Best Sounding FM Tuner?

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
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Who listens to FM radio these days?

Are some FM stations still broadcasting somehow in pure analog, or is everything digital (the radio station plays CDs or computer files to broadcast music).

What is the best sounding FM tuner today?

Is Magnum Dynalab still one of the top FM tuner manufacturers?

Is there any point in having an analog tuner if the radio stations are broadcasting solely in digital?

Do you still have an FM tuner? If so, how often do you use it?
 

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
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I have not listened to an FM tuner at home in my audio system for several years now. These days I stream a lot of local and internet radio stations in my primary audio system via Roon and/or my Lumin X1.

The last two tuners I had, back in 2014 and earlier, were the Day-Sequerra M4r HD tuner and the classic analog Sansui TU-X1. Except for residual noise, the old classic Sansui was better sounding on the best-sounding local station, WFMT, classical radio in Chicago. Even on the Day-Sequerra, however, the analog signal of WFMT sounded better than the HD signal except for residual noise and multipath-induced problems.

Remember, HD radio is basically the same as a 300 kbps MP-3 or AAC digital stream from an internet radio station. Now such streams can sound good (Spotify is about that quality), but they are not full Redbook CD quality.

For what it's worth, when I cruise around in my 2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature with factory Bose sound system (don't laugh--it's by far the best sounding car system I've owned), when multipath interference is not a factor (maybe about half the time in my near-suburban Chicago area) the sound of WFMT's analog signal is clearly superior to its HD radio sound or the station's 256 kbps AAC stream playing via USB-connected CarPlay from my iPhone 11 Pro Max. The imaging and staging is better, more three dimensional, there is more audible detail, and it just has that great "analog" sound, despite the Bose system's DSP processing.
 

kach22i

WBF Founding Member
Apr 21, 2010
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The one you mentioned I recall as one of the top dogs, then there was Day Sequerra and all the tube tuners from Marantz, McIntosh and the like.

I have to get a dedicated roof top antenna going for my rural location.

Cannot seem to find a splitter that does Not filter out FM.

Out in my shed (workshop/gym) I only play FM and keep getting interference from the local fire/police.

Discovered that rap music is excellent heavy bag music for bobbing and weaving footwork.
 
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Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
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Thank you, gentlemen.

I see no point in fussing over an analog tuner if the FM stations are transmitting only HD radio. We can do much better in the car with higher resolution Qobuz streaming.

It is a bit of a shame as Magnum Dynalab makes extremely high quality products.
 

Barry2013

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Oct 12, 2013
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I listen to my MD109T for several hours every day, usually BBC Radio 3 or Classic FM. Roof mounted Ron Smith Galaxie 17 gives me a signal strength of 97 which is as good as you can get because MD limit it to about that level to prevent overload.
Lots of live concerts on Radio 3 so very good quality FM.
We are probably more fortunate than most here in the UK with our FM broadcasts but I believe there are some good FM stations still in the USA.
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
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Hi Barry,

What is the nature of those FM transmissions? Is it MP3 quality, or better than MP3?
 

dan31

Well-Known Member
Jul 22, 2010
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SF Bay
I use my Sony XDR-F1HD daily. News with coffee. We have local jazz and college radio with decent sound. KFJC plays a lot of vinyl. Great dj’s Blues, Jazz and some strange stuff I don’t get. KZSU has a nice blues program on Saturday am.
 

rando

Well-Known Member
Sep 22, 2019
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Out in my shed (workshop/gym) I only play FM and keep getting interference from the local fire/police.

Discovered that rap music is excellent heavy bag music for bobbing and weaving footwork.

On the other end of this, musically, is a side project by Brit radio station NTS that overlays live emergency services scanner feeds onto ambient techno. Your forced collusion must grow interesting at times.



Ron, been watching this site for a number of months as I too am looking at quality tuners. If you were hoping for a vintage model to complement your wood paneling. They appear competent at securing only fine examples which are then brought up to peak ability before resale.

American Public Media is owned and operated by the local NPR station. Even in times without live concerts to broadcast from the two local symphonies programming is refined and fulfilling. I do begin to miss Garrison Keillor spending a few minutes every weekday reciting a meaningful selection of prose or poetry along with some gentle thoughts on the subject.
 

Barry

Member Sponsor
Jan 8, 2012
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Somewhere near Philadelphia, USA
The Tuner Information Center (TIC) has the most comprehensive information on vintage FM tuners of any site on the web. The panel of experts has some of the best technical people in the business and includes people who've owned, repaired, and modified hundreds of tuners. It even has a review panel shootout ranking of 84 tuners. As you'll see, the golden age of tuners was in the 70s to mid-80s. The whole subject is a totally different world of audiophilia.

Getting good sound from an older FM tuner without a great antenna and knowing where to point it is impossible. There's a website, FM Fool, solely devoted to locating FM transmitters from your exact location anywhere in the US so you can orient your antenna in the right direction at the strongest signals. It includes a 360 degree plot of all the stations, and their signal strength, from your specific location.

I've owned a Magnum Dynalab Etude. Looked nice... Have a totally modified Fran Van Alstine Dyna FM-5 which sounds very good. Better still, a totally restored, modified, and aligned Sansui TU 717 which sounds really great, but is nowhere in the top league. That lofty perch belongs to the top of the line tuners from Kenwood, Sansui, & Accuphase which are highly regarded by many tuner junkies.

The problem with FM listening is having good quality signals nearby. There aren't many left except in major metro areas, but I've got a few choices in the Philly area. The heyday of great FM stations and good tuners is sadly long past except for the most ardent collectors.
 
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ack

VIP/Donor & WBF Founding Member
May 6, 2010
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I still listen to my modified MD Etude every day, mostly classical, and the sound can be staggering. Or as my son said the other day, “this is the radio?” Beautiful string sounds and palpability, to the point I sometimes wonder what kind of digital chain are they using.

Still recording the BSO live broadcasts (which are analog) on Saturday nights. The re-broadcasts a week later are obviously digital.

And yes, Magnum Dynalab makes superb products; and all original lights still work after 25 years; the unsung heroes of high end audio.
 

jeffrey_t

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Jan 29, 2012
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Ron,
We are very lucky in Los Angeles to have a phenomenal classical music station, KUSC. I listen to it with my Sony XDR-F1HD.
 
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Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
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What format does it broadcast? Digital?

What resolution?
 

Folsom

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Oct 26, 2015
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I've had a so-called super good tuner. Now I only judge them based on how they look. Some day I may consider starting a collection. I really only care about them for talk radio most of the time.

47 Labs is one that comes to mind.



Marantz 10B is very nice, not cheap to find.
 

Barry2013

VIP/Donor
Oct 12, 2013
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Essex UK
Listening to BBC Radio 3 as I write and as delightful as ever.
Thanks to some very valuable help from Ricardo007 I have upgraded two of the stock tubes of my 109T with NOS Philipps 6922s and a pair of Philipps/Mullard pre 1970 6922 NOS tubes have arrived from the US in the last two minutes and will go in later today.. Not too difficult to find and I am looking forward to the further improvements they will bring. A more straightforward option to hunting for a Day Sequerra or Marantz 10B, though a fellow member I know well has one of each that he never listens to, and the convenience of a remote.
 

kach22i

WBF Founding Member
Apr 21, 2010
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Ann Arbor, Michigan
www.kachadoorian.com
Ron,
We are very lucky in Los Angeles to have a phenomenal classical music station, KUSC. I listen to it with my Sony XDR-F1HD.
I get a HD classical station from Lansing MI on my Bogen in the kitchen, most of the time it is just okay, just good enough to hear over the sound of doing dishes and cooking. However should I turn it up to more than background levels it gets too edgy. More likely the amp and speakers but keeps me favoring the drift of analog over it.

I think if you have college radio stations, PBS stations and or cannot sleep at night a good tuner is your friend - but a good antenna is a must.
 
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kach22i

WBF Founding Member
Apr 21, 2010
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Ann Arbor, Michigan
www.kachadoorian.com
I stopped by Overture Audio's new location in Ann Arbor today. They have a Magnum Dynalab in the used section for $800.

Not sure what model, had several rectangular VU meters and some toggle switches. Think it may have been dark bronze color, and scratch free.
 

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