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Old August 14th, 2020, 02:54 PM   #1
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Capture car radio audio

What do you think the best way is to capture some high quality audio clips from radio stations around the country while traveling? Would be switching stations frequently, as in scanning through the dial. I'll be in a vehicle that will have a lot of background noise and would like to eliminate that. Would love to hear some thoughts on that. Thank you
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Old August 14th, 2020, 03:36 PM   #2
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Re: Capture car radio audio

Some car audio systems have line outputs on RCA cables that can be routed to separate amplifiers You could split that to a portable recorder like those from Zoom and Tascam. In some cases the system might have unused line outputs. Either way, it's going to be subject to your volume setting.
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Old August 14th, 2020, 04:30 PM   #3
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Re: Capture car radio audio

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Originally Posted by Patrick Tracy View Post
Some car audio systems have line outputs on RCA cables that can be routed to separate amplifiers You could split that to a portable recorder like those from Zoom and Tascam. In some cases the system might have unused line outputs. Either way, it's going to be subject to your volume setting.
If you are looking for radio broadcast recordings for use as a wild track, how about finding some suitable internet radio stations, (and some real stations that are also broadcasting online)?
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Old August 14th, 2020, 05:33 PM   #4
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Re: Capture car radio audio

Interesting. It's going to be a rental, so I'm not sure how much flexibility the audio system will have but I will check with them. That would be great. I could route it to a Zoom.
As for the internet radio, that's a good idea - never even considered that. That may work for some of the larger metro areas. I was hoping to also capture audio in some very small places. Still though that might be a way to make it work.
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Old August 14th, 2020, 08:02 PM   #5
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Re: Capture car radio audio

The method of radio broadcasting has changed in the past few decades. Where back in the 1970s there were radio stations with tower antennas that would broadcast from a studio, to today. where the studio can be anywhere.

Small town radio was interesting, especially the news. "Be careful driving out county road 16 as Joe Wilson reported a few of his cows have escaped", or, "Aunt Lisi Woodheimer is hosting a potluck this Saturday at the Alderwood Grange Hall to celebrate her grandmother's 80th birthday ... ya'll come".
That kind of stuff. Don't know if small town USA has anything like that anymore. Mostly, it seems, there are a lot of "stations" broadcasting from a central location and then out to the hinterland.

My guess is that the big metro areas will have essentially the same programming.

The regional accents would be, to me, interesting. Boston, New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Tennessee & Missouri, Louisiana, Texas & Oklahoma. Out west we don't have an accent so no need to bother.

If arriving near a weekend, check Craig's List for any garage sales in your area to see if you can pick up an old boom box or a AM/FM radio.

Between now and the first part of November, expect to hear a lot of political advertising.
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Old August 14th, 2020, 10:16 PM   #6
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Re: Capture car radio audio

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Originally Posted by Kell Smith View Post
Interesting. It's going to be a rental, so I'm not sure how much flexibility the audio system will have but I will check with them.
Usually the line out ports on a vehicle are on the back side and only accessed by pulling the radio out of the dash. Doubt that a rental company would let you do that.

A boom box with a very directional antenna pointed at the speaker may work to cutout the road noise. Be sure to keep the windows up and the AC on.
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Old August 15th, 2020, 12:45 AM   #7
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Re: Capture car radio audio

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Originally Posted by Kell Smith View Post
Interesting. It's going to be a rental, so I'm not sure how much flexibility the audio system will have but I will check with them. That would be great. I could route it to a Zoom.
As for the internet radio, that's a good idea - never even considered that. That may work for some of the larger metro areas. I was hoping to also capture audio in some very small places. Still though that might be a way to make it work.
Slightly off-topic, but there has been a successful tv sitcom here in the UK called 'Car Share' where almost all the action takes place in a small car with 2 people on their way to work. There is a typical local radio wild sound background, (called 'Forever FM') which the characters occasionally interact with, - often with amusing results. One I particularly liked was a station self-promoting jingle:
"Forever FM, - the fourth most popular music station in Lancashire",
Not exactly a high ambition! :)
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Old August 15th, 2020, 03:04 AM   #8
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Re: Capture car radio audio

laptop, SDR dongle, the usual capture software and then don't use the car system for the recording. SDR dongles are very cheap now. They're also brilliant for checking channel occupancy for radio mics, wigging into talkback systems on location, and for bootleg recordings of live events - my favourite little pastime backstage when bored is to listen in to the radio mics. Not that I'd ever record these feeds, of course - but SDRs are so cheap and useful. The software of course is the critical thing, but has often got me out of trouble when receivers die, or pilot tone systems don't match up. The bandwidth and therefore quality is variable so apart from the different companding between makes, they really can save the day.
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Old August 15th, 2020, 05:01 AM   #9
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Re: Capture car radio audio

Fascinating suggestions.
I've never heard of an SDR dongle, will have to look into that and see how it works. Now I"m intrigued.
Radio show sounds funny -will have to see if it's on Youtube.

The main thing is that I want to be able to do this all safely scanning while driving. Also will need to be able to continually power whatever device - tablet, laptop, zoom recorder for long stretches of time. I'm not sure if the rental has a USB port - probably does - but it at least has a phone charger.
The other essential is that I want to be able to safely scan channels - a lot- and maneuver the record controls while driving.

Another thought is that I've only used Android Auto one time - to make a phone call - since my vehicles are typically old school. But the rental does have that capability. I wish there was a way to connect the phone, do my scanning the regular way on the radio - and record it on the phone via bluetooth.

Regarding yard sales, I'm pretty good at finding amazing deals. Maybe there is a boom box with a line out port. It does need to be powered for a long stretch pref. without batteries. Would make scanning easy.

Another thought - it might be good to have some kind of gps locator setup - maybe a camera trained on the dial - so I can see which station number is on for any given clip, in case I have to contact them for permission.

SDR dongles look pretty inexpensive - think I have to have one now just to see what it does. Could probably take my Windows tablet and keep it charged via the car charge port. What software do you recommend?

Last edited by Kell Smith; August 15th, 2020 at 07:28 AM.
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Old August 16th, 2020, 11:59 AM   #10
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Re: Capture car radio audio

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Originally Posted by Larrie Easterly View Post
A boom box with a very directional antenna pointed at the speaker may work to cutout the road noise. Be sure to keep the windows up and the AC on.
Sorry, that absolutely will not work. The loudspeaker produces acoustic pressure waves (minute instantaneous changes in atmospheric pressure) in the audio frequency range. A broadcast receiver antenna picks up radio waves (instantaneous changes in the electromagnetic field) in either the MF or VHF frequency range. A boombox antenna will no more pick up sound from a loudspeaker than it will pick up your voice if you sing into the antenna.

There are some portable radios with internal memory card recording capability. But of course ideally the antenna should be located outside the car (whose metal body acts somewhat as a shield to radio waves). So reception on a portable radio inside your car may not be nearly as good as reception on your car radio.
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Old August 16th, 2020, 12:00 PM   #11
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Re: Capture car radio audio

Look for SDR# and on a Mac maybe cubic SDR very similar but you can pretty much play anything. Lots of those cheap kits come with a little aerial and are surprisingly good and quite fun too.
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Old August 16th, 2020, 12:17 PM   #12
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Re: Capture car radio audio

I've seen a youtube demo that shows some particular software being used with an SDR dongle to record an entire block of spectrum at once, as data on a PC. You could possibly use this to record the data for the entire FM broadcast band. Then later you play back the data through software and you can "tune around the band" and hear what you have recorded from all the various stations! To clarify, yes, it records an entire range of RF frequencies at once!

Here's a link to one such demo:

Again, you'll want to get an appropriate length antenna outside the car if possible.

Meanwhile, you could use a cheap voice recorder to record "notes" while driving ... time, location, station you're listening to (on the normal car radio), etc ... so you can find what you want when you replay the multi-station data later on.

All this would probably be much safer than looking over at a laptop in the passenger seat, trying to visually tune the SDR radio, etc. while driving.
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Old August 16th, 2020, 06:03 PM   #13
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Re: Capture car radio audio

Want this! Totally want this! At least at first glance, will watch the video.
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