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FM reception in Raymond, Wa.  

Note: This page, at present, is a collection of notes I write down as I explore the condition of FM reception in my new area, and what to do (what can be done) that will improve it.  Presently, these are just rough notes.  My intent is that once I have a conclusion, or anything like it, I will summarize and re-write this page.  For now these notes remain as evidence of my efforts.

Q:Well, what did I expect out in the middle of nowhere?  

A: it is better than I might have imagined but there are some improvements in reception to be made.

The problem:

This is a 3rd story flat (rented) and only indoor antennas are allowed.  Period.

image 1:DSC_3757annotated.jpg (220402 bytes) 1st setup with dipole antenna oriented as seen.  FM reception on station 90.3 has a strong signal but also much noise in the form of sibilance.  Particularly when the station broadcasts a newscast or just with spoken words.  It is also present with music.

image 2: DSC_4041annotate.jpg (249235 bytes)2nd setup with dipole antenna moved and rotated horizontal  result; no difference.  Notice also, to the left and up on top of the rack is a Parsec Beam Booster amplified antenna that can sometimes improve on signal clarity in comparison to the dipole antenna.  Also in use is a "FM Trap" from Radio Shack.  

image 3: ge SAT PIC DETAIL 1.jpg (293561 bytes) Google Earth Satellite image showing the building I'm in.  To describe I could start with the terrain.  To the north, east and west I am surrounded by tall hills (small mountains) that are tree covered and largely owned by the Weyerhauser corporation.  This is logging country.  

image 4: ge Sat pic detail 2.jpg (549391 bytes) Overview showing Raymond in relation to most of the rest of Washington state.


As I look out my balcony with a camera I can see the following:

Image 5:

Above: looking West out my 3rd story balcony.

image 6: DSC_4028_edits.jpg (352717 bytes) looking West down Park Avenue which becomes hwy 105 after the bend.

image 7: DSC_4033.jpg (237462 bytes) Telephoto lens shot: Looking West as before but aiming the camera upward we have a view of two cell towers.  These are situated on the top of a small mountain.  To the North, West and East mountainous terrain such as this dominates.  There is another cell tower to be found in downtown Raymond.  Cell phone reception is strong in this immediate area. 

image 8: DSC_4018edits.jpg (500659 bytes) Looking at the building I'm in from just South on the bridge that spans the North Fork of the Willapa River and looking North.  I'm on foot for this photo.

image 9: DSC_4008edits.jpg (236480 bytes)  Another shot from the bridge looking North.  The terrain is hilly and tree covered.

Thanks to Weyerhauser, there are some modern conveniences available.  For instance, I have fiber-optic communications.  And that is quite modern for being situated this far away from Seattle.  I have family in the Tucson, Az area and they are still stuck with copper wire (cable) internet connections.  Perhaps in time fiber-optic will get out to them... or perhaps a newer technology that might just be around the corner.  Meanwhile, I am trying to optimize my FM reception here at Raymond.

image 10: DSC_4045annotate.jpg (232999 bytes) most recent dipole antenna location.  This resulted in a slightly 'cleaner' reception of the 90.3 fm station I have targeted.  But it is still slightly sibilant in human voice reproduction.

One particular station I want to receive:

FM 88.5  Tacoma & Seattle area
FM 90.3 Raymond K212AG

image 11: knkx coverage map.jpg (407351 bytes) hint: click on thumbnail to view image full size.

FM Fool map:

image 12: Radar-FM.png (89825 bytes)

next; a station roll call of sorts.  Using the Carver TX-11b I tune in to each of the station channels on the FM Fool list and report signal strength, genre and note reception qualities 

FM Fool List for 10 Monohon Landing Rd., Raymond, Wa 

Call Sign Channel sig strength Genre Notes 
K266BL 101.1 5 OF 6 pop Noise, slight 
K291B1 106.1 6 OF 6 country Noise, slight 
KACW 91.3 6 OF 6 RELIGIOUS Noise, slight 
K212AG 90.3 6 OF 6 jazz/npr almost clean 
KMNT 104.3 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
KSWS 88.9 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
KLMY 99.7 3 OF 6 almost clean 
KWAO 88.1 4 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
KMUN 91.9 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
KITI-FM 95.1 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
KVAS 103.9 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
KJET 105.7 6 OF 6 CLEAN 
KXXO 96.1 4 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
KRQT 107.1 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
KFOO 102.9 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
KRKZ-FM 94.3 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
KSWW 102.1 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
KGIO 90.5 4 OF 6 CLEAN 
K265CP 100.9 4 OF 6 almost clean 
K211AP 90.1 5 OF 6 jazz/npr Noise, heavy 
KYYO 96.9 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
KXXK 102.3 3 OF 6 country Noise, heavy 
KCRX-FM 102.3 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
KOMO-FM 97.7 4 OF 6 almost clean 
KDUX-FM 104.7 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
KDDS-FM 99.3 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
KANY 107.3 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
K220HE 91.9 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
KLYK 94.5 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
KLSY 93.7 4 OF 6 HISPANIC almost clean 
KLOY 88.7 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
KBGE 97.9 3 OF 6 POP Noise, heavy 
KCYS 96.5 3 OF 6 country Noise, heavy 
KEUB 93.3 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
KTJC 91.1 5 OF 6 country almost clean 
K292G2 106.3 4 OF 6 country CLEAN SAME AS 106.1
KNBQ 98.5 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
K211ET 90.1 5 OF 6 jazz/npr moderate noise 
K206CL 89.1 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
KLWA 101.3 4 OF 6 aberdeen station almost clean 
KPPK 98.3 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
K269FT 101.7 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
KACS 90.5 5 OF 6 jazz/npr moderate noise SAME AS 90.3
KLWO 90.3 6 OF 6 jazz/npr almost clean 
KXL-FM 101.1 5 OF 6 POP almost clean 
KINK 101.9 3 OF 6 PORTLAND Noise, heavy 
KKRZ 100.3 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
KUKN 105.5 5 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
KOPB 91.5 5 OF 6 country CLEAN 
KKCW 103.3 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
KGON 92.3 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
KVCH-FM 97.1 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
KBFF 95.5 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
K224DR 92.7 3 OF 6 WHITE NOISE 
KJVH 89.5 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
KXJM 107.5 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
KPDQ-FM 93.9 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
KLVP 97.9 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
K234AU 94.7 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
KWJJ-FM 99.5 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
K283BT 104.5 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy 
KUPL 98.7 3 OF 6 Noise, heavy


new things tried:

Automotive antenna
hd digital tv antenna
RadioShack FM trap
RadioShack 2-way amplifier 50 - 450 mhz for vcr,VHF,catv

image 13: DSC_4210 anno.jpg (233297 bytes) hint: click thumbnail to view image full size

Above: Room shot with additional antennae in use.  To the left up on top of the rack is an antomotive antenna.  30 inch long stainless steel rod.  Terminated with a balun to match the 75ohm input at the tuner.  To the right, an inexpensive HDTV amplified antenna.  

image 14: DSC_4213.jpg (275614 bytes) At the back of the shelf, clamped, is the RadioShack 2-way amplifier.  Strapped to the upright of the rack is the RadioShack FM-Trap.

Yesterday I took a look through the box of 'stuff' I've kept over the years.  This 'box of stuff' contains 'stuff' like spare coax cable, spare antennas, spare network cable, spare speaker wire (the cheaper kind that I used to use), various artifacts like coax 2-way splitters, signal amplifiers and filters.  Out of this stuff I pulled a RadioShack 2-way signal amplifier designed to work with frequencies from 50 mhz to 450 mhz.  (OK for FM radio which is 80.5 to 108 mhz.).  Just for the heck of it, I dusted off that RadioShack FM-Trap device.  (about which I know nothing).  Then, having nothing to lose, I unboxed that HDTV patch antenna just to see if it might receive anything useful.

HDTV antenna?

First, I found a likely spot on the wall behind the stereo rig and stuck a single skinny nail neatly into the drywall where the Pictek HDTV amplified antenna now hangs. 

image 15: DSC_4222.jpg (198159 bytes) Secondly, I should note that this kind of antenna is tuned to receive frequencies from vhf 174 - 240mhz and UHF 470 - 862 mhz.  And I should also note that this antenna is not a likely candidate for receiving FM radio signals which range from 80.5 to 108 mhz.  But it did receive the signal.  After some fooling around with the amplifier that comes with this hdtv antenna, I tried it with the RadioShack 2-way amplifier.  The result was a signal strength of 4 lights on the tuner and an almost listenable reception.  Still, there is that sibilant noise around broadcast voices and also on some of the higher frequencies of musical content.  My judgement, not as good as with the dipole antenna.

I should also note that I was getting some FM signal when I had the RadioShack 2-way amp and FM Trap devices plugged into the 75 ohm input of the tuner, but without any antennas connected yet.  About 3 lights on that 90.3fm station that is my target.  So, the lesson here, no surprise, is that just about any kind of wire connected to the input side of a tuner can work as some sort of antenna.  IT would seem that there is lots of room for experimentation there, by the way.  Wire.  Different lengths.  Different configurations.  But if you reference a book on antenna design, you can do something 'really' interesting.  More about that later as I climb my way down this radio rabbit hole.


Back to the dipole

Next, having pulled out the RadioShack 2-way amplifier and FM-Trap devices,  I decided to try these in combination with the dipole antenna on the wall as pictured just above for this date.  Wow, that resulted in an improvement -- in terms of signal clarity and listenability.  I also tried this with the FM trap inline.  Best results I've heard since moving in.  However I found that if I employed the multi-path reduction and noise reduction switches on the tuner, I experienced a slight but discernible improvement yet again.  Better still.  Almost there, it would seem.  Additionally, the other stations on list #1 seemed to show noticeable improvements in listenability as well.



image 16: DSC_4218.jpg (276384 bytes) The automotive antenna.


Should I Go Vertical?

With some discussion on the web at the Tuner forum within the Audio Asylum site, the idea had been kicked around that many FM broadcasters broadcast so that it is easy to receive their signal with your car's FM tuner.  Makes sense, does it not?  So, with this in mind, I took a short trip (just across the bridge) to my local Ace Hardware store in Raymond and found some goodies.  Firstly I found some F-type connectors so that I can, later on, make some custom length coax cable lengths.  I also found an automotive antenna, not telescopic, with a 30 inch length stainless steel round rod.  This antenna will be the subject of some experimentation to come, but for now I just quickly modified the output end by clipping off the antenna plug, trimming back the insulation to reveal the bare wires and soldered these to a 75 ohm balun.  Thus modified, I connected an available length of coax to the input side of the FM Trap/2-Way amp that in turn, connects to the 75 ohm input side of the tuner.

Result: 4 bars signal strength on the tuner.  Some noise, sibilant, with broadcast voices.  Some noise, sibilant, with upper frequency musical tones and notes.  This sibilant noise is mitigated slightly by employing the noise reduction and multi-path reduction switches on the tuner. 


Well, initial use of the automotive antenna doesn't bring in as much signal strength as does the dipole I have tacked up on the wall.  It is, I believe slightly better: slightly cleaner sounding than I get with the Parsec Signal Booster indoor antenna, which is now back in that box of stuff I keep.  Later on, I have some mods in store for a vertical antenna, which this cheaply bought antenna  will undergo.  But more about that later. 


In the meantime

The dipole in combination with the 2-way signal amp from RadioShack, and using that little FM-Trap device (about which I know nothing) I am receiving the best yet FM radio reception.  Actually, I could get used to this.  But it can get better, I believe.



Vertical antenna.  Automotive whip.  30 inch length.  (~1/4 wave length)

goal; optimize position.

DSC_4264.jpg (312027 bytes) DSC_4265.jpg (129339 bytes) DSC_4267.jpg (250478 bytes) DSC_4269.jpg (234991 bytes) DSC_4270.jpg (193246 bytes)


fabricated a mounting plate from 1/4" thick acrylic plate.  Two holes.  One hole for the 1/4-20 bolt that holds the plate to the tripod.  The other hole accepts the antenna base so that it may be fastened via its threads firmly to the plate.

small tripod stands over a 1/2" thick of plywood, which, in turn, is up on top of the NSF wire rack pictured.

the tripod offers height adjustability and also can tilt and rotate antenna position.

result: same signal strength but less noise.  Today is sunny with no clouds.  I can now listen to FM 90.3 without using the multipath reduction switch on the TX-11b tuner.  Nor the noise reduction switch.  This is an obvious improvement!



antenna setup same as 6/22.

Atmospherics play into the multipath noise issue.  Sometimes an overcast sky produces a less noisy signal.  Sometimes a sunny day dominated via blue cloudless sky gets us more noise.  But not every time.  Yesterday got into the high eighties with a relative humidity level at 31%.  Barometric pressure was 29.0 inch HG.  No wind.  Improved quietness for fm listening.  Sometimes evenings and into early morning, fm listening is quieter than in the other parts of that day.


Thought #1: fab a Rhombic antenna into the listening room.  It would circumscribe the walls up high near the ceiling.  More than full-wave leg-lengths.  More about that later.

Thought #2: fab a full wave dipole.  It would be easy to try.


end notes 6/25/2017