How to Get the Best FM Radio Reception

By David Lipscomb

Frequency modulated radio reception is a trusted way to receive your favorite stations. Like any radio frequency, you must use a properly placed antenna to achieve the best results. High-quality audio is within reach using tried and true methods of eliminating competing signals while maximizing the ones you are trying to receive.

Antenna Selection

FM signals work like VHF television signals in many respects. These radio waves travel around and under obstacles, unlike AM, which is largely line-of-sight. Since FM radio waves travel in a 6-foot-wide pattern, using an antenna with large individual elements will help ensure that you collect as much of the signal as possible. Rooftop antennas used for television also work well for FM bands, as do telescoping antennas with masts extending to 3 feet or more. As with any antenna, height and surface area are the two strongest weapons against weak reception. For this reason, you should always select an FM tuner with an external antenna connector if sound quality is important.

Antenna Placement

Many people use antennas limited to indoor use. In such environments, it's better to extend the antenna as far as possible. Placement close to a window and away from brick and steel if possible is ideal. The best scenario involves finding out where your favorite stations broadcast from and then choosing a window facing that direction. In this case, even a set of rabbit ears may be sufficient.

Minimize Interference

Fluorescent lights, microwaves and other similar electronic devices wreak havoc on FM signals. Turn off such equipment whenever possible if you are attempting to get the best FM reception. If the devices must remain on, mount the antenna as far away from them as possible for optimum reception.

Switch to Mono

Although it may seem counter-intuitive, switching to mono often alleviates many of the static and audio artifacts associated with fringe FM reception. Stereo FM sounds better when the signal is strong and reliable. To enjoy hard-to-receive stations or for cleaner overall sound, switching from stereo to mono is a proven solution.