Q: I need an indoor AM/FM antenna for my 30 year-old Technics receiver. It works well enough for the most part, but I have trouble receiving radio on either band. I purchased a TERK PIB amplified antenna, but it doesn't work very well and the reception is hit and miss. Do you have any recommendations?
A: Given the age of your receiver, it is possible the tuner is starting to go. But, like you, I suspect the antenna is the issue.
The antenna is important when you are trying to receive any kind of radio signal, but it is especially so with analog transmissions like FM. I tend to prefer an "overkill" approach with a big antenna mounted outside or on the roof whenever possible. Most outside VHF antennas can receive FM radio as well. But, of course, this is not practical or worthwhile for everyone, and you're looking for something indoor. So a simpler and more cost-effective solution is in order.
I've never found any of the amplified radio antennas I have tried to be worth the box they are packaged in. Perhaps there is a great one out there, but I have yet to find it. But don't despair. Something simpler and less expensive might provide better reception.
Did you know that an ordinary set of unamplified TV rabbit ears makes an extraordinary FM radio antenna? Even the simplest model will do a fine job. I purchased a basic RCA brand rabbit ears antenna for only $10 in a department store, and I preferred it to more-expensive powered units. Whenever I would set up a stereo receiver and use the wire antenna that came with it, I could hardly tune anything at all, and the reception was not clear. Once I switched to the rabbit ears, the tuner locked right onto the signal, with a full set of signal-strength bars and crystal-clear reception. I've had many readers who've tried it tell me they could get stations they could never receive before.
You may be surprised to learn that your 30-year-old Technics tuner, if it is in good working order, is likely much better than the tuner you would find in a brand-new stereo or surround-sound receiver (especially the latter). Back then a receiver had only two main functions: tuning radio signals and powering two speakers. As time has gone on, more and more features have been added, such as surround-sound processing, additional channels to drive additional speakers, HDMI switching, video processing and Bluetooth, to name just a few.
Though many features have been added, receiver prices have remained relatively constant. Manufacturers had to get the money from somewhere, and the tuners and amplifiers are the places they tended to skimp on quality to cut costs. Home theater receivers with poor tuners especially can benefit from an inexpensive antenna upgrade like this one. They need all the help they can get!
Send questions to Don Lindich at email@example.com. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.