Improving Radio Reception

Broadcast radio has been an affordable and accessible way to get news, information, music and entertainment for more than a century, but it is still susceptible to issues. If you’re having trouble hearing one of WPR’s 36 FM , 2 AM or 4 HD radio stations, here are some tips on how to improve your listening experience.

If these don’t work, we encourage to consider listening online through this website, our free mobile app or with a smart speaker. Find details on how to listen here.


WPR strives to have the best on-air signals possible. We operate our transmitters at the Federal Communications Commission licensed parameters for power, antenna configuration, and modulation. Each station has a different antenna height and power output, and can be located in very differing terrain – thus each has a different coverage range. In addition to operating our existing stations, we also consider license upgrades and new stations when opportunities arise.

WPR works hard to ensure clear signals for listeners, but radio broadcasting is a system that relies on the performance of both the transmitter on our towers, and the receiver or radio that you are using. Reception of nearby stations can be quite clear, requiring no special thought or effort, but when trying to pick up a more distant station, there are ways you can improve reception at your home or office.

Your Radio Receiver

A good-quality radio is helpful, especially when more powerful local station(s) on adjacent frequencies bother your reception of weaker, more distant stations. If your receiver’s performance may be an issue, look for a radio that has external antenna connections and has good performance on both AM and FM. You might also consider an HD radio if you live near one of of the four areas where we broadcast HD signals: Milwaukee, Madison, Highland or Wausau. (Learn more here.)

If your FM receiver has a “stereo” versus “mono” switch, try it in both positions to help reception. Some of our transmitters run in stereo, others in mono – but if you have weak reception, your radio will perform better in mono mode.


Radio performance is important, but for radio reception the antenna is vital, and can be a relatively simple way to improve reception. If your radio has an external antenna connection on the back, a simple antenna made of wire would likely be of help, or a more elaborate antenna in your attic or on the roof is also possible.

FM Antennas:

Built-in radio antennas can often be inadequate. Adding an external antenna can be a relatively simple way to improve reception. Does your radio have external antenna connections on the back? A simple dipole antenna made of wire could be helpful, or a more elaborate antenna in your attic or on the roof is also possible. Experiment with the location and orientation of the antenna.

TV antennas can often also serve as effective FM antennas. Use a “splitter” to route the signals to the TV and radio.

AM Antennas:

Built-in radio antennas for AM usually do a good job, but if your radio has an external AM antenna connection on the back, a simple wire or loop can be of help.

The orientation of the radio with its internal “bar” antenna can be important — try rotating your AM radio to find the best signal. This is also true of external loop antennas that you might try — don’t hesitate to experiment with the shape and location of the antenna.


Noise Interference

If you’re hearing static or other buzzing noises while listening, try to move your radio and/or its antenna away from potential sources of interference. These could include dimmer switches, fluorescent and LED lights, computers, microwave ovens, battery chargers, TVs, day/night and motion-sensing light fixtures, touch-sensing lamps are all known “noise-makers.”

Interference From Other Radio Stations

If you can hear other radio stations while trying to listen to WPR, then the source of interference is likely another broadcast transmitter or service nearby. In cases of interference from a station on the next dial position, a good quality radio with better “selectivity” will be helpful. You might also look for a radio that has a digital tuner so you can select just the signal you want, 88.7 FM for example.

Reception Changes Through the Day, or Across the Seasons

Sometimes FM signals sound noisy or distorted due to the combination of signals direct from the transmitter site with other signals reflected from hills, buildings, trees, etc. Since these signals take different paths to your radio, they can either add or subtract from each other, causing distortion of the intended signal. Don’t hesitate to move your radio and antenna around to find the best reception location.

This experience is mostly commonly experienced while driving. You might experience alternating good or bad reception as you drive along. If you happen to stop at a location where the signals are canceling each other and the sound is noisy or garbled, you can usually ease your car forward and the reception will change. This principle also works in your home or office, sometimes moving your radio just a few feet will dramatically improve your reception.

The changes in vegetation and foliage as the seasons change can have an impact on these FM reflections — move your radio or antenna to find a new “good spot” and restore reception.

Sometimes distant FM stations in other towns and states can cause interference to WPR stations. This is due to signal propagation enhancements caused by atmospheric conditions that cause FM and TV signals to go far beyond their normal ranges. This is a natural phenomenon, which tends to happen more frequently in the summer months. Temperature inversions, particularly over Lake Michigan, can cause such interference from distant stations.

AM signals can be harder to hear at night than they are in the daytime. Each day, between sunset and sunrise, distant AM signals can reflect off the upper layers of the atmosphere and be reflected back to ground hundreds of miles away, causing interference to local stations. The Federal Communications Commission requires AM stations to adjust their power and antennas to minimize interference to other stations at night, so either or both of these changes can impact your reception of a WPR AM station. The electrical noise of nearby thunderstorms can also hurt AM reception.

Special Considerations for HD Radio Reception

Our general experience has been that HD signal coverage is slightly less than typical FM coverage. This means that if you can receive a clear signal on the FM station signal, you have a good chance of receiving the HD station with a proper radio. And of course, in cases of weak analog signal, you may be able to make changes to your antenna to improve your reception and pick-up the HD signal.

Some listeners have reported audio drop-outs or short silences on the HD2 services. This is due to marginal signal strength at the radio. The fix is to adjust the antenna placement to get a better signal. A listener with weak or erratic reception that is losing the digital signal will experience periods of silence until the signal is regained. Learn more about HD radio here.

WPR currently operates four HD radio stations in Wisconsin:

  • 90.7-2 HD Radio – WPR News in Milwaukee
  • 88.7-2 HD Radio – WPR Music in Madison
  • 91.3-2 HD Radio – WPR News in Highland
  • 90.9-2 HD Radio – WPR Music in Wausau

Want more information?

AM Tips

FM Tips

HD Radio Tips


Contact WPR Audience Services at 800-747-7444 or