Reception Tips

For Better FM Reception

NOTE: These links to commercial businesses are provided for your convenience. Prairie Public Broadcasting receives no compensation from any purchases you may make.

C. Crane
Offers several antennas and radios.

The RCA Super Radio
is noted for its ability to pull in signals. This site is one of several that offer it.  This used to be made by GE, but RCA bought the division.

The Kloss Radio
Another highly-recommended radio for people in difficult reception situations.  The Cambridge Sound Works Model 88 was rated even better, but is no longer made.  It does come up used on the internet.  The Bose Radio is also pretty good, but I consider it over-priced.

A lot of Prairie Public listeners are in areas where reception of our broadcasts can be difficult. Even with 8 transmitters and 8 translators (low power transmitters), it can be hard to pick us up simply because we have so much territory to cover. So here are some hints to help.

Weak signal is the most common problem. It can be caused by distance, geographic features, or man-made features, like buildings. If your radio is easy to move around, that can be the first thing to try. FM reception can vary a lot over short distances. Height can be very important. Sometimes, you may be able to hear us on a second floor, but not on the ground floor. If you have the kind of radio with a telescoping swivel antenna, experimenting with moving it around might work, too.

A much stronger solution is to add an external antenna. Some smaller radios don’t allow this — you must look for a couple of screws or clips on the back. They’re usually labeled “ant”. Some radios with telescoping antennas are set up so that you can disconnect that one and attach a different one.

Folded dipole -- inexpensive, widely sold.

Folded dipole — widely availaible, cheap.

So what can you attach? FM operates at the same range of frequencies as television, so TV “rabbit ears” can help. Better than that can be the T-shaped flexible wire antennas known as folded dipoles. These are sold at many electronics and hardware stores. I’ve seen people attach these and just let them droop down behind the radio. They will help much more if you tack them up to the wall, the higher the better. Powered FM antennas work even better — they are available at electronics stores and on-line. The only one I’ve seen is by Terk — a search will get you several sellers.

Find a used one -- works great!The best most people can do is an outdoor or attic mounting. You can buy outdoor antennas made for FM, but TV antennas work very well — and there are a lot of old ones available, thanks to cable and satellite.

Excellent antennas are available by ordering over the phone or over the internet. There is quite a range of prices, up to $400. I will recommend one, but you can easily find many more. If you are on the internet, a search under “fm antennas” will find you several places. I recommend the “FM Reflect” from C. Crane for an indoor attachment. It costs thirty five bucks plus shipping. You can call them at 1-800-522-8863, or go to the C.Crane web page.

Map of North Dakota TransmittersMultipath distortion is another problem. In this case, your radio is receiving the signal, but then also picks up an “echo” from a hill or a building. Since the echo is delayed, the two signals interfere with each other. The solutions involve weakening the echo and strengthening the main signal. This involves a lot of the same efforts as described above — moving the radio. Or attaching an antenna. If the antenna is oriented so that the main signal gets stronger, it will help. You need to know the direction of our transmitter from where you are. Take a look at a map of our transmitters. A folded dipole (T-shaped) antenna should be broadside to the transmitter. An external TV-type antenna should be pointed at the transmitter.

Finally, I’ll mention adjacent channel interference. This is when another station is on the next frequency (or the same frequency). Again, the solution is to work on strengthening the wanted signal, and weakening the unwanted one. That involves the same techniques already described.

Sometimes, there is no solution. But, often, reception can be better. If this advice doesn’t help, contact us and maybe we can figure out a way to make it work.

A Note about HD Radios
All of our stations broadcast in HD — that is, have the digital option.  But we also are still doing analog — an HD radio can pick up both.  The models mentioned above don’t have digital.  There are several good radios that do, as you can see following the HD link above.  Our experience so far has been, though, that the digital part doesn’t pick up at a distance as well as the analog, so if you are in an area of fringe reception, an HD radio may not matter at present.  A good reason to try to get the digital part of the signal, though, is that with HD you can get 2 streams of programming from us — both classical music and our roots, rock and jazz mix.

Radio services on Prairie Public are a result of a partnership of Prairie Public, North Dakota State University, and the University of North Dakota. By uniting Prairie Public Radio, KDSU Radio, and KUND 89.3 FM, we have created a public radio service for all of North Dakota. Prairie Public is affiliated with NPR National Public Radio.

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