The first thing to consider if you're getting poor AM reception is the
building around you. Brick, cement and metal-framed structures can
impede AM reception indoors. This includes signals you might easily be able to
pick up in your car. If you're listening in a building that blocks
reception or causes a lot of interference, don't despair.
There are some things you can do - particularly if you have access
to the area outside your listening space.
If you have a portable radio, install some some batteries in it and use it to
find out where you get the best reception. Tune to a weak station
and just walk around your listening area until you get the least interference.
That might give you an ideal spot to set your radio. If that doesn't
work, you can also try attaching an external antenna to your radio.
Though some radios, like the CCRadio-2,
the CCRadio-SW or
the CCRadio-EP come equipped with excellent
AM antennas, many do not. Those radios, and even home stereos, might
call for some additional hardware like an external wire antenna.
One of the easiest ways to improve your AM reception would
be to get your hands on the Twin Coil
Ferrite® AM Antenna. It has a twin coil ferrite inside the antenna, and it boosts
reception enough to pick up stations you normally wouldn't receive at all. Still, even if you
have a Twin Coil Ferrite AM Antenna, there are still things to keep in mind when trying to
Dimmer switches, computers, hair dryers, fluorescent lights of any kind, street
lights and power lines (among many other electrical things) can interfere with your radio
reception. To find out if your reception is being compromised by something plugged into your
AC, you could try disconnecting things one by one, and seeing how much that reduces the
interference. If you find a major culprit, you may just want to run
your radio on batteries, or even plug it into another outlet somewhere
in the room. If you have to keep the radio where it is,
use a radio noise filter/surge protector to filter out some of the noise.
When trying to improve radio reception, you should also keep in mind some
things about AM radio listening in general. The ferrite rod in your
radio works best when it is perpendicular to the AM signal you're trying
to capture. This means you can sometimes improve you're radio reception
just by turning your radio on it's axis until you get better reception.
You may also want to learn more about the station(s) you're listening
to. While AM reception, by nature, is much improved
at night, some stations broadcast only during the day, while others
are required by the FCC to reduce their AM power and/or to transmit
their signal in a specific direction - i.e. from north to south, or
east to west. That means sometimes you're location might be the biggest
problem with receiving a station you could easily hear just a few miles
away; either in your car or at a friend's house.
Finally, one of the best tools to use when trying to tune in to a specific station
is a radio with a digital display. Unlike a radio with an analog dial, a digital display can
tell you exactly which station you have tuned-in and it can also make
it easier to fine-tune a very weak signal.
So you see, AM reception is situational and can call for a lot of trial
and error experimentation in your listening area. This information is
by no means exhaustive, and it's meant merely to give you some
guidelines in how to improve your radio listening. If you have some
suggestions that you would like to pass on to other readers, please
send them our way. Well post them in a follow-up article sometime in
the near future. We are especially interested in any home-made solutions
you might have come up with for improving AM reception - stuff like
running a wire from your radio to a tree outside your house (grounded
for lightning, of course!).
As always, please contact us with any comments or
article suggestions you might have.