Signal Reception


Click here for a map of the Stardust 105.7 Coverage Area

Occasionally a listener will contact us with a complaint that their reception of Stardust 105.7 is not as good as they would like it to be. This is a guide to improving the reception of Stardust 105.7- WMXH FM. It includes some information on how FM radio works, common causes of interference and specific suggestions for buying and installing an FM antenna.

Background

FM radio is much like television. In fact the FM band is smack in the middle of the VHF TV band. At the frequencies employed, 88-108 MHz, radio waves travel in straight lines, much like a flashlight beam. So any object that gets between your radio's receiving antenna and the radio station's tower will block the signal. For best reception, your radio's antenna should be mounted up and away from nearby obstacles... unless the obstacles are BIG. Here in the Shenandoah Valley we have enormous objects that can and do block and reflect FM and TV radio waves... we call them mountains! Line of Site (LOS) is a very important factor in receiving the best signal and mountains often restrict LOS. Another characteristic of FM and TV radio waves is reflectivity. They can bounce off objects and be deflected by them. This gives rise to ghosts in your TV picture and distorted sound from your FM radio. When you listen to FM in a moving vehicle, you may hear the all-too-familiar flutter caused by intermittent reflections. We call that phenomena picket fencing. Imagine a wooden picket fence with slats going by your car window. The radio waves in the air also exhibit a similar pattern when combined with reflections from multiple pathways (multi-path) from the radio tower to you. Indeed improper placement of a stationary FM radio antenna could result in it being in one of those picket shadows yielding a permanently weak and distorted signal.

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Suggestions for Improving Reception

Try changing the orientation of your radio and/or its antenna. If indoors, move it closer to a window. Some radios use the power cord as the FM antenna. Having it all neatly bunched up behind the radio on the kitchen counter may be detrimental to good reception. Try arranging the power cord in a more "open" fashion. For such power cord antennas, add an extension cord and move it around. Sony Walkman and similar radios use the headphone cord for the FM antenna, try moving it around.

Try a simple wire dipole "T" antenna (less than $5) and attach it to the antenna terminals of your receiver. Most component and bookshelf stereos come with this inexpensive antenna. Try orienting it different ways. It works best when stretched out.

Consider purchasing a hi-sensitivity radio. Many modern home and portable stereos with CD and/or cassette players are not designed with the radio tuner being a priority. We have had good success with GE's "Superadio" and Tivoli Audio's "Model One" and "PAL" radios.

Install a good, directional "Yagi" rooftop FM antenna, the larger the better (they are not expensive). These are available at Radio Shack, among other places, and their advantage lies in the fact that they are particularly sensitive only in a single direction, which means you can point a Yagi in the direction of a specific radio station and the antenna will discriminate against other signals or reflections arriving from different directions. This antenna is a powerful weapon against multipath problems and interference. Many listeners in fringe areas have had good results with the Radio Shack Model #15-2163 High Gain FM-Stereo Antenna, triple drive directional. Please exercise caution when installing any antenna. Do not work near power lines that can cause electrical shock. Orient the antenna towards the Massanutten Mountain range near New Market (click here for a map). This communications site is called "Big Mountain" and has many transmitting facilities including WHSV-TV3.

Use fully shielded coaxial cable from the antenna to the set, not ribbon cable, and use appropriate adapters to connect it to your antenna and set.

Most cable companies pay little attention to FM reception so you may find that Stardust 105.7 reception is not good on cable. If so, do not connect your FM radio to your cable system. You can usually do better with your own roof top FM antenna.

Automotive reception can be problematic due to the mountainous terrain. Look for car radios that have mono/stereo switches. Best reception is in monaural mode.

A few of the premium factory equipped car stereos have diversity antenna reception. Only two after market car radio manufacturers currently offer it. The diversity system uses two antennas on the car and constantly compares reception on both, switching the better one to the radio. This eliminates about 80-90% of the multi-path picket fence distortion of a moving vehicle.

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Trouble-shooting Tips for Interference

Use a battery portable radio to sniff out the source of interference. Use it to check out the nearby utility poles, or neighbors house, or your own abode. Turn off the power at your main service panel and again listen on your battery radio, did the interference stop? If so the culprit is in your own home. Compare your reception to that of nearby friends and neighbors. Are you all having the same problem? Keep a log of time of day and day of week for intermittent interference. This can give you clues as to who is producing the interference. If your reception has suddenly become poor, ask yourself what might have changed in your vicinity?

  • Did you alter your antenna connections?
  • Did you move some furniture, especially a metal cabinet?
  • Did you buy a new appliance?
  • Is there new construction in the neighborhood?
  • Did a new radio or TV station go on the air?
  • Did your neighbor put up a new antenna, maybe for CB?
  • Has the cable company strung new lines or done any other repairs?
  • Has it rained a lot?
  • Was it icy or windy recently?

Answers to these questions can provide clues as to what might have changed.

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To Summarize

Indoor antennas of any style are inferior to large roof top Yagi style antennas. For best results put up an FM antenna with a rotor. If your radio is equipped for only 300 ohm ribbon type cable, buy the appropriate matching transformer to mate it with the coaxial style cable. (Your local TV/ Electronics dealer can help get you the right materials). If your radio does not have provisions for an external antenna connection, consider replacing it with a better radio that is so equipped. If you are plagued by interference, prepare to do some detective work. Swap radios and antennas. Talk to the neighbors. Borrow a battery radio and survey your home and the neighborhood for the source of the problem. Some of the suggestions above will hopefully help your reception. The transmitting power of Stardust 105.7 WMXH FM is limited by the FCC and is not eligible to be increased at this time. WMXH FM is a "Class A" radio station with an equivalent 6,000 watts of power. If you are outside of our "fringe" coverage contour (click here for a map) and regularly listen to Stardust 105.7, we would like to know. Please send an email to jason@easyradioinc.com. Like so many other radio stations we no longer stream our programming on the internet because the RIAA is seeking to impose additional web-casting royalty fees on organizations that stream copyrighted material online. Please remember, Stardust 105.7 fills a void when it comes to The Music Of Your Life including Big Band, Swing, Jazz, and so many adult standards you have come to love. With listener support we hope to serve you for many years to come. Thanks for listening.



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