We've put together the best tips we've found for improving AM Reception and reducing interference, especially reception on portable radios.
First, if you're having trouble receiving your favorite talk radio program – determine if you get the signal at all. If the station is a 500 Watt station across the country, no amount of reception tips will help you receive this signal. That said, if the station streams, an internet radio or combining your smartphone and a portable Bluetooth speaker may be a viable solution.
If you get the signal but it is weak, try moving near a window or outside wall. If your reception improves, then you know that the signal is having a hard time reaching where you prefer to listen or there may be some interference. You have a couple of options – you can run an antenna over to the window (or maybe even outside). Another thing we've learned recently is that some stations are being rebroadcast on sister stations either AM or FM so if you go to Radio Locator and look up the station call letters you're trying to receive; you might see another station listed as “also broadcasts from” with a different frequency so you may be able to find a closer station that is stronger that is rebroadcasting the same content.
If the problem is noise, try the radio on batteries and walk around your home and see if the static or buzzing gets worse or better. If the noise gets worse, odds are good the offending device (or electrical component) is located here and you may be able to turn it off. Rotating your radio when you get near the buzzing can help you determine exactly where the noise is coming from. If it's the same throughout the house, try going outside. Is it better? If it is, then an antenna may help or you may end up needing to do a more thorough investigation in your home. We've talked to people who end up turning off all the breakers to find out they have some electrical wiring issues that are producing noise in their entire house!
If you're on an analog radio, slowly turn the dial and consider using a piece of tape to mark where you find the station. Also, keep in mind that there are times where a signal will not broadcast exactly on frequency or a radio's tuning isn't completely accurate so tuning a little off frequency may get you a stronger signal.
Many people don't know (or forget) that stations may be required to power down, change direction or in some cases power up at night so differing signal during day and night may not be limited to summer, solar flares and the atmosphere, it may be that your 10,000 Watt daytime station switches to a 5,000 watt station at night that broadcasts in the opposite direction. Again, radio locator is a great source of information about your favorite station.
Common causes for interference, buzz and hum on AM radio
Easily determined and turned off:
- Incandescent Lights
- Fluorescent Lights
- Lights that are about to burn out
- Touch lamps (must unplug turning off may not be enough)
- Christmas Lights or other blinking bulbs
- Computers and Monitors
- Electric Motors
- Vacuum Cleaners
- Microwave Ovens
- Bug Zappers
- Electric blanket
- 120V AC smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors
- Air purifiers
- Motion detectors
- Cell phone chargers
- Even your own radio adapter may be the culprit
More Difficult to Determine:
- Neighbor's using fluorescent lights
- Faulty electrical switch
- Neighbor's dimmer switch
- Dirty insulators on a nearby power pole