December 3, 2009

MY EARLIER TECH-BLEG POST on AM radios suitable for the sticks produced a number of emails from readers.

Several said the problem wasn’t the radio, but needing a better antenna. Reader Rob Witmer recommends the Terk AM-100. “Passive AM antenna requires no AM antenna jack. Greatly improves reception of weak signals. Works well during the day and even better at night.”

And reader William Goelkel writes: “Your reader in Colorado needs an antenna, not a new radio. Suggest he find a local ham radio operator. Most would be delighted to help build one; no charge. List of HAM clubs in CO.” Hams are amazingly generous folks, in my experience.

And Charlie Martin writes: ‘Glenn, I grew up in those mountains; what we used to do was just string out a long wire for an antenna.” Don’t forget the lightning arrestor!

Alan Paprocki spoke for many when he wrote: “Heavens, why not the GE Superradio? It’s quite famous, you know.”

Jerry Hunter writes: “I have 2 Sangeans, a PR-D5 AM-FM and an ATS-909 AM-FM-Worldband . The AM sections are as good as you are likely to find these days. They don’t make them like they used to. Today they seem to be included as an afterthought. When I was a teenager I had a tube radio that would pull in AM stations from hundreds of miles away, especially at night.”

Lots of people also recommended Crane radios.

I’d try the antenna first, but my little Grundig pulled in stations from all over with no external antenna needed. I’m not sure what happened to it. I do have one of these hand-cranked AM/FM/Shortwave radios for emergencies, but I haven’t tried it out on long-distance listening.

And there’s always internet streaming! Reader Andrew Hamilton sends this site to help find live streams.

UPDATE: Reader James Clark writes:

I suggest you and or your person contact Bob Crane, the proprietor of the C.Crane Co. at 800-522-8863, or at ccrane.com. I think your best results, in this case, come from dealing directly with Mr. Crane. He is an AM radio aficionado of many years who has created a business around his interest. His knowledge extends far beyond the products in his current catalog including into the world of antennae. I have found him easily approachable and a person readily enjoying to talk about the world of radio.

That’s cool.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Harry Shearer emails: “I agree re: the Sangean. In my youth, I had a car radio that, on cold winter nights in LA, could pick up WABC New York, which was supposed to be impossible. It is now.” Yeah, I wonder how much of that is a decline in radio quality and how much is increased interference from more gadgets and spectrum use. Anybody know?

MORE: Or the lack of sunspots. Reader Dan McAfee writes:

I read an interesting article in World Radio Magazine the other day (on page 28 of the pdf) and wrote about it here. I would have thought that the quiet sun (no sunspots) would be a boon to radio communications, but it turns out that sunspots increase solar winds which brush cosmic rays away from Earth… no sunspots, more cosmic rays, poorer reception. And we’re in the deepest solar minimum in a century…

Good point.

STILL MORE: Or maybe it’s just bureaucrats. Reader Jim McKee writes:

The problem of not being able to get WABC is a result of the FCC changing the protections for “clear channel” am stations. Some stations like WABC (or WOWO in my old home town in Ft. Wayne, IN) had frequencies to themselves and more power. Whenever I mention my hometown to people over a certain age they still mention that the only thing they know about it was having heard WOWO. More info. on the decline of clear channel stations on wikipedia here.

This has been an interesting discussion!

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