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July 15, 2010


Stu M.

Modern car radios are naturally optimized for FM, occasionally at the expense of the AM section. Think, about it -- you often spend a lot of time in there, the designers are not as worried about the power drain and modern cars have amps and speakers optimized for the cabins. Home and portable sets often have to be manufactured to a specific cost. You bought your car, though as an investment. You're also more often away from the big geographic or metal obstructions.

AM car sets from the 60s' are often great radios -- powerful, rich sounding audio, selective and sensitive, many had RF amps and even tuned RF inputs. Power hogs though, compared to other portables then and now.

Ed S.

I agree that car "head ends" are usually very good, and more design labor and cost are lavished on them compared to a table radio... they would be comparable to $300-$500 radios if they were stand-alone sets.
Also, the car's metal body tends to act as a ground plane antenna, and helps with reception.


In the past I used to buy pioneer car stereos for their superior FM perfomance,but nowadays I find that Sony is as good as Pioneer´s and cheaper.
I´ve also have found that changing the stock the ceramic filters in the portables radios is possible to make them as sensitive as the car radios or better !


I still have an old Pioneer Super Tuner in my old 74 VW. It is an analog set with 5 mechanical presets. Can't beat a Pioneer car radio's selectivity.



Depends where you're driving. You can have a very good car radio but in an area packed with interference, reception, especially on AM, isn't great. Conversely, I remember my first car----1979 Chevy Monza with an AM-FM NON-STEREO (mono) radio. Antenna was built into the windshield. I drove thousands of miles on isolated highway between Wilkes-Barre, PA and Washington, DC---and at night, I could pull in stations broadcasting from Mars, if there were any, crystal clear and steady. By the way, I traded that Monza in in 1989---but last year, around the 20th aniversary of the trade-in and the 30th aniversary of getting the original car, I bought another 1979 Chevy Monza, same dark blue color, same light blue interior, bigger engine and air conditioning on this one!


Angelo, I never really liked the windshield antennas, as they seemed a bit directional, or at least the one in my old '78 Monte Carlo did. Plus, the windshields were more expensive to replace. I remember breaking the windshield in a neighbor's car back in the early '80s. That car had the antenna in the windshield...



Why do car radio's pick up stations much better then you typical home radio? I don't know of any home radio that picks up stations better then even a basic inexpensive car radio, here's the answer why this is.

Modern Home radios have an internal antenna, it's constructed of a ferrite rod, wound with ultra fine, multi stranded Litz wire. These Litz wire internal antenna's work fairly well. Years ago, before the litz wire ferrite rod antenna's were invented, all radio's had to have an external antenna, to pick up stations. Those external antenna wires had to be connected to the radio and strung out doors for good reception. The longer the wire and higher off the ground the antenna wire is, the better they work, in fact, a well made long wire antenna work very very well, but they were not very practical. If you wanted to move your radio around the house, you were dragging an antenna wire around with the radio. So, someone invented the Lizt Ferrite rod internal antenna. The litz ferrite eliminated the need for a cumbersome antenna wire connected to your radio. A car radio is much like an old radio, they do not have an internal antenna. The reason car radios do not have an internal antenna is because it would not work well inside the metal body of the car, the metal car body blocks the radio signal, that's why all car radios depend on an external antenna mounted to the out side of the car. In addition to an external antenna, car radios also have a ground connected to the chassis of the car, this helps the radio signals pass though the radio circuitry, greatly improving the radio reception. Modern Home radio's do not have a ground connection either.

Here's the best solution to improving and receiving radio signals at home. Get a CAR radio and hook it up to a Car antenna, the antenna must be situated out side the house. Hook it up to a 12 volt battery, also run a grounding wire from the body of the radio to a grounding rod that planted deep in the ground outside. THEN you can pick up radio stations at home every bit as good as you can in your car!

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