Why spend megabucks on a tuner?

I've seen old Marantz and McIntosh tuners sold here on Audiogon for a fortune. My question is: Why?

Most radio stations now have highly compressed dynamics. Most of the few that don't (for my location, anyway) are located on the fringes of reception. And then what happens when you move to a different location, which may have even fewer good listening choices?

At least with a turntable or CD player, I feel that you have a lot more choices. And, it's not location-dependent. With streaming audio becoming a reality for most people, and now HD radio (which I'll admit I haven't heard yet), why is there still such a market for high-end tuners?

most vintage tuners are dirt cheap.....the best of the best of any vintage component sells for a lot.....the 10b was and is one of the best.
guess it makes sense to spend $12, go to a club and see live sound.
bragging rights...

Why would you buy a tuner and not get the best one you could justify???



That's a 2 part Question:
Part 1: Why?
Why is the sky blue? Why do babies cry? Why can't I get my amps, pre amps, tuner, CD player or anything else to work properly?
Part 2:
Spend megabucks on a tuner? Of course, sure, why not, it couldn't hurt as long as you could afford it!
Don't forget to buy the $12K outdoor anteanna!!!
Best regards
Professor Irwin Cory
This is a rant after being out on Saturday and once more opening a new, and crappy sounding CD. I appreciate your tolerance.

An excellent question, not just about tuners. As to your question, though:

As an audio dinosaur, I'd lusted after a Mac 78 for years. I found one in "time travel" condition. Even my Wife was amazed at just how "mint" this item was.

When I ordered it, I put over $700 into a mast/antenna and rotor and professional install. Man, I was really excited when I saw this beautiful piece. From it's pictures, I'd never seen any used gear in this condition, and I trade a good bit. It arrived and was just gorgeous.

Like the 3 days I spent reading an owners manual when I got a new car, I had the Mac aligned before anything was done. I sold it two weeks later, asking the same question you did and hoping to get my money out of it before every body else wised up and asked themselves the same question.

I did listen: I reached stations miles away that I listened to in college 35 years ago, and even local, self-professed, "high-quality" radio. Probably 20% of my current record collection was purchased after I first heard music over these stations years ago. Now, horrific, brain-dead programming and more compression than an mid-sixties big-block V-8 are the absolute rule, at least, until you're in the big cities.

I still have a space in the rack and think of getting a 10b or a Sequerra when I see a clean one, but I'm done with FM as a source.

I do have two sets of nice tubed mono-blocks, 3 DACs, 2 transports, $20k worth of turntable and such in one of my two systems, so I keep putting money into and enjoying the hobby, but the old FM tuner fantasy is gone.

I just enjoy the Serius unit in my car now. It, as they say, "knows its place". It sounds "okay", but makes no pretense to what I would call "hi-end", unlike the big, swaggering FM tuners of my youth.

I wonder what will happen when all that is available is mixed down with Pro-tools and the like. The last 4 or 5 CD's I've bought (in various music formats) have all been compressed and over-loaded the front of my system. I'll give them this: they were LOUD. They were also flat, even out-right distorted.

As Tina Turner may have asked: "What's loud got to do with it?" Hell, I've got a loud knob on my pre-amp. This is just like the over-driven, over-bright TV displays we all see in commercial outlets: it's meant to catch a brain-dead, ill-informed consumer's attention quickly for a quick sale (or down-load). Why do we "super size" mediocrity?

Christ, even Lindsey Buckingham's latest suffers from this. When he joined Fleetwood Mac, years ago, "Rumours" was so well produced and engineered that it's still being redone in ever-increasing high quality formats. I don't think we'll see his latest done that compliment (even though the I really like the music itself). I don't need to hear high resolution flatness, distortion and grain.

Nope, the money people forcing this "lowest common denominator" drivel on us have no concerns for anything past minimal quality. Current production methods, for items sold in normal commercial outlets, is nothing less than a damn shame.

It seems that FM was just the vanguard of increasing doses of crap and pablum available to us as consumers from tin-eared MBAs with no interest in music. I don't think we will find many John Hammonds among these guys.

A saying about the price of everything and the value of nothing comes to mind. Even the best concepts and music are being recorded and stored in poor quality originals, never to be available for improvement. FM's demise was the forerunner years ago. The rest is happening now.
I hope someone disagrees with me and cheers me up.

When Bob Dylan and Neil Young can't get it done the way they want to (and both of them are near deaf, I would suppose, and they can still hear what's being done to their music in the recording chain), what chance do newer artists, with lower sales figures, have of getting any type of quality sound out of an entire system built on price points, rather than quality?

Excuse me while I go harrass my neighbors, kick my dog, pull my pants up under my armpits and continue my rant about the good old days by muttering to myself, under my breath. This is not easy to do while trying to convince my Wife that I am not a crotchety old man, seriously in need of some other outlet.
There are those who enjoy listening to the radio and who listen frequently. For those who do, a good tuner is important. Doesn't have to cost a fortune but some do. The radio is a good source for new music that one would not hear otherwise.
I am typing this as I listen to WQXR, a non-compressed classical radio station, broadcasting from New York City. There are still great FM radio stations out there.

I am listening on my Scott 310-e tube tuner. It's 45 years old. However, it cost me only $700 including a complete alignment etc.

Yes, maybe one day FM may be all digital and my tuner will be worth next to nothing. However, that possibility is not definite.

Compare that to digital source components. They always depreciate quickly. For example, my Rega Jupiter 2000 cost $2000 when new and is now worth $650. In a few years it will be worth even less. Technology is always changing & new models are always coming out.

The sound of a well tuned vintage tube tuner with a good radio station is glorious.

I think that the rate of depreciation of digital sources is more definite than the possibility that there will be no more non-compressed radio stations
my fave radio station (KTRU 91.7 in houston) offers both a digital stream and FM. when i tried PC streamed to the squeezebox, using the wadia 861se as a DAC, i found the kenwood was miles ahead.

other digital stations sounded very satisfying, but some stations sound best on FM, and some stations justify a uber tuner, a mast antenna, and all the parts & tweaks one can find...
Because radio is THE tool, of the devil.
Much depends on one's musical preferences and what is available locally in FM broadcasts. I live in the Boston area, which has a number of tunable stations, including university and college stations that are less compressed than some commercial stations. And it is a treat to listen to live broadcasts of the Boston Symphony. An FM tuner is a very important and pleasureable part of my system.
You don't have to live in a big city. Eugene, OR has 4 terrific FM stations, all public and locally owned.

KLCC is owned by Lane Community College, is the NPR station, plays an eclectic mix every weekday with specialty shows all nights and weekends.

KRVM is owned by the Eugene 4J school district, has student DJs every weekday, and specialty shows with adult DJs weeknights and weekends. KRVM was the 13th FM station in the US and the first in the Pacific Northwest. They're celebrating they're 60th anniversary this weekend.

KWAX is owned by the University of Oregon and is all classical, all the time, one of the few left. An incredible joy to listen to.

KWVA is also owned by UO, and is the student station. 24/7 college craziness, and I mean that with all love, as I used to be on their board of directors. :-)

KWAX and KWVA don't compress, and I don't think the other two do either. They all stream, so you can catch them wherever you live. During my Year in New York they were my lifeline.

So I have a modded Yamaha T-1 and a Pioneer TX-8500MkII, because I have great stations to listen to. They aren't megabuck, but neither is the rest of my system. Those who, like me, have great stations and megabuck systems probably have megabuck tuners. Lucky them!

Hi Jeff,this George.I bought the Mcintosh MR78 from YOU .Remember?Reading your post,now I understand why you sold it back then!It was and still is truly in truly mint condition.The cabinet was rough though.I haven't used the tuner yet believe or not!I don't listen to FM at all.It was an investement purchase.LOL
Best regards
I don't deny that there are still great radio stations worth listening to with a good tuner. But my sense is that they are becoming fewer and fewer with each passing year. And I also believe that the antenna and location make far more difference than, say, a CD transport.

That's why I'm questioning really expensive tuners, and it's interesting to get varying opinions on this!

I have just now replaced an accuphase T-105 with an accuphase T-101, bought for about 350 usd. Wow, what a difference, even on highly compressed pop-stations. One do not have to spend megabucks on FM-tuner, but it is worth to buy a good old analog tuner. I listen a lot FM-tuner, mostly a local classical music radio-station. Live concert broadcasts are really very nice and very enjoyable. Life broadcast has somehow more soul than many extensively processed lifeless cds.
Jeffb, the wisest post I have read in years. Some will call it a rant, I call it spot on.

How about your view of other aspects of sound reproduction and high-end equipment?
i spent micro-bucks on my tivoli #3 radio. i added the stereo speaker, and split the subwoofer output in two so i have two sub's as well. i have this four piece system arranged on either side of my bed. i get alot of stations, especially late at night, by moving the tuning knob VERY slowly across the dial. we have two university based stations, NPR, an indie-jazz station, and just got a 24/7 classical station with a VERY strong and clean signal (miami,fla.). i am partially disabled, so after dinner and cleaning up the kitchen i am VERY tired, and brush my teeth and lie down for a nap. when i wake up there are my half-dozen primo stations to choose from, with ALOT, trust me on this, to listen to- specialty radio shows from news, music, music commentary, record reviews, beethoven, prog-rock, heavy metal, the BBC... i could go on and on. one guy does big band from the late 30's thru' the early 60's, with alot of recorded radio shows from the 40's and 50's. if i get bored with his show i switch over to WVUM and listen to Ornette Coleman, Mingus, etc.
the classical station plays a million peices i never heard of before, so this is a literal gold mine.
as for expensive tuners, i would have to agree that all you want is good reception, not dynamics and detail which is apparantly not there. but don't let that stop you from expanding your musical vocabulary. my radio has paid for itself a hundred times over, unlike my gigantic system in the living room- i just laid out $3,000 to repair a mono-block amp. my last amps went back to the manufacturer
3 times. my transport has been repaired twice. the system is so sensitive to a drop or surge in power, let alone "musicality", that i hold my breath every time FP&L starts playing with their transformers- which is quite often.
meanwhile every OTHER electrical device in the house hums along just fine. but definitely get a "nice" radio and check out what's available in your area (unless you live in northern Montana, but then again they may have some good stations too).
You don't have to pay mega dollars for a great tuner. I have found in thrift's and even on craigs list thoughout the years good finds on the cheap. My first find while in NYC was a Mitsubishi DA-F20 tuner going for the price of 25.00 the cab ride home cost almost the same. My next find was at a mission thrift in Pensacola Fl, a mint Kenwood 8300 tuner for a price for 20.00 the only issue was that they wrote the price on the top case in a thick white paint that I finally scrubed off very gingerly. Take your time and hunt around and on your travels you never know the great deals out there.
I second Pbb about Jeffb's post. If you're lucky to live in an area where there's one or possibly 2 good radio stations (not just in terms of sound quality, but more importantly in terms of programming quality! don't look at me, I'm in the wrong city, clearly), go for it. Otherwise, there are many better ways to spend money on a sound system.
I listen to a local classical station several times a week via a modded Jolida tuner with very satisfying results.

I hope to eventually upgrade to a Magnum Dynalab MD-102 triode when funds permit.
Just got a $15 Onkyo Integra tuner at Goodwill. First thing picked up at twillight an across the lake (Michigan) FM station that was way fun. The antenna was a unfolded plastic T 300 ohm laying all squiggly on the floor.
Best to go with the low end stuff. My $15 was a good deal, but I would NEVER spend any more than that!!!
Please indulge a dumb question. How can you tell if a particular station is transmitting a compressed signal? In the interest of a point of reference, Kusina - I'm about 60 miles south of Boston, but can pick up many of the Boston stations. Which stations were you referring to?
In reply to Frankm1: The term "compression" in audiophile circles is usually used to mean a reduction in dynamic range. That is, differences between loud and soft passages in source materials are reduced or "compressed" so that musical information of different sorts is presented at more or less the same volume level. That is not necessarily bad. This, for instance, compression is often useful for listening to music through car radios. Soft passages, that might be lost or obscured because of road and engine noise, can be heard, and loud passages on source materials are not startling or distracting. Further, music heard at relatively low volume settings seems richer, because much of the information is not lost although its loudness ratios have been altered. Audiophiles, however, often dislike compression when seriously listening to music at home on high-end equipment. Compression re-arranges what is recorded on the source material, and reduction in dynamic range inevitably makes the music sound less lifelike. Unfortunately, however, managers of FM stations tend to see their audiences as consisting of people who listen to car radios and to relatively unsophisticated home radios; audiophiles are considered a minority (if they are considered at all). Furthermore, from the audiophile's perspective, FM broadcasts are already tainted in that federal regulations require truncated signals, where treble and bass are cut off (I forget what the cutoff points are: perhaps someone might supply them here).
Despite these handicaps, I and many others enjoy listening to FM radio on our home systems. All high fi involves compromises of one sort or another, and we would drive ourselves insane if we insisted on perfection at every turn. Thus, for instance, while LPs have certain advantages over CDs (most notably in facilitating longer decays of notes and better hall ambience), CDs have superior dynamics. Compared to CDs, LPs can be said to be compressed (compressed as an artifact of the nature of the medium rather than as a result of human intention). But, as many Audiogoners will attest, listening to LPs can be a wonderful experience. For that matter, I greatly enjoy my car radio, even though it is standard equipment on my car and not up to the calibre of some car stereos. The best way to proceed, I think, is to take pleasure where we can find it, even though we know that sonics are better elsewhere.
Frankm1 lives some sixty miles from Boston and asks what stations I listen to. Since I prefer classical music on FM, I listen mostly to WCRB (99.5), WGBH (89.7),and WHRB (95.3). WCRB sometimes strikes me as compressing a bit on symphonic presentations. That is, the dynamic range seems smaller than what I get when listening to CDs. WHRB, Harvard University's station, doesn't seem to compress or to compress as much, though expected compression occurs through WHRB's great use of LPs. Harvard, moreover, plays pieces that are less frequently played on other stations, thus enhancing one's musical education. Often enough, however, the student announcers seem supercompressed in the articulation of their messages, and they not infrequently stumble in their reading.
I would like to address Elizabeth's post briefly. Your $15 bargain is, I think, really a bargain because you get pleasure out of listening to it. But that, in my opinion, doesn't mean that one ought not to spend more than $15 on FM. I have several FM tuners. One, an HH Scott 350B, was made in the early 1960s. I enjoy listening to each of them. But they differ in quality. The one hooked up to my main system is clearly better than the others, and while I enjoy all of them, I enjoy that one even more because of its ability to present more of the musical information and to so more accurately (it is an Accuphase T-1000, connected through its digital out by a Stealth digital cable to a Reimyo DAC). It costs a lot more than $15, but I don't begrudge one cent of the expenditure.
I listen to FM more because I like to hear new material or songs I don't own bur remember fondly.

Yes, I would agree that most FM listening is now via car radios. This is where I get most of my FM listening. Yes, compressed music in an automotive environment does make sense....I am, first, driving my car somewhere...while filling in the time with my music.

At home I usually go for streaming audio when I am not listening to my playlists. Some years ago I found an old Fisher Series Eighty AM/FM (mono!) tuner. I gave the man $15.00 for it. I spent a pretty fortune having it restored and it does sound sweet.

But I have a slimdevices Transporter now and it's own DAC is really good. It is rare that I now power up the old Fisher.
Well vintage tuner's make great nightlights. Actually, Unclejeff hit the nail on the head. Listen to hear new music and remind yourself about great music you don't yet own or just haven't pulled out and enjoyed for a while. After listening to Jeff Buckley sing Leonard Cohen's song "Hallelujah" last weekend I knew it was one I had to buy. What a voice! As an aside, saw that download speeds could be at dialup speeds by 2010 due to gridlock as consumer demand increases. Wonder how that will affect streaming.
Sorry I'm late to this discussion. I have just replaced several components in my main listening system and am now listening through a wonderful pair of JM Lab 927Be Speakers. I've been a regular listener to two local stations - one classical and one college jazz station - that do not compress their signals. I have a nicely restored McIntosh MR-73 Tuner that I had restored about six years ago that does a great job picking up local stations. One of the things I enjoy about my morning listening to the classical FM station; is the vast number of CDs they play as well as news broadcasts on the hour from the BBC. In some cases, I will chase down the CD at a local shop or make a point of seeing the piece performed live by our local Oregon Symphony.
While I'm more than aware that many of the stations compress their signal; I'm blessed to have two that I listen to frequently that don't. By the way, I bought the
tuner through an E-Bay auction at a great price and even after the restoration - with a new glass panel and new bulbs - I could easily sell it for more than I paid for it some six years ago.
It's easy to dismiss FM radio if you don't have any great stations to listen to, but I'm fortunate to have them.
Answer simple. With a LP or CD you have to buy cd or venyl.
As we can't listen to cd with out a cd in! right? Radio station cost nothing... So i thing it a wise investment.
How does broadcast quality compare to live streaming of the same broadcast?
I just came across this thread and I found it interesting. I also bought a Mr 78 tuner off a guy on here. It was mint and I always wanted a good tuner. (Don't ask me why) I purchased a Magnum Dynalab off of Audio Advisor. I listened to it for a couple of days and realized there was only 1 good sounding station. Now I don't live in a small city, in fact I live in the second biggest county in the United States. So I told my wife I wanted to sell this tuner before it becomes a boat anchor. She said she likes it and doesn't want me to sell it. So now I'm looking for a boat.
I have a MD FT101A I paid 350.00 for it from an audiophile that was moving back to France back in 2005.He also had a pr of speakers and speaker cables that Kevin Voecks made for him. I use my tuner on a regular basic.Mostly in the mornings with classical stations as well as WMNF Tampa.It has a very nice sound that a couple other tuners I've owned did not have .So it was money well spent.