Back in December, I took a drive down to Cincinnati and recorded what my radio sounded as I merged onto I-75 south from State Route 35 in downtown Dayton. As soon as I started heading South, WYSO’s signal became choppy and full of static.
I’m not the only one who’s noticed the problem.
Here’s the skinny: We don’t usually do stories about ourselves at WYSO—it’s an obvious conflict of interest, after all. But for today’s WYSO Curious investigation, we’re making an exception. Several listeners have asked us why our signal is spotty in certain parts of Dayton, and on I-75 on the south side of town. We decided to take that question on to coincide with an exciting announcement: WYSO is getting a new tower and improving our signal significantly.
The first thing you should know about WYSO’s signal is that it’s directional, so if you look at a map of our coverage area, it’s not a perfect circle with our tower at the center.
“It actually looks more like a kidney bean with a null towards the east,” says WYSO’s Chief engineer, Jim Stitt.
There are is one major factor that make WYSO go from relatively clear to what I heard on I-75: line of sight. It’s a pretty simple concept: The higher up you go, the farther you can see—or in WYSO’s case, the farther our FM signal can extend outward. So, a taller radio tower means broader line of sight and a wider reach. But on the ground, all kinds of things can still interfere, especially in the case of the Miami Valley because it is, in fact, a valley that runs right through the Dayton metro area. Trees and hills and concrete buildings inside that valley can block an FM signal’s line of site coming from the broadcast tower.
“The way to get best FM reception is to move the tower as close as possible to center of the population with a tower that’s as tall as possible so that the signal can penetrate down into the valleys and minimize the reflections and other problems,” Stitt says.
Stitt is describing the solution to the signal problem that he and his team have been working for quite a while—moving WYSO’s antenna from our old tower near our studios in Yellow Springs to a tower in Bellbrook near I-675.
Our new tower is actually just new to us; it’s already used for communications throughout the region. But WYSO still had to do some construction before we could start broadcasting there.
“We have to put in the electrical utilities from DP&L, telephones lines and so forth, modifications to the tower, and then of course install the antenna on this tower and do all the testing and wiring,” Stitt says. And when he says modifications to the new tower, he’s talking about making it even taller.
“So we essentially put a 50-foot, 12-inch diameter steel pylon on top of that existing tower to hold our broadcast antenna.”
Our new tower is 500 feet tall and sits at a higher elevation. This improves our signal’s line of sight, so WYSO is now stronger in the core Miami Valley. Those trees and hills and concrete buildings won’t completely block out the signal anymore, and our signal will reach farther south down the I-75 corridor heading into Cincinnati, which means there are a half a million new people that WYSO could reach. For the over 100 thousand vehicles are driving down I-75 South every day, it’s hopefully going to sound a lot better.
Thanks to Rick Beck, Tom Townsend, and Susan Meyer for submitting their questions about our signal to WYSO Curious. Our series takes on your curiosities about the Miami Valley. Click here to submit your own question.