My cable TV company, Comcast, offers several dozen music-only channels. The selections and playlists are good but the quality is MP3 at best. It is highly compressed and the HF is rolled off. The audio quality on these stations is about as good as the audio on most of the basic TV stations, and not even close to the audio quality of the digital premium channels. Go figure. For this reason, I am seriously considering the addition of a tuner to my system.
One note, I wouldn't say the MD's would be the "logical choice." The MD's are nice tuners indeed, but if you don't mind using a vintage tuner, you will get your best bang for your buck with one of those.
Go to www.fmtunerinfo.com for some research on vintage tuners.
This is not to say that a MD would not bring you great enjoyment. But you may be able get enjoyable "radio" for less than you think.
Check into the Audiolab 8000t. These are really nice high end tuners. And one of the few top end units with both AM&FM. Cd quality sound on both bands ....................
After learning what I have, I wouldn't spend the money on an MD in my area (pittsburgh). Very few radio stations use high enought quality equipment to justify a $1000 tuner. Everyone here thought that WQED was superb. Well, I got the "grand tour" and found out that the source was a pair of sony 200 disc changers-not even ES models just basic 1 bit units. Virtually no albums either. Their goal was to download 10-20,000 discs to hard drive for further ease of use. Wow was I bummed out to find that they were going to kill quality even more by compressing single bit data.
On a better note, I love the quality of my Dishnetwork audio for background music. It still isn't audiophile quality. You may get better selection from satellite radio but still won't have even cd quality sound.
I would recommend getting a vintage tube tuner (with mulitplexer built in) and letting the tubes "warm-up" the radio sound very nicely. You should spend about $100 to $150 for a nice Pilot, Fisher, Heath or similar and spend the rest on either satellite or dish.
I have Direct TV with all the music stations. Not inspiring. Although I have a very nice audio system, I did not want to spend big bucks for a new tuner, since it would not be my primary source. I purchased a Fisher FM-100B tuner a couple of years ago for $100 and have been extremely happy with its pleasing, musical sound. Although I have not touched it, I believe a complete tube upgrade can be had for around $200. As far as I am concerned, this route cannot be beaten.
I believe a tuner would give you better sound, provided you have decnt stations to pick up.
I have an XM satellite radio adapter in my car, which has a very good audio system (Mercedes/Bose). Satellite radio has plusses and minuses. For the plusses, the big ones are (i) variety of programming, (ii) lack of interference (multipath, etc.) and (iii) commercial-free channels. On the other hand, anyone who claims that satellite radio is CD quality is smoking something. It's highly compressed low-bit data--perfectly pleasant to listen to for background--sort of like MP3-- but not for serious listening. For sure you should get a good tuner if you have quality stations in your area. For a small additional amount of money, you can now get XM satellite receivers for home use, too (there's a Sony and a Delphi, each of which can be used with home audio), so you can use that for the additional variety.
Depending on where you live there may still be good local stations -- typically college radio, NPR, and classical stations, possibly some jazz stations. FM tuners are still fun. I like the vintage tuners. Mine is a Tandberg 3011A that's been cleaned and modified. It sounds great! Don't count on "digital radio" being digitally perfect. The best FM tuners and equipment are analog.
I can just imagine the future of digital radio... Millions of songs loaded on hard drives and compressed. They don't even need a DJ, just program a day's worth of programming and let it run. Ugh! I read recently that Britian's digital networks are faltering because they aren't any better that FM, sometimes even worse.
What I think is cool though is being able to stream straight from the Internet to my stereo. I haven't done it yet, but there are wireless transmitors that will take the stream and send it from your computer to your stereo and either through an input or through an unused FM station. I don't expect much audio quality wise, but the variety is killer. I subscribe to archives of the Hearts of Space programs.
The one thing I didn't catch in reading the posts that you might want to consider is getting a big yagi style antennae (if you got the space) and depending on your location you should get lots of radio stations (like all major nearby cities and college stuff in between). Depending on location and weather some people will get many dozens of stations--hence lots of variety. I owned a fanfare ft-1a for awhile. I chose it over the magnums.
I recently rode for six hours in a friends car that has satellite radio and it has some very nice jazz channels which I prefer to my Direct TV musice channel selection and has a better selection overall however, there is something that strikes me about that kind of a format where regular radio beats it and that is, everything is so divided up into catagories that there is no 'middle' station. Where are the true alternative channels?
I would sorely miss the college radio station in my area if all I had was some business's idea of what I should be listening to.
The satellite radio has a lot going for it but is no replacment for 'regular' radio yet.
Thanks for your responses. I live in the NYC area so it sounds like a tuner still makes sense. I'll definitely check out the vintage models as well. What about the antennae? I live in a ranch so, can it go in the attic or does it have to go on the roof? What do you look for in an antennae?
Tony, I have not experimented much at all with antennas but from all I have read, I have know doubt it makes a difference; it boils down to how much do you want wrapped up into an antenna.
I purchased a Fanfare FT-1A tuner a couple years ago and also purchased the Fanfare FM-2G dipole antenna; this antenna may not be the best but it serves my purpose. This antenna costs about $100, if I were to do it again, I would consider the APS-9B for $120, that is, if I could use it fine w/o a rotor.
The advantage to the dipole is it is simple, once it is mounted, you are done. The advantage of the more elaborate antennas is that they can be positioned in a specific direction to lock on to stations. Unless you listen to just one station, you would most likely want a rotor to be able to reposition the antenna.
To follow up on my post on vintage tuners, aside from the aforementioned Fanfare FT-1A tuner, which I enjoyed, I have used the Sansui TU-717 and the Yamaha T-2, my current tuner. The Sansui and the Yamaha are from the late 70's.
I have not spent much time comparing these tuners to one another, but I will say I prefer the Yamaha to the Fanfare (except for the Fanfares remote and presets). There are many very good vintage tuners available at affordable prices.
Like cassette decks, some of the best tuners were made in the past when there was a bigger emphasis on them.
All that said, I wouldn't want to deter anyone from purchasing a new unit if they had their heart set on one, there are some nice tuners available.
Brian... thanks for two great links. I now have a much better understanding of tuners. I look forward to adding a nice vintage model soon.
Update us Tony, have you settled on anything?
Brian, sorry for not checking in sooner. I finally settled on an old Kenwood 8300. It was a tossup between a nicely modified 7500 and the 8300, which I thought had a little better bass and the extra multipath/deviation meter. Thanks for the tip, I never would have thought of a vintage tuner otherwise. Now I need to decide on the antenna.
Tony, congrats on your purchase! (Nice tuner.) Did you compare it at all to other tuners? Are you happy with your decision?
Yes Brian.... I compared it to a few tuners including a modified Kenwood 7500 and a new Magnum Dynalab. I must say you were right about going with the vintage models. I found them to have better reception and a nicer, less "mechanical" sound. I am very happy with my decision and thanks again for the advise.
Hi Tony, just passing along the favor as it was passed to me; do you remember what model MD tuner you compared it to?
Brian, it was the 101a. I thought both Kenwoods sounded better, but I heard the MD on a different, system. The 8300 had the best bass and better overall sound to my ear.