FM recording tips?

I’ve been doing some experiments recording FM radio using Audacity. The other day I made a seven hour recording, converted it to MP3 format automatically and it seemed to be a success. Although I have not had a chance to listen to it.

The other day I dug out this little device I had purchased 20 years ago from Wal-Mart called a GeoTek PCFM radio. I’m not sure why I bought it at the time. I guess it was a novelty item I had just bought my first PC (although I had been fooling with Commodores since the early 1980s) and found it cool.

There are PCI card and USB devices like this but I believe this was one of the first of it’s kind. The software will run as far back as Windows 3.1 and runs fine on XP. It plugs into the parallel port or COM port using an adapter. The output wire connects to the LINE-In jack on the sound card. The instructions say it won’t work without a sound card but I suspect you could plug a set of amplified speakers into the LINE-IN port on the radio and it would work. I haven’t tested this.

The software has the capability of recording and saving as a WAV file, however I can’t get it to record anything. It’s just as well because it says there is only 925KB of free space to record despite having a 1 TB hard drive.

So anyway I wanted to see if running it along side Audacity would work. Sure enough it works.

I realize when you do any kind of audio compression, the sound quality can suffer. I’m trying to figure out the best way to record seven hours of music and get it onto a 2 GB sound card without the sound quality sounding like garbage.

I haven’t had a chance to see how large the file I recorded the other day is. I do remember I set the recording to 44,000 KHZ on stereo. From one of my recordings doing this test, the sound quality wasn’t that great compared to the sound generated from the GeoTek device.

One idea I’ve yet to try is to double the bit rate recording but in mono. I know that sounds crazy but seems to produce a somewhat better recording.

Here’s something I noticed. If I record in mono, Audacity shows that it’s recording one channel instead of converting the signal from stereo to mono. So that’s the case, this may sound a bit funky on some older recordings. Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze is a good example where the vocals and instruments are split between two channels. So Jimi’s voice is only recorded on the left channel and you can barely hear his voice on the right channel.

I have also experimented using an old mono Drexel radio. I’m using one of those 3.5 mm adapters that splits a mono signal into two channels. So I plugged that into my sound card. The sound quality sounds a bit dull using that radio.

If I record in mono versus stereo, does that cut the file size in half? I’m also trying to figure out what bit rate FM analog radio is close to.

If you guys are wondering why I am not recording steaming audio. Well from my past experience, it’s just unreliable. Buffering issues, drop outs, etc. FM radio works 99% the time.

I know that sounds crazy but seems to produce a somewhat better recording.

It depends on how you get there, If you tell the radio to switch to mono, it drops all the noisy stereo processing and does sound better, although, of course, you miss the left-right separation.

You do not, however, miss any of the performance because Stereo FM doesn’t split Left and Right. It broadcasts correct mono-mix and a separation channel which tells the radio where to put the violins.

I think most of your struggle is getting into the computer. Most modern machines have no stereo connection and will not interface directly with an FM tuner, no matter who made it. You might find a simple USB stereo adapter to be useful like the Behringer UCA-202.

This is it connecting my stereo mixer to my Mic-In only laptop.


Buffering issues, drop outs, etc.

How are you connecting?

You should run a speed test and find out whether you’re getting anything like the speed you’re paying for.


Problem is the software I’m using with the GeoTek device doesn’t allow stereo to be switched to mono mode. The mono radio I tried (an old Drexel AM/FM/SW) get’s better overall reception in my den but sounds a bit dull. Sort of hard to describe. I can adjusted the tone a bit to make it sound better. I could of course rig up yet a 3rd stereo system in my den just for this application but I’m running out of room on my computer work station.

I did use the FM receiver on my new MOTO Z cellphone and it produces the best sound quality but I don’t want to use it for this application but it is my phone…

Well that’s a good point. But I’m not sure whether it has to do more with the service provider as it does the source that is streaming the music. Like some stations may only allow a certain number of listeners at one time. So if they allow 100 listeners, then 1 more person connects, does it’ kick the 1st listener off line?

I’m on CenturyLink DSL and I am paying for 8 Mbps. On Christmas day I noticed there were allot of drop outs and the speed seemed slower. So I pinged it and it ranged anywhere from .7 Mbps to 1.3 Mbps. I figured everybody on my street was playing with their new tablets, laptops and devices and such slowing the connection down.

So a couple of days later I decided to ping it at 5 in the morning to see if there was any difference, thinking there would be nobody on line at that time. This time is was around 3 Mbps.

CenturyLink’s website says the problem maybe old phone lines inside the house. Of course they are going to use that as an excuse… Well my house was built in 1976. But before I start replacing the phone wiring inside my house, I wanted to be sure it wasn’t something on the outside.

I was about ready to call CenturyLink to have a tech come out and plug his diagnostic tool into the box on the outside of the house just to see what kind of speed he was getting. I decided to reboot my modem and see what happens. Now for some odd reason, the speed jumps from 3 Mbps to 7.5 Mbps. This was around 9 in the morning.

Occasionally I have to reboot my modem, like once a week when the internet starts acting weird.

By contrast I have at least a 20 Mbps connection through Verizon’s 4G network.

I’ve got a theory. My daughter watches YouTube on her TV. I’m wondering if Century-link is doing the same thing some cell phone providers do with these people who have “grandfathered” unlimited data plans. When they detect large uses of data, they slowly drop the connection speed. And every time the speed get’s to around 1 Mbps, I reset my modem and it restores the speed to what I am paying for. Maybe because it’s picking up a new IP address?

I’d really hate to have to go back to using a cable Modem. I had Charter Spectrum from 1998 to 2006 and their internet service was horrible. Then when the phone company installed DSL on my street I jumped at the chance to switch.

It wasn’t so much slow as the connection constantly dropped out. At one time, every time it just sprinkled outside, the internet would go down. It took them about 3 to 6 months before they could find where water was getting into the system. It wasn’t even a downpour that would kill the connection.

Charter Spectrum advertised something like 50 Mbps but how constant is the connection? With DSL, I could log onto an internet radio station and it would stay connected for days. But with a Cable modem it seemed if I was connected for 4 hours, they would kick me off.