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FM Radio Dead? Part 2

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In my original post I was somewhat generalized in my question about “Is analog FM Radio Dead?”


The reason for this is I wanted as much unbiased comment as possible.


I’m in the NW Chicago suburbs. I am getting very poor reception from WFMT (classical music).


It’s a very long and frustrating story as to how I arrived at this point. I’ve investigated literally every detail to find the source of the problem which I originally thought was caused by the RG6 coax antenna cable that goes through the outside wall which may have been damaged when the siding was replaced several years ago.


As a last resort – to bypass everything as much as possible, I took one of my tuners (NAD C446) and a Crown D60 (for headphones) out on the deck and connected it to a Magnum DynaLab ST-2 omni directional antenna with a brand new 6’ RG11 cable and got exactly the same very poor results. Low signal level, signal cutting out, background hiss. Sometimes the only way to hear anything was in mono.


I’ve had someone walk the roof and around the yard with the antenna - all with the same mediocre results. In fact on the roof, I actually got worse reception.


Other tuners involved are Onkyo TX-NR838 receiver and McIntosh MX130 with their MR7083 tuner module. I even bought a Magnum DynaLab Signal Sleuth tunable FM amplifier which certainly improved the level of the signal but also raised the noise level as well. (no surprise, but I had to try).


Apparently one of the issues that has occurred in analog FM radio transmission is that about 20 years ago the FCC made some changes to FM broadcast regulations allowing stations to sell/lease broadcast on sideband (side channel or sub carrier) frequencies. These are used to broadcast additional “stations” at lower power for other purposes. I came across an article in the Chicago Tribune where WFMT chief engineer Gordon Carter stated he was strongly against this as it could cause broadcast quality issues for some listeners.




WFMT broadcasts at 98.8Mhz. That is the center frequency that we tune to. However, in the U.S. FM stations are actually licensed for a 600Khz bandwidth. Apparently they can now broadcast something else on side band frequencies within that 600Khz bandwidth to smaller targeted audiences closer to the transmitter for additional revenue.


So, it seems that there’s a lot more contributing to the degradation of analog FM broadcast than just all the post processing and the loudness wars game.


I’ve compared streaming WFMT to over-the-air against the three mentioned receivers and streaming wins hands down. Over-the air there is persistent background noise (hiss) which is particularly annoying with a classical music station like WFMT.


It’s a real shame. WFMT used to be renowned for the quality of their broadcast signal. I used to enjoy recording some of the live concerts, especially when the concert is of music that has never been available – actually, that’s what triggered this last round of “hey, I need to look into doing this again”.


I’m interested in hearing what others in the have to say about their WFMT radio reception, compared to streaming if you have it, and particularly from those of you in the Chicago area.


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We had a university classical station here in Chattanooga, but it seems the signal from there is not as good as it use to be... or I am a lot  more picky now than 30 years ago.


The other uni station is WUTC, our local NPR staion, and their FM is very good, plus they broadcast a couple of digital channels.


I grew up in Illinois, and know that WFMT was always considered to be excellent. If I were in the Chicago area, I would try it out to compare notes.




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Wonders never cease.


Yesterday I was testing the digital connectivity output options from my NAD M32 to my recording decks that have digital inputs.


In the testing process I had the NAD C446 AM/FM/Digital Media Tuner digital outputs connected directly to the TASCSAM and Sony digital decks. WFMT FM was still set on the tuner. Low and behold, WFMT was now coming in clear as a bell. A week ago I couldn't get a decent signal even with a brand new RG11 6' coax cable connected directly from the outdoor omni antenna to the tuner. Today it's back to 50' of the old RG6 + a splitter in between it works fine. Go figure.

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26 minutes ago, billybob said:

Wonderful !

Guessing you are trying to find out what the fix was... enjoy!


After an extended phone conversation with a competent antenna contractor a few weeks ago - he suggested not even trying to find the best/strongest signal location for the antenna until fall. Apparently the hot humid weather (it's been unseasonably cool/low humidity the last few days) and the seasonal "solstice" also has something to do with this. But that doesn't really solve the problem - probably never will. I think the bottom line is the industry as a whole doesn't want us recording/copying anything and that's the main reason for going digital and continuing to let analog wither on the vine.


What really started me on this revival adventure was hearing a live concert on WFMT with the SFSO playing some music that is not available for sale commercially. I can't buy it. So I want to record it like the "old days". But if the sound quality isn't there and it's full of noise there's no point.

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The noise you talk of is non existent in my area on all the main stations in my area Reno,Nevada. I only use Terk antennas one w ith a booster and one without. I doubt the problem is with the station or their transmitter. I mainly now use a Accuphase T-106 digital lock tuner and it not only sounds great ,but the tuning system is a joy to use. I just tune it to 89.5 and it is at peak signal. I still use FM because of live broadcasts or recorded live events. Lot's of great content not available anywhere e lse. I also buy about 10 cds a month just finding new music..Jazz and Classical.

I do stream but only on my phone....I enjoy it but I prefer FM. 

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Have used Terks on Sat dishes with success for TV local and FM with success. Location to stations key, especially with LOS obstacles.


And yes seasonal tracking of the sun can effect moreso satellite than local FM as 300k background radiation creates noise, of course.

Not as problematic nowadays with 12 GHz, and then only when dish is not peaked. Same with cloud over. Both conditions a very temporary problem.

And yes, most signals rise in fall, and at night.

Better OTA local here then when SNR improves.

Hope platform on your FM signal stays crystal for recording.

Having an analog signal or digital at or above threshold preferably, a thing of beauty, especially analog FM wideband stereo.


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