You're coming through loud and clear, unfortunately.
February 22, 2011 3:31 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend's across-the-hall neighbor loves to talk on his CB radio at all hours. We don't love hearing it through every speaker in the apartment. What can we do?

Every time he starts talking on his radio, it comes through the TV and the stereo. The only way to stop it is to turn off the TV or, in the case of the speakers, unplug them from the wall. He has received complaints about it from my boyfriend as well as from his other neighbors, including people across the street. His response was to basically act like a defensive dick about it and do it anyway. Is there anything we can do on our end, preferably on a limited budget, to block it out? I've seen this question, which seems like a possible lead for the stereo, but what about the TV? Alternatively, is this the type of thing the landlord might be able to talk to him about? We're in West Virginia, if that's relevant.
posted by Captain Cardanthian! to Technology (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It is in violation of FCC rules for him to be purposefully generating interference.

File your complaint here. They DO investigate complaints that are submitted to them, and it's interesting to read how they investigate and resolve these complaints.
posted by MonsieurBon at 3:35 PM on February 22, 2011 [13 favorites]

Seconding MonsieurBon - there is a chance that he's running modified or illegal equipment thus creating this interference.
posted by davey_darling at 3:56 PM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Start by complaining to your landlord. Enlist your neighbors, too.
posted by Carol Anne at 4:03 PM on February 22, 2011

Is it actually a CB, or a ham radio? If it's ham radio, he would be using a callsign (4 or 5 letters with one number in it, assuming you're in the US, and not to stereotype, and certainly some hams are trash talkers and some CBers talk normally, but the more it sounds like a normal human being talking or at least some semblance of a normal human being using strange TECHNICAL gibberish, as opposed to someone using a lot of weird slang and/or profanity, the more likely it's a ham.

And certainly not all hams are helpful, but if it is a ham, there's a good chance that he will be cooperative and have the tech skills to help solve your interference problem. I wouldn't let him work on your electronics, mind you, but he might be able to make some simple adjustments on his end that would help. Be worth a try.

If he's a CBer, another thing that makes it unlikely that he'll be much help is that he's probably operating illegally. CBers are limited to 4 watts legally, which isn't likely to cause interference. But many CBers illegally use amplifiers (similar to ones that hams use legally)...

If he's not cooperative or can't solve the problem, then the landlord is the person to see. I wouldn't enlist the neighbors except maybe as a last resort.
posted by randomkeystrike at 4:10 PM on February 22, 2011

Oh yeah, what MonsieurBon said, but again if the guy's helpful, give him a chance first. Also, the FCC is pretty overworked on these kind of complaints, so don't expect instant results.
posted by randomkeystrike at 4:12 PM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, what MonsieurBon said, but again if the guy's helpful, give him a chance first.

"He has received complaints about it from my boyfriend as well as from his other neighbors, including people across the street. His response was to basically act like a defensive dick about it and do it anyway."
posted by MaryDellamorte at 4:20 PM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

4 watts right next door is probably enough to cause some trouble. Definitely file the FCC complaint, but it's possible that he is within his rights. Unfortunately, most of our consumer equipment is not designed to tolerate that kind of EMI.
posted by gjc at 4:40 PM on February 22, 2011

You might point out to him that the fine for illegal transmitting is usually $10,000.

In the US, devices like TVs and stereos must tolerate legal ham and CB radio signals (FCC regs part 15?). This generally means they must have shielding; this is why stereo equipment has steel cases. A lot of home electronics, especially the cheaper stuff, is insufficiently shielded. So, the fault may actually be in your equipment. TVs and stereos can pick up the radio noise through the wires coming into them (power cords, speakers wires, etc). You can put filters on those lines (Radio Shack carries them), but you should get some expert help--contact your local ham radio club and they'll sent over an old fart.
posted by neuron at 4:43 PM on February 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Like others mention, if he is a ham, then he has an explicit government license to transmit, and if you happen to receive those transmissions, it's your problem.

This is one of those shared-space situations where the person causing the problem might not be at fault or doing anything wrong. It's like complaining that you can't shower when your neighbor is doing his dishes, and that you'd like him to stop doing dishes. The problem is a shitty hot water heater, not your neighbor.
posted by jrockway at 5:22 PM on February 22, 2011

Jrockway, did you read the following statement from the OP:

"He has received complaints about it from my boyfriend as well as from his other neighbors, including people across the street."
posted by MaryDellamorte at 5:34 PM on February 22, 2011

If you'd like to be aggressive, you could always buy your own CB, determine what channel he is on, tape the transmit button down while having that channel selected, and thereby deactivate his ability to listen to distant channels.

If he's running an illegal linear amp, it only works for transmitting, which is where you are encountering the problem (i.e., when he transmits, you hear it.) When he's listening, on the other hand, he will receive a combination of all signals on that channel, and if you are the strongest, you'll swamp the distant signals, thereby depriving him him of fun. A nice source of white noise is running water at a faucet with an aerator, as in a kitchen sink. Another nice source is an FM radio tuned off channel.

Of course, he may change channels, requiring you to do the same thing again, until such time as he gets really pissed and shoots through the wall or ceiling. Ouch.

What I am suggesting here may be illegal. It's a hack. It's also not exactly neighborly. Sadly, it's pretty damned funny. I hate myself.

As to why you may be hearing it... if you are in the near field of a very strong signal, then you can get all kinds of signal intrusion via power lines, internal wiring, audio input cables, ad infinitum. If he's got a well set up system, and you are in the near field, chasing off the renegade radio frequency (RF) is a trial and error task, made more difficult without lots of RF thingies that hams own, like spectrum analyzers and filters, etc. With a well designed system, you have a chance of killing the interference. Usually, this isn't the case.

If he's like most CB morons, he's overdriving his radio and/or his linear and is making a lot of broadband noise that appears way outside the 27 MHz CB frequencies. Crappy design and operation is even harder to rectify.

These CB guys aren't the brightest bulbs on the tree, usually. If they were, they'd be hams. Some hams, on the other hand, can legally use up to 1500 Watts, so it's a lot easier to get in their near fields. Most of them are somewhat well behaved, and subscribe to good neighbor ethics. Most hams would appreciate being told they are causing interference, and would happily join in solving the problem.

There are many ways to deal with this issue, and they are all circumstance-specific.

Filtering and repositioning should be given at least a little chance. Also, it would help to know where his antenna is. If inside, you can offer to buy him an external antenna, which you could locate farther away from your equipment than the other side of the wall, and maybe help moderate it. As I said,... there are many options.

Good luck. It's kind of maddening.
posted by FauxScot at 5:47 PM on February 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

"He has received complaints about it from my boyfriend as well as from his other neighbors, including people across the street. His response was to basically act like a defensive dick about it and do it anyway."

Sorry, missed that.

I have a ham license myself (not really active) - I don't entirely agree with the characterization that hams are entitled to create interference and you can't do anything about it. Radios can be "type-accepted" and yet cause interference, and the ham has to do reasonable things to mitigate it. Sometimes it's grounding, or the way an antenna is oriented...

If the guy's being the way he is, I'd probably start with the landlord, then move on to the FCC if you're not getting any joy. Starting with the FCC may be more "correct," but the FCC can't evict him, and a landlord with any gumption at all is not going to tolerate one tenant who makes other tenants unhappy.
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:50 AM on February 23, 2011

If his CB Radio is coming through your speakers and he isn't willing to turn off his illegal amplifier and/or radio, then you can try using "ferrite or torroid cores" and simply wrap the speaker wire about 10 times (or as many as you can) around a large round ferrite material (you can purchase these online, or possible at Radio Shack). Typically 43 material is one of the best for attenuating these radio frequencies. If you're handy with a soldering iron, you could solder a .01 mica or capacitor right at the speakers terminals, which would eliminate it further by shunting out Radio Frequencies signals. If you can stand a slight reduction in total speaker volume, while you're adding the capacitor across the terminals, you could add a 2k - 10k resistor in series with one of the speaker leads or wires. This basically attenuates all audio strength 6 - 18db, however since his level of interference is probably not dependent of your volume control level, you could simply attenuate his audio strength greatly and simply turn up your volume knob a bit more to compensate for the resistor that's attenuating all signal strengths 6 - 18db.

If you're not sure if it's coming throught the audio, you could also place filters inline with the antenna or use a AC line filter, however it doesn't sound like these are the culprit in your case. Good luck!
posted by radioguy at 2:30 PM on October 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

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