Go for the Magnum Dynalab FT-101A or MD90. If you have the cash get the Magnum Dynalab MD100, it's 30% better than the MD90 and has great imaging and soundstage. I've owned all their models up to the Etude.
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You may not even have to spend that much. Look on Ebay for a vintage Sansui tuner like the TU-717, TU-719, or le creme de le creme, the TU X1. These will smoke any tuner out today less than $2K. I have the TU-717, bought it for $150 on Ebay, it was an upgrade from my Magnum Dynalab FT-101A tuner. Not only does it pull in more stations, but it's warmer and sweeter musically. The late 70's and early 80's was the golden age for tuners. I favor the Sansui models, but Kenwood and Pioneer also had some very good tuners.
If you can get by without remote control, you are in for a pleasant surprize. At $500-600 used there are so many excellent choices it will be difficult to pick the absolute best. Most of the best will be tubes in my opinion. McIntosh, HH Scott, Fisher, etc. I am using a modified Dyna FM3 that is wonderful and quite inexpensive. Good listening! Don
I agree with Magnum Dynalab FT-101A. I owned one new then upgraded to MD-100. Huge improvement, but retails for $1,600. Older Kenwood tuners, especially the KT-7500 or KT-8300 rival the Magnum models. These 2 are always on eBay for $150-400. I've used a KT-7500 for many years in a secondary ststem. It plays FM perfectly, almost as good as the MD-100. The key to FM enjoyment is a quality antenna. I use the Magnum Dynalab ST-2 indoor/outdoor antenna. I live in Pittsburgh, PA and do not have any reception problems with any local stations. We are lucky to have 3 Public Radio stations. WQED, WDUQ, and WYEP. One is classical, one is jazz and one is free-form music.
I purchased a Kenwood KT8005 tuner on Audiogon for $65. It was Kenwood's top of the line in 1973. It is large, heavy and looks gorgeous imho. I had it shipped directly from the seller to Don Scott, who cleaned it, aligned it and upgraded a few internal circuits for approximately $250. It is without a doubt the best value of any piece in my value orientated system. The sound is better than I ever thought possible from radio. It pulls in stations like a champ.
If you are serious about quality radio, I strongly suggest you contact Mr. Scott. He is a man of his word and very helpful.
I just noticed that you failed to mention which late 70's tuner you have.
I thought all the responces here are good, and great ideas. I got a lot of ideas from the tuner info site. There are a LOT of tuners to choose or try to find or mess around with.
I have a sunsui tu-717 sitting on top of a accuphase t-101 right now. I much prefer the sound of the accuphase to the sunsui, but I can see where some might prefer a fully alighned and modified sansui to it. (just as some here have stated their preference over the magmun dynalabs).
The mac's are HIGHLY regarded, but then that throws in more complications/debate, as many fans of others state their preference over mac's.
And as many of these great tuners sound different, and have different strenghts, what is really cool is that , as stated above, is that there are some lines that have lesser tuners in the 50-150$ price range that sound almost as good, depending on what you want or need.
I guess what I am trying to say is that perhaps if you stated what you have and what perhaps you are trying to achieve that might make this thread really come together.
I love my MD100 too, but my old NAD 7400 receiver's tuner ($)section (4300?) is a beauty. Chase an old 7100 or 7400 just for this tuner. You'll be surprised! Selectable IF, cancellable noise-filtering, lots of presets, and a big weighted tuning dial! Yum.
Another ($$) is the Audio Refinement Complete Tuner. It's a beauty at about $500 used. Approaching the used MDs, though. ENJOY! Nothing like clean live feeds once in awhile, eh?
Hey Onhwy61 - for the record, Don Scott is a good guy and he's always been helpful when we've asked him something, but TunerInfo isn't "his site." Check the "Our Staff" page to see who's responsible for the site. Most reviews state who wrote them, and you'll see Don's name mentioned in a reviews whenever he had something to add.
THIS ONE IS NOT EVEN A QUESTION ABOUT WHICH IS BEST around that price range used!!! The Creek T43 tuner at $700 new is still the best tuner you can get for around $400 used! I would put that tuner up against anything mentioned above for the money! If you find one floating around, you won't loose trying it! It's superb..
Another kept secret in bargain tuners is the Sansui T-80 tuner, early 80's vintage. It has very simple circuitry and can be found for about $30.00 on Ebay. Then send it to Ed at www.antennaperformance.com for a $100.00 mod, which consists of a thorough cleaning,replacement of key capacitors with Blackgates and installation of their own APS amplified filter boards, as well as an exact computerized alignment. After mod,this tuner will compete sonically with most of the mega-buck boutique tuners from any era.They also can modify the Sansui TU-717, which looks nicer with more features but will cost you a little more.My modified Sansui T-80 has given me immense listening pleasure when I tune in to our local,uncompressed college station. Have fun. Also, I remember reading in another thread where the venerable Don Scott recommended the Sansui T-80 as one "sweet" tuner.
Hey, thanks a lot to you all for the input. I was gone for a day and came back to the surprise of so much response. My "current" tuner is a Sony ST-3950SD, a decent tuner in its day which I bought new in about '79 and it really does a fairly good job now. It has never had service and the alignment is way off. I figured it would be better to buy something better rather than sink a couple hundred into refurbishing the Sony. Sounds like some of these older tuners can give a run to newer models with a little updating, but I'm thinking this Sony may not fit into that category. Opinions?
4yanxs,there are some other very informative threads you can browse through re:tuners here in Audiogon discussions. I don't think the Sony tuners are well regarded in the industry.Generally, analogue tuners,particularly those made in the "golden age"(late70's-early 80's) are the most sought after by audiophiles and DXer's.Go to website: Http://www.geocities.com/tunerinfo/ for one of the best and most knowledgeable websites for tuners.These guys live for tuners and know their stuff well.You can browse their tuner review section,click in Sony to see what they think.There are also some interesting threads on tuners in www.audioasylum.com website. Good luck.
Sherod - I have to confess, our Sony section on TIC is much less complete than that of most other manufacturers. It just happens that we haven't had a chance to play with many Sony tuners from the '80s, but a few of them look like they might be pretty good. We've just picked up a couple of different models that will probably be reviewed on the site within the next few months. -Eric
I forgot to mention that in the tuner info website, there is a big tuner shootout with the Kenwood L-02T leading the pack at this time. Interesting in that one of the tuners it beat out is the famous Mcintosh MR-78.Hmmmmmm,I'm curious what the Mac owners have to say about that.Stay tuned,tuner fans.
I also will throw my hat in the ring and vouch for a Magnum Dynalab. I know what I'm talking about when it comes to Magnum Dynalabs. I happen to own an FT-101 (the original version........ not the newer FT-101A or the more expensive Etude version), and to this day, right after I bought mine more than two summers ago, I solemnly swear by and stand by this tuner 100%. This thing, when it is hooked up to a decent antenna, sucks in stations like a vacumn cleaner sucks dirt out of a rug or a carpet, with a great degree of separation (makes a BIG contribution when it comes soundstaging and imaging), and do so with superb quieting (removes a lot of the fuzz and other impurities that often makes FM listening so dreadful). In the wake of the Pioneers, Sansuis, Kenwoods, Marantzs, and McIntoshs from the late 1960's and the 1970's, I would say that my FT-101 can at least rival some of these gems that were produced during that era, holding its own against most of them, only to be surpassed by the high-end designs of the day (like the Marantz 10B of the mid 1960's, and the McIntosh MR-67 and MR-71 of the late 1960's to early 1970's). But when it is compared with anything that has been produced over the last twenty years or so, it beats the living hell out of anything produced back then (meaning the 1980's) as well as today. And unless you're a serious FM afficionado (in which case, I would go for something like a MD-108), an FT-101, FT-101A or Etude is all most of us should need if we are in need of a good tuner that is reasonably priced. And amazingly enough, Magnum Dynalabs seem to hold their value quite well. Like I said, I bought my FT-101 back in 2000, for the sum of $590.00 (on "e-bay"), and I believe that this VERY SAME tuner has retailed for $495.00 when it has made its debut back in 1985. Now, if that's not holding its value, then I don't know what is to quite honest with you. Being that until the MD-90 was introduced last year, the FT-101A was available for a long time, and the last time I checked, an FT-101A was retailing for around $875.00 to $900.00. I wonder how much a used FT-101A or Etude in mint condition would go for now on the used market. Through a many of system upgrades now and in the future, equipment will come, and equipment will go. But along with maybe my Nakamichi BX-300 (unless a ZX-9 or a CR-7A comes along), my FT-101 stays. Neither one of those components will never be offered for sale. That's how highly I think of this tuner. If that's not a glowing endorsement, then I don't know what is.
Hope you find your tuner real soon.