OPINION

Continuing a FM DX hobby…

Tony Bender

For the longest time, I would sit and look at my Kenwood KT 6040 AM-FM receiver and wonder what was wrong with it. When I bought it in 2018, it provided radio reception two step above anything else I’d ever known. But in the past year, there’s been some kind of issue.

Electronics:  A battery/hand-crank AM/FM/shortwave radio will let you stay in touch with the news. Hand-held CB radios will work when cellphones donÕt. Both also receive NOAA weather radio broadcasts. A small solar cell for charging mobile phones and a 12-volt inverter will let you run some 110-volt devices while your car is running.

[Herald-Tribune staff photo / Mike Lang]

Last week my wife went to visit the grandkids in Rapid City so I dedicated one of those days to find the problem and fix it. I gave myself an entire day so I wouldn’t have to get into a hurry.

That meant taking the system completely apart, moving it away from a garage wall and attempting to locate an electrical interference that was destroying any signal coming in.

The Kenwood KT 6040 was built for long-distance FM (DX) and was popular in Europe. It was never available in the United States. But I found one on eBay and bought it from a guy in Austria.

When I set it up, that thing performed like nothing I’d ever witnessed in the 45 years that I’ve considered this a hobby. Unfortunately, at some point, something went wrong. I had already removed all CFL light bulbs which previously stopped interference.

We have two garage door openers. Maybe it was one of them. Nope, they both checked out. But then I noticed something when I was attempting to pick up some AM stations with the receiver pulled away from the wall. There wasn’t any static or electrical noise in weak AM broadcasts. OK, I was on to something.

There are three produce refrigerators that sit alongside the stereo system. Maybe it was one of them or all three of them. So, I unplugged all three and plugged each back in with the radio on a weak station. Nothing on the first one, nothing on the second one, and on the third one, it completely blew out any weak station on the dial. There was the source of my electrical interference.

It turns out, this new Samsung refrigerator was causing the problem. You would think a new appliance would be more efficient than the old ones, but not in this case. That meant finding a new location for the stereo system because I couldn’t let it set in the middle of the floor as my car needed to go there.

It took awhile, but I found a new home for it. The downside was I had to run antenna cables and speaker wires approximately 30 feet from where they were. I also mounted a switch on the wall near the new fridge so I could turn it off if I want to listen to the radio.

That made a remarkable difference in the quality of the sound and now the KT 6040 is living up to what it’s supposed to be.

In the process of pinning this down, the problem was twofold. There was electrical interference causing a popping sound on local radio stations. But the refrigerator was also jamming a number of frequencies making them completely unavailable including KMHA in New Town, just 70 miles from here.

The best example I have, however, is CKSE, 106.1 in Estevan. When that station went on the air I listened to it all the time, but the new fridge, that was installed about a year ago, completely destroyed the signal coming from Estevan. I thought Golden West Radio had cut their power.

My goodness, was I ever wrong on that one. Not only am I now getting CKSE, but CHSN, another Estevan station, is coming in loud and clear. I’ve also added CHWY, 106.7 in Weyburn and these three radio stations are as clear as any of the local stations from Minot.

Back in ’18 when I bought the Kenwood, I also got a Wade antenna designed for FM and pointed it toward Estevan because “Rock 106” is what I wanted to get and anything else was a bonus. In the interim, I added an old Antennacraft consumer-grade antenna pointed southeast so I could get KOWW-LP in Burlington.

The last time I checked, I picked up 54 FM stations including those from Minot. It included KDVL and KQZZ in Devils Lake, KBYZ in Bismarck, CKX in Brandon, CFWF and CIZL in Regina and CBC Radio 1 in Brandon.

In the process of playing around with this, I discovered another phenomenon that I hadn’t been aware of in all the years I’ve had this radio hobby. On three frequencies, 92.9, 101.5 and 104.1, I can listen to radio stations from Bismarck, Regina and Minot low power. When I flip the antenna switch, I’m picking up Grand Forks on 92.9, Bismarck on 101.5 and Tioga on 104.1. Incidentally, both stations on 104.1 are Christian broadcasts, but they are different in their programming.

Now that I’ve got the FM side figured out and can listen to FM radio stations from as far away as Regina and Fargo, AM is the next challenge. There too is interference and I think it’s coming from the Blonder Tongue boosters I’m using on the FM.

I’m not a big fan of AM radio, but I like listening to baseball games when I’m in the garage. KCJB in Minot carries the Twins and I get that station, but I can’t pick up CJ-1190 in Weyburn which carries the Blue Jays or KMOX in St. Louis that carries the Cardinals. I know one thing, I’ll have it figured out before I go into the field for spring’s work.