If you don't mind your tuner looking older, and being analog, I'd recommend checking into something used from the 70s. An old Luxman, Onkyo, etc. Most companies were making tuners that are much better than their current tuners, and they'd be much less than $500. I also have a Harman Kardon tuner (a Citation model) from the late 80s, and it sounds great.
The old Yamaha T-1 and T-2 tuners are great. There is a T-2
on ebay now. They go in the $300-$400 range, depending on condition.
Either the Quad FM4 or the MD FT-11 would be good choices and for much less than $500.00. You can usually pick up a MD 101 or 101a used for less than $5 bills.
I was fortunate to find a RT -955 recently and after living with it for about 3 months, I am very satisfied. I don't generally use it for AM but what I have tried it appears to be very sensitive and should prove usefull with a good antenna. Of course AM is so very prone to electrical noise it does depend greatly on your immediate environment with respect to electrical noise.
The FM section sounds very good and in fact when a good quality broadcast is on CBC ie jazz or classical it almost surpizes me at times how good it does sound. Of course the majority of pop and rock stations simply sound very compressed and as a result are basically unlistenable. So your at the whims of the broadcaster buit the tuner is very capable.
If you don't mind an older/vintage unit they are a number of excellent ones folating about as suggested. Previous to the Rotel I used an old Marantz receiver which had the best tuner both in R.F. and sound combined.
If you do go the route of The Rotel 955, I am sure you will not be dissapointed with its performance. Good luck and keep us informed.
For solid state and digital tuning, if you look around you will be able to find a mid 1980's Onkyo Integra Tuner models T4015 & T4017. These two have unbelieveably good reception and sound. They can be had for $50 usually. More money, but with excellent sound is the late 80s model T4087 (around $100 to $150 depending on cosmetics). The T4087 is the one with the Rosewood sides. It is the closest thing to the T9090-II which is the best thing they evey made around $350 to $400 used. May not sound much better than the T4087, but has excellent reception. Of the more modern 1990's vintage Onkyo Integra Tuner (are R1 remote capable), the only one I thought sounded good was the T4500 and T4700. Did not care for the most recent T4711. What can be said about the Onkyo Integra's is excellent reliability.
PS: The Onkyo Integra T4017 and T4087 have a variable output knob (volume), so I guess you could skip the preamp and run it right to the power amp like many do with their CD Players.
I would second Woodfield on the FT-11, I own one and love it. However, as you may already know--it's FM only and it sounds like you really need both. I don't really listen to AM, so I really can't help you there--but I wouldn't want you to buy a tuner used only to find when it arrives it is FM only as some of the high end tuners are.
I think the NAD 4300 was an AM/FM tuner, an excellent sounding tuner for FM and inexpensive on the used market. The AM sections of many high-end tuners are not that great, though, and Hpk makes a good point about electrical noise; I never used my old NAD for AM, I couldn't tell you, unfortunately, how it sounded.
I'll third Woodfield on the FT-11. A great little tuner. If you must have a remote, I would get the Jolida. It runs around 350 new. I had it for a while, but sold it expecting a big improvement with the FT-11. I think I even liked it more than the FT-11 that I currently am using. The Ft-11 does pick up channels a little cleaner than the Jolida using the same antenna, and you can pretty precisely fine tune the Ft-11. The overall musicality of the Jolida was a little better. (It is a tube tuner- a cheap tube that will last years). Anyway, hope this was helpful. You can usually get an FT-11 used around 275-300 if you can find one. You can get a new Jolida for about the same if you look around. You will almost never find the Jolida used, probably for a reason. There's something to be said for owning such a piece. Hope this helped.
Yamaha TX-950. It is discontinuted, but it is well known for being one of the best. You can still find lightly used ones for what they used to sell for new - $399. It gives you great control over pulling in weak stations. And the strong ones sound great! I live in the middle of nowhere, WI and with a $15 radio shack antenna in my attic I pull in a signal on 1/2 of the available spots on the dial. You have 20 times the resolution you normally get for FM and 10 times for AM. And a choice of wide or narrow band reception for strong and weak stations. Plus 40 presets and a host of other features.
For those who may be having problems with their Homeowner Assoc. and Antenna placement, note that the law may(?) be on you side.
Yes, the law was changed because of lobbying from the Satellite TV companies and others. I suppose the HOA could still object if your antenna is too large.