Are you picking up a constant buzzing when you tune into radio stations? Is there a ‘popping’ or ‘crackling’ in the background intermittently? Both of these are signs that you’re probably getting some interference in the radio signals and that could have an impact on your ability to DX effectively.
As you undoubtedly know, DX signals tend to be a lot weaker than normal AM or FM radio signals – especially if they’re being broadcasted over a long distance. Because of that, any sort of interference is going to end up being significant, even if it wouldn’t be so apparent under normal circumstances. If that interference is affecting your ability to pick up and hear stations clearly then it is going to be something that you want to sort out.
Some of the common culprits that could be causing interference in your reception are:
1. Fluorescent lights
If you’re using fluorescent lighting in your house then you may detect a low buzz while they’re turned on. Assuming that buzz goes away when you switch the light off then you’ve caught it red-handed and can decide whether to keep it off while you DX, or DX from a location that is further away from the light.
2. Motorized devices
Many types of motorized devices cause interference to radio signals – including everyday appliances such as electrical shavers, vacuum cleaners, blow dryers, and washing machines. Because most of these tend to be only used in short durations it isn’t that big a deal and being aware of it should be enough to help you avoid it.
3. Dimmer switches
Some types of dimmer switches have a reputation for causing interference – particularly when they’re faulty. Once you identify the switch that you feel is responsible you may be able to replace it – preferably with a model that has better shielding.
4. TV and computers
Both televisions and computers can cause interference which is why it is generally advisable to make sure your radio isn’t near either of them. If you like to DX near your computer so you can run your cluster client then you should be able to find a position where the interference is minimal with a bit of experimentation.
Make no mistake, there are a host of other devices and factors that could be causing interference, and in the worst case scenario it may even be something completely out of your control. By first eliminating the common causes from contention and experimenting with different locations you should be able to identify what’s causing your interference and then decide how to proceed from there.
While it may take a bit of detective work, in the long run you’ll find that it helps your ability to DX a lot since you’ll be able to pick up and hear signals more clearly. As you start to try to make contact with rare and far-off locations that’s going to pay off in a big way.