With Christmas around the corner, it’s time to get creative with those Christmas light displays.
As people drive up to your house to enjoy your lighting creativity, it’s a special treat to also have some Christmas music playing. When this is done over a loudspeaker it can be an annoyance to neighbors. Fortunately, there’s a better way to do this with the use of an FM transmitter like the Wholehouse FM transmitter.
Neighbors and passers-by can then tune in to the FM station you’re broadcasting on and it’s a beautiful experience. COVID-safe and fun for all!
Now let’s get down to the details.
Transmitting signals over FM is easy. It’s more cost-effective relative to any other wireless technology. Most importantly every car has an FM receiver. It’s always possible to get more sophisticated and get better quality audio with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi but consider how cumbersome it often is to connect to a Wi-Fi network or associate with a Bluetooth device and you will understand why simple works best.
Planning your system
For this system you will need:
- An audio source – this can be a laptop or a Raspberry Pi
- An FM transmitter like the Wholehouse FM transmitter
The computer or audio source will connect to your FM transmitter which will in turn broadcast over an FM station.
The use of FM transmitters for broadcast has increased in popularity. Especially in the current times of social distancing. FM transmitters are used to deliver audio at outdoor church sermons, drive-in movies and other outdoor events. For this system we recommend the use of the Wholehouse FM transmitter. We like this device for many different reasons. The main ones being:
- Ease of use
- Compact size even with the antenna
We also prefer the Wholehouse FM Transmitter for the following reasons:
- It has the ability to match regional differences in pre-emphasis in the transmitter for US or EU.
- The hardware has memory settings that allow it to retain the configuration even if the power fails
- The manufacturer has obtained FCC certification
The first thing to do is to set up your Christmas playlist on the computer. Turn down the audio source volume on the computer and on the FM transmitter. It’s better to start at low levels and increase them gradually to test the system. Connect the computer to the FM transmitter with a good quality audio cable.
The next thing we have to do is to set up the FM transmit frequency. The first step is to identify which FM stations are already in use in your area. You don’t want to be transmitting on these frequencies as it will cause RF interference to listeners.
You will need to test this system with your own FM receiver. You can test it with the FM receiver in your own car. Or you can get yourself a simple FM receiver and conduct your testing with ease. Make sure the audio quality is good and there are no undesirable sounds, hums or interference. You will need to tweak audio levels to get the desired quality.
Problems Encountered and How to Solve them
- Users of the Wholehouse FM transmitter have reported issues with hum when using the AC adapter provided with the product. The hum can also be eliminated by using 3 AA cells required for operation. The battery can however drain in a few hours so it won’t even last the evening. The best way to resolve this hum is to use the USB power cable provided.
- Users have reported low range of around 100 ft. This is intentional and by design. FM transmitters can be designed with more amplification for larger range. However, this will result in interference to FM stations and that is illegal in most countries.
- Sound quality issues. The sound quality is dictated by the Line volume on the transmitter and the audio output volume of your audio device. If either are too high, it will cause static or audio drop out (both are examples of over modulation). So you have to be careful not to set them too high. It takes a little experimentation to get this right, but once you do get it right you’re all set.
Make sure you put a sign up on your front lawn that tells people what FM channel frequency you are broadcasting on. Otherwise they won’t know that you are transmitting anything or on what frequency you are transmitting.
A more sophisticated system will have your lights synchronized to the music you are playing. This can be quite the visual treat and also fun to put together. In a future article we will provide some tips and tricks on how to go about this.
The Wholehouse FM transmitter is the best FM transmitter for a Christmas light show that’s guaranteed to delight your neighbors and visitors. We hope you enjoy the holiday season with music and lights!