.

Long story short: I build a shortwave reciever last year. A 10’ antenna strung up to the ceiling of my garage was okay. But then I bought speaker wire, and ran it through the rafters of my house. I got much better reception after that.

Tripler
::looks back:: Oh man, I tend to get longwinded at 6:30AM.

Does this radio have a single rabbit ear? If so, here’s how you can (maybe) improve reception. At the left end of the dial, say around 90 MHz, the wavelength is about 11 feet. Cut a piece of wire about 3/4 of this, or 8 feet 3 inches, and strip off an inch or so of the insulation. If you use something like speaker wire, strip both conductors and twist them together. Then twist the bare wire around the base of the rabbit ear, as close to the radio body as you can. Extend the rabbit ear as long as possible away from the radio, and extend the wire in the other direction.

Here’s a crappy ASCII picture:




  _________wire________________________ ________ant.___
                              _________V_
                             |           |
                             |   radio   |
                             |___________|


I did this with a radio in college, and it did help noticeably with reception.

A recent similar thread here: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=486571

Thanks for the replies. Shoeless, I think you may be onto something there, because the same station may come in okay for a while and then drift off on me. Atmosphere, sunspots, gremlins. Who knows? Sigene, I tried the magnets and they didn’t do anything. I was really hoping they’d work because it’s the easiest solution. ZenBeam, your solution looks promising. I’ll go scrounge around the basement for a length of wire and give it a try. Wish me luck! Thanks again all.

IF we’re talking about FM, not AM or shortwave, then the length, orientation and shape is important. Radio Shack used to sell a simple dipole sized and shaped for FM frequencies. It’s only made of 300 ohm TV antenna lead (TV and FM freqs are similar) and is dirt cheap. It should work better than a random “length of wire”. (I don’t see that product in the current Radio Shack catalog; but here’s one.) There are also RF amplified antennas.

That said, it’s entirely possible that your random length of wire will be enough to put your signal over the top and make it sufficient.

If magnets work, try them in your shoes to cure bunions and make you run faster. I’ve heard that works. :rolleyes: