Tuners that do it?


In my 30+ years as an audiophile I have owned a few tuners that had good specs and received good reviews in the audio press. Generally, I was never satisfied with any of them and found they never matched my turntable or other source components for audio quality. I concluded that high-quality sound was just not possible with a tuner as the source.

But recently I bought a Harman Kardon TU910 tuner on ebay and its excellent performance in my reference system has caused me to rethink the whole issue. The sound is well balanced, the midrange is literally marvelous, the focus, imaging, and depth of the soundstage is quite impressive. I was listening to a local jazz station last night and my thought was that I'd never heard sound this authentic from a tuner before. I know that my particular tuner is not the best one out there, nor is it highly rated, but for some reason it sounds way better than other tuners I have tried over the years. My antenna is not anything special, so I know it can't be related to that. It has me wondering how good the sound quality may be using more upscale, highly-rated models.

I welcome any thoughts or comments on this topic.

Happy Thanksgiving to All!
plato
I love my tuner, Magnum Dynalad MD90 at the moment. I have owned a Naim tuner in the past, also a couple of other lesser models. IMO a good tuner with a decent antenna and signal from a good station, preferably college or NPR, is as good as any other source. Especially live broadcasts.
Have Fun!
Dan
Go to fmtunerinfo.com. You'll learn alot and they have a rating system for sound quality of the tuners they've tested. Many people are modding vintage japanese tuners. I use a modded Kenwood Kt 7500 and listen to a local jazz station with sound quality that rivals cd's. That's how good it can be. I asked Jim Rivers, one of the people who run fmtunerinfo.com, about the way my modded 7500 would compare to any of the stock tuners. Apparently it's better than any including the high dollar Accuphase. Cost? they can be found for 300-350. The antenna is important too. For that an outdoor is really the only way to go if you want the very best quality. Another benefit is that you won't ever feel the need for an upgrade as you'll know it's as good as it gets. The quality is good enough to do serious listening if you have a station that delivers a quality signal.
Dan, I think you're right -- I am happily enjoying this discovery. I had some Christmas music on this morning and it sounded great.

BTW, Muzikat, have you seen Cat Stevens' Majikat DVD?

Frank :)
I just purchased a magnum dynalab 106T. This is a tuner that has sound quality second to none. I have owned Mcintosh MR 78's, Mcintosh 7083, Yamaha 7000's, 800's, and this tuner is all that the audiophile magazines say it is...fantantic. Listening to FM is fun again.

Etbaby
I bought a Magnum Dynalab Etude recently as a reward to myself for the Sox reaching the world series after listening to the whole season on an 80's Sansui. Simply put, I'm floored by the sound quality of this unit, not to mention reception and selectivity. As others have said, listening to FM is definitely fun again.
I have owned the Yamaha T-80 and listened to lots of different tuners, either at friends houses, stores and shows. there's nothing like the Leak to my ears.
My cheap little Sony SA550-ES tuner kicks butt. I am as impressed by its specs as its sound, and for the money, it is my favorite so far.
Hi Plato,
Never seen the Cat Stevens video. May check it out sometime.
My username just sorta came to me one day.
Cheers!
Thanks to all for sharing your ideas and experience. I will have to check out some other tuners... All the support for the Magnum Dynalab line has me curious about them; and I'll also visit fmtunerinfo.com.

Dan, if you like Cat Stevens, I can highly recommend the Majikat DVD. It features a live concert (Majikat Tour) from 1976 and has some early studio tracks as well as a fairly recent interview with Yusuf Islam. The 2-channel stereo mix is the best sounding and the DTS surround sound is pretty good as well.

Best regards!
Frank
I recently aquired an original H H Scott LT 110 tuner (circa 1962). Not only is it one of the best looking tuners around with the big lighted circular tuning dial, but I have never heard a modern tuner with anywhere near the pure sound quality.
I'll chime in about antennae. I have a Magnum Dynalab MD-90T, my first tuner, and have tried many antennae. I live on the tallest hill in the county and you would think that I would not have any problems. That thinking was disproven.

I am now enjoying FM so much more now since I am using a Godar Model 1 antenna. The noise is gone. The fidelity is there. And, I can get stations from another college station 60 miles away like it is transmitted locally. Now I have more to choose from with the jazz that they program.

Do a Google search on Godar. While I can't speak for your situation, you might do well on trying these products. Mike Godar was extremely helpful in getting me dialed-in on what I needed and that speaks to the service that is there as well.
I agree that a tuner with proper antenna can serve as an excellent source. Older models of many good brands (e.g., Sony, Kenwood, Sansui) can be purchased on Ebay and Audiogon. The transformation from "good" to "excellent" occurs when the tuners are properly upgraded. I've had very good results from Joseph Chow at http://www.componentplus.us/index.html
I purchased a Kenwood KT8300 here on Audiogon and had it shipped directly to Don Scott who cleaned, aligned and modified it. It is a great piece that I enjoy very much. I see two KT 8300's on sale on Agon now. I agree with Warnerwh. Go to fmtunerinfo.com and enjoy the reading.

Regards,
Paul
It is amazing how some tuners can sound better. Of course it also depends on the quality of the transmission.
Well; let me toss in my two cents. My TU-S9
blows my Rotel CD player out of the water sonically.

I have problems on many conventional tuners with IBOC noise caused by HD Radio interference. I wouldn't buy any conventional tuner without researching first whether it will have IBOC problems. It depends on your stations and your tuner.

That said there are many great used tuners at low prices, including some from the 1960s. A Dynaco FM-3, Sherwood S3000 or Scott 312 can be a very enjoyable source. fmtunerinfo.com is a great place to learn about vintage tuners.

Have fun!
After researching several tuners and their test results by fmtunerinfo I posted my question at one of their sites.They told me my NAD 4300 was as good, if not better, than the ones I had asked about. That really surprised me as I had my heart set on a Phiiilps AH673. Loved the look of that unit.

Thanks to this thread, I know now to get a Godar antenna.

All the best,
Nonoise
I recommend the Sony XDR-F1HD.
I've had some pretty nice tuners over the years that were highly recommended and now have a Creek CAS-3140 with a din-rca cord that I enjoy very much as well - but one of the finest sounding tuners I've ever heard was a modified Dyna FM3.

I've never heard the other classic tuners from Scott, Fisher or Marantz though.....
Kind of an old thread, but has immediate relevance to me today.

I just went through the process of looking for a new tuner, the one in a Pioneer SC-37 AVR is just too irritating. 3 of the 4 tuners I got were digital with costs ranging from free to $60, total cost for all 4 much less than any decent new tuner being sold today. All were much better than the AVR. Here is what I listened to in ascending FM audio quality. All used the same antenna cable, no splits, no two on at the same time talking to each other.
Yamaha T50 - free, digital, very good AM, somewhat harsh FM
Marantz ST50 - not free, digital, AM not as good as the Yamaha, but much better FM, still a little harsh
Luxman T-111 - not free, digital model, pretty good AM, cleaner than the Marantz in FM, would be the top keeper except for the next one
Harman Kardon TU910 - not free, but close to it, analog with changing color dial scale, or will be when I replace some lamps. AM is pretty good. FM sounds variable, depends on source. With good sources it sounds very musical. Voices seem natural. It never seems harsh, maybe digital tuners are like that?
I find that I get more engaged in the broadcast in the H-K than the others, seems to disappear and lets the content come through clearly.

Enough for the re-opening of the thread, Happy listening.
Sonically, I'll take an analog tuner anyday over a digital one....but for convenience digital
I'll chime in here - i Have 2 tuners - one analog, a Technics ST-8077 & the other 1/2 analog & 1/2 digital, a Sansui TU-99X. like another member here I also sent my analog tuner to Don Scott who was very generous with his time & effort to tune it up for me. The Technics sound really very nice & i can listen to it for a long time (too bad programming here is very limited). The Sansui also sounds very nice - I prefer the Technics since it has a more of an analog-ish sound. I got both tuners off Ebay for $50 each - very reasonable - and this after cruising thru fmtunerinfo.com for many hours....
I have a pioneer elite, the tuner sucks. Still searching!
I second the creek. Amazing sounding british simple tuner. Sounds as good as many cd players.
Here's the list of tuners I've owned over the years.  I've had the Creek CAS-3140 for about a dozen years now, don't see getting rid of it anytime soon at all, I like it that much.

Here we go, from 1/14/14:

1. Harman Kardon 330C rec'r
2. Mitsubishi DA-R8 rec'r
3. McIntosh MR-71
4. Sansui TU-717
5. Pioneer TX-9800
6. Dyanco FM-3
7. Luxman T-110
8. Luxman T-400
9. McIntosh 1900 rec'r
10. Yamaha CT-810
11. Quad FM-4 (din outputs)
12. ADS T-2 - fun to use
13. NAD 4020A
14. Pioneer TX-500
15. B&K TS-108
16. Dyna FM-3
17. NEC T-710 - better than B&K 
18. Tandberg 2020 rec'r - nice
19. Creek CAS-3140 (din to rca) - neck and neck w/Tandberg

FAVORITES: 3,4,5,6, 12, 17-19 

Additional tuners since this post:
1.  Pioneer TX-8500II
2.  Sumo Charlie

The fmtunerinfo.com site is a good place to start, not the end all in tuner sound, IMHO.
As above-
Magnum Dynalab, Yamaha, Tandberg, Carver have made incredible tuners over the years.
I bought a Magnum Dynalab FT101 years ago for $350 used, and it is the finest tuner I've ever heard. The bass in particular is tight and well defined. The dials on the front are designed to help fine tune stations and they actually work! And look cool too. The one component that will never leave my stereo! 
I own a Yamaha TX-480 in my main rig, a NAD 1600 Tuner/preamp in second system and a NAD 7020 receiver in my bedroom. They all sound good. I'm fortunate I live in North Jersey and have many radio stations of all genere to choose from. WQXR classical is excellent. I have no need to upgrade but when a good deal on a dynalab comes by I'll jump on it.
Right now there are several deals on inexpensive tunas on USAaudiomart.  A Creek CAS-3140, Perreaux TU1, Quad FM4, and Denon TU800.  

I liked my old Quad, although I had an earlier version of it.  Always thought the Perreaux was a very cool looking tuner, especially the TU3. The Denon was always a classic too.
Love my NAD 1600...beautiful "live" sound since the day I bought it in 1991.
They will have to pry my MR78 away from my cold dead hands. The hype isn't hype– it's a really good tuner 
Yes indeed, zavato. Not just in sound quality, but in alternate and adjacent-channel selectivity perhaps the best tuner ever made. MR78 designer Richard Modaferri offers an update/mod/improvement for the tuner.
Richard did his mod to my old MX-110
my new MR-85 in a different system sounds terrible in comparison and is now on the fritz...
the Tanberg 3000 was a fantastic tuner in 80's