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AM radio reception tips and links


This page has my original tips for AM radio reception. After the tips are links to pages about improving AM reception in your home and on a separate page there are links for better AM reception in your car. In both cases you get more than a list of links, I have provided commentary which brings together and organizes the web pages. I also have a page on hints and links for better FM radio reception.

Finally, and best of all, I have collected tips from many other web pages and added my own tips to form what is probably the most complete one web page collection of AM radio reception tips on the Internet.

This web site may have the most hints on AM reception on the Internet. It was #1 for AM radio reception on Google for many years, and was used as a source for a Cleveland Plain Dealer article that was syndicated to other papers.

Original tips for better AM radio reception

  1. For talk AM radio turn the bass up and the treble down
  2. Most of the time interference sources are not a problem beyond a foot, 1/3 of a meter.
  3. Reduce interference by propping up one end of radio to aim the antenna at the source
  4. Comparison of 2 high quality radios: the GE Superadio and the CCRadio.
  5. My best guess on What radio antenna combination is the best for the money
  6. Good shortwave radios are usually great AM radios
  7. Make sure you are interested in a station, before your buy an expensive radio to get it.
  8. Not get all of today's AM band is on old radios, 1605 to 1705 is missing
  9. Mark the place on the dial where your station is.
  10. Record the AM signal during the time of day when it is strong.
  11. Use a loop antenna when the regular antenna is weak.
  12. The ideal position for loop antennas
  13. Place a second radio turned off, but tuned to the same station next to the radio you are using
  14. Try stuff, experiment

This page was written to help Catholics listen to low power Catholic AM stations, but physics is physics, so they will work for anyone. Because I am not a radio hobbyist and I am simply interested in communication the tips are simple, practical, and inexpensive

  1. For talk radio turn the bass up as far as it will go and the treble down as far as it will go. If there is only one knob for tone turn it to bass as far as it will go. This is the best way to hear clear voices that are easily understood. This is a very easy, very useful tip. I assume that for music treble and bass should be at the middle neutral point to hear the music the way the musicians wanted it, but I am no expert on that.

  2. Many web sites list numerous interference sources, computers, televisions, florescent lights, etc. I have been testing this and found that most of the commonly listed dangers are real, but the interference disappears when the radio is more than a third of a meter, a foot or so from the interference source.

    But occasionally an interference source causes difficulties over a larger area. For example, the people who lived down stairs from me at my former apartment had a TV that produced a loud buzz even though the TV was a good 20 feet away from the radio. But the much larger TV in our apartment which was five to ten feet away was no problem. So usually the normal interference sources are a minor difficulty, but occasionally one of them is a major difficulty. You should treat the common lists of interference sources as a list of suspects, not a list of convicted criminals.

  3. The AM antenna is normally a rod in the radio which typically runs the length, the longest dimension, of the radio. By pointing either end of the rod antenna at the interference source you can reduce interference enormously. This is very important, but not original.

    This is perhaps a more original tip, if the interference source is lower or higher than your radio you may have to prop up the radio to point either end of the internal antenna at the interference source. For example, if the interference is upstairs or downstairs you may need to prop one end of the radio on a book and adjust it so that one end of internal antenna is aimed at the interference source. This is particularly useful in apartments where your neighbors may not want to be bothered with improving your AM reception. This helped me with a TV my downstairs neighbor had.

  4. I have had a chance to test and compare some equipment because other members of my parish had key pieces of equipment. This allowed me to compare the GE Superadio with the CCRadio.

    I was not able to tell much difference between the CCRadio from Crane which costs about 150 dollars and the GE Superadio III which costs about 50 dollars. But perhaps there is a difference I did not notice. The CCRadio is digitally tuned which could save you quite a bit of time over the years if you switch stations a lot. A note in my guest book says that the earlier versions of the GE Superadio were the best, and beat the early CCRadio. I have included links to three web pages that provide comparisons between the Superadio and the CCRadio. This is a big topic in AM radio circles.

    If you listen to much AM on one or more hard to get stations it may well be worth it to pay an extra hundred dollars for even a small difference. The average American listens to more than a 1,000 hours of radio each year. So if you are an dedicated listener you could easily listen to 10,000 hours or more over the next decade, in which case the extra cost is less than a penny per hour.

    There is another comparison that I have not made and I can not find on the Internet, yet this would be a very important comparison. Which is better the 50 dollar GE Superadio combined with the 100 dollar C Crain Twin Coil Ferrite Antenna or the one hundred and fifty dollar CCRadio alone. The combination of the GE Superadio and the C Crain Twin Coil Ferrite Antenna cost about the same as the CCRadio alone. Several reviews of the C Crain Twin Coil Ferrite Antenna say that it can greatly improve the reception on good radios like the CCRadio and the GE Superadio so it is likely that the Superadio Twin Coil Ferrite Antenna combination should win. If you know anything please leave a note in the guest book.

    Another option to consider is a short wave radio. A CCRadio costs about as much as a high quality short wave radio and a high quality short wave radio might might bring in AM almost as well as the CCRadio. More on this below.

    Let me note on the proper spelling of these products. This will not only give you the correct spelling, but if someone enters the wrong spelling into a search engine they can still find the page. The GE Superadio is spelled superadio, not superradio, or super radio. The CCRadio is not spelled CC Radio or C.C. Radio.

    The GE Superadio was originally made by General Electric but has been made by Thompson Electronics for many years. GE does not produce many or perhaps any of home communications products that carry its brand, but I have found that much of what GE puts it's brand on is exceptional.

  5. While I have not been able to test all the equipment myself, the following is my best guess based on what I have read and personal experience.

    1. The best bet for fifty dollars is the GE Superadio.
    2. The best bet for one hundred and fifty dollars is the combination of a GE Superadio and a C Crain Twin Coil Ferrite Antenna.
    Perhaps you disagree, feel free to express yourself in my guestbook.

    According to a note in my guest book the C Crane Twin Coil Ferrite Antenna is a "great concept" but produced ";minimal improvement for AM reception." More recently another note from the guest book also said they got very little improvement with this antenna.

  6. Good short-wave radios are frequently good AM radios. So if you are interested in short-wave you might want to buy a short-wave radio rather than a high end AM radio.

    Many weak AM stations are allowed by the FCC a much stronger signal during the day, but are required to cut their power at night. After sundown you may lose the AM signal but it has commonly believed that short-wave radio works better at night. Thus you might want to switch from AM to short-wave if there is something interesting on short-wave.

    If you do get a short-wave radio it may have to be a new one, because some stations broadcast on parts of the short-wave spectrum that were not used many years ago.

    As a great short wave radio can be had for under 200 dollars you should think carefully before spending that kind of money or more on an AM radio.

    The more expensive AM equipment is popular in places like Alaska where relatively isolated people have great difficulty picking up local news.

    Internet radio has largely made shortwave a bit obsolete, Catholic radio in America is no longer on shortwave. So this tip may be increasingly obsolete unless you are someplace you can not get the Internet.

    There is another option, Sirius Satellite Radio has a couple of Catholic Channels. Once again one should look at this before spending hundreds on a very high end AM radio. An advantage of Sirius Satellite Radio is that you can hear it in the car, where you might not get the Internet, or might not get the Internet without rapidly burning through your data allotment. EWTN is available on Sirius Satellite, but is also available on the Internet.

    It also might be mentioned that DirectTV and Dish Network now carry EWTN in English. This is a television service not radio so I will leave it at that.

  7. Before you spend a couple of hundred dollars to bring in a station you might want to find out if you really like it. As mentioned above, the average American spends close to a thousand hours a year listening to radio according to the Statistical Abstract put out by the Bureau of the Census. The majority of that is FM, but a large mminority is AM. If you are a radio fan, which you maybe if you have read this far, you are probably spending much more than a thousand hours a year. So if you listen to something hundreds of hours a year for several years even a couple of hundred dollars is dirt cheap. If you quickly lose interest it can be quite expensive. So how to check out the station without buying the equipment? Here are several ways.

    You maybe able to listen to some short-wave stations and even distant AM and FM stations on the Internet to test your interest. If you have broadband you may simply want to listen to the station this way and skip the equipment, but if you have a dial up modem you will probably not want to tie up your phone line for hours at a time on a regular basis just to save a couple of hundred dollars on the radio equipment that could bring the station in. But even listening on the dial up modem is a good way to try the station before you buy the equipment.

    Most libraries have public access to the Internet and you maybe able to listen to the station that interests you while surfing the Internet at the library. Once again this is a good way to try before you buy but it makes sense to buy the equipment rather than going to the library and waiting for a computer.

    If your normal travel by car brings you closer to a station that carries EWTN or any other channel that interest you this provides another opportunity to try before you buy. For example, Sacramento and several other Central Valley cities had Catholic radio stations before San Francisco was added, so a Catholic living in the Bay Area who was driving through the valley might want to check out Catholic radio before buying expensive radio equipment.

    You can check the Internet for stations near you. If you travel around the country on vacation or business you are likely to be close to an EWTN station at least occasionally. Once again you can check the Internet before each trip to see if your itinerary will carry you within range of an EWTN station.

    You might also be able to test your interest during the day on a weekend. As mentioned above the AM signal is often ten times as strong before sundown. If you work most of those hours that might not help during the week. But you might well get the station during the day on the weekend which will allow you to test your interest.

    This idea of trying before you buy must be a preoccupation of mine. I sent a letter to the editor of the New York Times suggesting that online bookstores put an excerpt, the table of contents, and the index on their web sites so you could try the book before you buy. Some on the online bookstores were already putting few excerpts before the Times published my letter, but nobody to the best of my knowledge was putting the table of contents and the index online A few months later Amazon.com put up the "Look Inside" system for many of their books. The "Look Inside" system does everything my letter suggested, three different things I suggested were done, coincidence, maybe, maybe not. But back to AM radio.

  8. In 1991 the FCC expanded the AM band to include 1605 to 1705. Earlier AM radios did not have those frequencies, so if you are searching for a station in that range you will need a newer radio. The only EWTN station with this problem is 1620 in Sacramento. The only other Catholic station I know of is 1670 in the Los Angeles area which does Spanish programming.

  9. Tuning a weak station is a challenge. For those without digital tuning it saves time to put a piece of invisible tape on the dial so one side of the needle and one side of the tape line up exactly when you are tuned into the desired station. If this offends your sense of style you can memorize exactly how the needle lines up with the numbers. You can use either AM or FM numbers to figure out exactly where the needle should be even if you are listening to AM.

    If you are having difficulty finding the station in the first place you can take the radio to a place where the station comes in strong, for example, outside, or next to a window. Then carefully mark the place on the dial. Then move the radio back to where you want to use it.

    It is also useful to note the stations with clear signals that are close to the weak station you are after. Strong stations, particularly those with distinctive programming, are helpful if you want to explain where the station is to someone else. You can also help a friend find the radio station by holding the phone next to radio so they can hear the weak channel as they try to tune it in. I find this helps them a lot. Helping people in your parish find Catholic stations is a powerful way to build up the faith and encourage Catholic radio.

    This last suggestion, and perhaps some of the others may seem a bit trivial, one can see why a book or magazine article might not include them, but space is free on the Internet so I have attempted to include things that might normally be left out so you could try "any trick in the book" to quote Donovan's song "Sunshine Superman."

  10. Many weak AM stations, including many Catholic AM stations, cut their power at night, and you may get interference at one time during the day but not another. So you may be able to get a station during the day when you are at work, but not when you are free to listen to the program. You can use an automatic light timer, the type that is used to fool burglars into thinking you are home, to record radio programs when you are not at home. I have a popular web page giving the details of this idea and information and links for other methods of timed radio recording.

  11. I have bought a Radio Shack loop antenna, which has now been discontinued, and have had a chance to experiment with it. The Select-A-Tenna is another adjustable loop antenna that is still on the market and much of the following would apply to it. With a cheap radio my Radio Shack loop can make a big difference. I pick up the radio and move it away from the antenna and the station disappears all together, reappearing when I move the radio back to the loop.

    But with a good radio like the GE Superadio it is difficult to find any difference. Many web sites will tell you that the antenna is more important than the radio, but good radios often have good antennas built in. The GE Superadio has a large ferrite antenna built into the back. My landlord ordered a Select-A-Tenna to use with his CCRadios from C. Crane Company. He found it did not help and sent it back. Once again the point is that the CCRadio is a great AM radio and even a great antenna like the Select-A-Tenna may not make much difference. On the other hand a Select-A-Tenna used with skill may make a difference under certain circumstances even with a great radio and might be worth the sixty dollars to the real fan.

  12. You get the best reception when the loop antenna is placed so that if it were a wheel it could be rolled toward the broadcast tower.

    This is the opposite of how you use the regular AM antenna in the back of your radio. The antenna in the back of the radio should be placed so it is perpendicular to the signal. Think of it like a sail that is catching the radio waves. If the signal comes from the north then the ends of the radio should point East and West, and the back of the radio should face North or South.

    A web page on loop antennas said the loop must be perpendicular to the internal antenna. I have tested this and found that what is relevant is the orientation of the loop antenna to the broadcast tower not the radio. This will mean that the loop is perpendicular to the internal antenna, but that is because both the internal antenna and the loop antenna are properly oriented toward the broadcast tower.

    If the loop is not wired to the radio it will have to be close to the radio. If the loop antenna and the radio form a T, with the front or back of the radio facing the tower you will get an optimal signal, unless there is a source of interference.

  13. Here is another tip I recieved in my guest book. "I use two radios tuned to the same station, held right next to each other. The second radio does not have to be on, and the improvement on my cheapie is great" This did not work for me, actually it made the signal weaker. But perhaps it will work for you, like it did the person who left the note. Another area for research.

  14. Some one sent me an e-mail that said their reception improved when they were close to or touching their radio. Many, maybe most, people have noted this. I used to set my radio on a gallon jar of water to get a similar effect. Things like this may make reception better or worse. What can I say, radio waves are funny, experiment.

You can help Catholic radio by spreading information on these and the other tips you will find at various web sites to your fellow parishioners. I demonstrated tips and equipment for the Legion of Mary and my prayer group. If the pastor does not object you might run demonstrations on Sunday morning in front of the church or put some key tips in the Church bulletin.

Here is a web page on Catholic radio stations nation wide,EWTN affiliated stations

In this web page I have been discussing AM radio, which is the American term, internationally the term middle wave is used. The tips are also useful for long wave radio.

AM reception links for your home


Here are some links to web pages that contain suggestions that you will not find elsewhere. First some web pages for your home and then some for your car.

I have written a summary of the tips from this page and many other pages. It maybe the most extensive collection of AM radio reception ideas on the web, though some of the other pages go into more depth on certain topics.

A collection of tips based on many web sites

The Pilot of the Airwaves has been a radio hobbyist for many years, and used to work for his college radio station. His page gives the standard advice, which is very important, but also has many other points based on his considerable experience. The pilot's page, like the one you are reading, was on Geocities.com. Now it is on the Internet Archive.

The Pilot of the Airwaves

The Australian Broadcast Corporation, ABC, has put up several good pages on AM radio reception. These pages may not cover all the standard material, but they have material the others do not. One of the ABC pages is on troubleshooting at home.

The ABC tips on home trouble shooting

Here is another good place to check, because it has a couple of thoughts that other web pages do not, but it is rather short and does not have much of the material that other sites do have. One of his points was that if you have a two pronged plug in which both prongs are the same you might want to try turning the plug over so the prongs go into the opposite slots. He also suggests moving to another plug to eliminate interference that is coming through the plugs. eHow has lots of good practical ideas on many topics. You have to register to get all their advice.

AM radio advice from ehow.com

Three web sites comparing the GE Superadio with the CCRadio

Here is a careful comparison of the two strongly recommended AM radios, the GE Superadio and the CCRadio from Crane. It is written by Bob Grove. The web page is on the Grove Enterprises web site, so Bob Grove probably owns the company or is part of a family that does. This article is part of Monitoring Times. The article is fairly long.

Sophisticated article on the CCRadio and GE Superadio

A popular page on talk radio in Philadelphia that has some material comparing the GE Superadio and Crane's CCRadio.

Philly Talk Radio On Line

The C Crain Twin Coil Ferrite Antenna

C. Crane Company has an antenna invented by Chris Justice, formerly called the Justice Antenna. It is now called the C Crane Twin Coil Ferrite Antenna. A number of sources say that this antenna can greatly improve the reception of good radios like the CCRadio and the GE Superadio. So it is important. Here is a web sites that discusses it.

Harry Taylor Review of the Twin Coil Ferrite Antenna.

Two Web sites on Interference

This is a sophisticated page on AM interference problems. The writer explains what the different sources of interference sound like. This could help you narrow down the suspects as you search for the source of the noise. An advanced page for the person who wants to know all the tricks, but filled with material you will not find on any of the other pages.

Sophisticated AM radio interference page

Another intelligent page on interference. It suggests that many of our interference problems are the fault of the radio or television set.

More wisdom on interference

Other AM Reception Links

This web page has a very long list of AM links, many of them intended for AM hobbyists. The page even links to this one, so he must have good taste, right?

Many AM reception and antenna links.

Finally let me mention that you might find material on AM reception by searching for the interational term medium wave radio, more rarely called mediumwave and very rarely middle wave. Conversely if you are searching for information on medium wave you should use advice for AM radio which is the same thing. Long wave radio uses the same techniques as AM radio even though it is on a different part of the radio spectrum.

Here once again is the link to EWTN affiliated stations


On Site Radio Pages

  • A collection of tips on AM Radio reception from many web sites
  • Links for AM reception in cars, trucks, autos
  • A new page of links and tips on FM radio reception tips
  • Links to Four Catholic Internet Radio Stations
  • Short-wave, also called international band, radio for EWTN
  • Timed radio recording
  • Sacramento area Catholic radio
  • Answers to questions on AM radio reception

    Links, My Qualifications, and Contact Information

    I have a masters degree in Economics and have passed the orals for a Ph.D. I taught economics full time at a large University for several years. I currently do a little freelance writing and have published in Catholic Digest, the New Oxford Review, and the Sacramento Bee among other places. Here are some of the publications and honored pages that I have on this site.

    This web site has been honored by a links from several Catholic radio networks

  • Sacred Heart Radio, AM-1050, Catholic Radio for Seattle and AM-970 for Spokane their link was as of this writing for the old geocities site.
  • Queen of Peace Radio Network in Florida is also linked to the old geocities site.
  • Immaculate Heart Radio, Catholic radio for Sacramento, Stockton, Fresno, Bakersfield and Reno and now a bunch of other places formerly linked to this site. Now they have a page which is a slightly rewritten version of this page. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. In the future I hope that other AM radio stations or networks will link to this site. Why not provide your listeners with the best information on how to bring your station in?

    If you are a Catholic webmaster this website has received a green, the top rating for fidelity to the Catholic faith from Catholic Culture. So Catholics can use this web site with confidence. You can also use Catholic Culture to look for Catholic sites that have been checked for fidelity.

    Have you got any thoughts on improving AM radio reception? Perhaps you know of an important web site that I missed. Why not write about them in my guest book I may include your thoughts in this page, which used to get more than 30 thousand hits a year when it was on Geocities, and perhaps it will achieve that again. Furthermore the Cleveland Plain Dealer published an article largely based on this site, so who knows how far your thoughts will go if you put them in the guest book. Only I can read the comment log but I will feel free to quote you with out revealing your identity, unless you ask me to include your name.

    This page is proudly text only because I value your time. I like to think that my site is information rich and graphics free.

    Contact Information

    Page last updated June 20, 2012

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