FM tuners - Are they OBSOLETE ?

As much as I a have liked tuners in the past - and probably kidded myself that older ''vintage'' tuners sound better (after owning quite a few), I really don't see much use for them except maybe a nostalgic bridge to days past, or bragging rights to pride of ownership with McIntosh gear or whatever.

With the newer technologies giving access to hundreds of stations around the globe, it just seems like THE proposition to discover new music.

I of course know that some high-end tuners sound very good - but let me tell you - a clean 128 digital feed into a DAC (from a digital transport like the Wadia or Cambridge Audio's new ID-100), is pretty impressive...

Sort of make kilo-buck tuners seem futile and very expensive by comparison.

What do you think ?
How are you going to otherwise hear live performances from the Met or the Boston Symphony w/o a tuner?
I agree with your assessment about tuners. Unless it includes Sirius/XM capability, it's likely only going to
gather dust in a closet or on a shelf. Who wouldn't toy
with the idea of buying an MR78, Marantz 10B or any Sequerra tuner? But you have to ask yourself, what am
I going to listen to? FM is dead (sorry) except for classical music. But let's face it, those legendary tuners are really cool to look at.
The reason FM tuners are obsolete is that there's nothing worth listening to on FM radio anymore.
I will add to what Daverz said, even the ones with good programming are usually so compressed to be unlistenable.

Fortunately, we have Jazz.FM91 in Toronto, so I'll be keeping my tuner for a while. I understand there are some good classical stations for those so inclined, but rock is hopeless here.
I agree with Daverz. It is very hard to find anything worth listening on FM Radio. Where I am pretty much every radio station is a Pop/Mainstream one that plays the same set of songs all day and night. I swear Payola Playola must still be happening. To many times when I'm driving home and switching through radio stations I will hear the same pop song at each station but I'll just be at a different part of the song.

Also my favorite is when I do get to hear a song on FM radio that I can stand the bass will be noticeably higher than the treble. I remember my family telling me about this years ago but I didn't notice it at the time.

I'm happy with my $40 Auvio Tuner from RadioShack I got. I'm not spending another dime on a tuner.
I found my Tuners in thrift stores in different states. I purchased the Kenwood 8300 for 20.00. I bought an almost mint Mitsubishi DA DF20 for 15.00.This is my favorite looking tuner and at the price with some excellent classical music on FM.You can't beat the amount of music I listen to for so cheap. I would agree to pay top buck would not be worth it. But at thrift store prices and a little luck the return is very enjoyable.
I have not used a tuner in 30 years. Nothing worth listening to...
I found a highly regarded tuner at a Goodwill a few years ago... and sold it for a third of it's used value just because I could not stand to rob someone for such a useless device!
Anything on FM I can listen to is usually poor quality garbage top oldies 40' talk radio, or some other useless format. The few and far between programs that might be worth listening to, are not worth the bother.
I have over 6,000 Lp and 2,500 CD.. so Im not missing out on anything i want.
BESIDES the availability of internet radio, and sevices like Pandora also make over the air radio obsolete.
If FM disappeared tomorrow, I would not even know it.
(In my car i drive, not any of those things others do while aiming thier car semi-randomly.. I actually Drive.. so I am not listening to anything on some squawk box car system.)
What? They are just as relevant as they ever were with your choice of free classic rock, jazz, you remember jazz - the original American art form, classical, college station, PBS, live symphony or country, talk, etc. Open yourself to music beyond your library's borders, you may hear something you like. And yes, vintage tube tuners (and some solid state tuners-probably not the $15 ones) do get the harmonics right in exactly the same way most of us prefer tube amps/pre's. Live weekday evening symphonies from the Lincoln Center with a McIntosh or Scott tuner is pretty close to being there! PBS is a breath of "fresh aire" (pardon me) with Sat. AM "Car Talk" sure to crack you up and creative, "Prairie Home Companion's" Guy Noir and Lefty' characters on Live radio! Come on, it's fun! It's free!
I recently added a used tuner back into my system and though I don't use it as much as I thought I would, I plan to keep it hooked up. So days it is noce to have on while doing dreaded house chores. But I do think their days are numbered with internet radio, panodra, rhapsody etc. Untill I can afford a Sonos or the like I am dialed in...
I guess it comes down to where you live in terms of what's available to listen to. But I seriously doubt the FM band itself is going to disappear anytime soon. It's free and belongs to the public just like AM. So they (the rich and powerful broadcasters) would have a hard time getting rid of it altogether -- just look how much money we (the people ;~) had to spend to keep over-the-air TV free and accessable to all us poooor folk!

What HAS died is pure analog FM. It's gone! No FM stations I'm aware of -- including classical -- use the telephone lines to link from the studio to the transmitter. It's wireless, and it's digital! So heave a big sigh over that one if you must -- but I still love the sound of my vintage McIntosh MR-65B. We have good classical here in Tucson from the U of A, and if I want to pull in Phoenix with all its Jazz and classical stations, I use my trusty Technics ST-9030. With its EIGHT GANG tuning condenser, it'll take me pretty much to the horizon!

Still, as someone pointed out above, it would be very hard today to justify the purchase of a great-sounding tube analog FM tuner based purely on value for dollar -- which is why no one is making them ;--) New high end solid state FM tuners on the other hand, will be around for a long time I think, because they'll all be satellite and broadband capable as well.
I find lots of stuff to listen on FM. I also love my Yamaha T1 from 1978. Until it quit working, i used it every day. I am taking it to be repaired this week. By the same thought process, vinyl is also obsolete (and cd for that matter).
I'm nostalgic about listening to WNEW-FM and the like back in the 70s on my AR receiver. Free stereo music and cool disc jockeys! What more could you want?
Ah, thinking of the night bird still gets me excited.
I listen to my college radio station and Bob Parlocha (NPR)all the time on my vintage Sansui tuner.

terrific sound and great music
My brother in law used to rib me about having an XM radio. He's a radio station D.J., among other duties. I got rid of XM since I only listened to a few stations. Bought an old Kenwood tuner, used it for a bit, and it now sits on a shelf in the basement, unused. Can't find a station that fits my wants in this area. I don't use the computer for any music playback. Don't want to start down a new path, new debt. Never downloaded one song. Happy with vinyl and cd's.
I bought one and never used it. NT
Here in Eugene, OR, we're blessed with 4! public radio stations, all of which use minimal or no compression, so it's definitely worth having an FM tuner here. Rock, jazz, blues, classical, old country, swing, just about every genre is represented and two of the stations are training grounds for student DJs.

While I'm certain there are places with no listenable FM stations, I've been able to find great stuff everywhere I've lived, even if sometimes it took a really great antenna to get it. :-)

I listen to Internet radio too, and like it very much, but it's a different listening experience. Other than Pandora, I've yet to find a station where the loop isn't short enough to notice that they're repeating songs periodically. It's great for concentrated listening in one genre though. Sometimes I just want an hour of 70's funk or 80's synth.

I say the more sources the better. FM, vinyl, CDs, streaming, downloaded hi-rez, it's all good. Just have to make sure I always have a preamp with at least 4 inputs!

I'm plugged in to Sirius/Xm through Dish Network to my big rig preamp. Listen to the blues channel plus other formats. Surprising audio quality perhaps a touch less than the best tuner [Marantz 10B?] but no commercials or other interruptions. Who needs a tuner?
I have a McIntosh MR85 on the rack but not plugged in.

Also have a Sony HD Radio that I recently upgraded again ---- not plugged in.

I'm actually getting a lot of pleasure from my Squeezebox Touch Internet Radio Channels. Sound quality is pretty decent running through my Playback Designs MPS-5.
Absolutely! I bought a good tuner, and they took the only good FM station off, or changed it to "crappy" music; I forgot which, but my tuner is gathering dust.
Rgs92, FM in Metro NY area is great! We all had a crush on Alison Steele:) While recently putting my system together, my only source was FM for a few months. (Magnum Dynalab 106T, Signal Sleuth, ST2). Now with internet radio, my local public stations are receiving more $upport during their fund drives, which may actually help keep broadcasting alive. I hope so.
I love my squeezebox run into my Bel Canto DAC3. I get the world at my finger tips, and my local NPR music channel sounds great streamed at a pretty high res rate. I agree FM is dead for the most part, and isn't it true also that the analog FM signal will soon go the way of the analog TV signal--as in gone, and we'll need a digital converter?
I use my Magnum Dynalab FT 101A tuner more than my turntable or cd player. I am lucky to have 2 excellent in the Boston/Providence area and I listen to them all the time. I have heard a lot of great "new to me" music I wouldn't know about otherwise. My tuner was one of the best investments I have made in my audio system.

I think it depends on whether or not you have local FM stations you like. It's hard to imagine there isn't at least one or two, and IMHO that's enough to warrant further consideration. Now it comes down to whether or not those preferred stations sound better via FM or internet. Without actually trying, it's really hard to know. Good used FM tuners are available for less cost than most here spend on interconnects. For about $100 not including interconnects or antenna (a whole nother important consideration, which can vary from place to place considerably) one can buy a decent used tuner. I have two stations in my locale that I listen to so often, that it makes my tuner my most often used source.
I,m with Bob. My Magnum Dynalab MD 108 is used everyday. I also listen to FM exclusively in the car. Found a lot of "new to me" music to as well as programs dedicated to playing the history of bands and played on vynil. Randy Bachman had a show on CBC 1 where he played his guitar explaining differant styles in between playing the bands music and the sound quality was wonderfull. Psychedelic Sundays is great for a lazy sunday when its raining or snowy out or while making the housework less of a drag.
Rgs92, FM in Metro NY area is great! We all had a crush on Alison Steele:)

No kidding!

I'm nostalgic about listening to WNEW-FM and the like back in the 70s

WNEW was the station all the "heads" listened to at my first job washing dishes in a neighborhood Italian restaurant at 14 years old! I remember the first night hearing Tull, Benefit and the Dead, Uncle John! Went out and bought those albums the next day! My first exposure to real rock n' roll.

What about WPLJ and WLIR? Great stations in their own right also. Out on the island we had WBAB which back in those days was great!

your pointing out of the vast amount of material available is right on! I listen a lot to the local college stations. Don't know about compression and all but they sound vastly superior to the larger commercial stations, especially the classic rock ones.

I've always loved FM and would love to see a revamping of this alternative. It would be great if it somehow recaptured the magic of it's heyday.


Depends on what local FM stations are available and also if they broadcast over the internet as an option and what the sound quality is there. Good internet radio sound quality these days is generally quite affordable and capable of trumping what I have heard on FM in terms of sound quality over the years in most regards, especially background noise and overall distortion.

FM tuners in the car still rule.
I have a small collection of tuners. I'm fortunate to have several local stations that makes owning them worthwhile but I also future proofed myself should FM ever go south.

I have an FM transmitter in house. Whatever I hook up to it will be broadcast throughout the house to any of my tuners. Right now I have a Polk XM/Sirius tuner feeding it and listening to the Jazz station on a vintage Marantz tuner.

I also have a "vintage" room where I use either a Marantz 7c/8b/10b combo or a vintage receiver (talk about extremes) to drive a pair of Altec/JBL speakers. I enjoy the jazz there but sometimes I change the station to "Classic Vinyl" or "The 60's" and go full nostalgia.

Other options: I can hook up a CD player or changer and be my own DJ. My wife (and now me) enjoy Praire Home Companion which we take off the Internet and "broadcast" it to either a table radio or the big system (talk about extremes again).

So "obsolete?", not for me. It's a lot of fun which is what I think a hobby should be.

BTW, FM Transmitters vary in quality. I started with the C Crane one which is ok (around $70), but with my investment in tuners, I soon got a Ramsey (around $300) which was a big improvement.
I sincerely feel that many are just not very informed !

The proposition that the FM tuner is good for ''exploring'' new music makes me smile. The FM band has strong geographical limitations of course. It's no shortwave radio in reach (and if it was it would sound much worse of course. With FM, you are bound to regional and ''nationwide network'' regional stations.

To Ack who asks how else he can listen to live broadcasts without a tuner. Just TUNE IN to your live station via the TuneIn app ! MOST main stations are available worldwide, INCLUDING local stations. Just hit the local button on the TuneIn interface and find your station - LIVE.

For classical stations - a digital feed is a blessing - there are so many quiet passages in classical music that, with an FM tuner, unlike you have a GREAT antenna, hearing a frying pan in the background takes away from the experience anyway.

And, with digital, if you like what you hear, press ''record'' and presto, you can go back anytime - try this with an FM tuner.

About Sirius and XM - I used to be a subsriber, using a portable device for both car and home reception. Useless now with (again)the TuneIn app at a ridiculous one-time .99 cents fee versus that Sirius monthly bill and contract. Plus with TuneIn, you get the album artwork for hundreds of stations plus the Sky network of specialized music FREE. Piano Solo stations, Bossa Nova, Jazz light, Jazz-Hell, hell, whatever you want ! Beatle stations, Sprinsteen Stations, Nasa Apollo 11 communication station, endless really. Every shade of the BBC's 4 or 5 different stations, radio Antartica (really). If you are the exploring kind, no contest here - the FM tuner is not in the race.

Sound? Again, the digital feed from TunIn through my DAC is great. It provides a very, very silent background, the kind I could never experience with even expensive tuners I used to own, and fully comparable to CD. I have done so much A/B comparisons it's not even funny.

I think FM tuners have really 2 purposes, and that's ok with me.

1. It is still great in the car for local stations, although Sirius/ XM beats it with specialized channels and news overall - but for local stations no good.

2. an FM tuner is still a nice thing to own in a sound system, but let's call it anything from nostalgia to eye candy (for the expensive ones). I for one enjoy the looks and light show of a vintage Marantz, Pioneer or Yamaha tuner. Anything more expensive though, from Magnum Dynalab on up is just not with the money. It looks like a lab instrument and sounds barely better than a good'ol '70s tuner that has been properly aligned - and that's with a half-decent FM station - but the backgound noise even on the better ones cannot approach a digital feed.

But for both ''discovering'' music, or sound quality, no way.

Just my subjective opinion of course!
Soniqmike, So, to clarify.... tuners, no good? IYO?
Some interned broadcasts are rather low rez. Some FM broadcasts are low rent. It really depends on where you listen to what through what. The internet provides way more channels to choose from. FM may or may not provide better sound.
Think of Web-based radio stations like your digital camera after you have taken 1,000 photos.

Many of them are just not worth keeping so you delete them.

But, there are many that are crystal-clear and are real gems, so you save them for good and enjoy them.

Internet radio is like this. So many, some bad, but by the sheer number of stations out there, you are bound to hit probably 100 times more good ones than any standard FM market. And tons without the blabber and the ''Toyota Red Dot specials'' ads. Think about it.

Web radio done right is open, worldwide territory, with both music content and sound quality. This weekend they have a 2-day music special in honor of Bob Dyland's 70th birthday. It promises to be great. And it's on BBC 4 Scotland, a finger tap away in 128kps-through-Dac stream, and the sound is fabulous. Of course this is only science-fiction with even any mega-dollar analog tuners.
Soniqmike got it right.

The only problem with internet radio for most is the possibility of giving up looking for the gems because of too many choices and limited time, much like what many experience with 100s of cable or satellite TV channels today

"This weekend they have a 2-day music special in honor of Bob Dyland's 70th birthday."

Wow, gotta find that!

SOme of my favorite themed programs on teh internet I have heard have been on WWOZ New Orleans, which should be a cornerstone of any American music fan's channel set.

My Logitech Squeeze Radio has buttons for 6 presets. Mine include the local am news channel, RAdio Paradise, my custom pandora channel, WWOZ, and a couple of prgressive rock focused internet stations, including Stellar Attraction.
go buy yourself a brand new sony xdr-f1hd for under $100, and have some fun.
Mapman, that's not the only problem with internet radio. Some stations "broadcast" in low rez. There is a chance that the sound quality could possibly be better via FM.
Unsound - completely missing the point again - who cares that some stations broadcast in low rez - there are a zillion out there that broadcast with great quality - and with those zillions of great stations compared with the relatively F-E-W fm stations (some of those have music content that you wouldn't listen to anyway) that come in clear, again, it's no contest and a no-brainer to go digital with the right gear, of course. On top of this if I remember doesn't FM have limited frequencies up to around 13,000 or 15,000hz? I am less sure about this latest thing, but one thing I'm convinced of after using both ''technologies'', there's no going back to FM tuner sound for me. But that doesn't mean FM tuners have no attributes - some like their sound and the way the gear looks - matter of personal taste of course. But for sheer performance and convenience - and the ''exploring the world'' factor, Web wins.
A contemporary philosopher (?) said "You can't always get what you want.. and if you try sometime you find you get what you need". Instant gratification is not something to be automatically relied upon, even given our high-tech age. When I move "soon" (fingers crossed), I plan on installing a roof-mount, rotating Channel Master antenna to further enjoy NYC's finest FM broadcasts. :)
I had a Sony hdr-f1hd tuner in addition to my Magnum Dynalab FT101a. Guess what, I kept the Magnum Dynalab and sold the Sony. How anyone can say that the Sony sounds great must have hearing deficiencies. Most of the stations I want to listen to in the Boston/Providence area in hd were low rez content, and the stations did not come in that strong. They sounded like cheap mp-3 player files compared to the wonderful analog sound I got from the Magnum Dynalab.

Why do you think there is such a high turnover rate for the Sony tuner here on the Gon?
It only receives in japanese?? Just guessing...
Not obsolete in the sense of no longer having any real value or merit, as is the case say with typewriters since the advent of the home computer, but certainly of limited interest to most compared to the latest and greatest gadgets available that leverage the internet for music content along with all the rest.

Well said.


One last time, here's my ''recipe'':

TuneIn app (.99cents) + Ipod Touch + Cambridge Audio ID-100 digital transport + DacMagic + integrated amp (or amp/pramp combo).

I can certainly understand where the Sony unit wouldn't come close, and it is actually unfair to compare it.

And as far as going to the trouble of installing an antenna on the roof to listen to 1 or 2 favorite stations, I'm ok with that if it brings you enjoyment - that's the whole point right?
Soniqmike, before you go spouting off, perhaps you should read all the contents of all of the posts. I agree with most of your points, except sheer performance. No doubt the internet audio can be better, but not always, in fact sometimes it's worse. There is very little musical information above 15 KHZ, and most people are unable to hear it anyway. For many here, even Hi Rez digital is unsatisfactory, forget Low Rez. And by Low Rez, we're talking about less than CD quality. Many find just a couple of stations worth their while, but enjoy them immensely. Often times these stations offer live feeds of quality concerts and operas. For them, it's possible that the performance of some FM broadcasts might provide superior sound. There is no doubt that digital broadcasts offer much greater(!) variety and often times superior sound quality, but not always. An FM tuner is an inexpensive item for most here, and one doesn't necessarily have to choose one over the other. I'm simply suggesting that for some, an FM tuner might be a sound investment. At the very least it's worth trying. That doesn't mean that I don't endorse the use of internet radio, I do.
Unsound you say ''I'm simply suggesting that for some, an FM tuner might be a sound investment'', I am totally in agreement with this! For some, it's OK as I said numerous times before, it is all very subjective. As far as saying that ''There is very little musical information above 15 KHZ'' right again, but why are speaker manufacturers using diamond and beryllium tweeters that go way up there if we cannot hear it? BECAUSE SOMEHOW it makes the whole come together as a whole (does that make sense?) even if we cannot isolate those higher frequencies. And of course because IT SELLS!. Sorry, but I'd rather have those ''hard-to-hear'' higher frequencies on my side rather than be deprived of them.

What can I say, I use to own a very nice (and expensive) Accuphase T-109 tuner along with a rooftop arial. As good as it was (and it WAS good), I could never get a black and silent background as with a digital feed. For me, that's key, but maybe not for you and it's ok.

Finally, for me at least, Performance equals Enjoyment, and I was no longer enjoying the sonic limitations of my Fm tuner compared to a quality digital feed through a DAC.

But, for some, I can fully understand how an FM tuner may make ''a good investment''. But take out the nostalgia factor and looks (of some nice FM tuner gems out there) and it is still a quite limiting proposition.
Truman, just a comment. You say ''What? They are just as relevant as they ever were with your choice of free classic rock, jazz, you remember jazz....Open yourself to music beyond your library's borders''

Hum, how ironic, that's basically THE POINT concerning FM tuners, those borders you are referring to are rather small !

There are basically NO borders with web-based stations...
Apparently soniqmike is simply a bigger opinion than any one else is. You know what they say about opinions........
Has2be: Cheap shot you are taking here. I have posted countless comments where I always mention that this whole audio circus is ALWAYS subjective. I am JUST providing information to support my opinion, nothing else. Whatever reason you have to turn left or right is your own and I respect it. Why don't you be a good sport and keep on topic instead of shooting flames? And you are not obligated to participate if you don't want to! Got it this time?
No. I use a FM station update site to check for new local changes and additions every 2-3 months and print it. I listen to FM tuners nearly everyday to add musical variety and local news and entertainment info. A good HD FM station on a good roll is still very enjoyable both at home and on the road. Great reception is a must. I'm located on a flat eastern coastal marsh and use a six foot FM home antenna with shielded RJ-6 cable. It consistantly pulls stations in very clearly.
It was not a cheap shot soniqmike. In your original post your last sentence was "What do you think". Then after people post what they think you critisize peoples intelligence their equipment and accuse them of being not informed because their opinions and reasons differ from yours. You earned it.
I have had an FM tuner in my system for the last 43 years.
When I lived in Denver we had some very good radio stations, that gave me the oppotunity to listen to new music. The Boulder station was very good.
I now live in Anchorage Alaska and we have a decent Jazz and Clasical station.
My dogs, cats and plants like listening to Classical music (FM tuner)on my HT system, when I'm away from the house. Actually keeps them mellow.
Most of the time I use the FM tuner to warm up my system before I do serious listening.
The jazz and classical stations do play new artists/recordings, so that is a plus for me. I also listen to it if I'm doing work, sometimes I like to do work in my main dedicated listening room.
For absolute listening enjoyment I always listen to my Lp's (5000+) or cd's.
Joe Nies
If you think so they are.