Monday, March 07, 2005

WMBR unofficial over the air reception tips

I hope that those of you who are located in the greater Boston and northeastern Massachusetts area can hear us on the airwaves at 88.1 FM. For those who are within our listening area but may have problems receiving us, here are some suggestions:

- If you're listening on a home stereo receiver, make sure it has an antenna connected to it! You may get the full-powered commercial (and public) radio stations with no antenna at all, but reception of WMBR and other lower-powered college stations would be unlikely. I've fielded many reception complaint calls from people who didn't have (or didn't even know whether they had) any antenna connected to their receiver.

- The wire antennas supplied with most receivers are inadequate. Short of installing an outside roof antenna, the best antenna for indoor FM reception (in my opinion) is a cheap basic old-school TV "rabbit ear" antenna, with two telescoping arms and it's own free-standing base. These are available at many hardware stores, radio stores and electronics stores for well under $20, perhaps even under $10. There's no need for expensive fancy amplified FM antennas. If your receiver is recently manufactured and has a single coaxial-type antenna connector, but the antenna has a twin-lead cable, you may need an additional adapter for just a couple of bucks.

- Start with the "rabbit ear" arms in a wide "V" extended about 36" each, positioned away from interference causing devices such as computers, etc... and experiment with different placements for best reception. I'm guessing that when televison goes all-digital using UHF frequencies later in 2009, "rabbit ear" antennas may no longer be manufactured, so get 'em while they're hot, before they become collectors items!

- If you're within a few miles of Boston's Back Bay or downtown areas (or directly across the river in Cambridge, including the MIT area) and you're hearing a wash of other stations from elsewhere on the dial interfering with WMBR, your radio is being overloaded by the signals of the seven 50,000 watt (equivalent) commercial FM stations all transmitting from the top of the Prudential Center. This may also happen in areas near Routes 128 and 9 in the Newton, Needham, Wellesley area due to the five 50,000 watt (equivalent) FM stations transmitting from the television towers there. This phoenomenon is much more common on lower quality, smaller receivers such as Walkmans and other portables, boom-boxes, and clock radios than on higher quality home and car stereo receivers.

- In this case, if the radio has a telescoping antenna, try shortening it. If the receiver is a Walkman type with earphones, or a clock radio, those radios use the earphone or power cords as FM antennas. Try coiling the cord to effectively make it shorter. The idea to reduce that type of intermodulation interference is to make the radio LESS sensitive by reducing the antenna length. If the radio has a "Local/DX" switch, try the "Local" position.

- It can be a challenge, if even possible, to get WMBR and other lower powered stations over the air in steel and concrete office buildings. All I can suggest (in addition to the above) is to try to locate the radio as close to a window as possible, away from interference causing devices such as computers and other digital equipment. Or, you can listen to our online stream at work, if you are equipped.

Under normal conditions, it should be possible to hear WMBR clearly within the red zone of this map. The purple and blue zones are iffy, and subject to interference from other adjacent and co-channel stations, though in some cases we've been heard even farther than the limits pictured.

I hope that this may be helpful for some of our over-the-air listeners!