McIntosh MR78 should be right in your budget.
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There is a Magnum Dynalab MD-90 listed here for $600. I have that tuner and it is outstanding. The list price for that model is $1400. Here ya go!
You should be able to pick up a really nice used tuner for $300-$500.
The fmtunerinfo web site has (subjective) rankings of what the best tuners are and information about typical sale prices.
While the tuner itself is important, even more important is getting a good signal to it. Use some of your budget on a good roof mounted antenna.
I have an Onkyo T9090 II that I enjoy every day and with a good signal it comes close to CD in terms of sound quality. I paid $200 for it.
Used is fine. The McIntosh MR 78 looks awesome but a nice one from Audio Classics is a bit more than I want to spend. The new Magnum Dynalab is about as much as the used MR78. I should do some research on roof top antennas also to see how much this is all going to cost.
I always end up going way over my original budget plan on this kind of stuff
FWIW, one of the finest vintage tuners made, was the Accuphase T100. If you can find one that has been gone thru, i.e. new caps, lights, possibly RCA, etc, and aligned, for under $1000 you can not do better. I had and used one for many years it was vastly better than tuners I had from Magnum, Carver, Yamaha, and even a stable mate, the Accuphase T101 (no slouch). I gave up on FM some years ago as I live in a very remote area - the are very few interesting stations here any longer.
BTW, some one has a T100 listed on US Audio Mart.
I bought it used about 8 years ago. I’ve owned many vintage tuners including Accuphase, Sansui, Luxman, Kenwood, etc., etc.
I paid about $600 for it. Save yourself some cash and buy a used one. There is a dealer selling a silver one here for $600. You should make an offer on it.
Those vintage tuners are a headache if you have a problem. Magnum Dynalab is still in business.
Here is the owners manual!
Vintage equipment CAN be a problem, but McIntosh tuners certainly aren't. Audio Classics are experts at repairing, restoring, and modifying them all. The designer of the MR74, 77, and 78 offers updates to those tuners (through Audio Classics), incorporating all he has learned in the years since he designed them. While the Magnum Dynalabs have good audio sound, their RF performance is only average, not anywhere near as good as the Macs. Look for Don Scott's evaluations of both lines (a Google search will lead you to them) for more info on them, and all other tuners.
Sansui TU717 and TU919 are about the best out there for reasonable money better then the Mag Dynalab lower tier entries by a good margin. find one recapped already, easy to find too. I wont get into a discussion here but a recapped 717-919 is a better sounding tuner then the 9900 IMO( recapped or not). I’m listening to a redone TU 717 now, I’m tuning in to KNKX out of Seattle I’m in Victoria BC Canada (over 80miles away as the crow fly’s) perfect signal sounding wonderful.
Google, Tuner information center shoot out. probably the biggest data base for vintage tuners. really they don’t make tuners like they used to. there is a reason High end vintage Sansui’s and Kenwood tuners get upwards of $3k
My last experience of seperates in tuners was a couple years ago with a McIntosh MR7082.
Maybe not up to the standards of say the 74,77, 78 et al but for the price you can buy them used is an excellent piece.
I was fortunate to have a few good local stations and only had to use an indoor antenna.
Thankfully I literally have no room or amp inputs left for a tuner any longer so I do not have to worry about one now.
If I remember correct I sold mine for just $400, looks like they fetch a little more now on eBay.
Lots of good advice has been given, personally I’ve had a McIntosh MR 71 for years. A very nice sounding tuner, especially after I had it brought back to factory specs by Audio Classics. The problem is I don’t use it any more. Why? All the radio stations I might listen to have horrible sound. Most stations now are heavily compressed and many are just broadcasting syndicated programming which has been sent digitally (do you think it’s CD quality? Nope. Probably not even MP3 quality). There used to be some really good sounding stations, there may still be some low power college stations or NPR stations (though not many are music oriented anymore). Last time I checked I was very disappointed, steaming sounded better. My advice would be to verify there are stations you want to listen to and will benefit from a good tuner. I’m also surprised no one has asked specifically about how far away the stations might be or if you are in an urban area, both present challenges to a tuner and may be more important than the sound quality. One other thing, you will probably need a good antenna. A lot of interference can be eliminated with a good directional antenna. Good luck!
I'm in the radio industry, so clear reception and reliable performance are on the top of our list.
The Sangean HDT-20 (around $200) is amazing! Great reception, un-colored sound and has digital outs, so you can plug it into whatever DAC you want or use the regular RCA outputs.
It's not a gorgeous piece, like I am sure the others here are mentioned, but this thing performs incredibly well.
Out of all the best fm tuners made, that also look good, and can be found for under a grand ... that is my pick. I have one in stock form, that is fantastic. Had it for years. Never been opened up, but one of these days, I'll do the FMTunerInfo mods on it to give me a little more of it's natural goodness.
Very rare on the used market but if you can find a TAG McLaren T32R grab it. The original MSRP was $2500.00. The circuit is based on the famous Audiolab 8000T but tweaked to the max and updated to DAB standards with numerous convenience features as well. After years of searching I found one several months ago and it’s the one component I’ll never part with.