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Reception Tips

The KBCS transmitter antenna is located on Cougar Mountain (near Issaquah) at 1,400 feet above sea level. Our signal coverage area reaches more than 4 million listeners across the Puget Sound.

Here’s a detailed map of our coverage area.

To receive and enjoy public radio to the fullest, you’ll need three items:

1. Good radio
2. Suitable location
3. Proper antenna

FM radio waves travel more-or-less in straight lines. They are weakened by objects that get between the transmitter and receiver, such as buildings and mountains.

RADIOS

For good reception, a radio must have good selectivity (a radio’s ability to separate weak stations located nearby, on the FM dial, from strong stations) and good sensitivity (the ability to receive weak, distant stations). You probably have a radio with these features. This radio is located in your automobile.

Car Radios

Car radios have to be built to high standards to provide decent reception in a moving vehicle, in the presence of varying terrain, with a serious  source of interference (your engine). You’ve probably noticed that FM radio reception is usually better in your car than in your house.

Home/Office radios

Most home radios have poor selectivity and sensitivity, with analog tuning (as opposed to digital tuning, where the radio station’s frequency is displayed in illuminated numbers). Most clock radios, under-cabinet radios, “boom boxes”, etc. don’t work very well compared to a car radio. Fortunately, if your less-expensive radio has at least one important feature, you may be able to improve reception: an antenna.

LOCATION & ANTENNAE

These two items are actually MORE important than the kind of radio you’re using. You can get similar reception quality in a bad location using a great antenna as you can in a good location using a bad antenna.

Location

  1. The closer you are located to a radio transmitter tower the better chance you have of receiving a clear signal.
  2. The higher up your antenna is located, the better chance you have of receiving a clear signal.
  3. If radio is on a hill, you’ll get better reception than if it is in a valley
  4. If there is a large object (like a mountain or building) between your radio and the the transmitter tower you will probably receive a poor signal.
  5. If your antenna is outside, it will perform better than if it is inside.

Antenna:

  1. Built-in antennae: Even the lowliest radio has some sort of antenna, typically built-in. Many clock/table radios use the power cord as an antenna. Digital devices with an FM radio use the headphone cord as the antenna. Signals they receive are usually variable; for example, when you walk around the room, the signal strength will change.
  2. Wire “dipole”: This is a flexible wire antenna that comes packed with some radios. Using this antenna will improve reception somewhat. It is attached to the back of the radio, then strung up somewhere in the room as a “T,” with the two ends extended as far as possible from each other. For KBCS, ideally, the “T” should be stretched out facing Cougar Mountain.
  3. Telescoping antenna(e)/”rabbit ears”: Some “boom boxes” and portable radios have one or two telescoping antenna rods. These perform somewhat better than the wire dipoles because you can move the one (or two) rods around.
    1. Tip: Circular, ash-tray sized and other types of indoor antennae are meant for UHF television and won’t work very will with an FM radio.
    2. Tip: We don’t recommend amplified indoor antennae. The size and location of your antenna – not the price or the beauty – are the biggest determinants of its performance.
  4. Outdoor Antennae: If you can somehow manage an outdoor antenna, this is the way to go. If you want to install a new outdoor FM antenna, there are two types to choose from, omni-directional and directional. An omni, like the Winegard HD-6010, will receive FM signals from all directions. This is a decent choice if you like to station-hop. If you mostly listen to only one station or most of the stations you listen to are located in more or less the same direction, or you can remotely change the direction of the position antennae, you need a directional antenna.

INTERFERENCE

Earth’s atmosphere is full of radio frequency signals, some of which will conflict with each other. Here are few examples of interference that we’ve heard about.

  1. Interference from other stations: Typically this can be cured with a radio that has better selectivity. In our northern broadcast area there is a Canadian commercial radio station operating on 91.3 which can, depending on your location, over-power the KBCS signal. If you hear another station while trying to listen to KBCS, try listening on different radio. Another option is to use a directional antenna.
  2. Multi-path interference: Sometimes the same FM signal can be received by your radio’s antenna from several different places, at slightly different times. For example, if there is a nearby reflective surface, like a skyscraper or cliff face, signal might arrive at your antenna directly from the KBCS transmitter, then again a fraction of a second later after bouncing off that large object. To cure this, try to either use a directional antenna or try to re-orient your antenna.
  3. Other sources of interference: There are plenty of other sources of interference possible, amateur radio operators, computers, TV’s, fluorescent lights, electric fences…. anything electric. Try to determine which of these sources is causing the problem and isolate it.