Improving Traditional Radio Reception
Most people rely on the antenna inside AM radios, but this internal antenna isn’t very effective. For better reception, first try to attach an external antenna to your receiver and then to the wall.
External antennas can be purchased at any electronics store and are relatively inexpensive. Some higher-end radios come with two external antennas. One antenna might look like a straight piece of wire—this is the FM antenna. The FM antenna supplied might also look like a “T”; this is called a “dipole” antenna. The AM antenna looks like a black square with loops of wire wrapped around it, with a wire extending from it that attaches to your receiver; this is called a “loop” antenna.
Sometimes you can improve your reception further by placing that external antenna close to a window or, if possible, outside. Though it sounds simple, you can often improve your reception by moving the radio to different locations in the room or in your home.
Another option is to purchase a powered antenna or a “tunable loop”. This is a loop antenna with an amplifier built in—it can be powered by battery or can be plugged into the wall. The higher-priced units (in the range of $50+) come equipped with tuning dials, so you can pick one frequency that will be more sensitive and have better reception than the rest.
There are circuits inside televisions, dvd players, cd players, computers, anything with a motor (hairdryers, blenders, etc.), and other electronics that tend to generate low-level signals. These signals can interfere with radio reception within the AM frequency range, so position your radio away from these devices to avoid interference.
Time of Day
You might be experiencing degradation in your AM reception in the evening. Due to atmospheric changes, AM signals travel farther at night than during the day. Hence WNYC is required by the FCC to lower the power of the AM antenna every evening at sunset to prevent interference with other AM radio stations that use the same frequency throughout North America. WNYC returns to full power at sunrise the following morning. As the time of sunset and sunrise change during the year, so does the time that we adjust the power of our AM station.
Listen to WNYC's Director of Engineering Jim Stagnitto discuss the ins and outs of radio reception.