You are here

Log in or register to post comments
ChiDave1
ChiDave1's picture
Offline
Last seen: 4 months 5 days ago
Joined: Jan 19 2008 - 4:50pm
tuner upgrade for under $1,000???

Can anybody recommend a quality tuner? I've got a NAD C440 now. My system is almost completely upgraded from mid-fi to minimalist hi-end and it would be nice to improve the radio next year. It's very frustrating how Stereophile doesn't rate anything below the super expensive brands.
What about Parasound Halo tuner or something in that range? Is it really not an improvement over what I've got?

Thanks.

PS: I'm always surprised how few people seem interested in using their systems for radio.

mrlowry
mrlowry's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 years 4 months ago
Joined: May 30 2006 - 1:37pm
Re: tuner upgrade for under $1,000???

Dave-

If you live in or near Chicago and you love classical music WFMT has a pristine signal. Occasionally they have live from the studio broadcasts. Those are absolutely jaw dropping with a great tuner. WXRT and WDRV sound pretty good too (for commercial radio.)

Nearly everyone will agree that the best two tuners in the world are the products from Fanfare and Magnum Dynalab. The Fanfare products do have presets, the MD's do not. I've used both extensively and I prefer the Magnum Dynalab because of the tuning knob can be used to really dial in the desired station perfectly. From what I know about tuners they are the only Variac based non-quartz lock loop tuners (many people call these tuners "analog tuners" which is a bit confusing) on the market today. Most current tuners are what could accurately be described as quartz lock loop (most people call these, "digital tuners.)

Analog tuners are far superior to digital tuners. Why are analog tuner better? Here is a quote from Robert Harley's "Complete Guide to High-end Audio." "Analog tuners have lower noise, and also allow fine-tuning to find the center of a station. Synthesized tuners jump in discrete steps of at least 25kHz, precluding the precise degree of fine-tuning possible with an infinitely variable analog tuner."

So how did the digital tuners get their foot hold in the market place if they aren't as good? The mass-market manufactures pushed digital tuners because they were cheaper to manufacture and required less warranty service. People adopted them because of the conveniences that they offered over analog tuners but for shear sound quality nothing beats analog. It's just another example of the dumbing down of our society to the lowest common denominator.

The really sad thing is that with HD radio and it's "near CD quality" the standards of radio are about to sink even lower. Near CD quality? There are those of us who are striving to surpass the quality of CD and even others that believe the term "CD quality" is in itself an oxymoron. One of my favorite stations just started broadcasting in HD radio. I sincerely hope that they continue to keep high standards when it comes to their analog broadcast.

Jan Vigne
Jan Vigne's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Mar 18 2006 - 12:57pm
Re: tuner upgrade for under $1,000???

http://www.fmtunerinfo.com/shootouts.html

Your location and proximity to the stations you wish to pull in are what determine which tuner you should own. Some tuners are designed for higher sensitivity which will be great for pulling in distant channels while other tuners are better at discriminating between adjacent channels on a crowded dial, something a highly sensitive tuner could have problems doing. However, above everything else you choose in a tuner, the antenna is the most important part of any tuner. It is easily said any tuner is only as good as the antenna you provide. A highly sensitive tuner with a plastic dipole will not perform as well as a less sensitive tuner with a high gain, directional antenna mounted on a rotor. If you live within the city where buildings and various sorts of architecture add to multiplexing problems, a directional antenna, as opposed to the multi-directional nature of most cheap antennas and the aftermarket sit on your shelf variety - is a must. If you wish to pull in close in stations, you'll need to have the ability to cut back on sensitivity. In short, you'll have to understand what the tuner specs and controls provide before you settle on a tuner. The same tuner placed in three different locations - sometimes just a few yards away from one another or miles apart - will give vastly different results and those results will be highly dependent upon the antenna feeding them the signal.

That said, one of the better tuners available today is the Tivoli table radio's tuner. Highly sensitive yet largely selective it performs well in most situations. For a few dollars - well under $200 in most cases - you can buy some of the best of the vintage tuners. I would always suggest a vintage Kenwood as a good choice but the tuners from Sansui and Yamaha also made good choices if you restrict your search to the early years of both companies when they were building analog tuners.

Most especially if you live in a crowded metropolitan area I would suggest you first try an anaolg tuner before you go for the more impressive specs and often times lower performance of a digital design. The ability to tune slightly off the center frequency of the station's broadcast signal can be beneficial in such locations and most digital tuners do not offer sufficient discrimination between frequencies to do this effectively.

If you budget allows for a bit more outlay than the Kenwoods, then I would undoubtedly suggest a McIntosh tuner. In the days when tuners counted, Mac and Marantz built the best of the best. If you can find and afford a Marantz 10B, go for it, you'll have an investment that will not depreciate. However, in most instances and provided the correct antenna any of the Mac tuners will perform to within the same level considering the majority of program material broadcast in the major markets. My preference is for the tube type tuners of the McIntosh brand but a MR78-80 would make a good investment also. If you buy a tube type tuner, make certain it is in good shape, has been aligned recently and you can locate a good technician who can still work on tube type tuners.

At the bottom of the post I'll provide a link to Audiogon and Audio Classic both of whom sell pre owned tuners. The Day-Sequerra tuner would be one of the best choices available - but only if you can provide the correct antenna to feed it what it requires. The Fisher tuners are quite good for the dollar but I would avoid the Scott tuners in most cases as well as the Dyna tuners.

Most of all talk to a local antenna retailer who knows their product and your specific needs in your location. Not many sellers understand tuners or antennas any longer so seek out the professional help you require by calling the manufacturers. Since tuners are location and antenna specific it would be ideal if you had the opportunity to try a tuner in your location before you made the final deal.

http://www.audioclassics.com/cat.php3?cat=Tuners

http://buy.audiogon.com/cgia/fsb.pl?misctunr

The other option is to feed the system a web based signal from any of the hundreds of stations that broadcast over the web. Virtually all of the problems associated with tuners/antennas are eliminated when the over the air reception issues are not present.

Consider the quality of the stations you want to listen to and just how good the tuner needs to be to pick up the compressed, frequency restricted programming of most stations. If, however, you are in an area that still provides uncompressed live feeds from concerts, you'll find a top notch tuner/antenna will perform as well or better than virtually any other source available to you regardless of cost.

Elk
Elk's picture
Offline
Last seen: 8 months 1 week ago
Joined: Dec 26 2006 - 6:32am
Re: tuner upgrade for under $1,000???

I have the Fanfare FT-1A and it is wonderful. I have used the MD it is great as well.

One little clarification, the Fanfare FT-1A has an analog FM tuner, but it has a digital frequency display It also offers a choice between narrow or wide IF bandwidths.

Both can likely be found used for under $1,000 but I have not looked.

mrlowry
mrlowry's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 years 4 months ago
Joined: May 30 2006 - 1:37pm
Re: tuner upgrade for under $1,000???

You are correct Elk the Fanfare is an analog tuner, even though the display looks like a digital tuner. The Fanfare units are killer I openly acknowledge that my preference for the Magnum Dynalab is pretty slight and mostly based on the feel of the tuning knob. I have a deep respect for both companies.

Magnum Dynalab also has unbelievably fast, inexpensive, and thorough service. I sent in my unit to have them replace the lights in the meters and to have it re-aligned. In addition they also replaced some of the buttons and switches because they felt like they would be wearing out in "the next couple of years." All of those services were provided for less than $100. Magnum Dynalab has some of the best service I've ever experienced which is saying something because I ran a service department at a high-end store for a time. Fanfare has good service too.

Elk
Elk's picture
Offline
Last seen: 8 months 1 week ago
Joined: Dec 26 2006 - 6:32am
Re: tuner upgrade for under $1,000???


Quote:
The Fanfare units are killer I openly acknowledge that my preference for the Magnum Dynalab is pretty slight and mostly based on the feel of the tuning knob.


It does come down to this sort of thing, doesn't it? A certain joy in use can be that which tips the balance.

I was amazed when I first heard a good tuner - the really sound good. I had hoped the $350 or so tuners would do the job - unfortunately they don't.

ncdrawl
ncdrawl's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 8 months ago
Joined: Oct 18 2008 - 9:18am
Re: tuner upgrade for under $1,000???

to the OP, consider the brands mentioned above, but please do yourself a favor and disregard any talk of anything, anywhere being the "BEST". There is no measurement for best, this is entirely in the ear of the beholder. . Same goes with analog vs digital. do your research, but run far away from any claims of "best", or from any post tying quality to some arbitrary amount of money.

Jan's advice was very good.

fkrausz
fkrausz's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 years 8 months ago
Joined: Feb 27 2007 - 1:08pm
Re: tuner upgrade for under $1,000???

I would expect that the latest Parasound Halo would be pretty good. I own an older model Parasound, which is just that, pretty good -- and was reviewed as being such by Stereophile . Probably not up to the Fanfare or Magnum Dynalab, but quite a bit cheaper. BTW, the antenna you use can make an enormous difference in some circumstances.

mrlowry
mrlowry's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 years 4 months ago
Joined: May 30 2006 - 1:37pm
Re: tuner upgrade for under $1,000???


Quote:
to the OP, consider the brands mentioned above, but please do yourself a favor and disregard any talk of anything, anywhere being the "BEST". There is no measurement for best, this is entirely in the ear of the beholder. . Same goes with analog vs digital. do your research, but run far away from any claims of "best", or from any post tying quality to some arbitrary amount of money.

Jan's advice was very good.

In no way am I the "specs over all" kind of guy but with tuners the specs really do tell a large part of the story. Tuners may very well be the LEAST subjective of all high end components. Rarely do I ever say that anything is "The Best" but again from current tuners in production no brands measure up to Magnum Dynalab or Fanfare. Which one is number 1 is certainly debatable. Both camps have their points and it really is a tie, broken by personal preference. Things in high-end are almost never that clear cut, but in this case they are. The most affordable tuner from either company will TROUNCE nearly any current tuner. I am including McIntosh's MR85, which is an overpriced quartz lock loop unit. Vintage Mac's tuners are something special but their current tuner is nothing more than a money grab.

ncdrawl
ncdrawl's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 8 months ago
Joined: Oct 18 2008 - 9:18am
Re: tuner upgrade for under $1,000???

bud, you cannot say that.. it is impossible to do.

noone has a monopoly on best..

and sure, you can say one has better specs than another one.. but as you probably know, in the scheme of things, specs are just one part of the story.

there is no definitive best. period. end of story. to say otherwise is dangerous to those who do not know any better, who take advice from these forums for more than what they are worth. what you are saying by making these blanket statements is that you own the copyright to make be all end all judgements for others... you own your ears, the OP does not. offer advice, sure, but try not to post things that are misleading. the statement

Quote:
"but again from current tuners in production no brands measure up to Magnum Dynalab or Fanfare."

is without merit.. cannot be proven.


Quote:

Quote:
to the OP, consider the brands mentioned above, but please do yourself a favor and disregard any talk of anything, anywhere being the "BEST". There is no measurement for best, this is entirely in the ear of the beholder. . Same goes with analog vs digital. do your research, but run far away from any claims of "best", or from any post tying quality to some arbitrary amount of money.

Jan's advice was very good.

In no way am I the "specs over all" kind of guy but with tuners the specs really do tell a large part of the story. Tuners may very well be the LEAST subjective of all high end components. Rarely do I ever say that anything is "The Best" but again from current tuners in production no brands measure up to Magnum Dynalab or Fanfare. Which one is number 1 is certainly debatable. Both camps have their points and it really is a tie, broken by personal preference. Things in high-end are almost never that clear cut, but in this case they are. The most affordable tuner from either company will TROUNCE nearly any current tuner. I am including McIntosh's MR85, which is an overpriced quartz lock loop unit. Vintage Mac's tuners are something special but their current tuner is nothing more than a money grab.

mrlowry
mrlowry's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 years 4 months ago
Joined: May 30 2006 - 1:37pm
Re: tuner upgrade for under $1,000???

My main objection to your post was that you were suggesting that my input and view should be completely ignored. OK fair enough ncdrawl, I will rephrase my statement. In my extensive experience I feel that the Magnum Dynalab and Fanfare are without equal and many in the high end community would agree on that point. The consensus on tuners is stronger than any other component category. Instead of being purely dismissive if there are CURRENT production tuners that you feel have equal or better sound that the Fanfare and Magnum Dynalabs I'd genuinely like to know about them. I'd love to add a third name to my list of recommended tuners. Tuners are a bit of an addiction with me, I currently own 4 units. Please enlighten and educate me.

dbowker
dbowker's picture
Offline
Last seen: 6 months 4 days ago
Joined: May 8 2007 - 6:37am
Re: tuner upgrade for under $1,000???

I went from the same NAD you have (which I liked) to a used Magnum, and man was it sweet music to my ears. And, yeah, the interface, the knob feel- it's all great.

ChiDave1
ChiDave1's picture
Offline
Last seen: 4 months 5 days ago
Joined: Jan 19 2008 - 4:50pm
Not the BEST tuner, a good one at a reasonable price.

hey,
I assumed MD and Fanfare are highly rated (and popular despite their price) for a reason. My question wasn't what's the BEST tuner. I'm not really likely to spend over $500 for a tuner. So, I'm looking for the best I can find even when looking at used stuff. After all, everything else is coming from Agon
That's why I wish Stereophile would list some tuners as class B or C. There's no way to know how the < $1k tuners compare to each other.

ChrisS
ChrisS's picture
Offline
Last seen: 19 hours 15 min ago
Joined: Mar 6 2006 - 8:42pm
Re: Not the BEST tuner, a good one at a reasonable price.

Hi ChiDave1,
Just recently I've acquired 3 used tuners from eBay- a Magnum Dynalab FT-101 (now in my office reception stereo system), a McIntosh MR-73 (office system), and a McIntosh MR-74 (home system). Each in very good to excellent condition and each $450 or less. Worth checking out is this site, which has tons of information:
http://www.fmtunerinfo.com/
I had been quite happy with good quality budget tuners from Rotel, but the upgrade to these tuners has increased my enjoyment of radio immensely!

ncdrawl
ncdrawl's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 8 months ago
Joined: Oct 18 2008 - 9:18am
Re: Not the BEST tuner, a good one at a reasonable price.

it is good that you arent asking such a question(what is the best) because in audio , there is no such thing. audio is about tastes, and noone can put that into a formula or qualify it in any way.

for what it is worth, I have two that I am very fond of, a telefunken that I got when I was stationed in Germany, and a Mcintosh, which doesnt see much use.

I assumed MD and Fanfare are highly rated (and popular despite their price) for a reason. My question wasn't what's the BEST tuner. I'm not really likely to spend over $500 for a tuner. So, I'm looking for the best I can find even when looking at used stuff. After all, everything else is coming from Agon
That's why I wish Stereophile would list some tuners as class B or C. There's no way to know how the < $1k tuners compare to each other.

ChrisS
ChrisS's picture
Offline
Last seen: 19 hours 15 min ago
Joined: Mar 6 2006 - 8:42pm
Re: Not the BEST tuner, a good one at a reasonable price.

How about looking at all the information available, such as the websites listed above, magazine/website reviews, and suggestions and advice from people who own and listen to a variety of tuners, and then trying out some tuners to find out what suits you, your radio broadcast area and your stereo system?

ChiDave1
ChiDave1's picture
Offline
Last seen: 4 months 5 days ago
Joined: Jan 19 2008 - 4:50pm
That IS cheap

I've got to say, I didn't realize how cheap some MD tuners are going on Agon. I'd looked at them earlier this year and didn't remember seeing any for less than $500. Looks like I'll probably end up with a 101 at some point. Any opinions on the MD-90? I really would like something with presets. I switch from classical to npr a lot and they're not close to each other on the dial in Chicago. Plus, several college stations I never remember.
Thanks for all of the input so far. I wasn't expecting much since it seems (based on reading the audio rags) there's so little interest in radio!

Dave

Elk
Elk's picture
Offline
Last seen: 8 months 1 week ago
Joined: Dec 26 2006 - 6:32am
Re: That IS cheap

The MD-90 is a very nice unit. I happened to borrow one for about a year some time ago for one of my systems and enjoyed it immensely.

If you find it for a good price that you are willing to spend you will be amazed with the improvement over your current tuner.

The difference in sound between various tuners really surprised me. Unlike CD players where perceived differences can become pretty small when comparing a $500.00 to $1,000.00 unit, the differences between tuners are huge. Once you are able to do it (new or used), the tuners in the $1k to $1.5 range are really exciting, especially when pulling in a good classical pubic radio or college station.

I also do not know of any current production tuners that touch MD and Fanfare. If you come across something else, let us know.

As previously suggested, do make sure you have a good antenna - it matters.

Jan Vigne
Jan Vigne's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Mar 18 2006 - 12:57pm
Re: That IS cheap


Quote:
I really would like something with presets.

Not exactly presets but that was the idea behind the "log" scale on many analog tuners. The scale that runs from 0-10 or 0-100 beneath or between the FM/AM scales is the log scale and was meant to provide quick, accurate access to your favorite frequencies, even to the point of de-tuning off center when necessary. If you wished to tune in 101.1 with a slight de-tuning to the right of the center frequency, you could easily slide the tuning dial down to "50.15" and you're there in pefect tune. Many tuner manufacturers included a "log" page in the owner's manual to log your log scales. Consider these to be "tactile presets".

  • X
    Enter your Stereophile.com username.
    Enter the password that accompanies your username.
    Loading