Radio: How to Improve Shortwave Reception

If your shortwave radio isn’t attaining reception of the level you desire, try some of these tips for improving it…

Wire Antenna: If your radio has an antenna jack, try connecting a wire antenna. If you don’t have one of these, try using a pair of headphones, speaker wire, or other wire which can be safely plugged into the jack. A wire as short as one foot may noticeably improve reception on some receivers. Shortwave wire antennas which clip on to a receiver’s telescoping antenna are also available.

Outdoor TV antennas and satellite dishes: Connecting one of these to a shortwave radio can substantially improve reception, although you may want to disconnect it when listening to some stations (to decrease interference and weaker overlapping stations) if necessary. It is more the long wire than the antenna or satellite dish which actually improves the reception. You might need an adapter to connect the wire to your radio’s antenna jack. If it has an earphone-style jack and the wire is round (cable-style 75ohm), a Radio Shack part number 278-257 will work. An additional matching-transformer adapter (like Radio Shack part number 15-1253) or a 300ohm-to-1/8″ adapter (can be hard to find) will be needed if the wire is flat (300 ohm).

Controls: You may be able to improve the reception just by adjusting the correct controls. If the radio has switches or knobs marked “DX/Local” (sensitivity) or “Fine” (fine tuning), try adjusting them. Some receivers have additional controls which can be used to improve the reception. If two stations are broadcasting on the same frequency, try adjusting the sensitivity control, changing the length of the telescoping antenna, or unplugging the wire antenna.

Try To Find The Station Elsewhere: More commonly than AM and FM stations, shortwave broadcasters often transmit on multiple frequencies. If you are having difficulty listening to a station, try to tune it in on a different frequency. Some broadcasters have websites which list their frequencies. Also keep in mind that shortwave reception will vary depending upon the time of year (partially depending upon daylight savings time) and especially the time of day or night.

Interference: Turning off other electrical devices, especially computers, can improve shortwave reception. Receivers powered by batteries are sometimes less receptive to interference from other devices.

Pocket Radios: The reception of some pocket shortwave receivers may vary depending upon whether or not you are holding the radio. They are also more strongly affected by having their position within the room changed.

Different Radio: Some shortwave receivers are capable of better reception than others, regardless of what you do to improve the reception. Receivers with greater frequency coverage will also give you a better chance to receive the station you are interested in on a different frequency. A good-quality used receiver needn’t cost over $50. Reception-improving features to look for include: antennna jack, fine tuning control, long rotatable (360 degrees) telescoping antenna, and bandwidth control.

Finally, keep in mind that it is not always realistic to receive a very weak station on a regular basis, and that shortwave radio is quite changeable, so the reception may improve on its own if you are patient.

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