Riding The Radio Waves

Most people have trouble getting reliable radio reception no matter where they live in Australia. The problem is that in 99.9% of cases, it is not a problem with the product but rather with the reception where the product is located. Manufacturers will not and cannot reasonably accept responsibility for factors they cannot control and retailers are not obligated to refund or exchange if the product is not faulty. Both analogue radio; AM (Amplitude Modulation) & FM (Frequency Modulation) as well as digital radio; DAB+ (Digital Audio Broadcast Plus) can suffer from dodgy reception and even more so when you’re situated more than 60km from a major metropolitan centre. So, let's examine the options more closely. 

Riding The Radio Waves In 1930

AM Radio

Although it is diminishing in popularity and usage since the reintroduction of FM in 1975 and DAB+ in 2010, there are still a lot of people who either like ABC radio and certain commercial AM stations or live in non-metropolitan areas. However, AM Radio is affected by your location, the weather, time-of-day, station output and even the location of the transmitter. First we need to presume that the product has a good quality AM tuner built-in.

Home Audio Receivers: You may be surprised to learn that most Stereo and Home Theatre Receivers DO NOT have brilliant AM tuners! The emphasis is on the other features. Why then include the AM tuner? Simply because products are made for world-wide consumption and may work (1) if you are closely located to the transmitter; and or (2) have a proper AM antenna installed which is at additional cost to you. So as you can see there are variables.

Home Audio Receivers (all brands) do come with an indoor AM loop antenna and an indoor FM wire antenna. Frankly, these are pretty useless and may work if you have strong reception. Some consumers feel that the AM radio should work properly without an external antenna. It is true, all table top and portable radios have a built-in antenna, but other larger audio and visual components do not. For example take your TV. You simply cannot usually get good TV picture and sound without a TV antenna! Most homes and apartments have access to an external TV antenna. So it is with the AM tuner in a Stereo or Home Theatre Receiver. You need some sort of AM Antenna and the type will vary depending on your locality.

Table Top & Portable Radios: Although these units will usually have a telescopic antenna, they will only perform if conditions are acceptable. You will still be required to add an AM Antenna if the product has that provision and your reception is poor. Older and cheap radios can be a guide but not always. Without getting too technical, cheap radios have a wider capture range. When played through the low quality amp and speakers, the sound appears acceptable. However, if you amplified that signal through better amp and speakers the result is terrible! Better products focus on strong signals and reject the weaker and spurious signals and so sound better. But, they need a strong signal and that may only be possible with an additional antenna. 

AM Antenna: As we said earlier, most items come with an indoor antenna - usually just a wire or a ferrite loop - but they are almost useless. Good news is that there is an Australian company who specialise in AM Antennas. They are PK Antennas  and we find they work very well but again subject to your locality. By all means contact us or them BEFORE you buy a product to listen to AM radio...or consider the alternatives listed below.

FM Radio

Much of what we stated above also applies to FM (Frequency Modulation) radio. Your location and distance from the transmitter will affect performance. FM radio typically has a range of 80km and is "line-of-sight" so buildings, hills etc will cause the signal to ghost. We're sure everyone born before 1990 knows what this is! With radio it is the equivalent to audio distortion. Home Audio Receivers of all persuassions do not have built-in antennas but will have provision for an external FM antenna via a 75 Ohm coaxial socket. Some come with a 'T' wire antenna but these are hit and miss and mainly more miss. Plus they look ugly pinned to your wall! However, you can usually use your TV reception as a guide as most FM transmissions are broadcast from the same towers, although your TV antenna will have to have the correct receptors. Note that everytime you add another product to the antenna you will need a splitter. If the signal deteriotes then you may need a TV antenna amplifier. You need to contact an Antenna specialist to discuss your needs.

So in conclusion, an external or dedicated antenna will be required if you experience poor sound. Remember, a product is not deemed 'faulty' if you experience poor reception due to any of the above scenarios. And don't forget, the better or more costly the Receiver, the more the pronounced the problem can be. If radio is important to you, then consider installing/connecting to an optional antenna.

DAB+ Radio

No question, DAB+ digital radio has been a huge success in Australia even though it is only available in some capital cities and large regional areas. Although it has introduced us to a number of new stations - like Koffee or even Coles radio which is not bad if you can stand a constant flow of just their ads - the big thing for a lot of listeners is the fact that most if not all of the ABC and commercial AM stations now broadcast via this medium. One thing common to both digital TV and radio is that it either is perfect or non-existant. There is no "drifting" as can occur on AM radio. You've either got it or not. One of our staff has a DAB+ radio in his car and one spot near his home reception just vanishes only to reappear a few seconds later. So as per FM, digital radio has a limited range and is affected by surrounding geography.

DAB+ Radio Official Logo

Home Audio Receivers: It is interesting to note that very few Home Audio Receivers have built-in DAB+ radio (Yamaha RSX500/600 now discontinued) and there a couple of component tuners with DAB+ built-in. Yamaha and Sangean are two we know of so call us to confirm stock availability.

Table Top & Portable Radios: Of course the choice here is vast and we stock a good range of radios with DAB+ built in. However, the issue all consumers need to address BEFORE they make a purchase is whether they will need an external antenna. All these units (the ones we sell) have at least a telescopic antenna which will work if you have optimal conditions.

More On DAB+ Radio

If you want more detail on DAB+ radio and whether it is available in your area, then click here to visit the Digital Radio Plus website.

What if you don't have optimal conditions and cannot or won't buy an external antenna? One solution is to simply forget radio as an entertainment medium but there is a better way to get crystal clear radio reception without using either analogue or digital radio. How So? The answer is via the internet.

Internet Radio - The 21st Century Solution

If you have Broadband Internet to your property and a reliable Wi-Fi setup, then Internet Radio could be your radio of the future. Internet radio offers over 100,000 stations and to a degree is absolutely free. There are a couple of ways to ride the Internet radio wave.

Bluetooth: One way to enjoy Internet Radio is to stream it via Bluetooth from any smart phone or tablet using the TuneIn Radio App to any Bluetooth enabled music system.

Streaming: A higher quality and more reliable way to stream Internet Radio is to use one of several music streaming brands available at Audio Trends. We have a large selection of products from most of the major brands that now offer the option of streaming internet radio. Some of the most popular brands to offer internet radio are Sonos, Bluesound, Bose, Naim, Cambridge Audio, Denon, Marantz & Yamaha.

Yamaha Network Receiver

Important Things You Need To Know!

1. There are stations available in almost every language playing all types of music and also dedicated sports and news stations so you should have no trouble finding stations that suit your taste. These stations can be stored as favourites for easy access.

2. Stations broadcast at different bit rates. The highest is normally 320kbps (kilobits per second) for high quality music stations all the way down to 64kbps for news or sports stations.

3. Be aware of your monthly internet download limit and the bit rate of your favourite stations.

A station broadcasting at 320kbps will chew through 144MB (megabytes) of data per hour* which means if you play this station one hour per day you will use approximately 4.3GB (gigabytes) per month. If you listen 10 hours a day that’s 43GB per month! Yikes.

A station broadcasting at 64kbps (a common bit rate amongst internet radio stations) will chew through 29MB (megabytes) of data per hour which means if you play this station one hour per day you will use approximately 0.85GB (gigabytes) per month. If you listen 10 hours a day that’s 8.5GB per month.

Bluesound Node

Please Note: Some Internet Service Providers just slow your internet speed down once you have exceeded your monthly download limit. Others charge you (a lot) once you’ve exceeded your download limit so make sure you know what your service provider’s policy is. Then calculate your radio usage using the figures above to make sure your download limit will cope with your new radio addiction.

*Data usage calculation for a 320kbps station. 320 kilobits x 3,600 seconds = 1,152,000 kilobits per hour. Divided by 8 converts this number to 144,000 kilobytes per hour which is the same as 144 megabytes per hour. (Bits is used by radio stations. Bytes are used by internet service providers, thus the need to divide the kilobits by 8 to get kilobytes.) Please Note: All facts & figures are correct at the time of publication. If necessary, check these with your Internet provider.

A reliable broadband internet connection and solid wi-fi in your home are both required for internet radio. For AM, FM or DAB+ reception an external or dedicated antenna will be required if you experience poor sound. The product is not deemed 'faulty' if you experience poor reception due to any of the above scenarios. And, the better or more costly the Receiver, the more pronounced the problem can be. If radio, particularly AM Radio, is important to you, then consider connecting an optional AM antenna.

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