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Improving your AM

AM Radio Reception - How to boost your reception-
A 5 minute lesson on how you can dramatically increase your AM Radio's signal, get rid of that horrible noise and static, and a look at what could be causing your problems.
By Chris Justice

Old Navy Radio LabAM Radio Reception - Boosting your range

Increasing the reception of your AM Radio seems like it’s an old topic, especially now with internet  here. Why not just listen to the internet? Because AM Radio is easy, the oldest form of radio transmission, doesn’t require dragging a computer along with you and consumes far less energy than that big desktop or notebook computer. AM Radios are portable and with the right AM antenna, you can listen to long distance radio stations, especially at night!

AM Radio Booster AntennaAM Radio – How do I boost my signal?

You hear the advertisements for the high performance radios all the time, but in reality, any small radio, even low performance portable radios can benefit from just a simple antenna, reducing the noise of your radio, or getting the radio into a better location. In fact, a $30 antenna can increase your radio even more than with the highest end AM Radio receiver. That's because the gain of the antenna is more than the radio itself can possibly receive in the first place.

Let’s look at the first culprit. Radio Noise! Radio noise is horrible, because if you put a large antenna on your radio, it not only increases the signal, but it increases the noise generated by manmade devices. So, that computer, the monitor, your high definition TV, or fluorescent light bulbs are some of the first culprits to look at. Previously, I wrote an article on Radio Noise Problems , so I won’t cover that topic in this article in depth.. but the best AM Antenna in the world will not reduce the noise from electronic devices, so this must be solved first! Read my other article, then come back here if you need to. Go to Radio Noise article

Relocating the radio is the best solution if you insist on keeping that Plasma TV running. Try listening to the radio in the back of your house, or your garage. If this simply won’t work and you can’t relocate, I would simply suggest an AM Radio Antenna to bring the incoming signal of your radio up to a suitable level. Most AM Radio antennas are inexpensive, simple to operate and will radically increase the power of your radio to levels you never imagined.

Point your radio towards the signal

Antennas for AM reception are either Active (requiring power and have circuitry) or Passive (not requiring a battery or power). Because the way they are designed, they are usually directional and you can physically point the antenna towards the signal. The best type of AM antennas have a tuning knob, so you can simply tune the antenna to the desired station you are trying to receive. This not only increases AM radio signal because you are tuning the properties of the look, but it also creates a a tuned signal that will actually help eliminate offending signals (overlapping stations) because it tuned the signal to the station you are listening to and reduces the other stations in contrast. Nice to get those two benefits at the same time with one product!

Fine Tuning Your AM Antenna's Reception

Besides tuning the antenna to the desired station, the second and probably most important thing is pointing the antenna directly at the station. Let me explain - Most (but not all) AM Radios have a ferrite rod, usually located towards the top of the radio. It is a strange antenna, because it has properties in it that pick up the signal and surrounding noise very good. (Don’t believe me, take your TV remote control and hold it up to the back of the radio… push a button, you will hear the small diode inside of the remote causing noise Inductively through the radio.) This effect is created, because the AM Antenna in the back of the radio is just a large coil of wire, basically a signal magnet. The same thing that creates this field, also makes the portable radio directional and you can point it directly towards the radio station to increase your signal. So, the AM Antennas work the same, but by placing this antenna at the back of your radio, tuning the antenna to the desired station and then, turning the antenna towards the station, you will get unbeatable reception! Look at the diagram below for examples of how this is performed.

Directional AM Antenna - Pointing it

Ok, if you have a good AM Antenna, you have the antenna tuned to the station, you have it pointed directly at the AM station and you still have noise, well, that’s because most likely you are pointing the radio, the AM antenna, or both, directly at the source of the noise.

AM Radio noise - don't point it at the source!

Last, find yourself a good radio, with even better filters. This is important, especially if you have radio noise. Wait Chris, you said that the radio doesn’t matter… now you’re talking in circles.. what gives? Well, sorry, this is the special hidden factor (the radio). If everything else I wrote above somehow doesn’t seem to improve your reception and you’ve isolated all of your noise, you should purchase, obtain, rent or pilfer a good quality AM radio. MAKE SURE THEY HAVE GOOD FILTERS, this is the most important thing. Just don’t go spend your money and purchase another radio, because you have basically wasted your hard earned cash. RadioLabs Super 909 has special filters, which reduce the incoming noise on not only AM, but Shortwave as well. The small ceramic filters inside of radios do a lot to prevent or dramatically reduce the ambient noise coming into your radios antenna. RadioLabs purposely developed the radio, with special, higher performance filters, to reduce the noise and help eliminate buzz, static, pops and whines. Only buy a radio as a last resort when trying to increase your AM Reception. If you simply want to get a new radio, because your old clunker just doesn’t work as well as it used to, I would suggest seriously looking at the following (listed in terms of cost, reception and filter capability)

Kaito KA11 (compact radio, excellent value)
Kaito KA1103 (Really good value in a AM/FM/SW)
Sangean ATS-404 (Great compact radio with great reception)
Sangean ATS-505 (great radio and great features)
Sangean ATS-818CS (really cool because it has a cassette recorder)
RadioLabs Super 909 (really cool because we modify it and it has the best filters of all the other radios listed… oh, and we modify it.)

The best sounding, most Hi-Fi radio in the world is pointless without proper AM reception. After all, what good is it to have the best sounding radio in the world, when all you can listen to is High Fidelity noise? Don't buy a radio for it's sound quality, if you are addicted to AM Radio listening. It's like putting gold-plated wheels on a 1978 station wagon! Pointless!

That’s about it for now. If you have any questions, as always, please feel free to email me.

Until next time.... Take Care..... Chris

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