The Unsung Heroes of Radio

Aerials, the unsung heroes of radio!

They may not be glamorous or sexy but your aerial is arguably the most important part of any radio system. It is the link between the station transmitter and your car radio and without it the best radio receiver in the world is going to be silent.

This is particularly true for modern DAB receivers. Digital radio is still broadcast on the FM waveband but the signal is now just a string of 1s and 0s instead of a modulated analogue signal. This transmission method means more stations, more data, better sound and clarity. There has been an explosion of content providers keen to use this digital media rather like we saw when digital TV started.

Despite the many advantages of digital transmission, there is one major drawback, the fact that it is either fully available or not at all. That is to say that if reception quality falls then the signal completely disappears. With an analogue FM signal if the signal strength dipped then all that happened was a slight interference or a drop to mono, DAB on the other hand will ‘bubble’ and disappear, usually just when things are interesting!

So let’s concentrate on DAB aerials as they are crucial to good reception. Most DAB radios are sold with an in windscreen aerial.

screen-aerial

Let me say now that these are the least desirable type. They work but at a very low gain which means that in weaker signal conditions they will fail. Of course, a lot of modern cars have no external aerial and you may not wish to install one so these stick on aerials are your only option. Some are better than others and at Car and Home Stereo I have tested as many as I can find. The one I use is the most successful one to date offering reasonable reception under most conditions. This is not to say it is faultless and it still suffers from directional issues which are to say a station can be clear when travelling to work but poor in the opposite direction.

For best reception there is nothing better than an external aerial. Since DAB radio is broadcast on the FM waveband it is perfectly possible to use a standard aerial as fitted to the roof of some Fords and wing mount on Land Rover Defenders. All that is needed is a modulator to separate the two signals.

plastic-bag

These can offer up to 10 dB of gain for both FM and DAB which means a great reception for both.

Unfortunately the modulator cannot be used with existing amplified aerials as fitted to many cars.

silver-aerial-car

These vehicle aerials strip off the higher frequency signals before sending to the radio so no DAB. In these cases I always prefer to fit a replacement combined FM/DAB aerial.

white-car-aerial

These can again offer up to 10dB of gain and of course suffer no directional issues. If your car has navigation then there is a version of this aerial that also contains a GPS receiver. The mast is removable and the look of the car is unchanged. I have often fitted this aerial to cars with no external mast like the Volkswagen T5 and the reception is dramatically improved.

As I said at the start, aerials are not glamorous but getting it right will mean trouble free reception and less annoying drop outs.

 

Call Tim on 01625 432707 if you wish to discuss options to improve your radio enjoyment.

 

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