A little more but Magnum Dynalab Tuners are hard to beat
A little more but Magnum Dynalab Tuners are hard to beat
The guys above forgot more than I'll ever know:
But I ended up with a Yamaha TX-950 & a Magnum Dynalab antenna. It was a very highly rated tuner a few years back when I purchased it. It works very well even though I hardly fire it up any more. It has two antenna inputs which is cool if you live way outa town like me.
There is a pristine one on ebay for $175.
Good luck, John
I can't say enough about my MD Etude and (2) Yamaha T-2s.
There are plenty of Yamaha and Sansui tuners on that other site that go for no money. T-2s are a little pricy but T-85s are in your range.
The black front Sansui tuners are classic and also in your price range.
A Magnum Dynalab whip antenna works well in most applications.
I'm sure someone will chime in about the "Little Sony HD Tuner"
Might work for you-sold mine. Sounded just like the $89 tuner it is.
Use the tuner info site to make the right choice.
We have exc. radio stations where I live so tuners are something I use and enjoy daily. These are the tuners which I own presently: NAD 402, Sansui TU-D33, Technics ST-505's, AMC T-7, Pioneer Pioneer F-447. They all sound great! I can't understand how in the world the AMC T-7 got such a bad review! Recently sold my Yamaha T-7 and T-1 tuners. Great as well. I'd check out Ebay and the seller's feedback very closely. You should find something for $50 +/- no problem. Recently Marantz tuners such as the ST-46 and 59's are going for a song. Lots of great choices!!!
A lot of vintage audio gear commonly available cheap and used today had decent tuners. Pioneer, Kenwood, Sansui, Hitachi, Yamaha, Nakamichi are just a few that come to mind. Even if not a pure tuner, a pre-amp out connection on the back is all that is needed to use a receiver as a tuner only if needed.
Tandbergs tended to have very good tuners. Any Tandberg that comes up in good working order and usable as a tuner for under $200, jump on it.
I have a fairly new Sangean table radio and a clock radio. Both have excellent tuners, especially the table radio. One of the most sensitive tuners I have ever owned (along with Tandberg).
Sangean has a good focus on tuner technology, which is an afterthought for most modern sources.
I'd look for something like this maybe if it is still available
Lot's of *great* vintage tuners around for cheap. This site will tell you everything you've ever wanted to about them and more. Check out the reviews listed alphabetically and by brand in the left-hand nav bar.
It takes so long for a new thread to be posted on Audiogon that I usually don't check back for a day or so, but I actually somehow forgot I had started this one until today, and look at all of the responses!
I have had a bit of a financial setback in my "play money" fund - turns out I am going to have to spend $450 to get a tree trimmed before it causes damage to someone or something - so my tuner purchase is going to have to wait for a while, but it looks as if I have PLENTY of research to do!
Thank you so much for all of your suggestions! :-)
I haven't had the opportunity to pull any of my tuners out in a very long time, but it's fair to say there are a lot of really good ones for very reasonable prices. At one point, tuners were a big hobby of mine, and I went through hundreds of them in my system and on the bench.
If you want a tuner for audiophile use, alignment is CRITICAL. There are usually 20-30 adjustments inside the box. And here's an ugly tip: Most people that do it can get it "okay" but not perfect unless the tuner is a piece of junk. My alignment gear was good to under .002% THD, whereas your average stereo shop was good to about .2%...
The so-called "high end" brands are generally not where you want to look, unless you believe that op-amps and capacitors can make up for car-radio grade circuitry.
The Marantz ST-17 looks really good, but the almost-new sample I had (and still have) was poorly aligned out of the box and didn't work as well as it could have. Might be over your budget, too.
The best digital tuners out of the box are going to be the Yamahas, and they are dirt, dirt cheap for what you get. I did a bunch of the write-ups over at the fmtunerinfo site a decade ago, and you can check it out for the technical overview of Yamaha's digital line. The T70, T80, T85, TX900, TX930, TX950, TX1000, and TX2000 are all superb tuners. For often only $25, T70 is an outrageous bargain. Here's a good review buried a long way down: http://www.fmtunerinfo.com/ricochets.html The guy who wrote those write-ups was supremely qualified--more so than virtually anyone else who could possibly comment on tuners. But all these years later, all the Yamahas are cheap.
Moral: If the tree took your money, spend $50 (or less) on a Yamaha T70. It will destroy almost anything else out of the box under $300.00, maybe more. A Magnum Dynalab can't even come close to it, even if it looks a lot better.
I would like to get a tuner from the heyday of radio, but finding someone local who can do the alignment would probably not be easy, Schubert, so I guess you would have to trust the seller when she/he says they did do the essential service/alignment work. With my lack of expertise, I certainly can't get a tuner listed as needing work, or just "it turns on" with no further explanation. Of course, I want perfection, and all for less than $200. :-p
I will be looking into antennas at some point; so far two folks in this thread have recommended the Magnum Dynalab (MD) antennas, so I will definitely take a look at them. First I need to get the tuner, find out what sort of reception I get with just a cheapie indoor antenna that I have on hand, and go from there.
Given that you have an interest in vintage tube tuners, and that your listening needs are "occasional," and that you would prefer not to spend more than $200, you may want to consider looking for one of the many such tuners that were made in the late 1950's and early 1960's that are monophonic.
Those typically sell for MUCH lower prices than their stereo counterparts that were made in approximately the same period, and later. Also, many of those mono tuners provide a "multiplex out" signal that can be connected to a separate stereo "multiplex adapter," should you decide to add one at a later time, the combination of those two components comprising a stereo tuner.
I should add, though, that the best multiplex adapters, such as the Fisher MPX-100 and the H. H. Scott 335 and LM35, typically sell for well upwards of $250 if in top condition.
Another point to be aware of is that tuner sensitivity and antenna quality are significantly less critical if your listening is in mono rather than in stereo, as stereo is much more hiss prone than mono when signal strength is marginal.
Finally, I'll mention that I've had several 30 to 60 year old vintage tube tuners that have performed very well without apparently ever having been realigned. Although I've also had some clunkers in that respect, and of course tubes and capacitors can be major uncertainties as well.
The FM tuner info site is a great place to start but I don't think they are the end all/be all when it comes to tuners, but definitely a great reference.
Basically you have to decide on a digital or analog tuner and do you have the space for an old school analog tuner. Analog will sound better, it's just warmer and more realistic sounding. I personally love the old smooth flywheel of an analog tuner too.
However, I have had a few good digital tuners (NEC T-710, ads T2, and B&K TS108). The B&K will probably be the easiest of these to find but I found the ergonomics a nightmare and thought the NEC was a better sounding tuner, while the ads just a was a pleasure to use...having said that, I prefer any analog tuner over these models. Perreaux also supposed to make a great tuner and I'd like to try one, but ultimately I know that analog is better.
Currently, I use 2 tuners and got them both well under $200 including shipping. I have an old Pioneer TX8500II and a Creek CAS3140 with a DIN/RCA cord. The DIN/RCA makes all the difference in this unit. I a/b'd the Creek against a Tandberg 3030 receiver and it was pretty neck and neck, while the Pioneer TX8500 is a rung or two below their flagship TX9800 which Absolute Sound magazine rated as of the the best sounding tuners of all time. I think it's all about how many gangs the tuner has...
Also, I've never got mine aligned either. When buying, I simply ask, does it tune in easily and strongly and does the station 98.1 show up truly as 98.1 or is the tuning way off. Maybe I've been lucky...good luck in your search.
Not to be brusque, but Lou's advice is simply wrong. Analog is warmer and more realistic? Really? The only difference is generally varactors versus a tuning capacitor. An "analog" Dynalab uses varators... So does an "analog" Tandberg 3001. Confused yet?
With tuners, it's 95% about the design and alignment. FWIW, "alignment" has almost NOTHING to do with what shows on the dial. It is the 20 adjustments in the front end, adjustments in the IF strip, adjustments in the multiplex, you name it. These are very complex devices, and to even begin to under the terminology entails a very, very high learning curve.
If the original poster wants a good, cheap tuner, the Yamaha T70 or T80 is the way to go. These tuners will blow away any comparably priced "analog" with a flywheel by a mile. You need to spend 5x-10x the price to get a comparable "analog" tuner. I don't even want to get into what it would take to match them in an "audiophile" brand.
I am somewhat confused by analog vs digital when it comes to tuners. This is not the equivalent of tubes vs solid state, is it? Without getting really technical, what are the main differences - a dial vs a button, or....??
On another note, does anyone have experience with the Fisher FM-90X tuner? Someone has made me an offer of one. FMTuner Info mentions the tuner in their list of Fisher tuners; this is the only comment about it:
Our contributor Larry has an extensively modified FM-90-X which "sounds fabulous in mono - liquid, smooth, yet still detailed and with musical (but not authoritative) bass. This tuner has a very simple gain stage with a cathode follower, reported in many circles as being deleterious to the sound, but I find with good tubes and the mods it sounds great."
As far as I know, the tuner being offered to me has none of the 'mods,' whatever they are; the caps have been replaced with Auri caps if that makes a difference.
I had an FM-90X about 20 years ago, when it was about 35 years old. I was very pleased with its sound, and I remember it fondly. I did not do any realignment on it, and I suspect that it had never been realigned. At most I tested the tubes and replaced some, and lubricated the controls. It had no mods.
As you realize it is a mono tuner, but it provides a multiplex out jack which can be connected to an external multiplex adapter for stereo, as I described in my earlier post.
Re analog vs. digital, in the context of tuners that refers to the technology of the tuning circuitry. Analog tuners can tune continuously across the entire FM band, including the frequencies that are in between stations, while digital tuners tune in discrete steps. Analog tuners often have "slide rule" type dials and no pushbutton presets, and digital tuners often have digital/numerical frequency readouts and pushbuttons, but some analog tuners (having analog tuning circuitry) provide digital frequency readout and/or pushbutton presets.
The vintage tube tuners from the 1960's and earlier are all analog, of course.
Thank you for your comments on the FM-90X, Al. It sounds as if you enjoyed yours, though you have since gone on to "bigger and better" tuners. Also, thank you for the digital vs analog information - now I understand!
If I decide to go mono, I think you can also hook up the tuner so that it sends a mono signal to each speaker, correct? I hope so, because at the prices you surmise the good multiplex adapters go for, getting one would be out of my reach at the moment!
Good question, Holly. As it happens, the FM-90X has two output jacks, wired in parallel, one designated as "main" and one designated as being for a tape recorder. They are wired directly together internally, so you could connect one of those jacks to one channel and the other to the other channel.
If the component you are connecting it to includes a mono switch, though, you would just have to connect to one channel, while selecting mono mode. In that situation it would be preferable, although perhaps not necessary, to put a shorting plug on the input for the other channel.
If the tuner had not provided two output jacks, and the preamp or other component it would be connected to does not include a mono switch, you could use an inexpensive y-adapter to connect the single output jack to two input jacks.
A potentially important point, however: I don't see a preamp listed in your system description. What component would the tuner be connected to, and what is its input impedance if you know it? Vintage tube tuners, including the FM-90X, were generally not designed to drive the relatively low input impedances of many modern solid state components. If the preamp or other component the tuner would be connected to does not have an input impedance of at least 47K, and preferably more, perceptible deep bass rolloff may result if just one input channel is being connected to. And if both input channels are connected to, the load impedance seen by the tuner would be half of the specified input impedance, doubling the magnitude of that potential issue.
Also, the FM-90X does not have the kind of antenna connections that are typically provided on more modern tuners. Although it is designed to be electrically compatible with either 72 ohm coax (75 ohms should be close enough) or 300 ohm twinlead, the connector is designed to mate with narrow metal pins that are soldered to the end of the cable. You may want to ask the seller if the tuner would come with a means of mating to that; otherwise you would probably have to obtain and solder suitable pins onto the ends of your antenna cable.
I do not have a preamp in my system, and my amp does not have a mono switch. My two channel system consists of an Art Audio Carissa tube power amp and Cain and Cain Abby speakers, with a Teres Audio turntable/Wright Audio tube phono stage and an Audio Aero Prima CD player. The power amp only has one set of inputs and one set of outputs so the turntable (well, the phono stage actually,) CD player and, hopefully, tuner will be connected to the power amp via a 3-position Mapletree switch box.
I didn't realize that about the antenna connections on the FM-90X; if I decide to pursue that tuner, I will ask the seller about that. I still don't have any sort of radio antenna, other than a few of those cheapie wire antennas that come with integrated receivers, but I was hoping to at least hook one of those up until I could get a 'proper' antenna.
With my setup, without a preamp, would I be better off just going for a stereo tuner? It almost seems that way to me....
The Art Audio Carissa Signature has a specified input impedance of 180K, so that would be a fine match with the FM-90X and nearly all other vintage tube tuners, even with the tuner output connected to both input channels (resulting in the tuner seeing a 90K load).
The FM-90X has no volume control as such, just a small level control on the rear panel which would probably be impractical to use as your main volume control when listening to it. But if the Carissa Signature includes the optional volume control, that would be no problem either.
If you should decide against the FM-90X, but still want to consider a vintage tube tuner, given your price preference I would continue to recommend considering a mono unit.
FWIW, the best performing vintage tube mono tuner in my experience that with some patience I suspect can be found in your price range is the H. H. Scott 310D. It includes a front panel volume control and a multiplex out jack, and it provides standard screw terminals for connection of 300 ohm twinlead (which is what the cheapie indoor wire dipoles connect with). As you probably realize, those screw terminals can be easily adapted to coax with an inexpensive adapter, sometimes referred to as a balun or a 75 ohm to 300 ohm matching transformer.
Thank you once again, Al. :-)
My Carissa power amp does have the optional volume control (and a remote.) I want a vintage tube tuner! lol Anyway, I am glad to hear that my amp will match well with tube tuners. Now to find one!
I will try to be patient - I have yet to find very many (OK, I have found almost none...) of the tuners recommended in this thread on eBay or similar sites, so I think I may be in for a long wait.
Speaking of which, what price/price range is considered acceptable for the FM-90X? (If anyone knows....)
Ryan, you obviously know a lot more about tuners than I do in regard to how they work; however, I've owned a lot of good tuners in the past including several that are highly touted on the fmtunerinfo site, for whatever that is worth.
IMO, from what I've owned and have heard, I believe that analog tuners sound warmer and more realistic and I prefer them over digital tuners, YMMV. Thanks for educating me though.
I have decided to go with a modded Eico Classic 2200. This is not one of the tuners recommended in this thread and the brand doesn't even get a mention on FMTuner Info, but I have read some positive things about the tuner and trust the opinion of the person who will be selling it to me, so I am very hopeful.
I will be able to audition it in my system before paying for it, so I can't see a downside!
Thank you again to everyone who offered me help here. I didn't choose any of the tuners you recommended, but I learned a lot, enjoyed the research and much appreciate the time you all took to respond. :-)
Yes Lou, the 1010 was size matched to the xx10 series amps, it's a big box with not a whole lot inside. What is in there does sound very good though. :)
The Magnum Dynalab FT-11 was a pretty good tuner if I remember, they are around for $200 or a bit under these days.
So many tunas, so little time...and great sounding signals are not as plentiful !