Week 29, 2016: TV rabbit ears make a wonderful FM antenna


Sound Advice

By Don Lindich

Week 29, 2016

Q. I need an indoor AM/FM antenna for my 30 year-old Technics receiver. It works well enough for the most part, but I have trouble receiving radio on either band. I purchased a TERK PIB amplified antenna, but it doesn’t work very well and the reception with it is hit or miss. Do you have any recommendations for me?

-D.J., Oakley, CA

A. Given the age of your Technics it is possible the tuner is starting to go, but like yourself I suspect the antenna is the issue.

When you are trying to receive any kind of radio signal the antenna is extremely important, especially with analog transmissions like FM. I tend to prefer an “overkill” approach with a big antenna mounted outside or on the roof whenever it is possible. This way if it is possible to receive the signal you know you are going to get it, and most outside VHF antennas can receive FM radio as well. This is not practical or worthwhile for everyone, and you yourself are looking for something indoor so a simpler and more cost-effective solution is in order.

I’ve never found any of the amplified radio antennas I have tried to be worth the box they are packaged in. Perhaps there is a great one out there, but I have yet to find it. You will be happy to know that something simpler and less expensive may actually provide better reception.

Did you know that an ordinary set of unamplified TV rabbit ears makes an extraordinary FM radio antenna? Even the simplest model will do a fine job. I purchased a basic RCA brand rabbit ears antenna for only $10 in a department store, and preferred it to more expensive powered units.

The rabbit ears FM antenna is one of my most popular and cost-effective bits of advice. Whenever I would set up a stereo receiver for myself and use the wire antenna that came with it, I could hardly tune anything at all and the reception was not clear. Once I switched to the rabbit ears the tuner locked right on to the signal, with a full set of signal strength bars and crystal clear reception. I’ve had many readers trying it tell me they could get stations they could never receive before.

You may be surprised to learn that your 30 year-old Technics tuner, if it is in good working order, is likely much better than the tuner you would find in a brand-new stereo or surround sound receiver (especially the latter.) Back then a receiver only had two main functions, tuning radio signals and powering two speakers. As time has gone on and more and more features have been added such as surround sound processing, additional channels to drive additional speakers, HDMI switching, video processing and Bluetooth, to name just a few.

Though many features have been added, receiver prices have remained relatively constant even without adjusting for inflation. Manufacturers had to get the money from somewhere, and the tuners and amplifiers are the places they tended to skimp on quality and save money. Home theater receivers with poor tuners may especially benefit from an inexpensive antenna upgrade like this one. They need all the help they can get!