radio reception : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

We live in a hollow and can only get in two stations (and those not too good) on our house radio. We don't get any TV reception and like it that way. But, on the car radio we get all kinds of stations. I don't get it. We have tried very expensive radios (Bose) and all kinds of gimmick antennas to no avail. We have also tried making our own antenna; just a long wire. We live in a strawbale house so there is no metal in the walls to interfere with the reception. I've run out of ideas. Any suggestions? Thanks Doug

-- Doug in KY (, June 29, 2001


I assume your talking about broadcast radio stations, Either AM or FM, but what one. Antenna design are greatly different between the two. I also assume your car radio is hearing these stations setting outside your home? The first issue is the radio, Does it have external antenna connections on it. If not then find a radio that does. An aligator clip onto a set top antenna may not work.

If the radio station your trying to receive is an AM station 540-1780khz then a long wire antenna should work. You want the sides of the antenna twards the radio stations you want. If its an FM station then an FM (Or tv/fM) antenna with a preamp is going to be required. Get the antenna as high as possible and pointed in the general direction of the station you want.

-- Gary (, June 29, 2001.

I'm a radio amatuer (KØEES), so I know a little about radios, and antennas :) THe biggest thing that has to do with antennas, and reception, have to do with two things: length, and height. if you want to have a 1/4 wavelength (one of the smallest, yet effective antennas) for AM BCB, the range is from 600m (~500 kHz) to 160m (~1800 kHz), and divide those numbers by 4 (for quarter wavelength). If you want an approximatin, multiply the result in meters by 3 to get feet (rough), or 39.39 to get inches (fairly exact). For FM BCB, the length at 100MHz is 3m which is about 9' 10" (divide by 4 again to get the qurater length). THese numbers apply more to transmitting, but can also be used quite effectively for recieving. Also, look into Radio Shack--they have several "Yagi" (the correct name for waht most of you would call a TV antenna design--many antenna elements in a plane, longer at the back, and shorter at the front), and one specifically for FM radio for about $15-$19. Get this antenna as high as you can, and make sure the antenna elements are horizontily orientated (i.e., the antenna elements are parallell to the ground), as most FM BCB is horizontilly polorized, as is TV. Most AM BCB is vertically rientated (going straight up, like you car antennas). The difference in signal recieved if using the wrong polarization is -20dB, which, in simple terms, is very significant. There is so much about antennas, again, usually applied to transmitting, but they apply equally as well to recieving. A good site to learn about antennas, and antenna design, as well as safety (you really need to watch antennas can not fall onto power lines--this is very dangerous), is the American Radio Relay League (ARRL)--they are a non-profit orginization for Amatuer Radio (hams). You might also want to look into getting a ham license--if you live kinda away from populated areas, it can be a great resource, should things like telephones fail. The URL for the ARRL is If you have any questions, feel free to email me directly, and I'll do my best to help!

Brendan in Iowa

-- Brendan K Callahan (, June 29, 2001.

Doug, I have a similar problem here in the desert where I live. I understand that car radios are just made to pull in stations better and on this, I would modilfy a car radio for use in your home. As expensive, elaborate and loud as the newer ones are, they should work as a home system. I've tried several older home radio/stereo systems and none of them work as well as a general car radio. There is a guy with radio Havana, called Arnie that has all sorts of plans for antennas and everything radio, but most is for inexpensive shortwave stuff, he's at radiohavana.cuba I think. BC

-- BC (, June 29, 2001.

BC, A car radio is a car radio, there not made to pull in radio stations any better. They do however have an external antenna port that some home systems dont have and that will often make the difference. A quality receiver with external antenna ports should work as well as a car radio setting in the driveway.

-- Gary (, June 29, 2001.

Doug: Have you ever heard of the Select-A-Tenna? It looks like a big brown plastic plate with a knob and a dial on it's face. It doesn't connect to your radio, just sets beside it. Tune the desired station on your radio to as good a signal as you can get, then turn the knob on the Select-A-Tenna to the same number (AM only). You wonb't beieve the difference! The volume will jump about two or three times! It has something to do with inductive tuning and the really long antenna that's buried in the Select-A-Tenna. We live in a radio-deprived area and love talk radio. This device allows us to hear stations as far as 100 miles away. Contact Select-A-Tenna, PO Box 562, Hales Corners, Wisc. 53130. I think I paid about $30 for mine and consider it a bargain at twice the price.

-- john james (, June 29, 2001.

The following purchasing technique was in a book or some publication, but I forget which. In any case, here's their suggestion (it was originally for tv antennae, but could be adapted to radio easily).

Buy the cheapest antenna booster or set-up that you think has even a chance of working. Buy it in a chain-type store or a store with a good return policy and a wide selection of different levels of equipment. Take the piece home, test it out. If it works, you're in business. if it doesn't, take it bake, with a little cash, and exchange it for the next highest quality piece. Keep going until you get the result you want. This way, you don't overspend trying to insure decent reception, and you can build up the neccessary money over a few weeks instead of having to come up with it all at once.

-- Soni (, June 29, 2001.

Doug I note you are in a strawbale house and have tried a long wire. Nothing wrong with a long wire (or the house! :-) ) for AM and I believe it is the format most likely to bring sucess unless you have a bit of related scientific knowledge. The long wire might work better if you have an earth on the radio or alternatively run out another long wire in the other direction connecting one long wire to the antenna or antenna socket of the radio and the other to the earth or maybe frame of the radio. If it has no earth connection and it is a battery radio you could try connecting the second long wire to the negative battery terminal.

Your expensive radio may not be the best choice. Depending upon it's intended market the one you have might be intended for city dwellers where AM signals are strong and very much a secondary consideration in the design of the radio. Look on the net for a supplier of a Sangean PRD3L so-called 'long distance' radio, I expect the price for this radio would be less than US$50. I don't specifically recommend this particular radio but just mention it to demonstrate that more suitable radios may be available and not overly expensive.

I don't know the Select-A-Tenna but I know of such devices and in certain circumstances may be just what is required. Their principle of operation is that of a tuned circuit consisting of a coil of wire and a variable capacitor. You could easily make one yourself just do a search for 'tuned circuit' 'DX loop' or 'broadcast band DX' and I am sure you will find someone describing how to make one.

There has been conflicting comments made about using car radios but in my opinion if you have one on hand it would be well worth a try. Of course you dont need to bring a car battery indoors as 8 'D' cells in series or two 6v lantern batteries would do the trick. I know of no technical reason why a car radio would not work outside of the car.

Do you have an overhead telephone line to your house?


-- john hill (, June 30, 2001.

Thanks, all, for the info. In answer to some of your questions: Yes, I have tried those antenna booster devices for both the am and fm reception and they have not worked. (returned them) We have no overhead power wires or phone wires. We can't even get 1 am station.

Oddly enough,, the best reception we have gotten is on a 10 year old GE boombox that cost us about 80 bucks. It is not good but leads me to believe that there may be a solution to the problem.

I guess my next step is to try the antenna suggestions. Thanks again. Doug

-- Doug in KY (, June 30, 2001.

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