A Better Radio adds AM / FM Enjoyment

About the width of a netbook, this radio packs great
AM/ FM reception, good battery life, and rich sound! 
 
Disclaimer:  This information is only provided for your perusal.  You might not experience the same results.  I am not compensated for these opinions. 

This very highly rated Sangean table radio was one of the best additions to the Trekker Van in some time, unlocking a whole new realm of entertainment – AM radio. 

I am fond of syndicated AM radio programs such as Dave Ramsey, Kim Komando, Money Talk, Coast to Coast, etc., particularly when relaxing late at night.  TV is not always available, particularly after the switch to digital TV.  In the old analog days, you could watch a fuzzy signal.  With digital, if you don’t have all of the signal, the TV stutters and chatters.. enough to really peeve you!   That’s where good old AM shines.  You can listen between the pops and crackles without missing much.

I know the following info might be familiar to those of us who have been around a few years but there is a new generation of cable TV watching folks who have never dealt with broadcast TV and AM radios…  Here’s a little info on how the signal propagation works.



AM radio reception is a lot different beast than television.  Both use forms of groundwave signal propagation but with differences.  Broadcasted VHF (very high frequency) and UHF (ultra high frequency) TV signals tend to get absorbed and attenuated by the earth and are more of a line of sight type of thing, thereby requiring higher power and taller transmitting towers (like you see in the “space wave” illustration) and better receiving antennas. (i.e. the old roof top or tower mounted TV antennas)  That’s why when camping in rural areas, you might not get any signals, or worse, one that makes your TV stutter!

The lower frequency AM radio signals (called M.F. for medium frequency) are less susceptible to Terran absorption and more easily follow the curvature of the earth (“surface wave”).  That’s why such stations can reach into the remote areas a lot better.  Also, with AM being transmitted as an analog signal, you can still listen to a distant station easily with a little static… not like the new digital TV where a gust of wind and a tree branch waving can disrupt your entertainment if the signal is not perfect. 

The major problem with AM radio is, of course, that the analog reception is vulnerable to all kinds of noise problems such as power lines, hair dryers, lightning strikes, and the van’s power inverter.

By the way, for those not familiar with amateur radio, one of the fun things to do is bounce radio signals off the ionosphere (“sky wave” propagation) and communicate around the world with other hobbyists as conditions allow.  Many have heard the truckers talk about “skip” coming in during the daytime (when the CB radio signals bounce around the atmosphere.)
 

Okay, back to the AM radio… It’s just fun talking about radio and towers and such…  🙂

After reading many dozens of reviews about awesome Sangean AM performance, I purchased this highly rated receiver from Amazon.com for about $63.  With a large ferrite antenna built in (AM groundwave reception does not need an external antenna), this receiver really does have terrific AM reception.  But in a van you are still somewhat shielded from radio signals getting inside and outside.  The radio worked best near the back door (where there is glass).  I was impressed with the variety of signals available. 

The digital tuner is slick to use…No more analog “slide” tuning or having the receiver drift off the station.  The sound is rich and beautiful. But the noisy 2500 watt inverter in the van still made AM reception a bit difficult.

To power the radio with the inverter turned off, a way was needed to use the house battery bank.  I found a very easy solution.

Pictured is a power adapter cord.  I bought it for a reasonable price through Amazon.com.  It generates very little noise though for the very weakest stations it is better just to run off the internal C-cell batteries.  Predictably, FM (which is all but immune to noise) works just as well with or without the adapter.

What is a bit humorous is that this adapter is intended for use with a Maymom brand, breast pump.  Okay….. You never know what you’ll find when searching on Amazon.  It fit the voltage, current, and connector requirements so I figured why not?

By the way, I am sure people are curious about battery life for the disposables… I don’t know yet what it is!  The radio appears to sip energy.  The display backlight is dimmed after a reasonable period.  I ran the radio for about 12 hours at a low volume using just the disposable batteries and they still read full power!

AM reception is not quite as outstanding as indicated by the Amazon reviews but it is unlikely that any reviewers were living in a van.  However, I was able to listen to some Chicago stations and really enjoyed it!  The FM reception was much better than expected.  The sound quality was remarkable.  I’m delighted with this radio and it lived up to pretty much all of the hundreds of positive reviews.

I don’t think there is anything else in this price range that can compare… unless it is a different Sangean model.  This new radio is going to add a lot of fun and camping and relaxation to the van camping fun.

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In other news, I added a new recipe to the recipe blog today.. It is at this URL:   Curried Chicken Salad with Walnuts and Cranberries

Thanks for riding along.  Have a good rest of the week!

Brad, the “Van Trekker”

About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"
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2 Responses to A Better Radio adds AM / FM Enjoyment

  1. Johnston says:

    Hey Brad,
    What’s your best AM distance at night? I’ve been able to receive WCCO from Minneapolis (830 miles) while camping in the mountains west of Denver.

    Being further east in Iowa, you’re ripe to get Chicago, Columbus, and maybe even NYC.

    Johnston in CO

    • Brad says:

      Hi Johnston,

      So far just Chicago and St. Louis (max 300 mi from Cedar Rapids). I haven’t tried to listen very far away yet. Last night I had it on sleep mode letting it sing me to sleep with 80s rock. The “sleep mode” is cool.