WFMU Reception Tips
From an oft-reprinted article in LCD
Mountains, tall buildings, solar storms and other radio stations were
all designed specifically to make reception of WFMU more difficult.
But for those who would take up swords against windmills, attend! For
there is another task even more futile and therefore more fulfilling
--getting clean reception of WFMU.
Let's review the basics and then move into truly deranged reception
1. Get an antenna, even if it's one of those $2.98 T-shaped jobs that
you can pick up at Radio Shack or another electronics store. Hook it
up to your tuner, but don't make the same mistake that Jeff Gaither
made when he designed this page! [ed: you had to be there]. Mount
the dipole antenna in such a way that the antenna can move. Chances
are that you will need to readjust it from time to time. Antennas are
kind of like the protagonist in Lynyrd Skynyrd's song "Freebird"--they
just got to keep movin'. More freebird antenna tips below.
2. Mono! Mono! Mono! Stereo broadcasting is an aural hoax that was
created by bored techno-weenies to screw stations like WFMU. FM
signals travel twice as far in mono as they do in stereo, so if your
tuner has a mono switch, use it. If you already get the station, then
using the mono switch will eliminate a good chunk of static.
3. Know what you're looking for. WFMU used to have a phone number you
could call to hear whatever we were playing at that moment. This was
helpful for identifying exactly which of the warbling sounds down on
the left end of the dial was WFMU. But that line was part of an
experimental research project that ran out of money. A low-class
substitute method is to call the WFMU office at (201) 678-8264 or the
DJ on the air at (201) 678-7743 and ask the person who answers the
phone if they would be so kind as to hold the phone towards a speaker
and crank the volume. Warning! You may encounter "D.J. Attitude
Syndrome" (D.A.S.) if you call at the wrong time.
4. Use an Old Tuner. Many listeners have told us that they have more
trouble picking up FMU on fancy new high tech tuners than on the
clunky old tube jobs. Many new digital tuners don't allow you to tune
slightly to the left (or right) of 91.1. It frequently helps to tune
us slightly off center, but this technique is only possible with
old-fashioned rotary dial tuners. If you are thinking about buying a
new (or better, old) tuner, look for one with a feature called "narrow
bandwidth reception." This allows you to hone in on 91.1 at the
exclusion of other evil stations who have the temerity to utilize
frequencies adjacent to ours.
So there's some of your basic reception techniques. Now for the
5. Get an Antenna. There are fancy antennas on the market that
resemble giant suppositories or the black monolith form "2001: A Space
Odyssey." These are known as "indoor directional antennas," and two
popular manufacturers are Terq and Parsec. These are generally only
helpful if you can already get a trace of FMU. They cost $30 or so,
so it might be worth the gamble. These antennas allow you to "aim"
towards FMU, and they also have internal amplifiers that make the
signal (or the static) louder. Sometimes Terqs and Parsecs work
better if you use them without the power cord plugged in. They also
work better (as with all antennas) the higher you mount them. You can
extend any antenna with 75 -hm coax cable or 300-ohm twin lead cable,
both available at Radio Shack. But if you roof-mount an antenna,
remember to to try to leave the antenna accessible and moveable,
because one day may come when you will need to adjust it.
6. Jackson Pollock Antenna Techniques. Many listeners adjust their
plastic antennas into weird shapes to get the best possible FMU
reception, only to have the blasted thing unfurl the second you walk
away. The best antenna positions, like all good things in life, just
ain't sustainable. The best way is to clump your dipole antenna into
a ball and throw it onto a table or the floor. Wherever it lands, it
will most likely stay. Try this a few times and see if it lands in a
position that is static-free. Another good trick to try on your
antenna is to unhook one of the two antenna leads at the tuner. For
some reason, this occasionally improves reception.
7. Our Friend the Spud. Many of our brothers in the vegetable kingdom
would be happy to help you improve FMU reception, if you would only
give them a chance. Potatoes and onions, in particular, are quite
adept at acting as natural grounds for the pesky electrical charges
that would stand between you and pristine reception. Try exposing the
leads on your antenna and sticking them into a potato, onion,
watermelon, or houseplant. This works best if the plant matter in
question is moist.
8. Radio through television. In the Winter 1992 issue of LCD, we
printed a letter from a felonious listener who had discovered a way to
pull a clear FM signal off of his cable TV cord. Although we don't
recommend illegal techniques like this, we reprint it here as a
"All I had to do was go to Radio Shack and buy an adapter and some
additional cable TV wire (the kind with the single pin in the middle).
The idea was to split your cable TV cable into two parts, so you can
put one end into your cable TV box, and put the other one into your
radio tuner. Sticking the cable TV wire into my tuner brings a whole
new radio dial onto my tuner. Fortunately, FMU is one of the new
stations I can pick up this way, and it comes in better than ever.
Only problem is that it comes in a little lower than 91.1. Actually,
the whole FM band is notched down a point or so. So all you need is a
coaxial splitter box, and enough cable TV wire to reach from the
splitter box into your tuner. Total cost of the operation was $14.95.
Please pass this on to other listeners, even if they can still get the
station over the air. I get the station much better this way."
This listener is currently serving a 25-year-to-life sentence in
Rahway State Penitentiary for cable piracy. Fortunately, reception at
Rahway State is great. But we recommend methods of
reception-improvement that don't leave permanent stains on your
For more advice, or for spot removal techniques on permanent
stains, call the station at (201) 678-8264. Our staff may be able
to offer helpful suggestions on improving reception and would be
happy to add you to the waiting list for occupancies at the many
fine penitentiaries located near lovely East Orange.
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