I’m Interested In Having A Radio Station Operate My Christmas Display! What FM Transmitter Do I Need for My Christmas Light Show?
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Having a Christmas light display is never an easy task. If you’re going to have a Christmas light display, one of your best allies is to have friends, family, and plenty of visitors pull up. Having your own FM broadcast of Christmas music going to your display makes it like the topping on a cake! Hearing your display makes it all the more than just the lights. The old days of having a greatly large set of large PA speakers, and losing your neighbor’s friendship are an old staple. The “FM transmitter to broadcast movie sound to FM radios” is the way to go in getting at least the broadcast end of this operation in place.
FINDING AN ACCEPTABLE MODEL:
An FM transmitter for Christmas lighting is fairly simple, but looking online you may notice that the models available can have at the same time both great and not so great reviews making it difficult to figure out which model to purchase. Looking online, do some research, and pay attention to some reviews. The prices are not out of the world, so if you do happen to receive a not so good model, make sure to grant the company with the needed not-so-good review.
This is a very crucial part of the process, but the fun part! Getting a great, clear signal can make or break your display. A Transmitter 3.0 has unsurpassed flexibility and broadcast range being able to transmit sound 150 feet in all directions. You will be able to legally use the FM transmitter that is being sold at most operations, unless the store wants to be violating Federal Communication Commission (FCC) law! Don’t have your neighborhood block guru kid set you for problems with the government up like in the television show Green Acres! The FCC regulates professional, high-powered radio transmission, but on the other side, the FCC regulates the making and sale of the low-powered radio transmitters that the hobbyist and personal FM transmitters would use, not the person using the low-powered transmitter. The use of an FM transmitter for your home’s Christmas lights fall under “personal use”, and transmitters being sold currently all stay under .01 microwatts of power at 3 meters making them “FCC Part 15 Compliant” (See downloadable copy of act below). If you were able to violate the FCC policy, you would be on the hook with a fine for running unlicensed radio station and be liable from $10,000-$75,000 per offense. Luckily, without reverse engineering, you will not be able to create a “too strong” station. The transmitter NEEDS to be Part 15 licensed upon your purchase.
The whole idea of using the FM dial to transmit sound derives from the technology that is and was used at the old drive-in movie theatre. The theatres were using underground wiring to go to stations with a wired speaker to each car in a line-up in front of the screen. How nifty that in 1986, the first theatre start by using an FM transmitter and they cut the cord! The only drawback was that every car needed an FM dial in the car, and back in the eighties, a lot of card did not have one, as at that time, it was still considered an upgrade to even have a radio in the car. The theatres start selling portable radios to compensate. Having the whole thing go on the FM radio makes this an event just like out of the old drive-in theatre–less the speaker hanging from your window.
The whole concept If you want your display to be heard, you need an FM transmitter. When looking for a transmitter, here are a few popular options to look for online:
- Whole House FM Transmitter
- EDM Radio
- Random-Brand Amazon Transmitters
- $10 Straight From China Ebay Transmitters
The “Whole House FM Transmitter” are the simplest option for the first-timer, and it’s FCC compliant with the antenna that is included in the kit. If you receive a kit that states “Not for use in the United States”, the best option is to take a pass on using it with the fines associated in using the equipment! Other transmitters, like the EDM and Ebay transmitters may also require additional setup and soldering of components, so not very friendly unless you are a guru.
MAKING SURE THAT YOU ARE COMPLIANT
Always make sure anything that you do decide to do that it always stays within the FCC guidelines before using the transmitter. A lot of the equipment can be clear enough to hear the Whole House FM Transmitter all the way to the end of your street without still incurring a setup that is out of the “FCC Part 15 Compliance”, rule xts 202/632-Q002 passed on July 24, 1991 (Downloadable).
As you begin looking at more advanced FM transmitters, you’ll see that some models include “RDS” or “Radio Data System”. This is the technology that includes a feed of text onto your FM receiver that is the protocol that sends text fed from an FM transmitter sharing station name, song titles, or other information. Most people don’t use an RDS system for displays, but some find it helpful, if you have more money to spend doing your display.
Relic standard FM radio stations and think about placement of the transmitting antenna being high and tall! The highest point possible allows the maximum distance possible with a clear signal to emanate. Any place the higher that you go is better. If you are on a hill, naturally it is going to be better than the valley. Make sure that the antenna is place away from any piece of metal, including wire mesh (plaster), but especially a sheet of metal. Any metal sheets or wire mesh will completely block your signal, so you want to avoid placement near these! Building materials such as insulation and drywall will dampen also the signal. For more than aesthetics, it is always best to get your transmitter on the wall closest to your display. Attics nearest the display can usually give great enough coverage to be able to make your display a go.
MAKING SURE THAT THE BROADCAST IS GOOD:
Always have the best, quality shielded cabling that is possible. Do not make the mistake and cut corners here, by buying cheap cables, or cheap unshielded cables. When the audio leaves your computer or Raspberry Pi to head to your FM transmitter, it needs to get there without further interference. They must be properly shielded so that interference from power supplies and/or LED’s and other sources can get into the signal before it gets to the transmitter.
Normalizing is the process of taking each audio track being used for your display to make sure that they are all the same audio level, no matter what type of music you are doing. This will ensure that a tracks is not too loud or too soft. Using a simple program like Audacity can assist in helping you make a great go of the process.
LIGHT TO SOUND SAMPLING:
There are several systems that synchronize the music and light through the use of a synchronization controller, both on the computer and analog. These help assist in making sure that the lights are coordinated with the sound system. Make sure that you do a thorough search online first. There were thousands of choices, and preference is the best objective point. Look for the points that stand out to you. It costs about $15-$40 per channel, so each different sound channel needs a different light channel, and “Light Show Software” to team up your computer’s handling of working the lights and the audio. More information that I thought was very credible in handling your unique situation is contained at this website: “How to Make Your Christmas Lights Sync to Music”
HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR FREQUENCY:
Your FM transmitter can be set to a wide variety of frequencies. Even though your FM transmitter is usually defaulted to the bottom of the frequency band…which isn’t guaranteed to be the best placement. The website RadioLocator.com – Vacant Frequencies can assist in finding an unused radio station frequency in your area and best bandwidth for your area. Finding the right frequencies to test is simple. Just head to RadioLocator.com, and enter your location. The site will then give you a report of the best radio frequencies to use.. You must use a frequency that does not have a standard FM radio station being used in order for the station to work.
SET THE CORRECT VOLUME LEVEL:
The last thing that you need to do is to set the volume of your computer or source to what your FM transmitter wants to see. This will vary by computer and transmitter, but it’s rare to need to run your computer at maximum volume. Use of an audio mixer to set the volume level isn’t necessary–it just makes your system more complex. A great start is to bring down the volume to about 70% and then tune in on a radio. Listen to the music, and bring the volume up until you start to hear line noise, which is a form of pops, static or other excessive noise. Then, back the volume down until it’s quiet again, leaving some breathing room. This way if a louder song happens, it doesn’t get carried away. It is key to make it as loud as possible to the transmitter but have NO distortion occur in order for perfect transmission.
TEST YOUR SOURCE:
Once you’ve got that perfect volume dialed in, you want to test or trial your transmission before you go “on-air”. Testing on more than one radio in several locations around the outside to make sure is beneficial in the process of making sure that it is working properly.
HOW DO PEOPLE KNOW TO TUNE IN:
Lastly, you need to advertise in order to get people listening to your display while you play the music. Having some kind of “tune-into” sign that instructs viewers to listen in on radio is key. it can be lit up or unlit, but whatever you decide, make sure it is on a surface that is weather friendly, the season goes for 3-5 weeks, so make sure the material the sign is made of can endure the whole season, and maybe more. . .
Enjoy and spread the enjoyment! You put a lot of time and effort into making your display happen.
YOUR CHRISTMAS DISPLAY ON THE RADIO