What’s the easiest way to improve my reception of your signal?

*Assuming you have a radio with an antenna:

  1. Extend the antenna and tune for us; we are right between Lite98 and the classic rock station.
  2. Move the radio around your space until you find the sweet spot for reception. This doesn’t have to be the final place for your radio.
  3. Swing that whip antenna around until it is perpendicular to WRIR. Antennas actually receive from the side.
  4. Once you’ve optimized your antenna setting, find another sweet spot which is closer to where you actually want to place the radio.
  5. Another antenna trick. If fully extended, your antenna may be “overloading” a nearby signal. Try decreasing the length of the antenna and see if WRIR doesn’t pop in a little better. This may help with selectivity (see below).

What types of radios are best for receiving low power signals?

It is truly a horrible receiver that can’t get us at ALL in the inner city area. However, most of us don’t live in the inner city. Here are some characteristics to consider when choosing a radio to improve your reception of weak signals:

  • You’ll need a radio which is sensitive enough to pick up WRIR. Sensitivity is the ability of a radio to pick up weak signals.
  • You’ll also need a radio that is selective enough to pull WRIR out of the soup of noise that is the radio dial. Selectivity is the ability of a radio to discriminate among several close signals. This means that the radio can “select” to hear 97.3 instead of the bleed-over from another local strong station at 98.1.
  • So, the ideal radio has both excellent sensitivity and selectivity. Your average clock radio fails miserably on both counts. On the other hand, car radios have great sensitivity and selectivity, as well as having the advantage of a better antenna because the car body provides
  • One of the hints that you have a decent receiver is that it has a “mono” switch that allows you to force the receiver into monaural mode – this can improve reception. Another hint is that it has a “local/DX” switch. That is a built-in attenuator (see 5 in the next section) which can help when there is a strong neighboring station (such as Lite98) which may overload your receiver.

I love WRIR, but I don’t want to take out a loan to listen to you! Can’t I just buy an antenna?

Yes, you can. Here are some different antenna solutions:

  1. Get a length of speaker wire, and attach the ends to the screws found on the back of the radio or stereo receiver. Split the wire so you have a T-shaped antenna, with the base attached to your radio. Experiment with the placement of the crossbar. This type of antenna is called a dipole.
  2. Old TV rabbit-ear antennas will work. Remember that antennas receive from the side.
  3. Another type is a directional “yagi” (named after one of the Japanese inventors of this antenna). This is a bit more involved type of antenna, which looks something like the TV antennas we saw on our parents’ (OK, our grandparents’!) rooftops.
  4. Radio Shack is a good place for the non-geek to look for FM antennas.
  5. An antenna may increase the strength of an interfering signal. An attenuator is a device which lessens the power of a signal. Combined with antenna placement, an attenuator may help you pull WRIR’s signal. Radio Shack has these for under $10. Make sure you let the clerk know you need an attenuator for FM signals.\
  6. Antenna placement can not only improve your reception of a wanted signal, it can also “cancel out” an unwanted signal – this is known as nulling. The antenna should be placed in a position perpendicular to WRIR to maximize your reception of our signal, and to avoid pulling in other nearby stations.

If you still don’t receive WRIR indoors even with that Radio Shack antenna, you might have to mount the antenna on a pole on the roof. Try to get it 9 feet away from the nearest metal object (other than the mast, which should be metal for grounding and lightning protection). That mast should be well grounded at the base so lightning doesn’t go through your radio and/or house and start a fire!

What is a hard-core radio-nut solution to maximizing your reception?

Get a car radio – just just about any high end name brand or better yet, a stock factory car radio preferably with standard connectors. You can probably get it from the junkyard or reseller with the plugs that normally go in it from the automobile. Often you can get such a radio free or for as little as $5.
Get a 12v power supply and put an old 12 battery in parallel with the voltage leads from that 12v power supply (red goes to positive!). Put that car radio up on a shelf next to the flour or behind the booze where no-one will care what it looks like, and plug the car radio into some speakers.
Now you’ll need to attach an antenna. Most car radios are so good, you could just take about three feet of zip cord (ie, lamp cord, or speaker wire) and skin the end, fold it over and stick it into the center hole in the place at the back of a car receiver where the antenna lead would normally go. Then, just follow the same instructions as above for antennas.

I gave money to WRIR during your fundraiser; can’t you increase your signal strength?

The FCC limits Low-Power FM (LPFM) licensees to broadcasting at a maximum of 100 watts of power. This license also mandates that we cannot interfere with another broadcast signal, but must accept any interference we receive from other broadcasters. So there are some legal limits on what we can do.
WRIR relocated its transmitter and antenna to the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s Frederic A. Fay Towers, 1202 North 1st Street in Richmond in March 2007.
The Fay Towers antenna site, 120 feet off the ground with an unimpeded view over the entire metropolitan area, allows WRIR for the first time in its two-year history to achieve the full service area coverage that is allowed under its FCC license.
The FCC expects a low-power FM station to be heard within an approximate radius of 3.5 miles of its antenna. WRIR’s own tests show good reception within a 5 mile radius on a good quality inexpensive table radio, and even greater range on high quality equipment such as a typical car radio. We’ve had reports of good reception at distances of more than 10 miles from the new antenna site.

Here’s the FCC link for more info on LPFMs: