FM/AM versus Analog versus Digital

Where exactly does an FM/AM tuner rank in terms of sound quality as compared to analog or digital? I would think that it isn't as good as analog, but better than digital?
Not really comparable when you think about it. All your tuner is doing is receiving a signal from a radio station using a CD player or analog turntable. The sound you are hearing is created primarily by the CDP or turntable in the studio and transmitted over the airwaves to your tuner. A high quality, uncompressed, signal fed to a very high quality tuner will come very close to replicating the sound of the CDP or turntable used in the studio. If you have the same CDP or turntable at home your's should sound better.
FM is also bandwidth limited, I think, so it won't give you the full frequency range you can get from your other front-end components (although those with limited frequency response from their speakers may not care about this). And among Newbee's excellent points is the kicker, an UNCOMPRESSED signal--sadly, very few radio stations send this out. Very noticeable on large scale orchestral works, where the loud parts are usually mercilessly squashed in order to be broadcast over the airwaves. With pop stations, which routinely overmodulate anyway and most of the recordings have a compressed dynamic range to begin with, this is less noticeable. Despite all that, if you can get a live broadcast over a good tuner, it is frighteningly good.
Two very good replies, nothing to add except to wonder why the poster places so little thought for digital.
The Stereo FM signal is transmitted, not as Left and Right, but as Sum and Difference. The Sum signal is the Mono signal that can be received by an old FM set that is not stereo. The difference signal is carried above a 19KHz marker tone that activates the stereo capabilities of the receiver (and lights up that little indicator that says "STEREO"). The difference signal goes 20KHz to 40KHz, but is processed down to represent the usual audio range. Then the sum and the difference signals are mixed, so as to get Left and Right. Unfortunately, the signal to noise ratio of the difference signal is lousy unless the RF signal is very strong, and that corupts the Left and Right signal that we listen to.

You might recognize this system as the four channel LP that was tried about 30 years ago. The only good thing about that was that the phono pickup had to be good to 40KHz, and the resulting advances in phono pickup technology have benefited conventional stereo.
All of the above answers are very accurate. I have a very old Fisher AM/FM tuner that has been recently refurbished and I do enjoy listening to it. While I really do like the sound coming from it, I do know the limitations. Still, it is fun to listen to.

There are other sources of music that I do enjoy, especially when it is commercial-free. I often set my Dishnet Satallite on the CDs and the variety of music is quite pleasing, especially The Blues. Also, sometimes PBS will broadcast something worth listening to and I pull this in using my High Definition Receiver and I have an excellant DAC and the sound is really good.
I went to my brother's house recently and listened to his old Pioneer tube tuner from the 70s and I thought it sounded really good and last night, during my drive home, I listened to some fine jazz on one of the stations and I thought that it might be great to have a tuner to hear music that I might not otherwise buy or hear.

Also, thinking that radio stations might use vinyl, I wondered what the quality might be. I was thinking that it had to be above digital considering that there was no digital to analog coversion, but I never thought of bandwidth and all of the other things that you good folks have mentioned.

Still, I think I am going to find a tuner to use as an alternative to digital or vinyl.

BTW, Brianmgrarcom, I don't think I ever wrote that I had little thought for digital. It is widely thought that digital is inferior to analog, but you must differ. You seem to have been offended. Did you invent it?
Interesting reading on FM preprocessing:
Matchstik, I wasn't offended, why the attack? Both analog and digital have their trade offs.

A few years ago I too decided to get a tuner once again, for me it was a great purchase; I use my system far more and I enjoy using a tuner. As stated above, if you listen to a good uncompressed signal on a good tuner, one can be quite amazed at how good FM can sound; either way, I enjoy having a tuner.
Matchstik, Good decision, getting a tuner that is. You didn't ask for recommendations but since you noted the quality of sound from that Pioneer Tube unit its fair to point out that not all tuners are equal, not even close, and the best spec's do not always win the race. Many tuners have great spec's but the designers have ignored the out put stages and the sound can be thin and dry. Many of the best tuners are vintage analog ones which can be fairly inexpensive. Enjoy.......
The FM Tuner Info site may be of help, a very nice Web site.
Brianmgrarcom, I didn't mean to have my post sound like an attack. You sounded put-off by my comments that it almost seemed that digital was your child. I apologize if the comment was taken in a content other than what it was intended. However, I do appreciate your and everyone else's comments and suggestions.

As for the tuner, I have read the vintage tuners are often much better quality that new tuners. But, that is a risky deal because you never know how much hell a tuner has experienced.
Hi Matchstik, I certainly didn't intend my post to come off in that manner. I concur with others on vintage tuners. One thought is to purchase a vintage tuner at a price leaving you enough money to send it to someone to go through it and even modify it.
Kenwood, and even more so...Fisher made some really fantastic tuners. There are some people who refurbish these old tuners and they are a real treat to listen to and they make for quite the conversation piece.