I want my own LRN.FM radio station.

The instructions on this page presume you are willing to run a free radio station – meaning, you won’t be asking any government bureaucrats for permission to broadcast. Below you will find specific suggestions on equipment you’ll need to build a free radio station from the ground up. If you already have your own station and you just want some or all of our programs, please look here for details.

1. Choose your receiving equipment:

Micro broadcasting can be done with a micro budget, but spending a little more on quality equipment can go a long way. Here are some suggested hardware options for various budgets (not including necessary cables):


A. Micro Budget

You can use an existing computer to receive our stream, but that requires running a computer 24/7, so a better idea might be a cheap internet radio which would consume less power and be dedicated to audio receiving. Operating system issues, reboots, or other such problems will not afflict a dedicated audio receiver.

B. Medium Budget


BARIX Extreamer 100

The internet radios I linked to in the micro budget section are good, but professional-level equipment doesn’t cost much more. As of this writing, you can get the Barix Extreamer 100 for $195 and free shipping. The Extreamer will feed audio 24/7 from our stream, and if for some reason our stream fails, it can fall back to other streams or a flash drive that you plug into the front of the unit loaded with MP3s. This nearly eliminates the possibility of dead air (unless the unit itself fails, which is highly unlikely as this is a professional, solid-state device). For the backup MP3s LRN.FM recommends using MP3s that are of an introduction-to-liberty theme. Here are some links to good MP3s, including audio versions of Wes Bertrand’s “Complete Liberty”, The Tannehills’ “The Market For Liberty”, Dr. Mary Ruwart’s “Healing Our World”Spooner’s “No Treason” (or this version from Mises), Bastiat’s “The Law”, and the Liberty Radio Underground..

C. Large Budget


BARIX Extreamer 500

In the medium budget section above I introduced you to the Extreamer 100. Well, Barix has now released the Extreamer 500, which you can purchase through Broadcast Supply World for just over $600. The 500 is a more professional version of the 100 and includes the all-important balanced audio outputs, which are a big help if you have a professional-grade transmitter with balanced inputs. You’ll need to install the streaming client firmware available through Barix’s site to get it to tune in LRN.FM.


2. Choose your broadcasting equipment:

Here are some suggested hardware options for various budgets (not including necessary cables):


A. Micro Budget


Cheapie HLLY Brand Transmitter

Transmitter & Antenna: At the micro budget level, when you buy a transmitter, it usually comes with an antenna and cabling. I’ve heard good things about Hlly products, but have no experience with them. There are a few Chinese manufacturers offering transmitters on ebay in addition to Hlly. IMPORTANT NOTE: In order to be a good neighbor and broadcaster, you need to have a low pass filter in addition to your transmitter. Most of the “cheapie” transmitters do not have this part inside them, so you’ll need one separate from your transmitter. Here’s one from Ramsey Electronics available as a kit or assembled.

B. Medium-Large Budget


Ramsey PX-50

Transmitter: As mentioned above, HLLY and the other manufacturers on ebay sell a variety of tranmitters at different power levels. Plus, for REAL professional FM transmitters, see this thread on the Free Radio Forum. As noted above, please ensure your transmitter has a low-pass filter in it, or you’ll need to get one. The more you spend, the more wattage you’ll get, but watts aren’t the most important factor in FM transmission – the most important factor is antenna height.

Antenna: A good omnidirectional antenna is a 5/8 wave like this one from Ramsey. It can handle up to 200 watts and you can find a similar version from Comet for less elsewhere. You can of course find other antennas that can handle more watts and also are directional, if you are wanting to pay more.


3. Final Steps


A. Find an open channel

First, use this handy tool, then drive around listening to that station to make sure it is actually clear.

B. Install and configure your equipment.

Remember to tune your antenna for the frequency you’ve chosen or you will get poor SWR. NEVER power your transmitter up without an appropriate antenna attached! Also, make sure you are not over-modulating as you could potentially interfere with an adjacent channel and attract negative attention. Additionally, make sure to ensure that your neighbors can receive channels adjacent to yours and that you are not interfering. Take a cheap radio outside your home and check reception on other existing channels. If it’s clear in your yard, it’s probably clear in your neighbor’s home. If you know your neighbors, you can ask them if they’ve been receiving any unusual interference on their favorite stations.

C. Power it up!

Uninterruptable Power Supply

Uninterruptable Power Supply

Wait – you ARE using an Uninterruptable Power Supply, right? Regardless of your budget, this is an important tool to protect your investment. The more you spend, the more watts your UPS can handle, and the longer it will stay online during a power outage.

D. Let us know you’re out there.

If you’re using LRN for your station, please email LRN at LRN.FM and let us know so we can add your station to our affiliates list. Don’t forget to update us if you have a frequency change, pull our programming, or go off-the-air.

E. Join the Free Radio Forum.

Be sure to join the Free Radio Forum for more discussion about broadcasting LRN.FM.


4. Options and Expansion:

Here are some ideas for how to go beyond LRN.FM and launch your own local show(s):


A. Micro Budget

Adding a local show on-the-cheap: Grab an affordable mixer, mics and cables. Plug them all in and add your existing LRN.FM feed as a source on your mixer. When you want to go live-and-local, just turn up the mics, turn down LRN, and go. The output of your mixer should feed your transmitter. Don’t forget to also feed your computer so you can record your show for internet release or even stream it over your own internet stream, which I’ll address in the next section. Many mixers sold now make feeding a computer easy, via USB connection.

B. Medium / Large Budget

Equipment: You can spend more and get mic processors, process your entire station’s audio, purchase and install radio automation software to insert local commercials or PSAs, as per our Network Clock. Automation software ranges from free to cheap-to-midrange to very expensive.

Studio: At some point you’ll want to deaden the sound in your studio. There are various ways of doing this at various price ranges. Here are some quick-and-cheap solutions and better, permanent ones. LRN.FM’s studio uses ATSAcoustics sound panels.

Streaming your Station: got a web server? Install Shoutcast or Icecast and stream your station online.

Promotion and Community Involvement: Get a website up, promote your station locally via fliers, word-of-mouth and other advertising. If you’re doing live-and-local content and filling your programming gaps with LRN, then you’ve moved into the realm of being a community station so get out and volunteer, raise money for charity, run PSAs, or whatever will get you and your station integrated with the goodwill of the community.

Have fun!

For further information beyond what is on this page, check out these external resources: