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Radio Controlled Clock Reception and Performance Reports

Contents of this page:

  • Introduction to this page.

    Reports from the Pacific Time Zone

  • Los Angeles and Rosemead, California. (added December 1, 2000)
  • Long Beach, California.
  • Burnaby, British Columbia.

    Reports from the Mountain Time Zone
  • Huntsville, Utah.
  • Edmonton, Alberta.

    Reports from the Central Time Zone
  • Natchez, Mississippi.
  • San Antonio, Texas.
  • Temple, Texas.

    Reports from the Eastern Time Zone
  • The Washington, DC Area. (added January 17, 2001)
  • Raleigh, North Carolina.
  • Weston, Massachusetts.
  • Wayland, Massachusetts.
  • New York City, New York.
  • Ottawa, Ontario.
  • Oakville, Ontario.

    For official NIST estimated coverage maps, click here.

    (Recommended viewing in 800 by 600 resolution and High Color mode.)

    Here's how this page will work.

    Because of inquiries from visitors to this web site and my own curiosity, I will attempt to make a page filled with actual reports of how well our radio controlled clocks are working. I'll need your help to make this work, however. Please e-mail me at elmertheclep@geocities.com and submit information about how your clock is working. The information I would find most useful would be as follows:

    1. What type of clock(s) are you using (manufacturer and model)?

    2. Name the City and State (or Province) where you use/used this clock. (I will then calculate the approximate distance from Fort Collins, Colorado and the WWVB transmitter.)

    3. Identify any obstacles to reception which you noticed. (For example, electronic equipment nearby or building materials which hamper radio reception.)

    4. What time of day (local time) and on what date did you observe reception characteristics? (These are relevant because of variables in the WWVB transmitter.)

    5. How often was reception of WWVB possible or inadequate?

    6. Report anything else relevant to clock performance. (For example, whether you used fresh batteries, whether the clock was damaged or anything else I've neglected to mention here.)

    Just to get the ball rolling, I'll write up my own reports. If you wish to submit a report, I will not identify you on this page. I will only mention your location and which clocks you use. However, if you wish to be identified (whether by your real name or some other) and if you wish to have your e-mail address included on this page, you may request it. I will not include such information unless you specifically request it. So... here goes.

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    Report from Los Angeles and Rosemead, California.

    The clocks used are the Wal-Mart Atomix analog wall clock for $19.96 and the Sam's Club Atomic digital wall clock for $22. Report dated November 24, 2000.

    "I use the analog clock in my office in Los Angeles, CA [approximately 862 miles from the WWVB transmitter] and the digital clock at home in Rosemead, CA (about 15 miles east of Los Angeles [and 849 miles from the WWVB transmitter]).

    "I am very surprised about the office location because of the heavy brick construction with steel rods that surrounds the building. This should hamper radio signals to the clock but so far has not. The location of the clock is about three feet away from fluorescent lighting and is near heavy metal shelving. During the time change the clock changed to the proper time and has kept time very well.

    "The clock at home is near a television set but is about three feet away and is able to receive the needed signal to work properly. I notice that the 'wave' indicator comes on about 4 p.m. I purchased this clock on the day of the time change and it failed to change to the new time setting. I believe the clock did not change to the new setting because of the lack of time that is needed to set itself up. I will know for sure at the next time change."

    Thanks for the report!

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    Report from Long Beach, California.

    Approximately 862 miles from WWVB transmitter. Reception report from June 2000. The clocks I used were the Oregon Scientific "Time Machine" and its Radio Shack version, along with the Oregon Scientific RM806, the Radio Shack Travel Clock, the Radio Shack large-digit clock, the "Atomic Time" large-digit clock, the Arcron-Zeit "executive," the Arcron-Zeit Digital "Sport" watch, the Emerson Research "Atomic" Clock Radio and an analog clock using the Hechinger movement. All clocks had excellent reception 24 hours a day in a normal, private house. Sometimes they took a little longer to process the WWVB data than they did in Utah, but the difference was no more than two minutes. Most of the time they were able to process the data and set themselves just as quickly as they did in Utah.

    An Arcron-Zeit "executive" clock has been used in a TV production studio in Long Beach, California since July 1998. Reports are that when it's left in an office filled with computer equipment, it usually doesn't receive WWVB data. So, at least once per week, the user leaves the clock in a another part of the building overnight (where there is no electronic equipment running) and it has no problem receiving WWVB there. (Reported by Elmer the Clep.)

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    Report from Burnaby, British Columbia.

    Approximately 1,054 miles (1,697 kilometers) from WWVB. Report dated July 3, 2000.

    "I live in Burnaby British Columbia in Canada. I have three Oregon Scientific RM806, three LaCross mechanicals clocks (sold under the Ikea name), and one Emerson Research clock radio. I live in an urban area away from tall buildings. All the clocks work fine as long as the antenna is oriented so that it faces the transmitter. I have found that because of the stucco construction of my house, the signal strength varies greatly, sometimes causing the LaCross clocks to display the wrong hour! I have seen this on two occasions so far. Surprisingly enough the minute and second hands were dead on. I have also noticed that the RM806 tends to try harder than the LaCross clocks especially when the signal is moderately week. The Emerson atomic clock never synchronized from December of 1999 to about March 2000. Thereafter I have not had any problems with the Emerson, however it does drift by up to 4 seconds daily just before it re-synchronizes. I've tried all three clocks at work in a steel and concrete building and none of them could synchronize. One of my LaCross clocks is placed in a stucco garage workshop and it works great, the wife loves it."

    Thanks for the report! It's fascinating how a building's construction materials can affect these clocks.

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    Report from Huntsville, Utah.

    Approximately 352 miles from WWVB transmitter. I have used all the clock models listed in the digital clock reviews page and the analog reviews page on this web site. My proximity to Fort Collins has given me excellent reception with every model 24-hours a day. I have noticed some reception difficulty or reception failure when the clocks are placed close to TVs, computer monitors and electrical wiring inside walls. Also, reception has been hampered when I use these clocks inside most automobiles, but reception in a car is only impossible about 50% of the time and usually during daylight hours.

    I have had reception difficulty inside most shopping malls (which incorporate steel framing in the walls which separate individual stores). In those places, I also notice that AM radio signals are usually weak too. Weak AM radio reception is usually a good indication that WWVB reception will be hampered (unless you're so far away from the AM transmitter that reception would be weak anyway).

    In May 2000, I was at an Ogden, Utah Radio Shack store inside a shopping mall where their large-digit, radio controlled clock couldn't receive WWVB. The salesman and I stepped about 10 feet outside the store (into the mall's indoor "courtyard" area) and we initiated WWVB reception, which was successful and the clock was able to set itself within 3 minutes.

    I purchased my first Oregon Scientific "Time Machine" digital clock in November 1996 and, at the time, reception was difficult unless the external antenna was correctly oriented or the clock were placed near a window. However, with WWVB upgrades since that time, reception is now excellent day or night, near windows or not, regardless of antenna orientation. Also, I have mentioned elsewhere on this web site that I experienced consistent, reception failure with my Arcron-Zeit Digital "Sport" watch in late 1999 and early 2000, but the watch has been repaired and reception has been satisfactory ever since. (Reported by Elmer the Clep.)

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    Report from Edmonton, Alberta.

    Approximately 971 miles (1,563 kilometers) from WWVB. Report dated July 2, 2000.

    "A local liquidator was selling the Oregon Scientific's Radio Clocks for dirt cheap ($7.00, 12.00 & 16.00). They ALL work just fine up here, any time of day, as long as you orient the dipole broadside to Ft Collins (SSE) and you keep it away from operating fluorescent lights & TV's (after all, the 15734kHz scan has LOTS of harmonics, and the TV screen emits a huge amount of RFI. Just put an AM radio close to the screen to 'hear' your video)."

    Thanks for the input! I need to find some more dirt cheap deals like that!

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    Report from Natchez, Mississippi.

    Approximately 988 miles from WWVB. Reception report from August 1998. The clocks I used were the Oregon Scientific "Time Machine" and its Radio Shack version, and the Emerson Research "Atomic" Clock Radio. I attempted to use these clocks inside a motel and experienced complete failure 24 hours a day. However, the motel was built with lots of concrete and lots of steel framing... and every walkway around the building was surrounded by thick, metal railing. When I used the "Time Machine" clocks in a laundry business across the street they worked fine at any time during business hours. I should also mention that WWVB trasmitter power has been doubled in the years since I was in Natchez. (Reported by Elmer the Clep.)

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    Report from San Antonio, Texas.

    Approximately 859 miles from WWVB. Reception report dated July 7, 2000.

    "I can report that my Oregon Scientific 'Time Machine' (originals) clocks work fine here in San Antonio, Texas in just about every location in my house. Antenna orientation doesn't seem to be critical either. Only once in a great while will I notice that one of them is off by a few hours (exactly) so I assume that under certain conditions they can misread the time code data. By the next day they are correct again, so it has never been a bother for me. I have a couple of wall clocks that use the German movement, one of which seems to be a little touchy about where it is located (won't work on a certain wall - must be power wiring in the wall near it) but otherwise works quite well. Don't know how I got along without them! The Heath GC-1000 (which uses WWV at either 5, 10 or 15 MHz shortwave) sits on top of my big TV and will usually sync up at least once a day using the short telescoping antenna. I switched over to a long-wire antenna last year and the 'Hi-Spec' light stays on most of the time now, so it definitely does benefit from a good antenna! A pretty neat clock - it has a speaker so you can hear the WWV signal tones and ticks as well as the voice announcements. Now if only someone would make a radio movement with chimes I could take care of that mantle clock!"

    Here, here! For those of you unfamliar with the Heath GC-1000, it was available from Heathkit and the reporter has had it since the 1980s. I had never heard of it before this report came in. It sounds like a truly "classic" radio controlled clock, to be cherished as anyone would cherish classic automobiles, I would say. (And I'm jealous that this guy has had a radio controlled clock at home for so much longer than I have. Grrrrrrr.)

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    Report from Temple, Texas.

    Approximately 788 miles from WWVB. Reception report dated October 29, 2000.

    "I have the following clocks now:

  • Sam's Club digital models (at home and at work)
  • Wal-mart ATOMIX analog model (at work)
  • Oregon Scientific Kids Projection clocks (at home)
  • Radio Shack Optimus clock radio with external antenna (at home)
  • Oregon Scientific RM806 (at home)

    "I have only had them for about three to four weeks at most. All of the clocks receive signals well at night, with success about 6 nights out of 7. Recent cloudy and rainy weather seems to reduce the likelihood of reception. The only systematic interference has been with two locations I had not expected to cause problems. One was a north-facing window on the second floor of my home, where I put the external antenna for the clock radio. It never connected from that location, but did well once I removed the antenna from the window sill and placed it on the nightstand next to the radio and a corded telephone. (The clock tries to detect a signal four times a day; it is usually successful at midnight and at 6 am). One of the Kids Projection clocks also receives a good signal daily from that night stand. We have metal mini-blinds on that window, and keep them pulled down to the window sill. Presumably they caused too much interference.

    "The other problem was in my office. I mounted the Sam's Club digital clock on the wall next to my thermostat; it never succeeded in receiving a signal there, but has done well (Wave OK) once I moved it about 6 feet away on the same wall. My office is on the south side of my large, one-story concrete and steel building. The single window, with metal blinds, also faces due south. The ATOMIX analog clock synchronizes well either on the wall or on a cabinet shelf about four feet from my computer monitor and CPU."

    The individual who submitted this report said his Oregon Scientific RM806 failed to automatically make the change back to Standard Time before dawn on October 29, 2000. However, it was able to make the change automatically before noon.

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    Report from the Washington, DC area.

    Approximately 1,490 miles from WWVB. Report dated January 17, 2001.

    "I have had experience with the Arcron-Zeit Sport Watch and Seiko Digital R-Wave Clock.

    "The watch works satisfactorily, although not quite perfectly in this area. When left overnight on the sill of a window oriented to Ft. Collins, the watch receives the signal successfully in 90% of the nights, both in summer and winter, but in other locations the success of automatic nightly syncs is only around 50% or worse, even without probable sources of interference nearby. This is not a problem, though, because, due to the self-calibration, the watch does not show any noticeable deviation from the standard time for about 5-10 days even without synchronization. I rarely could sync the watch in the daytime, no matter where the watch was located. By the way, often times, the "in-sync" indicator disappears some time around 6:00-7:00 pm Eastern Time, which suggests that the schedule of the signal receiving is, in fact, more complicated than the declared single attempt around midnight. When I traveled to Europe, the "in-sync" mark disappeared more than 24 hours after I left the US territory. It may be worth noting that my first trial of this model of watch was unsuccessful. On the fourth or fifth night after the purchase the watch set the hours incorrectly and it was not possible to reset it to the normal readings even by removing the battery. The company replaced the watch with a remark that such cases were extremely rare (1:1000) and usually the problem is a wrong date, not time, setting.

    "The Seiko clock synchronizes successfully most of the time both at night and in the daytime."

    Thanks for the report!

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    Report from Raleigh, North Carolina.

    Approximately 1,470 miles from WWVB. Report dated June 29, 2000.

    "I live in a residential area inside the city limits in a 1-story brick apartment building. ... I use the Oregon Scientific RM 806 and the Atomix wall clock from Wal-Mart. I get overnight synchronization almost all of the time from the few convenient locations in my apartment that I have tried. Occasionally there will be a day or a few days when my RM 806 fails to synchronize overnight. I don't check my Atomix clock as closely, so I can't say for sure if it is synchronizing as much, but I think is has similar performance. Daytime reception is harder and you have to seek out a good location and orientation to get a synchronization during the day. This isn't a problem in normal use, however. ... The next time I travel somewhere, I'll bring the RM806 along and see if it synchronizes."

    We look forward to your next report. Thanks for the input!

    And remember, folks, that the RM806 self-calibrates after just a few days of usage. So even if it misses WWVB sometimes it still keeps near-perfect time. Then the only problem would be if it missed WWVB on the day it's supposed to start or end Daylight Saving Time.

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    Report from Weston, Massachusetts.

    Approximately 1,742 miles from WWVB. Report dated June 30, 2000.

    "I purchased the Emerson Research Atomic Clock Radio over a year ago. I find that its internal accuracy is poor; i.e., when it looses the signal, it can drop a minute in a day! Its frustrating. My Reception in Weston, Massachusetts is fair. The radio often looses the signal and isn't smart enough to try to regain it, as I can sometimes unplug it and it replug it to force it to look for the signal, which it finds quickly! Annoying.

    "I do like it because it was the only clock at the time with a bright digital readout that included a radio."

    Thanks for the input! The NIST maps indicate that reception is more difficult in New England than in other parts of the continental U.S. It's great to get a report "from the field."

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    Report from Wayland, Massachusetts.

    Approximately 1,740 miles from WWVB. Report dated October 10, 2000.

    The following report is specifically about the Arcron-Zeit digital "sports" watch.

    "Although I live in Wayland, Mass (right next to Weston, by the way), I got the watch and brought it unopened immediately to Somesville, Maine, on 10/6/00 [approximately 1,876 miles from WWVB]. While there I had trouble getting it to acquire a signal, although the signal strength appeared good. Finally, it acquired and it's been ok ever since. I returned to Mass 10/9/00.

    "The instructions overall are very poor. There are the errors, of course, and in addition they don't explain about the signal strength meter, how manual setting works and when it is inhibited, and the appearance of the little triangle. Then again, maybe they are purposely trying to make it fun for us techies. The case ribbing is raised above the display considerably and this causes shadows which inhibit readability. The utc/date button is very sensitive to hand movement and sometimes it changes randomly. I like the low-battery indicator. Most watches don't bother with that. The case is indeed really cheap, but I wanted to start low-end, so I got what I asked for.

    "Signal strength seems quite poor here in Mass, although it has consistently acquired sync since I got it to work on 10/6/00. I note that the auto-sync-time of 1:00 am appears to be chosen to correspond to the max wwvb signal strength. The signal is stronger at night, of course, since at such a low frequency ionospheric reflection is very important. It is also sensitive to proximity to items like computers and fluorescent lights. This is expected from such a low-frequency receiver in such a small package."

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    Report from New York City, New York.

    Approximately 1,630 miles from WWVB. Report dated July 1, 2000.

    "I live in the heart of the 'big apple', New York City, in a 10 story post-war condominium complex, consisting of 4 buildings on the block, all made with steel, plaster and concrete walls, with metal/steel lathing supporting the walls, numerous pipes and wires running within the walls. This is certainly not a good environment for the VLF RF signal from NIST."

    The clocks:

  • Arcron Zeit Executive
  • Arcron Zeit Wall Clock
  • Oregon Scientific Projection Clock
  • Control Corporation NIST Traceable WWVB Clock (Suspect it is a modified Oregon Scientific Time machine that has calibration capabilites and a trimmable crystal oscillator)
  • BRG Precision WWVB 8 Digit Wall Clock
  • BRG Precision GPS 8 Digit Wall Clock

    The Signal:
    "Considering that I am in the heart of the concrete jungle, all the clocks receive WWVB with significant signal strength to maintain a sync-lock 24/7. The Oregon Scientific Projection clock is the only one of my clocks that will on occasion go brain dead and either set the time ahead by one hour or completely reboot to a 1/1/1990 date and then start searching for the signal. I relocated the antenna to a window sill, and this problem stopped.

    "The BRG Digital (WWVB) has a sync-lock indicator that will display when it is locked to a master clock, that is the WWVB signal, and while I do not look at it 24/7 every time I do look at the clock, the sync-lock is on. I have compared the performance of the WWVB based clocks to my BRG Digital (GPS) which can never loose lock, since it uses the GPS system for its time information, and all clocks flip their seconds in unison. (It is interesting to note that when WWVB has a phasing error, which occurs from time to time, refer to their web site for information, you can clearly see the error that this phase change has on the WWVB based clocks vs the GPS based clock. In both cases of BRG Digital clocks, the display is an 8 digit display that shows HH.MM.SS.TH, so it is very easy to see when you have an error between time bases.) Hope that this information helps."

    Thanks. This is great. (And I'm jealous that you have those cool, 8-digit clocks!)

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    Report from Ottawa, Ontario.

    Approximately 1,512 miles (2,434 kilometers) from WWVB. Report dated July 3, 2000.

    "I have an Emerson Atomic Clock I purchased from BRG about a year ago which I use in the master bedroom of our home. I live in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and have not experienced any obstacles for reception in my area. I noticed, though, that the clock best synchonizes in the late evening or early morning hours, though I have not noticed any loss of signal to date (at least none that cause syncho. loss). The clock works very well, not requiring any specific antenae placement (my bedroom is on the top floor of a two-floor house). I was somewhat concerned that the clock would not work in my area but my experience proves otherwise. I am planning to purchase another atomic clock (different model), most likely a model with an internal antenae. I will let you know how it works! "

    Thanks for the input! We'll look forward to your next report.

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    Report from Oakville, Ontario.

    Approximately 1,314 miles (2,115 kilometers) from WWVB. Report dated September 22, 2000.

    "I finally received the Seiko R-wave desk clock (the same as the model you reviewed). I'm in Oakville, Ontario, a suburban area about halfway between Toronto and Hamilton. Although the clock has an internal antenna, its automatic synchronization (at 12:55 AM) seems to work well here. Manual synchronization works later in the evening, but not in the daytime - pretty much what you'd expect for shortwave reception."

    Thanks! And thank you to all who have submitted reports.

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    2000