Re: differences in tuners


I've owned an entry-level Marantz ST-46 tuner for 14-15 years. It still works fine, but I wonder just how much more performance can be had from a better tuner. I almost never listen to commercial radio any more but listen to the local public jazz and classical stations a fair amount. Is there a big difference in tuners? Thanks,

I would say yes if you are listening to locals as they can broadcast better fidelity than mainstream stations.
my Sansui TU919 analog tuner has a very big midrange sound with nuance and depth that my Rotel tuner did not have.

A very big step up so yes, there is a big difference IMO.
How good is your antenna?

Back when FM listening was as common as LP listening (Joe Cocker performing at Woodstock, if you must know), bettering your antenna often led to bigger dividends than bettering your tuner.

Yes, there are considerable differences among tuners, in sound quality, sensitivity, and selectivity. Also, I second the previous comment about the importance of the antenna.

You'll find a wealth of information, as well as specific comments on many older models, at

You also may find this recent thread and this older one to be of interest.

As you'll see in those threads, I am one of those who happens to be a fan of vintage tube tuners.

-- Al
Yes, if the stations you listen to give good quality sound. The tuners can vary more than a CD player, or turntable. They have their own sound characteristics that can give a wide sound stage, narrow soundstage, and an endless list that can make what you hear a lot more enjoyable. The way they handle the signal, and the number of stations you receive, also. That link Almarg provided(fmtunerinfo), has fairly good info.
Have to agree that when you step up the quality of the tuner itself the performance is a quantum leap. The better tuners sensitivity, channel seperation, ability to fine adjust signal, with different added bandwidth options and greater rejection of adjacent signals and far less drift add up to huge improvement in quality of sound production.

The added benefits of a good antenna will further add to the gap in improvement multiplying the above benefits again giving the better tuner that much more performance over the average units.

Luck does come into play with the antenna and reception in relation to ones location. Where I lived before I needed an antenna mounted outside on a mast and a Magnum signal sleuth. Where I am now in the same city , I actually get far better reception with just a Magnum ST-2 antenna mounted on the interior window trim and hidden behind the curtains with no signal sleuth needed.

I have an MD 108 tuner that gets more use (as all my tuners have in the past) than any other piece of equipment I own or have owned other than my turntable. However I do realise this is due to the abundance of good radio stations and programing I have access to over the air waves without going to a pay for use satelite scenario. Some think its crazy to of payed 3000 for a slightly used tuner or a thousand or more for a vintage tuner of high quality but I justify the fact I dont have to feed it money in the form of cd's, vynil or user fees. So over the long haul it's worth it to me. If you don't have access to a number of good stations and programing then I would agree with those that conscider it a waste due to the poor quality of reception and stations they can dial in.

In conscidering upgrading your tuner, although I spent consciderable money on my tuner I have had vintage tuners that perform quite well and there are many tuners that were made at lesser cost that perform far above their relative price points. Do some research and if your lucky enough to find one of those units you will be quite happy with the results and yes the antenna is important in showing you just how much the differance is between mediocre and quality tuners.
Check out the Sony XDR-F1HD tuner, am/fm and hd.
Back in the day when there were many stereo stores, the music you heard in the store came from a tuner. Although I have never been into tuners, I noticed it was almost always a Sansui tuner; they had a unique quality that I could never identify. Today, those old tuners are classics.
Tuners make a difference as do the quality of the antenna and their placement. I use to own a lot of highly regarded tuners but sold them off and went with a standalone wireless internet radio with high resolution streaming capability i.e. Squeezebox Touch. I can get all my local favorite stations and I now have access to stations and programs from all over the world.

It also depends on how you use your tuner, if you use it like your CD or Turntable for critical listening, and you have access to well broad casted local content, and then the tuner is still the King. If you use a tuner to expose yourself to new content and artist, background or casual listening, then the Squeezebox is an absolute no brainer. Internet streaming quality is getting better each day, and this technology will only get better. You cannot make this statement with over the air traditional radio.
There are two differing areas of performance that relate to tuners.

The first is RF performance, which refers to radio freqency performance. This encompasses sensitivity, selectivity, capture ratio, quieting and other areas that reflect the ability of the tuner to lock on to a station, under various reception conditions and provide a clean signal.

The other area is audio performance which encompasses the typical audiophile values relating to audio sound quality, independent of reception.

Because of this tuners have a wide range of performance. You will be shocked at a tuner upgrade. I would also make the point that a live radio feed is the only audio source that we have in our homes where the music is not subjected to any storage medium.
I agree on the classic tuner point, but the major drawback is their lack of HD. I don't think HD is all that it was promised, but if one lives in an area with decent HD reception, the difference is amazing. I also think that the sound quality of satellite radio is pretty good, and I have found that both beat classic FM stereo easily.

I have noticed that there are AM stations that broadcast in HD. I'm not sure what the point of that is or what its benefit(s) is/are. I listen to AM only rarely, but can't imagine why a broadcaster would bother.