Hope that you live in a metropolis , where there are radio stations WORTH listening to (programming & fidelity).
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If you like simple & easy, ignore MD. For that matter, I wouldn't spend much on a tuner unless you live near a high quality radio station that is worth the $$$ or if you live in the middle of nowhere and need a great tuner to pull in weak stations.
Why? Well, a couple of years ago I got a full tour of WQED in pittsburgh. This is our high quality classical station. I couln't believe the gear! two 300 disc sony single bit changers as the main source. They were upgrading to hard drives while I was there. All of their music was being compressed onto massive hard drives for ease of use and storage. This took them down to the same quality at satellite radio. Since then, most of the other stations in pittsburgh have gone to hard drives also.
What a bummer? I sold my MD101 and bought a cheaper denon with a remote. I gave up on high quality radio.......
Go vintage. I had an older Sansui Tu-717, Kenwoods are good too. The 717 was a significant upgrade over a Magnum Dynalab FT-101A Etude, and it only cost a couple hundred bucks. It's not often that you can save big $$$ and get better sound. The golden age for tuners was in the late 70's and early 80's. They simply don't build them like that anymore, for under $2K anyway.
I said had, because I sold it after I realized I went 2 years without using it. Too many sources, LP's, CD's, SACD's, DVD's. I needed to clear rack space for sources, so the old tuner and analog cassette deck are gone.
John is offering good advice. Analog tuners are the way to go.
For under $200, you can get nice Sansui or Luxman tuners that will crush most $800-900 new digital tuners in sound quality. Believe it or not, but Ebay is the place to get the best deals. So many tuners, not much demand, especially for 70s analog, the best decade by far.
Follow Ltkije's link http://www.fmtunerinfo.com. It's the best info out there. I spent months looking and ended up w/a $60 Luxman that outperforms my old digital Tandberg at 1/10 the price! Cheers, Spencer
I have heard the Fanfare, Yamaha T2, a modified Rotel 940 and a Kenwood 917 tuner at home in my system and the Kenwood was by far the best of the bunch. I was skepital about a vintage tuner (the Kenwood was made around 1980) but it had stellar sound which is really nuanced and beautiful tone and is my recommendation.
I spent many years without a tuner and built an all McIntosh Magnepan system for records. Well I got the bug for FM again, both for N.P.R. news & talk as well as music. I shopped tuners on A-Gon and eBay for a few weeks. I bought a Pioneer Elite in perfect condition for $55.00. What a steal. Then I put up "THE BEST POSSIBLE EXTERNAL ANTENNA" I could find. I get perfect FM, and I am very happy.
You can buy the greatest tuner made, but without a quality antenna, you will be cheating yourself on sound quality. I bought the least expensive fanfare and put it on my patio cover. Get a good used, high quality tuner at a bargain price, and put the rest of your money into a great antenna and that should do the trick for relatively few bucks.
Hope this helps
I am quite surprised by some of the responses. At any rate, I will give my vote for buying a good vintage tuner. Like you Nrchy, I hadn't used a tuner in my system in years, then in 2000 I decided to purchase one again, one of the best moves I have made in audio, I use my system far more than I had in the past.
As has been suggested above, spend some time on the FM Tuner Web site, but don't get to caught up in the 'reviews'.
I have music channels on my Dish, the quality is no where near that of my tuner. You have already proved to yourself that you enjoy using a tuner in your system so I'd continue the pursuit.
As for suggestions, I second the Sansui TU-717, it is a very good tuner and plentiful. I am very pleased with my Kenwood KT-917, but they are hard to find and more expensive.
Some of the best inexpensive tuners are early 80's Sony's. Just compared a Sony ST-J75 to my Kenwood KT-7300 and they were both excellent sounding, but the Kenwood was slightly better IMO. A nice feature of the Sony is the pre-sets. In my daughter's system she has a Sony ST-J44 and it's a great tuner as well considering I spent $20, inc. s/h. In my main system I have an 80's Sherwood TD-120 (paid under $30)which when I compared to the Sony J-75 sounded better! Didn't pull in weak stations quite as well, but within the context of the associated equipment sounded superior. Comparing these inexpensive older used tuners to modern inexpensive tuners, i.e, Marantz/Nad/Yamaha, and it's no contest. (I've owned the Creek T43 and the MD something in the past, but didn't have the opportunity to compare.) No need to spend a fortune on a tuner. Just make sure you have a good antenna as mentioned above. One thing you will sacrifice w/ an older tuner is convenience. The Sony's ST-J75/J44/J5 and the Sherwood are really good tuners for peanuts. The Kenwood does sound nicer, as I'm sure does many other vintage 60's/70's tuners, but will cost more $$.
Nate, search the forums here for some useful past threads on this topic. One outspoken expert warns everybody off MD, which he says is junk.
I just recently re-introduced FM to my system and it's musically one of the best things I've ever done. And a great outlet for gear flipping, if you are so inclined. Tons of stuff out there for very little money. And the older tuners are really sexy.
I am currently using a Yamaha CT 610 II am/fm tuner that I bought off EBAY for 40 bucks and it sounds darned good. I am moving that to my teenager (with his Dynaco SCA 80) and replacing it with a Yamaha T7 mostly because the T7 has a much lower profile and space is at a premium.
The guys suggesting tuners from the 70s are correct! If you want to spend some serious money on a tuner pick up a Sansui 9900 or a Kenwood KT600 (or KT7500 and have it modified) or a Luxman T110. The new tuners that cost 500 and up are a waste of money IMHO unless you simply have money to burn and want the convenience of just buying it at a store.
Your system says you won't be happy going budget. Like the poster above, I have a Kenwood KT-917. It's very nice but possibly overkill for my situation.
Where do you live and what are your listening options? In my experience, much of the best relayed sound comes out of small community radio stations because they lack the inclination or the budget to compromise the signal. With a decent antenna and a good 70s era Japanese tuner, you can actually approximate the quality you're used to from CDs.
I would second the above comments about Kenwood and Sansui and also advise that you consult www.tunerinfo.com. In my experience, they provide reliable, possibly definitive, data and opinions.
Like Steven Stone told me years ago, FM stands for Free Music.