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Improving FM Reception
If you are reading this, you must probably are in a fringe
area, where reception is either poor or variable. The bulk of the
following information is centered on low cost ideas for improving your
individual reception. There is no substitute for a high quality
radio or component receiver though, many boom boxes were designed for
large city reception areas and are simply not able to pull in distant
signals with ease.
Factors Affecting Reception
FM radio waves can be affected by many factors
ranging from terrain to equipment. In general, FM transmissions are lines
of sight — similar to light waves. Unless an object (building,
ridge, mountain, etc) is between you and us, you should have clear
reception from the transmitter. Reception becomes a factor of the strength
of the signal, as much as your location in relation to the transmitter.
KEDU-LP is a low power community station by definition and is licensed for
sixteen watts of stereo power from an elevation of 7,560 feet on Pikes
Peak Road, opposite the Swiss Chalet Hotel on Mechem.
The following are some suggestions for improving home
reception through the addition or adjustment of receiving antennas. These
methods may or may not work in all cases, but improving your antenna is the single best
solution to reception problems (short of moving or installing a
translator). The solutions offered here range from things you can do
free, to equipment you can purchase. We are not selling equipment, just
passing along tidbits of verified reception lore for your listening
Antennas: Some General Concepts
- An antenna is a “collector” of radio signals that improves your
reception by providing more signal than would be otherwise supplied to
- An outdoor antenna is preferable to an indoor antenna.
- A high location is better, whether it be the roof, a hill out back,
or the top shelf of a bookcase.
- Many things in a house can affect reception, so as a first step, try
your radio or antenna in different spots in the house.
- YOU are an antenna! If you improve reception by standing near or
touching the radio or antenna, your system is telling you it needs a
- A rotorized (pointable) antenna is preferable to a stationary
Determine whether or not your radio has antenna
terminals for attachment of an antenna. These would appear as:
Otherwise, your radio has either an internal antenna
that you can’t see or a telescoping antenna. Either way, skip ahead to the
section “No Antenna Terminals.”
Connecting an Antenna to Your Radio
There are two different types of antenna cable, flat
two-conductor wire known as “twin lead” that is 300 ohms, or round plastic
coated wire that is known as “coaxial” or “coax” that is 50-75 ohms. Coax
is what cable companies use. It is a much better cable, but it is more
expensive. You’ll have to decide which to use if you are installing a new
antenna or cable. Other than conducting a stronger signal, coax is useful
in situations requiring the elimination of interference cause by nearby
electric motors, computers, etc. We’d be glad to advise you.
If you have a TV antenna already installed, purchase
a “FM Splitter” at our local Radio Shack Store. Follow the instructions, hooking
up the “FM output” of the splitter to the radio and using the “TV output”
to restore the connection to your TV. Experiment attaching wires to one
screw and then the other to see what gets the best reception; the only
rule is “do whatever works best”.
If you receive your TV signal via a cable system and
your TV antenna is unused, then just hook it up to your antenna terminals
on the radio and you should have dramatically better reception. If your
cable system has an FM service, find out if KEDU is carried. If it is, you
may want to subscribe to the FM service and eliminate any antennas, or use
them in conjunction with the cable service; if it is not carried you may
want to lobby your cable company to add KEDU to the FM service. Often
cable companies are able to furnish very good signals at great distances
from station transmitters.
If you are still experiencing reception problems
after connecting an antenna, consider:
installing a motorized rotor to move your antenna
dedicating an FM antenna to permanently point to
Pikes Peak Hill or,
dreaming up some unique arrangement allowing for
pointing the antenna.
Using a Di-Pole Antenna
Di-poles are T-shaped wire antennas made for indoor
use. You can buy them in many hardware or radio supply stores, and they are
Attach the bottom leg of the T to the antenna
terminals of your radio (experiment while attaching) and then play with
the location of the T. The placement of the T is critical to the
performance of the di-pole.
If you are really bold, or crave KEDU reception on a
budget, you can make a custom di-pole. The advantage is that you can
greatly increase a di-pole’s effectiveness by its size and/or placement
outside! You’ll need some of the twin lead cable we mentioned earlier.
The custom di-pole you make will be a T just like the
ready-made you might buy, except you’ll be able to tailor it to your
needs. However, you need to abide by these, or multiples of these,
dimensions; the top bar should be 5'1" or 10'2" or 15'3" or 20'4", etc.
and the bottom leg must connect at the middle of that top bar (2'6", etc.)
You can drape custom di-pole over the roof of your house, or climb the
tree in your front yard and tie it to the appropriate branches (of course,
experimenting tirelessly to find the proper orientation of the di-pole for
best reception). Twin lead is so cheap that you may find yourself quite
proud of the dramatic improvement in reception for a bit of time, but very
little money. However, don’t kid yourself about the effectiveness of a
custom di-pole versus a traditional metal TV/FM antenna.
Cut an appropriate length of twin for the top bar. In
the middle of that length cut one of the two conductors and strip back the
plastic coating. Now connect another length of the twin lead to the two
bare conductors of the top bar. The other end is connected to your radio
If a custom di-pole sounds like too much trouble, you
can make a cut-and-split di-pole. Take some twin lead and split it down
the middle. Attach the other end to the radio. Very simple, though not as
effective as the custom di-pole.
No Antenna Available? Make a Wire Antenna
Homemade antennas can work very well. Often a piece
of wire becomes an antenna without much fuss at all. It can be thick or
thin wire, and free or cheap is the best wire around. Wire with a plastic
coating is safer (remember to strip any coating away to allow connection
of the wire to the antenna terminals), but bare wire is fine.
Use any piece of wire. Attach it to an antenna
terminal. Run it over drapery rods and window casings. Throw it out the
window and into the nearby tree. Toss it onto the roof. Do the same with
two wires. Spend some time experimenting with the placement of these
wires; often opposite directions work well. If this is strictly an inside
job make sure that you arrange these wires so that you’ll be proud to
point them out to visitors. “See my antenna; I get KEDU loud and clear!”
No Antenna Terminals
Clock radios normally don’t have any antenna
terminals or telescoping antennas. Try wrapping lots of wire around the
radio; don’t connect the wire to anything. The idea is to get a thick loop
of wire near the radio.
Almost any large metal structure above ground can act
as antenna. Aluminum rain gutters, air conditioning and heat ducts, metal
window frames, aluminum siding and metal roofing are great antennas. NEVER
USE an electrical outlet as an antenna. Using an alligator clip, attach
one end of a single strand piece of wire to one of the above items to the
previously mentioned massive loop of wire surrounding your clock radio by
simply wrapping the loose end around the massive wire loop of wire
around your radio. You should notice a good improvement in
Other portable-type radios have telescoping antennas
that may be improved by wrapping a “flag” of aluminum foil around the top,
or attaching a length of wire to the telescoping antenna.
Rabbit ears are cheap and they can be very effective. They do allow
you to conveniently move them in many directions for best performance.
Select MONO on your receiver. For reasons beyond the scope of this
brief information, MONO signals travel farther and have less noise in them.
Buy a booster or amplifier for your existing antenna. Sometimes
they work wonders, sometimes they just work. Boosters need a certain
amount of signal to work with, otherwise they end up amplifying noise
rather than audio.
Here is an “attic solution”. You can install a standard
radio-TV antenna (sometimes called a yagi) in your attic. You can position it for
the best KEDU signal and gravity will simply hold it in place on top of
the ceiling joists.
Purchase a Custom-made Antenna
Our local Radio Shack Store sells a variety of antennas designed for
both FM and Television reception. James and Eric Stephens are very
helpful in assisting you in the appropriate choice. They are also
very patient listeners. Call them at 257-7865 or visit their store next to
State National Bank at 102 Whitlock Drive just off Sudderth.
Directive Systems, a small antenna manufacturing
company in southwest Maine, produces an antenna that some listeners may
find to be a worthwhile investment. For more information contact David
Olean at RR#2 Box 282, Dixon Rd., Lebanon, ME 04027 or 207-658-7758.
A Last Word from KEDU
We are happy to try to help you become a regular
community radio listener. Please call the station if you have questions
about reception or technical solutions. And let use know about your experiments
and successes that might be included here for future would-be listeners.
We can be reached at:...