Car Radios AM/FM versus Digital

Submitted: Monday, Sep 25, 2017 at 15:53
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Just back from a longweeked out bush upto 500ks northeast from Perth . In one location ie. Mt Geraldine around the 500k mark I had very good radio reception on my AM/FM car radio to listen to the Crows/Cats footy match. The next afternoon at approx 40ks north of Bullfinch I didn't get any radio reception at all. I have one of those ubute high gain arials.
So my question is do I go for a digital car radio is there any advantage?
Thanks in advance - Rod
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Reply By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Monday, Sep 25, 2017 at 16:10

Monday, Sep 25, 2017 at 16:10
.
Hi Rod,

If by "Digital Radio" you mean "DAB" where the program is transmitted in digital form then you will only get reception in capital cities. So no, there would be no advantage.

If you wish to receive the footy broadcast in a remote location then you may gain some advantage by selecting AM and connecting a wire to your car antenna and chucking it up over a tree.
Cheers
Allan

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Follow Up By: TerraFirma - Tuesday, Sep 26, 2017 at 10:48

Tuesday, Sep 26, 2017 at 10:48
What he said..!
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Reply By: rocco2010 - Monday, Sep 25, 2017 at 16:32

Monday, Sep 25, 2017 at 16:32
Given the Crows-Cats game was on in the evening when AM radio reception improves markedly I not am surprised you could listen to that. Heaps of ABC stations can be heard out there.

Daytime is a different story for reasons that I have never really understood. Something to do with bouncing radio waves off the ionosphere. As the sun goes down the reception improves.

An expert will no doubt bob up to explain.

As Allan says, all often about the antenna but even in daytime that might not be enough.


My Ranger ute with an old fashioned pull-up pillar mounted antenna could pick up stations in places where the in-glass antenna on the Prado gets nothing.

Of course a decade or so ago when I first started travelling remote you could listen to the footy on a Saturday afternoon on Radio Australia's shortwave service.

Now closed down. Sad.


Nice country out there. A favourite place.

Cheers


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Follow Up By: Shaker - Tuesday, Sep 26, 2017 at 09:38

Tuesday, Sep 26, 2017 at 09:38
I have read that window tint film can cause poor reception from in glass antennas.

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Follow Up By: Member - mechpete - Tuesday, Sep 26, 2017 at 12:28

Tuesday, Sep 26, 2017 at 12:28
the Radio Australia site in Shepparton is now a delapidated old wreck of a place
some of the antennas have been pulled down but there is still a couple of antennas still standing ,a sad piece of aussie history
cheers mechpete
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Follow Up By: Jarse - Monday, Oct 02, 2017 at 10:38

Monday, Oct 02, 2017 at 10:38
The "metallised" tint does cause antenna problems if applied to the glass with the antenna. The normal stuff is okay :)
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Reply By: RMD - Monday, Sep 25, 2017 at 19:47

Monday, Sep 25, 2017 at 19:47
Rod W6
Even if you have a you beaut aerial, in outback areas you need a radio with you beaut sensitivity.
Most radios now don't have very good sensitivity at all. Not surprised the Prado has poor reception, even if it has a Fijutsu Ten unit they are nowhere near as good as the Fujitsu Ten from 1986 era.
Seeking and searching a radio which performs would fulfill your footy needs.
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Follow Up By: The Explorer - Monday, Sep 25, 2017 at 20:21

Monday, Sep 25, 2017 at 20:21
"Seeking and searching a radio which performs would fulfill your footy needs."

This year, going for Richmond/Adelaide would also have helped.

Cheers
Greg
I sent one final shout after him to stick to the track, to which he replied “All right,” That was the last ever seen of Gibson - E Giles 23 April 1874

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Follow Up By: RMD - Monday, Sep 25, 2017 at 21:16

Monday, Sep 25, 2017 at 21:16
Richmond hasn't won a final one since the early 80's so their frequency is not very strong.
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Follow Up By: The Explorer - Monday, Sep 25, 2017 at 23:10

Monday, Sep 25, 2017 at 23:10
I think you are confusing signal strength with signal frequency, varies with conditions...they are on channel, so stay tuned :)

Cheers
Greg
I sent one final shout after him to stick to the track, to which he replied “All right,” That was the last ever seen of Gibson - E Giles 23 April 1874

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Reply By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Monday, Sep 25, 2017 at 21:30

Monday, Sep 25, 2017 at 21:30
Best combination I've had of late is a Kenwood BT-303 Media Player coupled to the Aerpro AP46 aerial which has a simple booster built in.
Installed it in the Caravan and in June could get ABC Adelaide from Tennant Creek.
So I fitted the same combo to our Tvan and in August could get ABC Adelaide from over the border in WA on the Anne Beadell Highway.
Good clarity too. Better than the Clarion and Pioneer head units they replaced and better range than the 200series standard radio.
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Reply By: Bob Y. - Qld - Tuesday, Sep 26, 2017 at 08:55

Tuesday, Sep 26, 2017 at 08:55
Since the demise of Ferris and Eurovox AM/FM car radios, I'd suggest we'll never again see an ultra sensitive unit for Outback travel............and footy Grand Finals!

Was told by a radio tech some years back that since FM became common, the makers have "forgotten" AM and concentrated on FM quality and all the other bells 'n whistles we see in the latest head units.

If you have one of those u-beaut whip aerials, Rod, then Allan's idea would be the best compromise to keep some reception. Back in the late '60's, we were camped at a place called Milligan's Lagoon, only a stone's throw from the WA/NT border, and NE of Kununurra. I'd strung about 30M of light cable through the trees and we were able to listen easily, to a number of the Sydney commercial AM stations. Probably wouldn't need 30m of cable so you could experiment. Think it's Sangean that sell an external aerial, that rolls up into a small container?

Bob

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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Tuesday, Sep 26, 2017 at 11:28

Tuesday, Sep 26, 2017 at 11:28
.
Yes Bob, manufacturers make what the market will purchase and there are few demands for high sensitivity 'outback' radios compared to the market for all-singing, all-dancing models with multi-function connectivity options.
We have seen the end of the early Ferris, Eurovox and the like. That age has passed.

Several years back I bought a Degen DE1103 all-band 'World Receiver' that came with a 20m light cable to extend its whip antenna. It worked, but has not been used for the last couple of years. Too much trouble, and anyway, I travel to get away from 'civilisation', yes even Grand Finals! (I know, I know, leave me under my rock)
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Allan

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Follow Up By: rocco2010 - Tuesday, Sep 26, 2017 at 12:49

Tuesday, Sep 26, 2017 at 12:49
Allan
It's not only the footy finals.
Almost exactly nine years ago I was working on a nature survey at Neale Junction in the Great Victoria Desert.
It was the height of the GFC and I think I was the only person in the camp with a shortwave. I would listen at lunchtime for the news on how much the markets were falling.
I couple of my fellow workers were well heeled retirees with a lot of investments and the news wasn't good for them. After a couple of days they stopped asking.
That's one benefit of remote travel. Sometimes it's better not to know what is going on in the world.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Tuesday, Sep 26, 2017 at 12:53

Tuesday, Sep 26, 2017 at 12:53
Yep, not much point in knowing if you can't do anything about it.

Like the GFC, I can't do anything about the Footy GF outcome either! lol
Cheers
Allan

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Follow Up By: Gone Bush (WA) - Wednesday, Sep 27, 2017 at 00:14

Wednesday, Sep 27, 2017 at 00:14
We had a Ferris car radio in our car when we got married in 1971.

It was able to be pulled out of its cradle and taken inside.

It had its own internal battery and a fold out antenna.

At night we could pick up 6WF (ABC in Perth) inside our flat in Sydney.
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Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Wednesday, Sep 27, 2017 at 05:48

Wednesday, Sep 27, 2017 at 05:48
Yeah, still got one of those, Gone Bush. I don't chuck anything away! :-)

Bob

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Follow Up By: Gone Bush (WA) - Wednesday, Sep 27, 2017 at 06:04

Wednesday, Sep 27, 2017 at 06:04
Can you put up a photo please Bob?
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Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Wednesday, Sep 27, 2017 at 18:34

Wednesday, Sep 27, 2017 at 18:34
Here you go, Gone Bush.





Bob

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Follow Up By: Gone Bush (WA) - Wednesday, Sep 27, 2017 at 19:53

Wednesday, Sep 27, 2017 at 19:53
Yep, that's it.

Beats modern radios hands down.
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Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Wednesday, Sep 27, 2017 at 22:18

Wednesday, Sep 27, 2017 at 22:18
Too true, G B, and handy as a door stop in windy weather too. :-)

A short Ferris story: In 1980, I spied a Ferris car radio, AM only, and no push button tuning, in KMart, Mt Isa, and at $19.95 was too good a bargain to pass up. Fitted it to our old HJ45 work ute, they had a radio insert but no radio in the late '70's, coupled to one of those "cool" fibreglass aerials that were very common in that era, and worked well........for a time.

We were living on a station just north of Urandangie, and with this Ferris radio, we were never short of something to listen to, both ABC & commercial. A bloke used to cart cattle off the station and he'd just bought a new Mack V8 Superliner, with 3 trailers, and amongst the options he had fitted was an expensive Jensen stereo system.

We were all at the workshop one morning, our Toyota, his Superliner, and plenty of "toons" coming out of the speaker in the HJ45, and the Superliner was mute. When he found out what I paid for the Ferris, and the different stations it could reach, he was really p!ssed after paying heaps for the Jensen unit, which couldn't pick up anything, except in town.

Bob

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Follow Up By: ian.g - Thursday, Sep 28, 2017 at 12:24

Thursday, Sep 28, 2017 at 12:24
Hi Bob,
I had one similar to yours, had it fitted to a 66 Toyota that I owned at the time, always found it to be a bit of a compromise, not that good as a car radio and not that much better as a portable, sold it to some ringer that was working at the same place at the time and fitted a TEN radio (Japanese), which was very good and replaced the portable side of it with a Phillips long Range which was excellent but no longer with me unfortunately, lost in a move somewhere. Don't know how you have succeeded in still having yours intact.
Cheers Ian.
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Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Friday, Sep 29, 2017 at 22:44

Friday, Sep 29, 2017 at 22:44
Don't remember too many negatives about the Ferris, Ian, other than its weight, and in the early '70's, the lack of a cassette player. Some of those long range models were/are quiet efficient. I had a Sony 4 band unit that worked well in the Kimberley. Still got it too! :-)

Probably still got the Ferris because I'm a "bower bird".

Bob

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Follow Up By: ian.g - Saturday, Sep 30, 2017 at 09:39

Saturday, Sep 30, 2017 at 09:39
Main problem that I remember was that it wouldn't stay on the station, vibrations used to keep shaking it off frequency, then would take a few minutes to get it back, was a real pain that way. Also didn't have the station pulling ability of the TEN
Cheers Ian
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Reply By: Member - Peter (1) - Tuesday, Sep 26, 2017 at 15:04

Tuesday, Sep 26, 2017 at 15:04
G'day Rod W6,
I too have a AM/FM radio in my vehicle and find that once you get about 50km from civilisation the only radio station you will pick up is AM, and the most common station will be the ABC. Not a problem to me as I quite enjoy listening to Aunty, none of that annoying advertising.
I travel over most of this great country and I find that I can pick up the ABC almost anywhere if you tune in to the nearest station. If you go to an ABC shop, you can get a little cardboard fold out which lists all the ABC stations by state and frequencies. They cost about $2.00 and I never travel without one.
Now I know the ABC is not to everybody's liking, but it is very handy for picking up the news and weather and quite a bit of sport plus some interesting conversations.
Hoping this is of help.
Peter 1
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Reply By: Member - Outback Gazz - Tuesday, Sep 26, 2017 at 21:16

Tuesday, Sep 26, 2017 at 21:16
G'day Rod

Hope you get it sorted asap so you can listen to the Crows win the Grand Final !


Cheers and many half time beers

Gazz
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Reply By: Michael H9 - Wednesday, Sep 27, 2017 at 06:35

Wednesday, Sep 27, 2017 at 06:35
To answer the original question, I have found that anything digital has the best quality but the worst in reception. You have to be relatively close to the source or the signal just cuts out rather than fades out like an analog signal. It's more easily demonstrated with the difference between digital and analog tv reception. If digital tv has a poor signal it frequently pixelates and stops completely while analog tv continues to show a full picture but fades out a bit and goes snowy. The old analog mobile phones had a better range as did the old analog cb radios like we had in taxis in the 70's.
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Reply By: The Bantam - Saturday, Sep 30, 2017 at 10:38

Saturday, Sep 30, 2017 at 10:38
Digital radio is carried on an allocated slot in the VHF TV band somewhere around 200Mhz .... twice the frequency of the FM band, as such the reception range is very limited, little more than line of sight from the TV towers in capitol and major regional cities ...... I have not kept up with the roll out but I doubt very much that there is any digital radio in second string reigonal towns.

As for this nostalga for old radios .... PFFT ..... get a good example of a modern car radio and the sensitivity and noise figures are way better than anything from the past.
Some of the modern car radios do perform poorly, but that is not universally the case.

I have a relativly new ( 2 years old) base model Pioneer Cd/radio/ Mp3 player in my 2wd and recently did a trip out to Rocky Bar Station ...... with my high mounted 5 foot helical AM/FM whip I was still getting patchy 4KQ in Idesvold, during the day.
The performance on the way up the inland route was way better than I have experienced with previous set ups in various vehicles.

cheers
I have been a bit carefull with my installation, I used top spec low loss 75 ohm coax, mounted the aerial high and clear and there is a heavy power feed to my dash where the radio gets its main supply.

The other thing is this radio has short wave as well ..... not that I have tried to get anything on it yet

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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Saturday, Sep 30, 2017 at 11:03

Saturday, Sep 30, 2017 at 11:03
.
Besides what Bantam said about old radios, for best performance you had to grind the valves regularly. lol
Cheers
Allan

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Follow Up By: Member - Boobook - Saturday, Sep 30, 2017 at 11:32

Saturday, Sep 30, 2017 at 11:32
Bantam. I think your observations are correct. A good antenna and low loss cable are key. I looked into this some time ago and nearly all decent AM radios have similar sensitivity these days. There is probably a 10 cent AM FM chip that they all use LOL.

Sadly the ABC stopped broadcasting Short Wave in Australia and Radio Australia. Another victim of the internet and funding. It's slim pickings for SW radio these days.

As to Digital radio, it is great as an alternative to AM in Melbourne when near a tram line, but hopeless for pretty much else. The quality of DAB+ is way lower than FM with less range in Australia sadly.
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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Saturday, Sep 30, 2017 at 12:07

Saturday, Sep 30, 2017 at 12:07
I can say for sure that good low loss coax is an issue.
Much of the commercially supplied coax on consumer radio product is not real flash .... the shielding is poor and the loss in practice could be better.

A few years ago I replaced the coax on a 6db elevated feed aerial with some frankly modest coax off a roll, and found the the reception on UHF CB was significantly better ....and I tested it 3 ways to sunday.

With the same length of factory fitted coax on an identical areial on the same position on the same radio I could not crack the mountain view repeater from my southside location ..... but with new coax I could ...... I then replaced the coax on the unmolested aerial and found it to would crack the repeater.

the coax on am/fm car radio antennas is a lower spec product than you would find on transmission product ...... so some good low loss well shielded product would be worthwhile.

While the quoted sensitivity figures may be very similar on most modern car radios, one asks a couple of questions .....

1/ is that a measured figure or a design figure .. or worse an exagerated figure like the power output.

2/ noise figures most definitely come into play here ..... and the car radio is not a complete system, in that the power supply is derived from the car ...... the quality of the power supply will have a major influence on performance.

The wiring in most cars is the absolute minimum to function and the factory car radio supply cables are bundled with all sorts of other wiring carrying all sorts of interferance.

I have a 6mm2 power feed directly from the battery supplying some of my in dash electronics, it will supply a good strong clean supply to my radio so it has a chance of performing to the spec printed.

Then there is the factory aerial .... apart from mostly pretty ordinary design, most car aerials are low mounted and close to the engine bay and all the electrical noise that comes from there.

my aerial is mounted high and behind the cab, the aerial cable goes nowhere near the engine bay and has pretty fair seperation from most if not all other under dash wiring.

I doubt that any of these measures alone would yeild the improvments, but all together do make a significant difference

worth thinking about

cheers
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Follow Up By: Stu & "Bob" - Monday, Oct 02, 2017 at 09:14

Monday, Oct 02, 2017 at 09:14
For those of us with HF radio, it can be used to listen to AM broadcast as well as yakking.

Many times I have tuned in to the ABC via HF when the car radio was deaf.

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