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How to make your own FM Station for less than $400

James Huang | 2021.07.22

PI-RATE RADIO: How to make your own FM Station for less than $400?  Want to build your own radio station? All you need is a Raspberry Pi and a piece of wire.

FM radio stations are basically just two things: a transmitter to create the signal, and an antenna to broadcast it, which means that building your own pirate radio station is actually really, really easy.

Those FM transmitters you used to use to get music from your iPod on to your car stereo? Full-fledged radio transmitters, just ones with severely limited outputs to avoid violating any regulatory & laws. If you’re handy with a soldering iron, those simple car transmitters can actually be hacked to get a much better range by adding a bigger antenna and removing internal resistors.

Alternatively, you can get everything you need to build a decent long-range system on Amazon for a couple thousands HK$ (although you’ll want to check law & regulatory rules for when it actually comes to broadcasting things).

But the easiest (and cheapest) option is a Raspberry Pi. The same principles apply: use the tiny computer to create and broadcast the signal, and attach an antenna to give it the broadcast range.

1. Set up your Raspberry Pi

You’ll need to get Raspbian, the Linux-based operating system for the Raspberry Pi.  Once you remove the idea of pirate radio from its mythology, you realize that it exists largely for people who live in the margins. This special series of features and podcasts explores a complicated narrative of what illegal transmissions can do and who they reach.

2. Install the FM radio software

Once your Pi is up and running, you’ll need software. Specifically, PiFM, created by Oliver Mattos and Oskar Weigl. https://github.com/mundeeplamport/PiFM

3. Add an antenna

Plug a strip of wire into the GPIO4 pin on your Raspberry Pi (the fourth pin down on the left side on most Pi hardware). You’ll want something at least eight inches long, although closer to 25 inches is recommended for better range. Depending on your setup and surrounding environment, the Pi can broadcast between about a foot to roughly 300 feet away.

4. Broadcast

Run the PiFM code. You’ll do that by running a command like “sudo ./pifm awesomejams.wav 100.0”, where that “100.0” is the frequency in MHz on which you’re broadcasting.

5. Tune your radio and enjoy

Get your FM radio of choice, tune to your broadcast station, and enjoy!

How to make your own FM Station for less than $400
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