Week 26, 2015: FM Radio reception, new Sound Advice logo

Sound Advice

By Don Lindich

Week 26, 2015

Q. Last week I was driving my new Subaru from Chicago to Milwaukee. WBEZ 91.5 stayed on the radio loud and clear all the way! Is there a tabletop radio or receiver that has the same ability?

-Paul Averdung, Milwaukee, WI

A. It sounds like your car has an excellent radio tuner, and probably an excellent antenna too.

As I have noted in past columns, radio reception and sound quality is taking a back seat to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi these days and good performing radios and tuners are hard to come by. It have been a while since I have tested any Hi-Fi tabletop radio that I thought had outstanding AM/FM reception or sound quality. Hopefully that will change someday. The radios I liked the most in the past have been discontinued and replaced with models that have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, but lousy radio sections.

If a portable will do the job I suggest you check out the C. Crane Skywave Radio. C. Crane has long been known for catering to radio enthusiasts and they offer a wide range of radios, antennas and accessories. The C. Crane Skywave has been reported to have excellent AM/FM capability and can also tune weather band, shortwave and aviation frequencies so you can listen to air traffic controllers.

The Skywave is powered by two AA batteries and has an available AC adapter, but its power requirements are rather specific. You can use rechargeable NiMH batteries, but not lithium batteries. The AC power connection is a MiniUSB port, but most cell phone chargers produce too much digital noise and will interfere with radio reception so you can’t use an existing charger with the radio, though the ports match. C. Crane sells an AC power supply specific for the radio and it is only $14.95. I’d plan on adding that if you buy the radio, which retails for $89.95.

As I said before, most modern receivers do not have very good tuner sections. The antenna is of paramount importance when receiving any kind of radio signal, and one way to improve your receiver’s performance is to use a better antenna. One of my top recommendations for cost-effective performance tweaks is to use an ordinary pair of unpowered TV rabbit ears as an FM antenna. Any $10 set from a department store will do fine and in my own experience this simple solution has always outperformed expensive powered FM antennas sold for $50-$100. With a rabbit ears FM antenna you will find yourself tuning more channels than ever before, and the channels you were tuning previously will effortlessly achieve solid signal lock.

Sound Advice logo unveiling: Earlier this year I announced a promotional giveaway for readers who submit questions that I use in the column and once I had a logo, the program would begin. I am pleased to announce that I have my logo, and it’s beautiful! The firm of Johnson and Fancher, Inc. submitted the winning entry and it was the clear winner in every regard. Johnson and Fancher illustrates everything from company annual reports to children’s books, and if you appreciate fine art or need an illustration of some kind, check out their website at www.johnsonandfancher.com.