Question: I am getting a new home theater receiver and my wife said, "Please tell me this one will have better radio reception." I didn't think I could control this. I did a search and came upon your article about using basic rabbit ears for FM reception, and how amazed people were by the results.
How exactly do I attach the rabbit ears? My receiver will just have the two springs to insert the two lead bar wires, which are attached to some plastic circle with a stand. Also, with this solution, can I still get AM stations?
Answer: I am not surprised your wife was disappointed by your prior receiver's FM performance. Poor FM reception is typical for new receivers, and it has been that way for the past 15 years.
When manufacturers started adding home theater features such as more channels and surround modes they started paying less attention to the tuners and other hi-fi features to cut costs and keep pricing levels about the same. Fortunately a good antenna makes a world of difference no matter what kind of radio transmission you are attempting to receive.
As you saw in my old column, an ordinary $10 set of unamplified VHF rabbit ears makes one of the best FM antennas. Most rabbit ears have an adapter that provides two flat spades that attach to screw terminals on the back of older TVs. To connect the antenna to the receiver use the adapter and put the spade ends into the spring connectors. You also can clip off the spaces and strip the wires if you want a cleaner-looking connection.
AM tuning requires a separate antenna from the rabbit ears. Please note that the "plastic circle with a stand" you describe is the AM antenna that is typically shipped with receivers. If you were using it with the FM terminals it is another reason your receiver performed poorly as it is not optimized to receive FM signals. The FM antenna included with receivers is usually a long wire that terminates in split leads that make a T shape. It is called a dipole antenna, and the rabbit ears will dramatically outperform it.
Question: I can understand that a cable TV company needs a way to filter programs so that a given customer gets only what he or she pays for. Presumably that is one reason for the so-called cable box?
Given that a customer has an up-to-date TV with a digital tuner, why does a cable customer need one box for every TV in the house?
Why can't the cable company provide one "box" as the cable enters the house that serves all the TV's in the house, allowing the customer to use his own remote?
Answer: In a sense the functionality you describe is already available with the "Cablecard" system. Cablecard-compatible TVs are labeled "Digital Cable Ready." The customer contacts his cable company to obtain a Cablecard, which is inserted into the TV to access the subscription channels he purchased. There is a monthly fee for the Cablecard but it is less than that for a cable box. Cablecard has seen poor market acceptance and is widely considered to be a flop, so I am not surprised you have not heard of it.
Read past columns and product reviews by Don Lindich at www.soundadviceblog.com . Contact him using the ?submit question link on the site.