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 More information

Improving FM Reception

From time to time, we receive a request from a listener asking what can be done to improve their reception of our signal. While the specific recommendations will vary, the following are some generalizations which may help if you are experiencing reception difficulty.

It must be remembered that the process of delivering sound from a radio studio to your ears involves a complete system. This includes the station's transmitter and antenna, the listener's receiver and antenna and the transmission path between the two. This last is important because if there is a mountain between the transmitter and receiver, there is nothing that can be done to provide good reception.

Also, at FM frequencies, reliable reception does not extend far beyond the horizon line as viewed from the transmitter. This is why FM (and TV) transmitters have very tall towers or are located on mountain tops. It is also why FM (and TV) receiving antennas are best situated on tall masts.

So, steps to improving your reception should start with the antenna. If your receiver is a stereo component or console, there should be a pair of screw terminals on the back marked "FM antenna" or something similar. If nothing is connected to these terminals, you need an antenna.

An antenna may be as simple as an inexpensive "twin-lead dipole" which can be purchased at most electronic or builder's supply stores. This will only be effective in the primary coverage area of the station, about 20 miles or so from the transmitter. Ordinary TV "rabbit ears" will work reasonably well in this area as well.

For fringe-area reception, an outside antenna similar to a TV antenna is required. In fact, some TV antennas can be used for FM reception. If your VHF TV antenna is equipped with a rotator, you may experiment by connecting it to the antenna input of the FM receiver and aiming it at the KAMB transmitter on Mount Bullion, east of Merced.

If this experiment works satisfactorily, a splitter can be purchased to connect both the TV and FM receivers. If the trial does not produce improvement, it may be that the TV antenna is one of those designed to reject signals in the FM band.

For simultaneous reception of TV and FM, a good outside FM antenna can be purchased at most consumer electronic stores. This should be mounted on a mast, as high as practical. If there is an existing TV antenna, the FM antenna may be mounted on the same mast, a few feet away from the TV antenna.

In extreme fringe areas it may be necessary to use more than one antenna, vertically or horizontally stacked, for more signal pickup.

Apartment dwellers who cannot erect a mast and antenna may wish to purchase an indoor amplified antenna. Also, if stereo reception is not essential, sensitive portables are available which can be surprisingly effective.

Before purchasing any antenna or receiver, it would be a good idea to make sure that it can be returned to the dealer if it doesn't perform well at your particular location.

Whether you live in an apartment or not, it may also be wise to check with your local cable TV service to see if KAMB is carried on the cable. If so, it is easy to connect your FM receiver to the cable instead of an antenna.

In any case, it is also possible to improve a scratchy signal by switching to monophonic reception if a "stereo/mono" switch is provided on the receiver.