HERE's THE BEST IMO......
The F-26 tuner, like the other components in the Series 20 line, received carefully design engineering to push the technological envelope on tuner design. In true audiophile fashion, it featured FM only. It was a higher performance, lower profile design compared to the F28 tuner. Pioneer employed newfeatures and circuitry having: Quartz-Locked Touch Sensor Tuning, an elaborate "Clean Pilot" system for cleaner high-frequency, and a Parallel Balanced Linear Detector( PBLD) for vastly improved signal-to-noise ratio and detection efficiency.
This tuner also featured automatic wide/narrow IF bandwidth slection. The F-26 was design with a large power supply and two 6000 microfarad power supply capacitors, a muting level control on the rear panel, adjustable stereo/mono signal switchover, adjustable muting control, and gold plated terminals.
The semiconductor count in the F-26 was mind-boggling. There were 11 Field Effect Transistors, 19 ICs, 68 transistors and 59 diodes. Its frequency response was 20 to 15kHz. Other specifications could be listed here, but suffice it to say the F-26 could easily hold its own with far more expensive and esoteric FM tuners then on the market. Examples in good condition are much sought-after by Pioneer collectors.
The F-26 had an M.S.R.P. of $1000.00.
The quartz-synthesized F-26, which was Pioneer's most expensive tuner, is very rare and seldom seen on eBay ($770 in 3/02, $785 in 6/02). Our panelist David, on his Ricochets page, calls it one of the three best tuners ever.
David's top three tuners: the TU-X1, L-02T and F-26
I am increasingly of the belief that the Sansui TU-X1, Kenwood L-02T and Pioneer Series 20 F-26 are really in a class by themselves. I hear much bigger differences between stations overall than between these tuners! However, none of these tuners sound identical and each has different merits and weaknesses. In my system, with my FM market, I rank the TU-X1 #1, the F-26 #2 and the L-02T #3 (on a sonic basis). Each can make a claim under various listening/RF market conditions as the best production tuner made. There may be others, but none that I have seen or heard yet. All three embarrass all of the more recent digital tuners that I have compared to them. There is a gap between these three and the next best tuner that I have heard and measured.
I noticed that I had to reposition my speakers to get the best out of each tuner. For example, the TU-X1 has so much stage width (separation) that placing speakers too far apart yields a hole in the middle and diffuse sound (as Jim notes in his review). This effect can also be a problem when trying to optimize a system for CD versus LP. The TU-X1 has better frequency extremes (both measurable and audible) but will not show those advantages if the speakers are bandwidth limited, placed so that they have ragged frequency response, or in a system optimized for LP instead of CD. The L-02T appears to favor smaller speakers, because many smaller designs don't have the extreme bass extension and to a lesser degree extreme treble smoothness of larger (read this as 3 - 5 way, not physical size) speakers. Placement of the speakers can be further apart with the L-02T. The bandwidth compression scheme of the L-02T's IF appears to hide or at least diminish some of the low-quality nasties so prevalent in broadcast radio these days, but also makes it prone to certain types of external interference. The F-26 is not as sensitive as either of the other two tuners, but possesses an ease and naturalness in the mid-treble (especially on an excellent classical station) that is not always present in the TU-X1 & L-02T. Overall, I would place the F-26 a little behind the TU-X1 and L-02T under most (but not all) listening situations. Note that the F-26 stages a comeback if you have a station that requires the narrow IF for decent reception due to a crowded dial, multipath, etc.