Even tho there are some tuners that will d x better, for classical music, assuming you have a relitively strong signal, I would opt for one of the Magnum Dynalab tuners. You could get a used 101 and if you could stretch your budget a little, an Etude......
I like the Fanfare tuner for classical listening. Quite good.
I have an MD FT101A and have had good luck using it for classical music. Be sure to get a good antenna. The MD Signal Sleuth can improve reception for weak stations, though it requires some effort.
When I first got it, the FT101A sounded better than my older model CD player for strong classical music stations. Needless to say, this motivated another round of upgrades. . . . But I kept the FT101A.
Flybass, get the Etude for sure! I started with the Magnum Dynalab FT11, then the FT101A and not I have the 2001 FT101A Etude. If you can, buy the a 2001 Etude, as all the 2001's have the new circuit board that is the same as the new MD100 model. You can sometimes find the Etude here on Audiogon for between 700-800 if you're lucky. They go very quickly, so act fast. I found the difference in sound quality between the 101A and the Etude to be HUGE and worth the extra expense. Also, make sure your favorite classical station has an uncompressed signal or this great Tuner will not be able to perform to the fullest of its abilities.
If you don't care about features, you can pick up a great 70s vintage analog tuner for a lot less than $600, that will be much better than most tuners made today. Review the best at: http://www.geocities.com/tunerinfo/
I just stopped by my Dad's house today to pick up one of my tuners. He has a Magnum 101 and he was checking out one of my Musical Fidelity E-50's. His final words regarding the E-50 were something to the effect of "that is a very fine sounding tuner". Quite honestly, i fell in love with it while listening to Classical music on WFMT ( 98.7 ) in Chicago. To top it off, they can be had for typically well under $300 when they do show up used. Only problem is, they typically don't show up used : )
The other thing is that they are not real sensitive ( like most English tuners ), so you'll need at least a decent antenna if you go that route. If you are a good ways out from the transmitter, the Magnum's seem to be a good cross between "good ears" ( hearing way out into the distance ) and "good sound".
Some of the older analogue tuners might work very well, but take into consideration that they may need to have capacitors replace and a good alignment after that. Try taking a look at this site here as it might be of interest to you or anyone else looking for a tuner. One other thing: the antenna system that you decide to go with can make or break FM performance. Don't think that you can buy a "good" tuner and then feed it signal derived from a coat-hanger and a piece of zip cord and end up with optimum performance. It just ain't gonna happen. Sean
I also will recommend that you spend time on the Tuner site listed by others. I feel a vintage tuner can easily get you your best bang for the buck.
In the 70's and early 80's tuners were very popular so manufacturers were producing some of the best tuners made and they are readily available in many locations.
I have used the Fanfare listed above and it is an enjoyable tuner, but finding them used can be hard and very unlikely in your price range, many others are suggesting Magnum Dynalab tuners and these will likely be above your budget as well, except for the 101 mentioned, and this does indeed seem to have a good reputation.
I sold the Fanfare and purchased a Yamaha T-2 for $368 on eBay. This tuner was intruduced in 1978 for $750 and has no problem competing with the expensive tuners today. I list the Yamaha because I have one, there are many others. I also have a Sansui TU-717 from the same era and it performs very well also.
If remote control and/or presets are a must, you will be forced into a newer tuner. If this is the case, go to the Tuner site and read through it for the contact to Don Scott and tell him what you are wanting and I am sure he will steer you in the right direction.
I owned a fanfare for awhile...very nice. If you don't have to spend your full amount (like that's something audiophiles think) the tubed dyna fm-3 from 40 years ago is still one of the best around I've heard and can be snagged under $100... or even under $50 on ebay half the time. http://www.avahifi.com/FM3.htm Other good ones are the Tandberg 3001a, I've seen those in your $ range. The McIntosh MR-80, MR-78, MR-77, MR-71 all good...78 best. Marantz 10B good, but $$$$$. A Linn Kudos might be had for $800 used (they don't make'em anymore anyhow) and those are very good I've heard.
Just get a Sansui TU 717 - under $200 it's a no brainer- But, chances are you'll never end up listening to the radio (too many commercials) to appreciate wasting money on a "great" tuner.
Try a used Magnum Dynalab FT-101. It has exceptional sensitivity, selectivity, FM quieting, and very good sound quality. I know it does these things for a fact, because I happen to own one. And even though I don't listen to classical (I listen R&B, Jazz and Rap & Hip-Hop), it does wonders to my favorite music as well. It will certainly sound great with classical (it's exceptional FM quieting will do the trick for you). Try one. Believe me, you won't be sorry. Oh, one other thing I didn't mention. They seem to hold their value well too. The original FT-101 was priced at $495.00 back in 1985. They are going for at least $500.00 when you purchase them used on "E-Bay" (I paid $590.00 for mine back in 2000, and have no regrets either). A very good tuner in my opinion. I tell you what. If I should begin to upgrade my system in the next few years, besides maybe my Nakamichi BX-300 Cassette Deck, I will also be keeping my Magnum Dynalab FT-101. Now, if that's not a high enough endorsement, then I don't know what is.
Thanks to all who replied!!
Keep us posted to what you end up with and your thoughts.
Cult Tuner-Yamaha T2-Poor Mans Dynalab-looks great works like a charm.If you want high selectivity (even at expense of sensitivity) look for an NAD or Nakamichi ST7.Also get a Fanfare Antenna.For $89 you get a whip Antenna that mounts on side of house that is amazing (Apartment dwellers either use splitter into your TV line or a Terk).
if you don't need sensitivity but you like musicality find a used perreaux tu3. with a strong signal this can sound as good as other source analog. its not dry or clinical which is how i find so many tuners.
Rx - Get an Accuphase T100 or T 101 and have Don Scott align/modify it. Also, if you can, get a good roof antenna such as an APS with a Channelmaster rotator. Make sure the cable runs directly to the tuner without amps or distribution boxes. I use this for BSO broadcasts - I'm 75 miles away from tower. If you need presets, late Mcs or jap tuners are ok.