Improving a cheap radio's reception
August 9, 2007 5:51 AM   Subscribe

Improving a crappy FM radio's reception

I've got one of these radios, which I use in the kitchen, running of mains power. The reception varies randomly. Some days it's good. Some days it's poor -- the audio is choppy, or sounds like a Dalek, or there's just interference. Often where I'm standing in the room affects it. Often I have to turn up the volume all the way to hear anything, especially if it's taken a dislike to where I'm standing.

I live on the side of a valley.

The question is: How can I improve reception? If I touch the aerial the reception picks up and is usually good.
posted by deeper red to Technology (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I should point out that, if I touch the aerial, the reception picks up even on a bad day. I don't think it's a lack of signal in my area.
posted by deeper red at 5:53 AM on August 9, 2007

I have the same problem with my el cheapo shower radio, and one thing I have found helps is changing the location in the room; there are certain spots that work better than others.
posted by TedW at 6:27 AM on August 9, 2007

Have you tried wrapping the antenna in aluminum foil? Always worked for me as a kid with crap radio reception.
posted by iconomy at 6:35 AM on August 9, 2007

They always get better when you touch them. Move it around, or attach a long wire to the antenna and run it up the wall, or you could just go completely trailer trash, and hang a big hunk of tin foil on the antenna. (We did this to a small TV in the executive office on 9-11; it was the only way we could get any reception.)
posted by unrepentanthippie at 6:36 AM on August 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

My co-worked just almost killed himself rushing over to suggest using a wire coat hanger. Joan Crawford would not approve.
posted by iconomy at 6:38 AM on August 9, 2007

Not that it has any bearing on your query whatsoever, but your question does remind my of an old roommate of mine who asked me--when I stood in the location that caused the crappy kitchen radio to descend into white noise--to "please move, you're standing in the aether." For some reason that has always cracked me right up.
posted by AwkwardPause at 6:53 AM on August 9, 2007

Take an alligator clip and attach a length of wire to it, preferably by soldering but a simple crimp will suffice. I certainly wouldn't buy a soldering iron to do this, unless you are like me and survey every job as opportunity to obtain a new tool. The wire should be at least six feet long, and longer is better. Clip the wire to the antenna and experiment with the best position. If you want to get fancy you could calculate an optimum length based on a preferred frequency using this formula: the speed of light divided by the frequency (e.g. 1.18 x 1010 in/s divided by 91.1 x 10^6 Hz). One quarter or one half this length (the wavelength) works almost as well. There are myriad sites on the net for designing an optimum antenna, but most such designs will cost far more than your radio. (also, you might double check my formula on these sites if you are going to try optimizing the length)
posted by caddis at 7:04 AM on August 9, 2007

Woo hoo!

The wire trick worked. I took some old wire, bared it at one end, and then wrapped it tightly around the aerial. Then I led the wire out of the window and up some brickwork outside.

It's early days but today is a "bad day" for reception (cloudy?) but I've just got excellent reception. Radio 4 works! Hurrah!

I would have tried the wire coat hanger trick first but I don't have any! These seem to be far less common than they used to be, at least here in the UK. Maybe I need to get some dry cleaning done.
posted by deeper red at 7:12 AM on August 9, 2007

If only this would work for an iTrip...
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 7:54 AM on August 9, 2007

So Radio 4 is no longer static...
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 11:47 PM on August 9, 2007

M.C. Lo-Carb!, do a google search for "hack itrip". A friend tried it with great results.
posted by nenequesadilla at 8:22 PM on August 10, 2007

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