Sony ICF-CD553RM Clock Radio

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How to fix poor radio reception for 3 dollars.

Oct 26, 2005
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Very Good

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Pros:Looks great, gets a radio off the counter. Digital timer is handy.

Cons:- No external antenna port. - Reception varies wildly.

The Bottom Line: Can only recommend it if you read my review, otherwise you will have frustrating reception problems. Other than that, very handy, sleek unit.


I have read many reviews on this kitchen radio, some glowing, some terrible. I purchased it for my wife who was happy to move a clunky boombox off the kitchen counter and regain that counter space. Following the instructions, I carefully positioned it where I wanted it prior to installation and tested out reception. It sounded great. Little did I know that the fact that I was holding it in place was greatly improving reception! I then drilled holes in the cabinets and installed it. When I proudly presented my handywork to my wife, we listened to radio reception interrupted by constant interference. The manual suggests extending the power cord since the FM antenna is buried within it. That worked, but only on a station by station basis. Once one station came in nicely, the very next one was bad! Incredibly frustrating.

At first we ended up leaving the power cord drooping down in a big ugly imitation of a loop antenna. That sort of worked, but required endless adjustments. I could get my rock station coming in, but then when my wife changed to her Talk Radio station, she had to jiggle the cord again. I even added many hooks to the underside of the cabinet so that I could extend the power cord as far as possible. That only sort of worked as well. We decided that we would just have to put up with adjusting it when required. What was particularly frustrating was that reception was influenced by where I was standing in the kitchen! Sometimes if I moved, it would get fuzzy. Hardly handy when doing the dishes....

Moving the drooping cord lasted about one month. Then I started to do some research. The conclusion is that Sony could have avoided this problem for about 60 cents per unit by including a port for an external FM antenna. Consumers could then purchase a simple FM antenna (nothing more than a wire with the correct connector) from Radio Shack for about 3.95 which could be strung up underneath the cabinets. Many portable stereos come with these types of antennas and they greatly improve reception. However, Sony chose to save the 60 cents per unit and provided no way to boost the FM reception. When I called Sony technical support, all they could tell me was to move the unit. Obviously, after installing it with a drill, that was hardly the answer I was looking for. Their only other suggestion was to goof around with the cord, which I had already done endlessly, never finding the sweet spot which would allow good reception of all stations. And I am not talking about 30 stations, my wife and I switch between only 3 radio stations, hardly a lot to ask!

Additional Internet research gave me the answer, the first or both of them will very likely fix it for you. If you change the outlet into which you plug the unit, you might be able to avoid distortion caused by another kitchen appliance. This was not practical for me because I only have one countertop outlet near where I installed the unit, so the radio has to share it with the coffee maker. Unplugging the coffee maker did not change anything anyway. But then I found the nugget I had been missing. You can extend the built-in antenna by adding an extension cord. Not some fancy antennaed extension cord, just any cheap 2-pronged cord. The antenna is actually built into the cord, but it uses the wires in the cord to improve reception. By buying a simple 6-foot white 2-prong kitchen extension cord from Walmart for 1.99, I solved my problem. I also bought a .99 cent pack of hooks, and used them to hide the extension cord from view (which ironically also improved reception). I made an S-pattern underneath the cabinets by simply winding the extension and power cord from hook to hook, until it dropped down to the outlet. I now had an antenna which measured more than 10 feet in length! Reception on all stations is perfect!

I have actually volunteered to do the dishes for a solid week now, just so I could test it out. Problem solved, it works.

A few points :
- When installing this unit, it is almost impossible to find the perfect location for reception because simply touching it uses your body as an antenna.
- Sony are cheap buggers for not including an external antenna port (I am not even asking for the external antenna!!). They must have known about this problem prior to shipping the product because you can easily find hundreds of complaints about it on any consumer site.
- Sony technical support is ill-informed. This is a simple and logical solution to a very frustrating problem.

Hope that helps some of you,
R.


Recommend this product? Yes


Amount Paid (US$): 120

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