Sound Advice Column: AM Radio Reception and Radios, Adobe Photoshop Elements

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Distributed By McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Q: I have an AM/FM receiver that is around 25 years old. It has worked wonderfully on both AM and FM until we recently moved it from a closet to an open area 20 feet away. The FM is still perfect. However, I cannot get a clear AM signal, even while tuned to WCCO, one of the nation’s most powerful stations.

It has a plastic AM antenna that is attached to the back of the receiver. I have tried relocating the wires to different terminals, but to no avail. I cannot return the receiver to its original closet location since it no longer exists due to remodeling.

It worked excellently until now. Would speakers have anything to do with it, when FM is perfect?

JON NORDSTROM
Minneapolis

A: Since the FM is working perfectly, we can rule out the speakers. AM is more prone to interference than FM, so it sounds like an issue with AM reception in this particular location.

Start by using a portable AM radio in the old location as well as the new location. Tune it to WCCO to do the comparison. If the portable radio can tune the station clearly in the new location as well as the old location, you know you have a problem at the receiver. If the portable radio can tune the station in the old location but not in the new area, you know you have the receiver placed in a bad spot and you can look to place it elsewhere or get a new antenna.

A good place to buy AM (as well as FM) antennas is the C. Crane Co., located at www.ccrane.com. Its Twin Coil Ferrite Antenna is especially good at eliminating interference and improving reception. If you look under the “Antennas” tab on its Web site, the company has a list of recommendations for improving reception and eliminating possible sources of interference. I strongly recommend you check it out. As you will see, there are many possible sources of interference.

Speaking of antennas, many readers have been writing to me about digital TV converter boxes and antennas to go with them. If you are looking to tune HDTV stations with a set-top antenna (rabbit ears), the best I have found is the Philips PHDTV1 Silver Sensor, previously known as the Zenith Silver Sensor. It is available for less than $25 and is incredibly effective for a small, unpowered antenna.

I also have news about the Echostar TR-40 converter box from Dish Network. The TR-40 made news at the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show because it had a suggested retail price of only $39.99, making it effectively free with a $40 government coupon. The TR-40 has been rebranded the DTVPal and will be available in June or July. Check my Web site for more info, as I will be tracking this item closely, due to the high interest.

Q: Which digital software is good for amateur guys? I don’t want to spend too much time in a digital darkroom, and I don’t really want to alter the photo too much, otherwise it becomes too “fake” looking.

DAVID CHAN
San Jose, Calif.

A: I strongly recommend Adobe Photoshop Elements. It’s a consumer-friendly version of Adobe Photoshop, the world standard for image editing. It sells for less than $100, is very easy to use, and results are top-notch. If you ever upgrade to Photoshop you also will find the transition to be very easy.

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