Are Tuners - Audiophile quality

I am a high-end listener. I have a stand-alone analog Kenwood KT-1000 tuner (15 years old). This was $ 500 in 1984. Very good reviews. I packed it up in 1985 due to the horrible quality from the tuner. I recenlty dusted it off and plugged it in and found that it still is e
Continued - equally bad. My tuner produces the sound of a $ 100 turntable (including arm and cartridge) and less than any CD on the market. Does anyone know if you can get "audiophile quality" from a tuner. Any recommendation of a tuner that produces such quality. Thanks,
Yes, you can !
But there are only 2 ways:
- You go and look for an old one ( Marantz 10 B, Fishers etc )
- or when you like new ones it is very easy, because there are only a few out there
Naim NAT 01 and 02, Dynalab 108 ( maybe the lower ones too, but these I don't know ) etc.
These are really able to transform an antenna signal to something really impressing when you listen to it.

But it is not cheap.
Cheap models sound cheap , unfortunately.
Classe use to make an FM tuner. I think it retailed for $5000.00. I would consider this an audiophile piece. I saw one used once for $4000.00 at a local stereo store.
Most of the "junk" that you are hearing is the quality of the signal being broadcast. Believe me, i have looked at more than a few tuners internals ( Magnum, Musical Fidelity, Quad, Citation, NAD, Pioneer, etc... ) and none of them are "real impressive" in terms of engineering or quality of parts. After really starting to "dig" into a lot of gear more frequently, i am becoming more and more disappointed with the overall design, build and parts quality of a LOT of "respected" audio gear. If the EE's that are designing audio gear were working in the RF field, we would still be using tin cans and string.

As such, it is possible to find a tuner that sounds good, so long as the local broadcasts are up to snuff and you've got a decent antenna system. In my opinion, i would not spend a LOT of cash. Quite honestly, we've only have one station here in Chicago that produces a top notch signal. To be totally truthfull though, i was BLOWN AWAY by how good FM can sound after hearing this station on a decent tuner though. With that in mind, the rest of them could be handled by a tuner of much lower quality without ever noticing much of a difference.

One suggestion though. MOST of the old "super tuners" from the 1970's / early 80's tend to sound like a "transistor radio" (literally). Supposedly, some of the old Yamaha's sound pretty solid but can't speak from experience. I'm sure that some of the Mac's might be worth checking into ( PROBABLY better build quality too ) but their price may not be worth the investment if your local FM selection & broadcasts resemble a cesspool. Sean
Hi, there, DCAudio. You ask a good question. There are certainly some audiophile-grade tuners that are still available, such as the Sequerra and Tandberg. However, the real problem in most places in the U.S. isn't the tuner, it's the broadcast signal. There are very few cities in the US where FM stations still send a clean, uncompressed signal, and even when they do, multipath distortion can be a huge problem (I'm told that NYC is one of the worst for multipath due to the skyscrapers). Maybe you live in an area that has one or more excellent FM stations, but my bet is that most compress their broadcast signals, which essentially negates the reason for having a top-quality tuner. Before you invest a lot of money in a classic tuner (the consensus is that the analog tuners, as a class, were better than the digital tuners), find out more about your local "source material". If you find that you have access to some high-quality broadcast signals, then the first thing you should do is a get a good external antenna and see how it works with your current tuner. If all goes well, then explore getting a better tuner.
The Magnum 108 is the finest source piece I have ever heard.
Actually beyond the sound of any high-end CD player or player/DAC I've owned.
If you are not sure you want to sink some major $$$ at first, and want a hint of audiophile quality. Find a used Onkyo "Integra". The mid 80s models sell on eBay from $50 to $100. (from low to high: T4017, T4057, T4087); the early 1990 models from $100 to $150 (T4500, T4700. T407). The newest is the T4711 has RDS $250 used. The best ever is the T9090-II which is going to be $350+ used. There is also a T9090 for about $250. Also get some decent interconnect cables.
i agree with SD... get an outside antenna. wow. i bought the outside magnum dynalab antenna audiogon sells. absolutely astonishing.

i'm using a marantz 20/20 i bought for around $60 on ebay. it rocks. it sounds sooo much like tubes. nice, deep, luscious. i know people will balk but what can i say? there's something beautiful and exciting about the smokey, deep sound it produces. i could spend a lot more but i wont. it's amazing.

anyone have experience with this one?
Thank you everyone. I do not feel as stupid as I did when I posted it. I have had my tuner connected to my big TV antenna, 30 feet above the roof. The TV antenna did not make any improvement. Sounds like rabbit ears. I live close to downtown Washington DC. Maybe the issue is bandwidth from the radio stations.
Hey Dcaudio. I live in Charles County, Maryland 40 miles southeast of you. I have two extra Onkyo Integra Tuners if you want to give it a try sometime (a T4017 and T407).
Dcaudio, read the thread MR67 vs. MR71...interesting to a listener in your situation. Now if only great FM stations broadcasted via satellite so that we could hear them everywhere!
My experience was simliar to yours DcAudio. My first "stereo" was a Technics rack system from the mid 80's. As I changed my system through the years I did away with the tuner (sometime in the 80's) and had not used one at all until last year. I started investigating the idea of getting another, even though my Technics is still around, a friend has it. Long story short, through my research I eneded up buying a Fanfare FT-1A. Not only have I no regrets, I haven't used my system this much in 15 years!

The Fanfare has a wonderful sound, BUT as others have said the tuner can only be as good as the signal. From what I understand, in Cananda they have some live concert broadcasts that are amazing!

I work at home and very much enjoy using it throughout the day. You wouldn't use a tuner for "critical" listening, unless you had a good signal.

I think we all use our stereos differently, hence the variety of different reponses. I for one would recommend a good tuner.
I'd thought that the Fanfare was the way to go, too. But I recently read a review in The Audio Critic that made me wonder. David Rich took the lid off and wasn't all that impressed with the innards.

Anyone else read this? Any thoughts?
As far as David Rich, It does not matter to me to much how it looks inside as long as it sounds good. I would not spend the extra money to get neatly made solder joints under a case I will never open if it sounds the same. A good example is the Creek T43 and Cambridge Audio T500. These are basically the same tuner inside, the Creek uses a few higher grade parts and is made in England instead of lower cost China for the Cambrige. Same FM Chipset. Mike Creek designed the Cambridge by taking his T43 and experimented by seeing where he could cut corners without compromising the sound quality. I have heard them both (own neither). The Creek does sound slightly better, more noticeable with weak stations. With strong stations it is harder to tell. You get this improvement at a cost of $699 for the Creek versus $259 for the Cambridge. Is it worth it? Yes to some, and I guess nothing wrong with that. The only annoying thing about the Cambridge is no manual over-ride tuning, however the Chipset does do a very excellent job of gradually blending the highs in stereo on weaker stations to eliminate noise and switching to mono on very weak ones. So the Creek is a better choice if you live in a more rural setting. In an urban area with lots of stations it matter less.
Some of you have alluded to the fact that a good FM tuner can provide results that are quite acceptable to the audiophile sense of what sonic accuracy truly is. We at Fanfare join you in that belief.

Proof for one person might be playing a CD in synch with the same selection playing in a radio broadcast (a tricky fete, but do-able) and A/B'ing them. Fanfare has such a client, and has vindicated the FT-1A's claim of sonic accuracy many times over. You'll find his further comments in a review of the FT-1A under "Tuners", "Fanfare" at". His name is "Roger".

Another is splitting the output of a CD player to the line stage of a reasonably high resolution audio system, and at time, to the exciter stage of an FM transmitter which is connected to a dummy load so it can only transmit locally within the same room. The receiver hooked up to the system to receive the airborn version is a Fanfare FT-1 FM tuner. Based on our count, the vast majority of the audience at both CES exhibits where this was performed could not tell the difference between the broadcast and the direct feed, and even the detractors couldn't be certain on a double-blind test, including me.

Through the type of "objective" comparisons illustrated above is how we judge the accuracy of a tuner, and in this case the Fanfare FT-1 and the FT-1A. We do not deal in speculation or aesthetic response. Our specific goal is to provide the high quality performance our customers have come to expect in a Fanfare product.

As for David Rich's comments, he doesn't speak about the quality of the internal workmanship in the FT-1A inside. What he, in his own personal judgement does(and he's never built anything for the market that's known to me), is speak about what he feels are weaknesses in the design. He is entitled to his opinion. However, in the final analysis, upon listening to the FT-1A's transparent sound, the quietness in its background (no hiss) and its unique station acquisition capabilities (better in all ways than its Canadian competitor), I suspect no one who is a self-thinker would give a damn what anyone says otherwise.

The FT-1A is a design that works for everyone, save the few heretics who feel the world should move to their side of the boat, no matter what the consequence.

Soon a more definitive comment on David Rich's review will appear on our website at ""
Thank you for your time.

Marv Southcott, President, Fanfare Electronics
Dcaudio: In your response, you commented that you have been using your external TV antenna to feed a signal to your FM tuner. Since you don't state the brand/type of TV antenna, I'll simply comment that it may not be optimal for FM reception. If you are serious about wanting top-quality FM sound, and are willing to experiment a bit, you should try getting a decent FM antenna that is fairly directional. Better yet, get a motorized rotor so you can aim the antenna from inside the house.

I was raised in the Washington, DC, area (Kensington, MD), but have not lived there for many years. I do, however, visit friends every 2-3 years. The DC area does not, for the most part, present severe multipath problems, because there are relatively few tall buildings, and the surrounding geography is fairly flat. The last time I visited Washington DC, I listened to a few FM stations on the car radio, and remember thinking that there didn't seem to be any really good stations like I remembered from earlier years. Your problem with FM broadcast quality may simply be a lack of good stations, in which case not even the best tuner on the market will help much.
SDCampbell: The FM frequency band is between TV channels 6 and 7. So any good VHF antenna should work whether also for TV or just FM. The fact that some FM only roof antennas cost more means we are all probably getting ripped off.
It is true that a TV antenna has enough range to pick up the FM band that is between channels 6 and 7 VHF. That said, an antenna that is designed only for the FM band will do a much better job of rejecting channel 6 and 7 and a lot more RF that your tuner doesn't need sent to it's first stage. So use a cable feed or TV antenna..and they are very usefull, but the best is an antenna designed for the FM band. The very best set-up I've ever heard was a pair of stacked Finco model 5's, but the models from APS are likely to be the best available now...maybe better than the old twin 5's.
Once the tuner receives a strong enough signal to go into what is called "full quieting", it is pretty much up to the tuner from there. This is taking into account that it is receiving a direct signal and not something loaded with multipath reflections. As such, almost ANY outdoor antenna can pull in a reasonable signal so long as you are not a million miles from the transmitter.

To prove the point, how many times have you been able to listen to a station in your car with a factory installed stereo and then gone into the house and NOT been able to get the station in near as good using a wire dipole, amplified indoor antenna, rabbit ears, etc... ??? Do you think that the difference was that the "cheezy" car stereo had a better tuner section in it than your "hi-fi" grade tuner or was it the fact that the ( much shorter ) car antenna was outside ????

While i am a BIG fan of proper antenna systems, they become FAR more important at distance OR when you are nearfield with a lot of tall buildings or structures that will deflect the signal. You can actually run into problems by having TOO much antenna when the receiver is located relatively close to the transmitter. This is called "front end overload" and can be quite a problem in big cities.

As to Marv / Fanfare's comments, Quad used to do very similar tests / demo's when they came out with their FM-4. They even went so far as to bring a small transmitter being fed via vinyl to their "big" dealers and demo this for them and the interested customers. Switching between the vinyl being fed directly into the audio system and then listening to the same record via the signal being transmitted and then received by the FM-4 resulted in no discernable difference ( other than the delay ) under those conditions. Sean
Sean makes a very good point...what your reception location in regards to broadcast signals is. I am so used to being in the "sticks" that a very directional antenna with very good side and rear rejection..and rejection of 6 and 7 on the TV VHF band have been very important. That said, it is easier for any audio or RF circuit to porduce a cleaner signal out when it is feed a cleaner signal in.
The person who said that th4e FM band exists between channels 6 and 7 on the TV dial is correct about that and somewhat inaccurate about the rest.

The fact the FM band exists where it does will allow a TV antenna to "broadband" th FM signal, but with no elements actually dedicated to the FM frequencies, the actual gain at 100MHz could be less than unity (0dB). The signal could be noisy because the antenna's design makes it susceptible to harmonics of other frequencies with can become just plain noise. This type of problem does not occur with a dedicated FM antenna because it is tuned narrowly to the FM band, and in doing so has sufficient gain at the FM frequency band to disregard low signal harmonic interference. The analogy here might be that hi-test gas is a rip-off if it does not provide better performance for a high performance engine.
And what about AM reception, Marv...only the Audiolab serves us well...y'know the WAF factor hurts us much that I had to put my Addison out for her.
Marv, since when is 20 MHz ( 88 MHz to 108 MHZ ) considered "narrowband" ??? There is NO antenna made that will offer a linear gain curve for that wide of a bandwidth. One could build a design with a low Q ( maximum bandwidth but with lower overall gain ) and tune it for the middle of the band or "peak it" for maximum gain at one end of the band or the other.

As to your comments about "dedicated" FM antennas increasing the selectivity and rejecting out of band signals to a greater extent than "broadband" TV antennas, that IS a falsehood. An antenna that was specifically resonated for FM would also be HIGHLY susceptible to amplifying the 4th harmonic that was originally generated within the CB band. Since hundreds if not thousands of watts are in use on that band with little to no filtering in the amplifiers, high level 4th order harmonics ARE a reality. As such, a higher gain antenna at that frequency could actually INCREASE out of band interference and its susceptability to such things. That is, UNLESS the antenna was highly directional and pointed right at the FM transmitter and the offending CB'er was not in the pathway.

This is not to mention that many earlier cordless phones, baby monitors, etc... are transmitting around 49 MHz. As such, their second harmonic is occuring pretty much smack dab within the FM range.

With those things in mind, optimum performance for anyone that is located at distance from the majority of transmitters would be realized with a large directional yagi array on a rotor mounted as high as possible. Since the majority of citizens don't want to deal with something like that, simply installing SOME type of antenna on one's roof or in the attic would do wonders compared to an indoor wire dipole or rabbit ears. As to the "specialized" FM designs like the Fanfare and Magnum antennas, they are both base loaded designs. Anyone that works with RF knows that base loading is pretty low in efficiency. The main benefit of this design is that it offers less wind load and is not quite as ugly as a top or center load. Nonetheless, this design should offer pretty reasonable performance as long as they are vertically oriented and mounted out in the open. The use of a tuned counterpoise underneath them would also benefit them quite a bit.

Simply using the "homebrew" center fed dipole mounted vertically that i detailed how to build in a previous post might also solve a LOT of reception problems for less than $5. Sean
The biggest problem it the strong 99.8 rap station bleeding into your 99.4 jazz or classical station, not TV 6 or 7 bleed in. I have never lived in an area with either channel (anyone?). The better tuners reject the false signals. For folks living in Massachusetts there is an FM station that can be heard up and down the whole dial when not tuned to a particular station. It is WFCR I believe. It's up to the tuner to cut it out. An antenna is not going to help.
Sugarbrie, both of your examples are situations that are either caused by the transmitters not meeting FCC compliance or what is called "front end overload" due to close proximity.

If your not REAL close to the transmitters, make a few phone calls to the offending stations and ask for the station engineer. Once they get on the phone, explain to them your situation and ask them about the "deviation" of the signal. Let them know that you will be filing a formal complaint with the FCC and that they need to pay closer attention to the legalities and technical issues involved with operating a licensed transmitter. Then hang up. Believe me, you will scare the shit out of them. They will run back to the control center and dial things down in a heartbeat. If they don't, that formal complaint to the FCC just MIGHT be necessary. Sean

i live in jefferson, md - about 60 miles nw of dc, towards the bottom of the western side of a ~1600' ridge. w/my roof-mounted aps-13 antenna, and an onix bwd1 w/soap power-supply, i get *excellent* audiophile sound from dc. but there's only two stations i find worth listening to, for signal quality *and* content - weta/90.9, which plays classical, & some mixed programming, when it's not broadcasting npr. i especially like "songs for aging children", broadcast from 7-9pm on sunday evenings. but, i mostly listen to wpfw, @ 89.3. this howard-u station plays lotsa jazz, caribbean, s-american & african music. i listen to this station a *lot*! great content (if ewe *like* this sorta stuff), & a good uncompressed signal. if ewe like listening to either of these stations, there's *lots* of tunas for ~$500 (plus or minus $500, depending on model & how careful ya shop!), that, when hooked-up to a good antenna, will deliver great sound. 'course, i recommend shopping used! :>)

if ya like stations like dc101, *no* tuna will make that sound good, & i'm not criticising the music, yust the compressed signal. however, i have found that a dbx 3bx dynamic range expander can make extremely compressed signals sound quite listenable - not yust from a good tuna, but from a good cd-player or turntable, if the software happens to be compressed...

doug s.