FM radio recomendations

Submitted: Thursday, Aug 02, 2012 at 18:14
ThreadID: 97213 Views:2402 Replies:5 FollowUps:11
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I know this question's been asked in the past but electronics is a rapidly changing area. I'm looking at replacing the radio in my trusty J20 and I'm spoilt for choices.
I know decent reception and FM is almost a contradiction if you're any distance from the transmitter but there's less and less AM stations about. My current radio has old fashioned AM reception but very poor FM performance which is why I'm looking at upgrading.
I'm mainly interested in the FM reception but I could also get interested in some of the modern bells and whistles. It'd be nice to integrate my phone for example.
I'd really like to hear what experiences others have had going down this path.
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Reply By: Life Member - Doug T (NT) - Friday, Aug 03, 2012 at 01:22

Friday, Aug 03, 2012 at 01:22
Most of the Car Radio's these days have a USB slot, some have an SD slot as well, get yourself a 2GB USB Flash drive and load it up with your favorite songs, No need for CD's and there's no working parts in the flash drive so there's no skipping even on the roughest corrugation, and the Quality is perfect.
Do not get a cheap piece of crap made in China.. get one made in Japan , I bought a JVC in Perth back in 2006 and it's as good as the day I bought it.
And I fitted it myself.

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Follow Up By: nutwood - Friday, Aug 03, 2012 at 07:01

Friday, Aug 03, 2012 at 07:01
Thanks for that Doug. What's the JVC like for radio reception?
I'm not a big user of recorded music when I'm travelling. I prefer the unknown nature of radio but it's getting harder.
I notice you're the only reply to my query. I'm wondering if that's because less people are changing radios in modern vehicles?
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Follow Up By: Life Member - Doug T (NT) - Friday, Aug 03, 2012 at 07:45

Friday, Aug 03, 2012 at 07:45
Yes, you only need to look at the modern vehicle Factory inbuilt Radios, and that includes 4x4's in how the radio is designed into the dash layout.
It still has me wondering why they still insist in fitting CD players , a car radio without all the CD mechanism could be very much smaller in size , around 30mm deep or less and incorperate the USB or SD Card port for music lovers.
A 2GB flash drive could have up to 670 songs on it, plus or minus depends on the length of the MP's at 128kbps.
Happy shopping mate.

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Reply By: Geoff in SA - Friday, Aug 03, 2012 at 10:14

Friday, Aug 03, 2012 at 10:14
currenty in vietnam on holidays but I would suggest you look at the Fusion Marinised system. have one in our van and its got bells ans whistles as well as three zones. front, back, and outside as well as a remote and now has iphone remote available

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Follow Up By: nutwood - Sunday, Aug 05, 2012 at 19:09

Sunday, Aug 05, 2012 at 19:09
Thanks for that. I'd not heard of Fusion before. Looks interesting. Do you have an opinion on how their FM radio's compare with others. Do you find you're able to receive a particular station when others can't?
Not entirely a valid comparison as a well tuned antenna can make a big difference but it's a good indication.
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Reply By: The Bantam - Friday, Aug 03, 2012 at 15:39

Friday, Aug 03, 2012 at 15:39
The reception performance of most of the decent new radios is far better than the past.

Almost anything will outperform that old time analogue tuned and the early PLL digital tuned car radios.

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Follow Up By: nutwood - Sunday, Aug 05, 2012 at 19:01

Sunday, Aug 05, 2012 at 19:01
Are you referring to the FM receivers? My experience with AM is exactly the opposite to what you describe. I'd back a OEM 1960's Holden radio against virtually anything on the market now.
Problem is that high sensitivity was all very well when there weren't many stations. Those old radios tend to drift and come sundown you're likely to find the station you're listening to being merged with another station 500 miles away.
Hence FM, of course!
Ideally a good car radio should have a sensitive front end with an attenuate button that simply reduces the sensitivity when you don't need the range, or when you've got two stations on the same frequency. My opinion is that most manufacturers place radio reception well down the list of priorities. Hence the motivation for this thread, to find the manufacturers who put some effort into their radios.
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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Sunday, Aug 05, 2012 at 23:10

Sunday, Aug 05, 2012 at 23:10
Sorry but I have some older pushbutton radios lying arround and not all that long ago I replaced an old shaft & pushbutton set in my van with a quite moddest clarion CD radio.

The range and stability of the clarion bleep all over any older radio I have ever owned.

The modern digital PLL bassed radios simply dont drift because they are locked to a crystal stabilised clock.....the old analoge radios where physical tuned circuits that drifted with temperature.

In addition almost every modern radio has automatic gain controll, so there is much less need for a RF gain controll except in very high signal areas.

New radios can have higher sensitivity because they also have much better selectivity and tuning accuracy.

Remember FM is deliberaltly range limited, both by the frequencies used and the power allowed.......this is how there can be so many FM stations available.

I can pull 2UE(sydney) on AM in Brisbane any night of the week.....that is the way it has been since I was a boy...hell I used to pull 2UE on a crystal set.

FM will never have that range.
FM will work only a little past line of sight, pretty much the same as television.....200Km tops and then with everything going the right way.

Get a big hill in the way & its buggered

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Follow Up By: nutwood - Monday, Aug 06, 2012 at 08:17

Monday, Aug 06, 2012 at 08:17
Have to agree with you about FM but I'd be delighted if I could get 100km. Mind you I am in Tassie. Lot's of big hills!
That said, I have noticed that some radios work better than others, hence my query. For instance we have a local low power station about 50km down the river. I've noted that there are tradesman around who can receive that station on their vehicle radios whereas when I experimented, the only way I even got a hint of it was with a portable and a long wire on the aerial!
Clarion used to have a good reputation for their radio reception, sounds as though that continues. I'd prefer to listen to AM but they seem to be moving to FM. Out of forty stations in Tasmania, there's only eleven left on AM.
What was your old push button and shaft radio? Those old radios varied a lot in performance. Holden were building cars for Australian conditions and I think they went to some effort to have good reception in remote areas. In my younger years I drove machinery in the WA wheat belt. We always put the Holden radios in. After dark we could tune in AM stations all over Australia. Very touchy though, you'd just start to enjoy a station and it'd drift off and merge with another. No big deal though, when you're driving from 6pm to 6am, it all helped to pass the time!
My observations have been that whilst modern radios can have far superior performance, it really depends on how hard the manufacturer tries. In many instances the radio seems to be a token addition, whilst the effort goes into other areas revolving around playing pre-recorded music.
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Reply By: Cravenhaven - Monday, Aug 06, 2012 at 08:28

Monday, Aug 06, 2012 at 08:28
I sympathise with the OP. I installed an Alpine radio a year or 2 back and find that the reception is ordinary at best. In the cities of course, a crystal set would do, but when it comes to the rural area's, particularly outback QLD/NSW ..., its hopeless.
I'm a bit of a technophile but surely the main point of a car radio is, well, radio...(Bit like mobile phones I know). These days there is so much hype about Ipod this and that, bluetooth, power output etc, that its almost impossible to find any meaningful specs on sensitivity and selectivity.
If I could find a radio that could pull in Sydney stations from Brisbane, I'd be cleaning the dust off the wallet now.

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Follow Up By: nutwood - Monday, Aug 06, 2012 at 08:38

Monday, Aug 06, 2012 at 08:38
Thanks for the reply. The silly thing is that you probably wouldn't have to damage the wallet much to get decent radio performance. My observations over the years has been that price is no indication of radio performance. Quite modestly priced units can and do out perform much fancier equipment.
I like your mobile phone comparison. I got a new phone a while back and I got to page eighty six of the manual before it told me how to make a phone call!
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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Monday, Aug 06, 2012 at 10:30

Monday, Aug 06, 2012 at 10:30
2UE in brisbane is no stunt, at night it rips in here.

And yes as with mobile phones......price does not guarantee reception.

I can tell ya the radios in toyotas are pretty decent in my experience.

Daytime, I was used to having 4KQ brisbane break up once I got over cunninghams gap in several previous cars, first time I drove the handbrake's corrola up there I was surprised to find 4QK solid all the way into Warrick, likewise her more recent RAV, the clarion I had in the L300 and the factory radio in my hilux.

In the RAV we have KQ well north of Gympie daytime.

I know its not FM...but the front end on all these new radios is the same for AM & FM.

Be aware thought that some of the new vehicles have amplified antennas.


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Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Monday, Aug 06, 2012 at 10:52

Monday, Aug 06, 2012 at 10:52
Don't know what Toyota use now Bantam, but in years past they were fitting Fujitsu equipment.

Generally good gear, and very sensitive. With a good aerial, I've pulled 3SR(Shepparton) one morning about 10am, and I'd just crossed the Diamantina, about 200km south of Winton.


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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Monday, Aug 06, 2012 at 11:31

Monday, Aug 06, 2012 at 11:31
Yep thats right....."Fujitsu Ten" as it was known in the past.

Pretty well an unknown brand on the Australian retail market, great radio section, the cassettte mech was robust but not startling in the frequency response.

The early toyota crown radios where a technological wonder at the time.....big sucker about the size of two house bricks and almost as heavy......analogue auto tune..... motor driven dial.


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Reply By: Bob Y. - Qld - Monday, Aug 06, 2012 at 11:07

Monday, Aug 06, 2012 at 11:07

Would agree with the other posters, get something made in Japan, and fitted with some extra slots, for add-on entertainment. I like the uncertainty of radio too, but over the last few years the quality of programs seems to have faded, so I use my iPod more and more. In NT, you either use stored music, or listen to the "sounds of silence"......err, plus the wind/tyre noise.

If you want the best reception, peruse the Mobile One website. They have AM/FM wound aerials, both 900mm & 1500mm, that increase the "hearing" of any car radio. They look a bit like the old CB aerials, but I use the short one in town, and fit the longer one for bush trips. There are other suppliers of these type of aerials, such as Axis.

Up here in central Qld, there's still plenty of AM stations, but with the exception of ABC, the commercials are only 2KW, so they often don't carry far, especially in summer. As for FM, it fades away quickly once you're 25km from town, in rural areas.

Try those aerials, you might be pleasantly surprised. No affliation etc.


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Follow Up By: nutwood - Monday, Aug 06, 2012 at 12:53

Monday, Aug 06, 2012 at 12:53
Hmm, I've been wondering about aerials. Bantam mentions above about boosted aerials. Perhaps this is the answer. Get a "solid" radio and then do the rest with the aerial.
It's an interesting discussion anyway. I'm quite interested in the Fusion stuff mentioned above. Hopefully a bit more feedback will eventuate.
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