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The Audio Ideas FM Tuner Project - Conclusions & Tuner Rankings

Accuphase T-1000 FM Tuner“I must say that I’ve put aside the concluding chapter of this project for many months, though I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps it was the inertia caused by this last horrible Winter, or maybe I just got sick of all these tuners once I’d found the two that did what I needed an FM reception device to do. I’ll say more about these two below, but I don’t mean to tease: there are a bunch of really excellent tuners that stood out from the rest of the 50 or so that I bought and evaluated, some of which have not been formally reviewed, so they’ll get a once-over here…”

The AIG FM Tuner Project: Sony ST-5950SD, A Rare Successor to the ST-5130

Sony ST-59595D“Though it has only one IF path, like the remarkable 5130, the ST-5950SD also has auto variable IF, so can actually be more selective than many tuners with dual path switches. And there’s no AFC or Quartz Lock to pull it away from weaker signals to adjacent strong ones, so it’s an excellent DXer, holding distant signals well. Though the Hi-Blend is not up to that of the ST-5130 in reducing noise, the Dolby feature can be used for this in extreme situations while maintaining stereo reception…”

The AIG FM Tuner Project: Kenwood KT-900 - A New Style for the 80s

Kenwood KT-900“In our tests on a rather poor reception Winter day, the KT-900 managed 36 FM stations on our tower 75-0hm yagi, but improved to 55 from the 300-ohm double-dipole bowtie omni, as marked a preference as we have experienced so far. Perhaps it was an abrupt change in reception conditions, something that can happen this time of year. But stereo performance was better with the omni antenna, too, as was selectivity…”

The AIG FM Tuner Project: Sony ST-5000FW - A True Classic!

Sony ST-5000 FM Tuner

“I’ve looked for one of these for over a year in this tuner quest, and until recently, couldn’t persuade one of my oldest friends to part with, or even get aligned, his ST-5000FW. Well, I recently succeeded on both counts, and the one up for sale here also has the gorgeous custom Sony Oiled Walnut sleeve to cradle its sonic and signal-pulling excellence. These tuners are rare enough, and even moreso in Walnut. This is a true Classic, cradled in its best wood formal wear. My friend now has his again, newly restored, as is this one…”

The AIG FM Tuner Project: Kenwood KT-8300/KT-9900: 70s Statements!

Kenwood Tuner

“This is a classic tuner that outperforms just about anything made since 1980, and sounds better than most of them. In our station-pulling tests it brought in 56 stations on our outdoor tower yagi, and the same number with lower multipath and better stereo with our double dipole omni, on 2 different occasions, indicating not only superior sensitivity and selectivity, but a better capture ratio when they’re coming at you from all directions. That’s just about the toughest test of a tuner’s station-receiving ability…”

The AIG FM Tuner Project: Kenwood KT-7500 X 3

Kenwood KT-7500“This is the first of 3 KT-7500 tuners, all different in features and cosmetics, this being the beauty of the bunch in its oiled Walnut case that is almost flawless. Another to come will have professional Filter mods for DX reception capability…”

The AIG FM Tuner Project: Pioneer TX-7800

Pioneer TX-7800

“This TX-7800 is the last of the Pioneers, so to speak, unless I’m tempted into another one, say, an F-26 or 28. But they’re expensive, and not seen very often, held tight to the breast by captivated owners! The TX-7800 is, admittedly, somewhat less rare, but but definitely has its fans. Looking at the front panel’s left side, we see the Power toggle, and toward center the replaced Output Level control, which I chose from my knob box to as closely as possible match the tuner’s style…”

The AIG FM Tuner Project: Sansui’s Budget T-60 in Black & Silver

Sansui T-60 FM Tuner

“In our Audio Ideas Guide tests, the T-60 brought in 54 stations in somewhat indifferent reception conditions, with excellent selectivity for a budget model. There wasn’t quite the separation of more expensive models, nor the stereo quieting, but still, a lot of listenable signals to be had. I found the overall sound quality to be excellent, if not quite high end audiophile quality. But the money put into this tuner has been primarily spent on performance, not cosmetics, unlike some Marantz models and other brands we’ve encountered…”

The AIG FM Tuner Project: Sansui TU-999 - Another 70s Classic!

Sansui TU-999 Tuner“Here we have a top-of-the-line Sansui from the great analog days, the model above the TU-888, which we recently reviewed. The TU-999 is a little more sensitive, and has a few more features as well. This unit comes with a complete combined owner’s and service manual, so further tweaking will be easy for advanced audiophile or technicians with the right tools. It is in excellent physical and operating condition, with a metal case, and a very high quality of construction and interior compartmentalized shielding…”

The AIG FM Tuner Project: Sansui TU-888

Sansui T888“The Sansui TU-888 comes from an era when tuners from this maker were built very solidly, and had an elegant look of their own that distinguished them from other manufacturers. I think this is one of the prettiest models in the whole project, with its sleek oiled walnut cabinet, and lovely backlit dial on a black front panel. Pictures just don’t do it justice! The beautifully finished light oiled walnut cabinet is very nice, a little lifted veneer below a screw that nobody will probably see on the back left side. Scratches are few, and the finish looks quietly lustrous…”

The AIG FM Tuner Project: Pioneer TX-9500

Pioneer TX-9500 Tuner

“The elegant TX-9500 led to the TX-9500 II and TX-9800 and was bettered by them in sensitivity and selectivity, as well in as a few other features. Some say the 9500 sounds better than its immediate successor, and I used this one for months to listen to and record off air from frequently. My listening notes say, “rich mids, good deep bass, and clear treble”, and “a very pretty tuner with its amber Power and Stereo lights”. I hope my attempt at showing these latter is visible in the 2nd picture.…”

The AIG FM Tuner Project: Kenwood KT-8007

Kenwood KT-8007

“The Kenwood KT-8007 couldn’t be built today to the same standards of durability and quality at a price anywhere near what you might pay for this excellent example of one of the great Kenwoods of the 70s. To show you, I’ve opened it up and provided a picture of the beautifully shielded innards, sectioned for minimum RF interference in an age when the air around us was relatively free of electronic junk. It looks rather like the great Accuphase and top Sansui tuners inside…”

The AIG FM Tuner Project: The Luxman T-02 Digital Tuner

The Luxman T-02 Digital Tuner “The T-02 is a compact, slim digital tuner that doesn’t have the fancy Rosewood of other Lux’s, but does deliver in both IF performance and sonic quality, so much so that it almost changed my mind about digital FM tuners. According to www.fmtunerinfo.com, the T-02 (compact name, too) “is of a very high construction quality and has great features and performance”, and that “its CAT (computer analyzed tuning) system automatically adjusts reception parameters like the APR in Onkyo tuners like the T-9090 and 9090II does..”

The AIG FM Tuner Project: Luxman T-110U

Luxman T110-U Tuner“Luxman has an interesting history that has included ownership changes, and diversions in product direction that leave some of their high fidelity components much more memorable than others. The tuners I’ve looked at from this company, of which this is the first, are from a classic post-tube, solid state period, of which the T-110U is a fine minimalist, FM-only, example…”

The AIG FM Tuner Project: Marantz ST-400 AM/FM Tuner

Marantz ST-400I liked this tuner a lot right away, with its nice champagne face, and smooth Gyro-Touch flywheel tuning, to which is added an Auto Servo lock system that is disabled when you touch the thumbwheel tuning knob. And there’s that digital readout underneath the long, well-calibrated dial, and just about the smoothest tuning action this side of an expensive Kenwood…”

The AIG FM Tuner Project: McIntosh MX-113 AM/FM Tuner Preamplifier

mac-mx113-front-small.jpg“Hereby hangs a tale, of a tuner/preamp that was in pristine physical condition, as the photos show, but arrived after I bought it, with some operational imperfections, which I spent several hundred dollars fixing. These included an inoperative main volume control, and alignment and parts issues in the IF and stereo decoder sections. This is perhaps ironic, since Macs are known for their robustness electronically, but somewhat prone to such things as rust on the back and bottom…”

The AIG FM Tuner Project: Budget Sony 5000 Series

Sony 5000 Series Tuner“This stylish Sony had some similarities to the ST-5130 and -5000FW, but is a slightly later model, bearing more resemblance to such models as the ST-5950, but with a much simpler front panel…”

The AIG FM Tuner Project: Introduction

AIG FM Tuner Project
“I’ve been an FM radio listener almost all my life, and worked in it as a programmer and personality for close to half of my 60 years or so. In my teens I had a Blonder-Tongue tuner with a cranky dial cord that would receive the few Toronto stations up and running in the late 50s. These included CFRB-FM (later to become CKFM, which became the City’s highest rated FM voice in the 70s and early 80s, and where Audio Ideas, my radio show, began in November of 1973 and ran until 1986)…”

The AIG FM Tuner Project: Hitachi FT-4000

Hitachi FT-4000 FM Tuner
“This is a tuner that surprised in its sensitivity and selectivity after reviewing hundreds of tuners over the years. The Hitachi FT-4000, in good-to-excellent reception conditions, pulled in 50 stations on our 300-ohm Lindsay double-dipole antenna, and 52 on our small yagi high-mounted directional antenna on the tower, but its stereo sensitivity was somewhat below the better high end tuners (to come, about 40 models in all)…”


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