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ibstubro's avatar

Is it common for a radio signal to 'drift'?

Asked by ibstubro (10968 points ) April 25th, 2014

None of the radios in my house will hold a station signal. I have to constantly reset them to the station of my choice. Is this standard, or does it have something to do with the location of my house, or perhaps the wiring?

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16 Answers

hearkat's avatar

It’s a problem I’ve often experienced, living 50–60 miles between two big cities my whole life. Wind and clouds definitely have an impact, and even my position relative to the radio’s location. In the car, if I get static, I can inch forward a bit and improve my reception, so metal and wires can obstruct the signal, as well. There are antenna boosters – or at least there used to be. Nowadays, most stations stream their content over the internet, so that might be a better workaround for you.

gailcalled's avatar

I have that issue with the only two stations I listen to, which are FM (89 -91.3 FM ). It depends on whether the sun is up, where my body is in relation to the radio antenna and some mysterious force. I too live about 45–50 miles from the broadcast towers. I have, in desperation, actually hung a piece of foil over the antenna to see whether that helps

I keep a moderately decent radio turned on in a small room when I exercise and also when I work at at a desk. When I sit at the desk chair, the signal is loud and clear; when I lie on the exercise table, about 2 feet away, the signal fades in and out, depending on which direction my arms and legs are waving.

On Sat. afternoons, I try to listen to the Met. opera; the signal distortion is like another member of the cast, singing off-key.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

It is not common for the signals to drift but it is common for your receivers to drift especially if they are older. The FCC would come down hard on a drifting transmitter, very unlikely. Your receiver is subject to temperature and humidity variations and will cause drift especially if it is not a digitally controlled receiver. A.K.A. cheap clock radios.

Bad or changing reception is not drift. Drift is when the transmitter frequency changes or the receiver’s tuning changes. If you have to fiddle with the antenna that’s not drift. If you have to fiddle with the tuning then it is.

ibstubro's avatar

As @ARE_you_kidding_me says, my receivers seem to drift. In the kitchen, I’ll loose signal and simply have to push the ‘foreward’ and ‘back’ buttons to regain the station. In the bedroom I turned the clock radio (old and cheap) on this morning and it was playing a station I didn’t know existed.

And yes it was responding to my body position much as @gailcalled describes.

I can’t stream radio, @hearkat, as I’m on satellite (i.e. limited usage) internet.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

See an older response to a similar question. Getting a receiver with a PLL tuner and a better antenna will alleviate most of your problems provided you are in the service range of the transmitter. FM signals will start “picketing” as you get on the edge of the range. If your reception changes simply by moving the antenna a foot or two then you have a marginal signal. You’ll need to get that antenna higher or move closer to the source.

gailcalled's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me: Your responses confirm what my instincts and experience were telling me. I also have to stand on the roof of my car, while it is parked in the driveway, in order to get a cell phone signal also due to towers being few and far between and hilly terrain.)

Short of moving the house, I will live with the “picketing.” (A new term for me. Thanks.)

I have also mentioned on fluther getting or losing several TV channels from one TV in the basement and the other on the second floor, both connected to a roof antenna. Some of the channels also have pixels that break up sometime and then regroup. Is that also due to being at the edge of the range?

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@gailcalled In general yes. Weather and obstructions can cause brief interruptions but if it happens all the time it’s probably your location. Radio signals can “bounce” around and you can get good and bad reception because of multipath signals but it’s usually environmental conditions. A better and higher antenna will make a difference. FM is very “line of sight”

ibstubro's avatar

I think most of my problem is that my house is sort of nestled into the stone bluff on 3 sides. But I have also been standing there when the rasio in the kitchen (newer, under the cabinet style) abruptly changed. Once I know of, it was due to the fridge next door kicking on.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Check your possible reception and which kind of and how to mount your antenna.

Appliances often emit radio signals that drown out reception even though they are not really supposed to. Common interference sources are AC driven power tools or anything with a motor or a switching power supply.

A stone bluff on three sides will give you multipath interference.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Atmosphere, tower strength, receiver status all have impact. Typical.

gailcalled's avatar

(And thank you @ibstubro, for letting me tag along,)

ibstubro's avatar

I wasn’t calling you and @hearkat chopped liver, @gailcalled. I just thought that we all benefited from the information @ARE_you_kidding_me & @KNOWITALL posted so I thanked them.

Thanks to @hearkat & @gailcalled for their participation on this question!

gailcalled's avatar

^^ I have no problems with being chopped liver.

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