Magnum Dynalab MD 208 receiver Larry Greenhill's Followup part 2

Larry Greenhill's Followup part 2 The MD 208 was able tune in 48 of the 50 stations picked up by the FM Reference. The weakest signals picked up by the MD 208—those that produced a "0.5" reading on the MD 208's meter—gave a 25dBf reading on the FM Reference's 'scope. A slightly stronger signal (1.0 on the 0-10 meter) was needed to switch the MD 208 into stereo. The FM Reference offers Wide, Medium, and Narrow IF bandwidths, and Narrow was able to grab two more stations.

Both tuners pulled in stations at almost every adjacent FM channel, particularly in the upper section of the FM band. The FM Reference tuned out the interfering sidebands from very strong stations, but the dual-bandwidth MD 208 found this more difficult, particularly if the station was weak and the sideband strong.

The MD 208 displayed quieter reception than the FM Reference on a few weak stations, and had more trouble with multipath interference. (I could have tuned out the latter by rotating the roof antenna, but did not want to do so for this comparison.) About 25% of the stations received showed strong multipath interference. When this occurred, the FM Reference's 'scope trace became very diffuse, and some hashiness was present. With the MD 208, the audio signal level fell and the overall effect was less musical. Even so, the MD 208 showed above-average sensitivity and selectivity. Both tuners were sensitive enough to uncover differences between FM stations, revealing boosted bass, reverb, and overmodulation added at the station.

Twelve stations had strong, multipath-free signals that produced complete signal quieting in the MD 208. Of the eight best stations, two were classical (WQXR, 96.3MHz; WNYC, 93.9) and two jazz (WBGO, 88.3; WNYE, 91.5). The rest played classic rock (WXRX, 92.3), standard rock (WKTU, 103.5), multi-ethnic/reggae (WNWK, 105.9; WFUV, 90.7), and easy listening (WCTO, 94.3). I even tuned in WFMU (91.1), Michael Fremer's favorite station, out of East Orange, New Jersey.

Audio Quality
Evaluation of the Magnum Dynalab MD 208's sound required some lengthy listening sessions. Even so, the comparison was not altogether fair—at the time of its manufacture, the Day Sequerra FM Reference cost almost two times as much as the MD 208, and is, after all, a cost-no-limit FM tuner, not a receiver. Thus it was no surprise that I sometimes preferred the FM Reference's vocal timbres and its width and depth of soundstage, or that it involved me more in the music. But when the signal was strong, the MD 208 sounded very similar to the FM Reference.

Chip Stern had been impressed with the MD 208's solidity of resolution, wide stereo separation, and immense depth of soundstaging, and I agree with his characterization of the tuner's sound: "strong and rich; smooth and detailed: punchy and fast, without colorations."

While the MD 208 had a wide soundstage, the FM Reference's was deeper. Bass response, however, had exceptional punch and solidity. As always, listening to orchestral music on WQXR made the Magnum's transparency immediately apparent. Switching to the more expensive FM Reference, I noticed subtle improvements in vertical imaging accuracy and the three-dimensionality of movement and space. These subtle advantages of the more expensive tuner were evident whether I was listening to opera, orchestral music, or round-table discussions. However, the FM Reference's three-dimensionality and precise instrumental placements were best heard in balanced mode—not an option with the MD 208.

Nonetheless, the MD 208 performed well in this comparison, producing static-free signals against a black, silent background. Like the FM Reference, it showed a good balance of bass, midrange, and treble with no colorations. Both tuners were free of SCA birdies.

I second Chip's comment that the Magnum Dynalab MD 208 is a receiver "that I could easily live with over the long haul." Its RF performance revealed the same design signature I've heard with the rest of Magnum Dynalab's tuners: excellent sensitivity, good quieting, and a thoroughly musical performance. Yes, the top-of-the-line MD 108 is more sensitive and selective, and the more expensive 206 is more musical. However, the MD 208 is no slouch, as seen in its ability to provide a blacker, quieter background on some stations in the lower part of the FM band than did the Day Sequerra FM Reference.

The MD 208's FM tuner section was surprisingly sensitive and quite selective. If there was any weakness, it was in the upper part of the FM band, where it did not handle multipath as gracefully as the FM Reference, or have that tuner's transparency and bass response. Even so, this receiver's tuner section pulled in almost as many stations as the FM Reference, which makes it an excellent value.—Larry Greenhill