Well you will need to worry about adjacent channel rejection, if the stations you want are outside the big city.
I like the vintage analog tuners by Kenwood, Sansui and others. The best place to get information on them is at.. The Tuner Information Center
For a digital tuner with remote and all the options, the Creek T43 is very good. Also the brand new modified Marantz ST-6000P for sale here on Audiogon by Don Scott should be on your short list. To find the listing, his screen name is BDScott.
You can't beat Magnum Dynalab's Etude. One of the best sounding, regardless of price. It will astound you, if the signal quality is up to it, it can rival CD sound. No BS!
Good luck and enjoy the tunes.
I hate to say this but the Magnum Dynalab tuners are over priced and do not perform at the level of a number of vintage tuners. In particular, they are lacking in dimensionality. Suggest one of the better "older" Japanese tuners. I have had excellent luck with the Yamaha CT 7000.
I agree with both posts above. A digital tuner has the advantage of many preset stations. Read up on the TIC page linked above. (I use and recommend the Don Scott Marantz, but the MD unit is nice as well - what a quandry).
Lpquick is right! I still use my 12 yr old NAD Monitor Series tuner, as it was clearly one of the best of its era (and far better than their current tuners), but my Magnum Dynalab MD100 is profoundly more realistic in its portrayal.
Live feeds are eerily good. Balance is a little lean because the top octave is so clean, so I use a Harm Tech Truthlink XLR with fine results. NEW ones can be had around $1200, used older Etudes and 90s $600-$1000.
Mcintosh mr-71 (vintage, tube) sounds gorgeous and is sensitive too.
Spend less than that about 650 and get a Marantz St17
very good tuner dual antenna input, digital , flywheel tuning nice small package. I ahd one and traded it in on a McIntosh M85 and it was not worth the extra money.
I deal in vintage tuners and highly recommend the Macintosh tuners. The two best are the MR-78 and the MR-80. The sonics are world class for any component.
If you like tube glow, the MR-71 is the best. They are a little lower build quality than the 78 and 80. I keep one of those in my all-tube Cary 300SEI system. It is better built and sounding than the MR67.
You should be able to find any of these tuners for 1K or less. The MR78 and 80 will likely be a little less than perfect cosmetically for that price.
No question about it, buy a McIntosh MR78.
Wow. There is certainly a lot of bad information floating around on Audiogon. Suffice to say that most of the Magnums are garbage. The MD-90 is nothing short of a joke that any informed consumer would laugh off the showroom floor. I'd love to post a diatribe here regarding which tuner is best for which purpose, but that discussion has already been done. Stop over at the FMTuners Yahoo Group for much of that. Here I'll just provide a brief laundry list.
In short, Almost none of the usual audiophile approved brands are going to be any good in the area of tuners, apart from the audio section. FM design is something which baffles most of them, and is not their area of expertise. So, even if you feed the best audio section in the world with junk, you still get junk. The GIGO principle at work.
Vintage analog tuners can potentially be good, but their primary strength is limited to RF performance, where some were truly excellent, although that number is still quite small. All other areas, such as the FM detector and the stereo decoder have been surpassed by leaps and bounds by modern units which are available for less money. At one point, I was also firmly on the analog tuner bandwagon which many still advocate. I'm now firmly off it after more experience with new tuners. Unfortunately, the desirable ones, while remaining inexpensive, are often difficult to find. Many modern tuners are junk compared to vintage analog units.
Here is a short list: Onkyo T-9090II if selectivity is your thing. Also pretty good all around. Denon TU-800, which was a genuinely good all around tuner. Yamaha TX-1000, T-85, T-950, T-930, T-900 are all decent tuners with various strengths. None is really head and shoulders above the others. Tandberg 3001 was perhaps the best tuner when it came out, and remained so throughout its 20 year production history. This was a $4000 tuner by the time it was discontinued in the late 90s. Kenwood had the L-1000T and the KT-3300D, both of which were apparently quite similar and arguably among the very best tuners ever designed from a technical standpoint. Pioneer had the F-90 and F-99X, which are identical, and are out there for about $100 or less used, which is a steal. Stereo separation and distortion on these units are actually BETTER than the Accuphase T-109, which is strong evidence of remarkably good engineering and design choices. Sony had a number of good tuners in the ES line, the ST-S730ES, ST-S707ES, and ST-SA5ES, although the ST-S730 was probably the best of the bunch. Audiolab had the 8000T, which was somewhat decent, and Sumo the Charlie. Harmon Kardon had the Citation 23, which was a decent tuner. Sansui had the TU-D99X, X701 and X711, and Hitachi the FT-5500. Finally, we have Rotel with the RT-990BX and RHT-10, which might just make the $1000 mark if you find one. This is your under $1000 and decent digital list and is fairly complete.
In the vintage tuner arena, there are many opinions, with many tuners of various qualities. The Macs were never respected for particularly good sound, but a Rich Modafferi upgrade should take care of a lot of thisl. Kenwood had the KT-917, which isn't cheap, but is very very good if overload is a problem. Pioneer had the F-28 and F-26, which were their best models. Sansui had the TU-919 which might be decent, and the relatively good TU-X1. I personally think vintage Sansuis are sickeningly overpriced. Mitsubishi had the DA-F20, Nikko the Gamma I and Gamma V, Yamaha the T-2 and CT-7000, Sherwood the Micro/CPU 100, with a few decent offerings from other manufacturers which I've left out.
If sound quality is the name of the game, a top modern tuner is probably the way to go. In an urban environment, overload may or may not be a problem, depending on what the strongest signal in the area is. If overload is a huge problem, nothing tops the Technics ST-9030. Selectivity is always a battle, but it also usually wreaks havoc on sound quality. Around New York, switchable IF bandwidths are a MUST. If you're willing to go to $1000, any of the above would serve as a top notch tuner. As always, the best recommendation is to save a little on the tuner, and spend what you saved on a roof mounted antenna with a rotator.
Or.... if you go on "e-bay", you should be able to get you a Magnum Dynalab FT-101 for around $400.00 to $500.00 or so. Ryan may not like Magnums (and I am not about to knock him on his opinion, he's entitled to his opinion like I am entitled to mine), but tell you what, I have Magnum (an FT-101...... the "ORIGINAL" Magnum Dynalab.... the one that was made in 1985!!!!), and I sure as hell love mine. Unless I get a tuner that was made in the 1970's (unless it an NAD Monitor Series 4300 from 1988, or a Nakamichi ST-7 with Scholtz circuitry from about the mid 1980's.... (unless of course, if it is a Magnum Dynalab, or one of the other two I have just mentioned)), I won't be getting anything that was made later than 1980, and there is "NO" way I'm parting with my FT-101. I bought mine in 2000, and guess what??? It was one of the best buying decisions I have EVER made. And I have no regrets in buying a Magnum either.
Like I said, "Ryanmh1" may not like Magnums (or maybe he has had a bad experience with them.... and so forth), but I happen to love them. My FT-101 is a great tuner, and I don't plan on parting with mine anytime soon.
Spend $400.00 to about $500.00 and get you a Magnum Dynalab FT-101, and be happy afterwards.
You won't regret it.
I'm not saying that they are bad tuner, but only that you don't get your money's worth in terms of what is inside the thing. According to the company's own literature the MD-90 employs only THREE tuned stages in the front end. Most decent tuners have at least five. Three, in fact, is the bare minimum to even make reception work. Furthermore, it employes a "variable blend" circuit to reduce noise, which suggests that it uses a chip originally designed for car radios, not high end tuners. The stereo THD is terrible, as is the lower -3dB response, not to mention the stereo separation. Bass will be noticeably weak, if their specifications are to be believed. That's the cheap Magnum though, if you call a thousand bucks for a tuner about as good as the one in my car stereo "cheap."
Ah, but wait, the MD-101A which you recommend has the same specifications across the board, which likely means that the MD-90 is little more than a cosmetic retouching. The 75dB Image rejection specification bolsters my claim that this is actually a very bad tuner, audio stage notwithstanding. Not just bad, but terrible by a high end tuner standard. However, it might sound decent on the stations it actually manages to pick up decently due to the apparently large attention given to the audio stage, where most tuners fall short. Only when we work our way up to the $2500 MD-102 do we get to anything resembling decent tuner performance.
Magnums are good looking high end approved tuners, but anything but their top two offerings are little more than car radio junk stuffed into a nice chassis with what claims to be a decent audio stage. In fact, many car radios are certainly better as tuners. Magnum's top two seem to be fairly decent, the MD-108 especially.
For comparisons sake, my Sony ST-S730ES sports 125dB Image Rejection, 125dB Spurious Response, .007% Stereo THD and IM(measured), 92dB Stereo S/N ratio, 70dB Stereo Separation at 1kHz. You get the idea. As a tuner, it is much better than the Magnum. Sonically, it will provide better sound on a greater number of stations, this being an objective statements based on actual tuner performance. However, it is possible that the Magnum might sound better on a limited number of stations which are received properly by the very bad tuner in the Magnum.
By the way Charles, how many high end tuners have you actually used besides your Magnum? I've used well over twenty in the last year alone, probably more. More experience might lead you to throw that Magnum out the window once you can get past the cosmetics and the name.
Ryan, As you have spent much time auditioning tuners can you explain to me why so much emphasis is placed on the spec's and not the actual quality of the sound they emit? Most other area's of audio resolve, ultimately, on how a product sounds. I have limited experience in tuners having settled for a Perreaux TU3 (which will win no spec's race and has poor sensitivity) after listening to a lot of tuners that just "sounded" like crap, so to speak, even though highly spec'd out (including many discussed in this thread).
Sure. This will be long, because I'm going to explain how tuners work, which is the first step toward understanding why specifications do, in fact, matter to a larger extent with tuners than with other audio products. Tuners are different from most audio devices in that they not only have to pass an audio signal, but they have to produce the audio signal as well, and in so doing, have to pick that signal out from many other competing signals.
A tuner's front end can only handle so much signal, so if one lives in an area with many strong competing signals, its ability to handle them becomes very important. I know the specs on the Perreaux, and it would be unusable on many stations where I live. When a front end overloads, images of the overly strong station can appear all over the dial, or interfere with the reception of other stations. Basically, you're trying to dump a five gallon bucket of water into a milk jug. In my area, 102.9 and 103.5 will overload many tuners, producing a mixed image at 102.3, either blotting it out or making it unlistenable. A comprehensive set of numbers can help to identify whether this will be a problem with a given tuner.
Assuming we manage to receive the station we're after, we mix that frequency with another frequency to arrive at 10.7MHz, which is where it needs to be to be filtered in the IF stage. This is usually done by a ceramic filter. Remembering that FM works by deviating a signal from a center frequency, we obviously want to get as much of that signal as possible. Remember, however, that there may be another station right next to the one we want. So, a tuners selectivity comes into account. Too much and you're losing a lot of the information a station is putting out. Too little and you'll get interference from stations surrounding it. The best compromise is to have more than one filter width, ie, selectable IF bandwidths. All filters have characteristics as well, and will alter the signal to some extent. Obviously, we want as little alteration of the signal as possible, in addition to getting as much of it as possible.
Perhaps you're now starting to see a number of the problems involved. At this point, we're not even dealing with turning this signal into the stereo audio signal you hear. Skipping over the detector, we'll skip ahead to the multiplex stage. The multiplex is responsible for taking the composite signal out of the detector and splitting it into left and right audio channels. What we have, essentially, in a primary mono channel with encoded left and right information. Doing this stage right is not easy either, and many tuners do it very badly. Anyhow, once out of this stage, we're finally ready for the audio stage. Actually, in many tuners that aren't state of the art, there are still a few more filters and various traps in here.. NOW we're ready for the audio stage, where your typical audiophile company finally has a clue.
Incidentally, this is only the tip of the iceberg, and scarecely brushed the surface of the complexity of what actually has to go one to do this as well as possible.
Various specifications, once understood, will tell you how well each of these stages is designed and is doing its job. In my experience, this is almost always audible with enough tuner listening experience. Obviously, we should desire these stages to be as good as possible without sacrificing audio performance.
There is one more thing to keep in mind: Your fidelity isn't going to get any better than that of the broadcasting station, which is often quite bad with large amounts of compression and the like. One of my longstanding hypotheses is that many audiophiles like tuners that don't have great fidelity. They like tuners that mask much of the junk on lesser stations and make them listenable, not understanding that some stations actually should sound terrible. Magnum's tuners such as the MD-90 have -3dB points which are awful next to what is actually possible. However, by rolling off the edges they cover up not only the station's deficiencies, but the numerous problems in the previous stages of the tuner as well.
Unfortunately, on a great classical or jazz station that isn't compressing and actually pays attention to fidelity, the tuner will never sound as good as a tuner that sounds terrible on those overly compressed commercial stations.
There's actually a picture of a Perreaux TU3 on eBay right now with the lid off. It has a couple of audiophile grade capacitors in it, a nice power supply, and that's it. Everything before that stage stinks, and is little more than a car radio, and an old one at that. Perreaux, being an audiophile company, did what they knew, and left the rest of the tuner to car radio chip manufacturers. Magnum is now following a similar approach in all but their very best tuners.
Ryan, Thanks for you response. You may have hit upon the reason I originally purchased the Perreaux. At the time I purchased it I had owned or auditioned several high spec'd units and I loved the ability to draw in distant stations etc, but when I just listened to the "sound" of the amplified signal I found it cold and dry, regardless of station. I assumed that the manufactureres had just overlooked the quality of the analog output devises. But as I look back, perhaps I had not set the bar high enuf, by focusing on Magnum, Carver, Onkyo, etc. I will revisit you earlier post to see if I can find something that sounds like what I might be able to use. Thanks again for your time....
Ryan, actually your well written explaination can be applied to other electronics as well, especially the part about why people prefer certain poor tuners to others - they are not faithful to the signal coming in, but compensate for the poor original sound sent by the stations.
GO TO THE TUNER INFORMATION WEBSITE INDICATED ABOVE AND READ!
Tuners are just like any other component, they all sound different, have good/bad qualities, and people each have their own favorite (as indicated above). Soundwise for example, the Sansui T-80 I have has a full, warm, sweet sound while the Kenwood 6500 I have has a crisp, clean, dynamic sound. I love the vintage tuners, beside the sound they are just so much better looking (and built better) than today's stuff, IMO. Alot cheaper too...
Anybody here own a Realistic TM1001 with modifications? If the good word on them is to be believed they seem to be a steal at just over a hundred bucks modified/serviced.
Don Scott is synonymous for "What's the Best Tuner For Me". I am serious--both Sugarbrie and Gabbro are right on the money. Because the FM tuner is not a priority front-end source for most audiophiles, it doesn't get the spotlight, concern or attention that it dserves. Most have no feel or knowledge for the sound qualities that can come from a great tuner. Scott not only knows about which ones they are... he knows how to make it happen. He can an FM tuner become the real jewel in your system. Got speak to him at email@example.com.
For less than $500 you can pick up an Accuphase T100 if you can find one. Absolutely the finest sounding tuner of my collection, especially after alignment, which includes:
The hard part is finding someone who wants to give theirs up. Good luck!
NAD Monitor Series tuner, or tuner section of its receivers (7100, 7400 & 7600) is an outstanding choice, and cheap.
The Audio refinement Complete tuner (used $400-500) is stellar too. But $1k gets you a new MD100, which I love!