The Audio Ideas FM Tuner Project - Conclusions & Tuner Rankings

      Date posted: June 18, 2009

Opening Apologia

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 Honourable Mentions

Kenwood KT-815 - In our reception tests, this KT-815 pulled in 54 stations on our high-tower yagi, and 55 on our lower Lindsay double-dipole (bowtie) omni antenna. It proved highly selective, as well as sensitive, with very clean sound and little multipath distortion. I liked its uncoloured and un-enriched sound compared to other tuners, such as many McIntosh models, especially such tuner/preamp models as the MX-113 we tested and sold in the Spring (which, of course, has its own felicities, and is now happily operating in France), and some other highly touted models from other makers. Neutrality is a good start in a tuner you want to listen to seriously and perhaps record from, as I do.

Luxman T-110u - On our high 75-ohm yagi antenna 53 stations were received in less-than-average conditions in mid-September, while the omni double dipole lower on the tower brought in 54 signals. The latter antenna also brought in more clean stereo signals, indicating a pretty good capture ratio and ability to reject multipath. Dial calibration was very accurate, and tuning smooth and silky. Sonically, the T-110U  stands out from the crowd, with solid bass and a very sweet treble, making it a perfect match for the best Luxman solid state amplifiers of the period, which were way ahead of their time. It compared well with our much more expensive reference, just lacking that in-studio quality, but better and warmer sounding than most analog tuners, and much better than any digital tuner I’ve ever heard [though a couple of later-reviewed models did surpass], except, of course, the Luxman T-02 in our next review.

Luxman T-02 - Our tests more than confirmed the findings of users here or abroad in quite good reception conditions. The T-02 brought in 59 signals on our high 75-Ohm yagi antenna, and 60 with our Lindsay double dipole omni antenna, also on the tower, but lower. These were characterized by excellent sound quality, good stereo on most, and the tuner’s capture ratio clearly delineated stations, this best heard on the latter aerial. Using the IF button with the CAT one, weaker signals could be significantly improved, a great feature for DXers. To make the best of its reception possibilities, I’d recommend a good, high omni antenna, or a directional one with rotor. Myself, I hate fussing with rotors for FM. Sonically, it came quite close to our reference, though not quite as close as the T-110U  did. But the sound is very neutral and clean, with very low distortion, and few reception artifacts once the CAT has been put in the cradle, so to speak.

McIntosh MX-113

Mcintosh MX-113  Tuner/Preamp - I did like the tuner, basically an MR-74  front end, a lot for its sensitivity and selectivity (Narrow IF selectable), helped by a fairly high stereo threshold and variable separation to maintain good, quiet reception and sound in a continuum from mono to stereo, so that almost no stations sounded really bad. In this light, I can note that it received 42 stations on our 75 Ohm yagi antenna, but a more generous 53 on the Lindsay 300 ohm double dipole, which it obviously preferred, with virtually no multipath distortion, and the ability to lock stations in for extended listening. This Mac was characterized by consistently excellent sound quality, with particularly solid and extended bass and a very sweet, if a little rolled off, treble. Compared to an Accuphase, I’d call it less revealing, perhaps, but definitely more pleasant and forgiving on some signals.

Onkyo T-9 and T-4 - If my memory serves me correctly, the T-4 was the first tuner I acquired for this project. I liked its styling, particularly the big, bold and clean brushed aluminum look, and the long dial with its flywheel tuning. For reasons I can’t recall, I never formally reviewed either the T-4 or T-9, though I lived with the latter for many months. Looking inside each, one could see a lot more circuitry in the T-9, which belied performance that was quite similar, though the T-9 was a little more selective and quieter on most stations than the T-4. It was an affordable near-classic in its day, with a bright, open sound on the best signals.

Pioneer TX-9500Pioneer TX-9500 - This Pioneer  pioneer (it spawned a series, after all) is in very good alignment, as our tests show: On both the high yagi and lower (on our tower) double dipole omni, the 9500  brought in 56 stations, but more were listenable in better stereo on the Lindsay omni, indicating excellent selectivity and capture ratio. In these better-than-average conditions, WNED, 94.5 from Buffalo, 85 miles away, came in with only slightly noisy stereo. The servo lock works well, but avoids that AFC-style strong-arming found on many other tuners. WNED is near the very strong CBC Radio 2 at 94.1, and a slightly less powerful (but overmodulated)  “Smooth Jazz” (clearly an oxymoron) station closer at 94.7. With the TX-9500  this feature works just right, in my opinion, any stations pulled away from to a stronger probably simply not listenable, anyway. It’s a very fine and attractive tuner that deserved and found a good home at a price somewhat lower than did the others in the series, and should be viewed as a potential high performance bargain by those seeking an analog FM tuner.

Pioneer TX-9800 - Operationally, the 9800 is very smooth, with excellent flywheel tuning action, typical of this series of Pioneer tuners, but reflecting best of breed. In our reception tests, it received 54 stations on our tower yagi directional antenna in relatively poor reception conditions in early october. The Lindsay double dipole antenna received 57 signals, with better selectivity and capture ratio, and more listenable stereo signals. It’s a very fine sounding tuner, with a slightly drier and brighter quality than our reference (the Accuphase T-101), and obviously a good unit for distance reception. It’s sensitive, selective, and one of the more collectible and enjoyable analog tuners within the range of affordability that most of us live with.

Sansui TU-999 - On both 75 and 300 ohm antennas, the TU-999 received 46 and 48 stations, respectively, and will probably favour a 300-ohm antenna, but is comfortable with either. Conditions were a little poorer than average in early Winter. One oddity I should note is that the Stereo light stays on when the Selector is set to FM, even though the sound is mono; I guess this allows one to check which stations are stereo when in this mode. Mono stations are muted in FM Stereo mode. The TU-999 is quite selective, but its stereo quieting is not up there with the best models on weak signals. Sound quality is typical of the better Sansui  models of its era, with very solid, defined bass, a sweet, open midrange, and wide separation. I liked and enjoyed this tuner a lot, and the TU-999  is an early classic predecessor to the legendary TU-9900, and a very fine performer in its own right. Both exhibit the solid and enduring quality of the marque at its height.

Yamaha CT-1010 and CT-800 - These two tuners were very popular models in their years, with very similar performance. Like the Kenwood KT-7500 and 7300, they were very successful middle-of-the-range models in their time. I didn’t formally review these, but lived happily with a CT-1010  for several months. It was an excellent tuner, sensitive and moderately selective, with an open sound like the aforementioned Onkyo models.

Some tuners we did not purchase because of our $500 limit, but would have liked to audition, included the Denon TU-850, Kenwood L-07T and 917, Marantz 2130, McIntosh MR-78, ReVox B-760, Sansui TU-9900, TU-919, and TU-X1. Some of these are also quite rare and hard to come by on eBay at any price.

Our Top 10 Tuners

Sony ST-5000

10) Sony ST-5000FW -  In our tests, both realigned ST-5000 samples showed similar sensitivity and selectivity, with my friend’s (contributing editor Hy Sarick) bringing in 47 stations in generally good stereo on our tower 75-ohm yagi, and 51 on the double-dipole bowtie 300-ohm omni antenna. The one I bought was a little better on the same winter afternoon, with 49 on the yagi, and 52 on the omni. Both preferred the 300-ohm antenna, and multipath was lower and separation greater, the resulting sound cleaner in most cases. This tuner is also a classic in build quality, with thorough shielding of IF and other electronics inside.

Sonically, this tuner is superb, even as it passes 40 (debuted in 1968), but the build quality is such that, just looking at it, one sort of expects this. Like a Rolls, its durability is legendary, and its performance is, as Rolls-Royce power was described by its dealers, “adequate”. A finicky collector might want to disassemble it like a classic car to polish every part, but in listening I found it rather more than adequate. The bass is rock solid, the midrange lucid and arresting, and the top end sweet and musical.

9) Kenwood KT-8300/9900 - It has that extra Deviation/Multipath meter, which in the former setting is like a VU meter, but calibrated to show over-modulation of a station, and in the latter mode it can help you aim or orient your antenna for cleanest stereo and lowest overall distortion. It’s also a beautiful beast, with that silky sweet tuning action, and with the rack handles, just about the sexiest look of any tuner ever made! I was almost hoping no one would bid, so I could keep this beast, but I’ve already got the great DX sleeper Sony ST-5130, and the awesome-sounding Accuphase T-101, so what can I do? And, there, I’ve let the cat out of the bag, since this is a very strong supporting player in The FM Tuner Project. And my wife says, “Sell them ALL! NOW!”

Kenwood KT-8300

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 European model KT-9900 is identical except for its darker, more copper-like finish, and our sample was also identical in performance.

8) Pioneer F-90 -This was one of my favourite digitals, with excellent sound and quite good DX reception in narrow mode. It employed, according to a Pioneer ad from 1983, “an unconventional circuit that uses a 1.26MHz pulse train and a pure 38 KHz sine wave, thereby eliminating the need for a conventional noise filter (which creates distortion, harmonics, and limits frequerncy response).”  Not quite as hot as the Yamaha T-85, the F-90 was an impressive performer, and very quiet on most FM signals. And you do get to love presets.

7) Accuphase T-100 - In our standard Audio Ideas tests in good reception conditions, it pulled in 56 stations on our Lindsay double dipole omni 300-ohm antenna, which is lower on our tower than the 75-ohm-connected yagi that brought in 48 signals. The better omni/300-ohm performance was accompanied by more good stereo signals, generally lower noise, and much less observable multipath. It appears that the Lindsay aerial allows the native selectivity of the T-100  to shine, but I’m sure a rotor based super antenna would provide spectacular DX results that were even better (our big tower-top rotor yagi is devoted these days to getting HDTV from up to 80 miles away). The sound quality of this tuner is really what puts this Accuphase into the top echelons. As a broadcaster for much of my life, I know what “in-the-studio” sound is all about, and the T-100 definitely has it!

6) Yamaha T-85 - In our reception tests, the T-85 was very hot, receiving 60 stations on our 75-ohm yagi antenna, the only one we tested it on because of its single input and unusual fitting. All our other antennae are 300-ohm types. Its high selectivity was enhanced by the Super Narrow setting, and stereo separation could be reduced to minimize background noise, which made this Yamaha able to make more stations listenable than any other tuner in our experience. However, it was not quite as capable as the Sony ST-5130 when dealing with WNED at 94.5, sandwiched as it is between other stronger signals at 94.1 and 94.7. The Yamaha T-85  was, however, one of the best sounding digital tuners in the Project, up there with the Luxman T-02 and Pioneer F-90, if not quite in the Accuphase class.

Sony ST-5130 top, Accuphase T-101 below

5) Sony ST-5950SD - Though it has only one IF path, like the remarkable 5130, it 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. In our reception tests on a quite average late March day’s reception, it received 53 stations on both 75-ohm yagi and 300-ohm omni antennas, but the latter showed less multipath and better stereo with lower noise. With respect to multipath, the ST-5950SD  has a momentary pushbutton, which when pressed shows multipath intensity on the signal strength meter. Speaking of which, this is one SS meter that doesn’t pin right all the time, and gives useful information about relative signal power, as well as quality in the multipath setting.

The sound quality of this tuner is excellent, with good deep bass, lucid midrange, and good top end extension. It’s not quite in the league of the Accuphase tuners, but very much in the running with such models as the Kenwood KT-8300 and similarly priced Sansui models. In sum, it’s very much in the great Sony ES tradition, and a fine tuner in all respects.

4) Sony ST-A6B - Called a “sleeper” by some reviewers, this quite beautiful piece of industrial design is close to my favourite among these tuners. A 7-gang design, it combines high sensitivity with selectable Narrow IF, unusual in Sony designs of the late 70s, and it brought in 55 stations on our Lindsay omni and 56 on our directional yagi antennae. Sound quality was described as “phenomenal” by one contributor to, and I concur, though it does not have quite the listen-through quality of the Accuphase, probably a function of parts quality available to Sony at their set price point, about $300 at introduction. The metering is exceptional, with accurate estimates of signal level, but stereo quieting does not quite match that of its predecessor, the ST-5130. But it sure is pretty! I still haven’t let this one go, but probably will this fall.

3) Sony ST-5130 - I once again compared this tuner with the ST-A6B, and the auto-IF-narrow stereo quieting of the ST-5130  was superior on our favourite classical station, WNED-FM in Buffalo. Receiving 54 stations on the omni antenna, and 53 on the yagi, this tuner yielded more listenable stereo siignals than any other tuner except the T-101. Its auto IF control works to make weak signals listenable without sacrificing much stereo separation except at the highest frequencies, but reducing noise significantly with the High Filter on. The provided AFC is unnecessary, and can pull to stronger stations from a weak one. Sound quality is very high, if admittedly a little warmer and mellower than the Kenwood and Pioneer tuners of the same era. I liked it so much I bought 4 samples of this tuner, and kept the best one for WNED reception. Our keeper among these was fitted with a pair of rack handles that I bought from someone who claimed they fitted some Kenwood  models, which they did not. However, I like the look they give to the 5130, and are handy when moving it around.

Accuphase T-1000
2) Accuphase T-1000 - One of the most expensive tuners ever made, the T-1000 can be ordered with a digital out to feed a DAC or digital preamp directly. Our sample did not have that feature, but was a superb-sounding tuner on good signals, but not all that sensitive or selective. It received 46 stations on our yagi antenna, and 49 on the omni. If you have a perfect antenna system, this could be the perfect tuner. That’s if you have the $7000-plus to purchase it. Our review sample came from Canadian distributor Angie Lisi at Audio Pathways (

1) Accuphase T-101- Our other keeper, the T-101 simply sounds better than anything else I’ve heard. It also brought in 60 stations on the yagi, and 58 on the omni double dipole, but more were listenable in stereo with the omni antenna. It did not, however, receive WNED-FM as quietly as did the Sony ST-5130. But with a good live stereo broadcast like those on Sunday afternoons on CBC Radio 2, the sound is simply awesome. When I give my friends CDs of some of these broadcasts, they find it hard to believe that the source was an FM tuner. Of course, no FM tuner can undo the effects of the heavy limiting employed by all FM stations, So these days, I’m more inclined to record Jazz than Classical music, since it doesn’t suffer the effects of compression to the same extent.

That said, the T-101’s midrange is lucid and liquid, the bass bottomless, with a silky, sparkling top end, and that sense of liveness from a good Radio 2 concert, or a Cleveland or Chicago orchestral broadcast, is palpable with good antenna and reception. As a veteran broadcaster, I can almost identify the voice microphones used in many cases. But it’s the music that matters, and that’s what Accuphase tuners are all about.

Final Thoughts

My only regret about this whole exercise is that CBC Radio 2’s Classical programming has gone to hell in a handbasket over the last year or so, except for their Sunday afternoon ghetto, and weekdays’ Tempo, with droolie Julie and her potboilers for desperate housewives. And as far as Jazz is concerned, while Katie Malloch is a knowledgeable and charming, as well as very competent and professional host, she now plays a lot of soul and schlock that doesn’t deserve to be called Jazz, so I tend to record parts of her programs on my Stellavox SP 8 (which allows quick on-the-fly editing), usually the artist or band concert profile just after 7 PM. I call these tapes “Tonic Detoxed”.

So it’s a little less often that I hear anything else that excites or intrigues me on CBC, and I listen to WNED-FM most of the time. I did buy the Sanyo R-227  internet radio I reviewed, and use it to tune in WFMT in Chicago online. But internet radio has a somewhat vacuous sound; there’s less there there, though full frequency response and no noise, and it just doesn’t grab your ears and interest like a good FM signal.

Now that VHF TV is off the air in the US, I’m starting to worry that new uses of that frequency band may have deleterious effects on FM reception. After all, the FM band is wedged between what were channels 6 and 7. But Canada will not make this transition for another year or so, and then we may see other services using this VHF band space. If that makes you wonder why I ventured upon this FM Tuner Project, all I can say is, stay tuned.

Accuphase T-100

Andrew Marshall

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26 Responses to “The Audio Ideas FM Tuner Project - Conclusions & Tuner Rankings”

  1. Anonymous c-ca Says:

    What, no Magnum Dynalb tuners???????????????

    I have an FT101A and I love it.

  2. Kevin c-ca Says:

    Hi - Actually I was referring to this The Audio Ideas FM Tuner Project - Conclusions & Tuner Rankings from June 18, 2009. And I was wondring whether you are selling any of the tuners.


  3. Whitehall c-us Says:

    Interesting project - much appreciated. Maybe I’ve got a bad unit, even after refurbishment, but my Sony ST-5000FW beats the ST-5130 in all ways, hands down. The McIntosh MX-113 I had was nice enough but still lagging to the ST-5000FW.

    Of course, everyone is going to differ slightly on most subjective tests but a practiced ear is to paid attention too.

  4. Andrew Marshall c-unknown Says:

    To Whitehall,

    The outstanding quality of the ST-5130 is its exceptional auto selectivity, along with superb stereo quieting. My mod to it is to shield the tuning capacitor (that in the ST-5000 is completely encapsulated) with copper tape or, in my own case Mu-metal. So modded, it outperforms the ST-5000. I tested and modded 5 samples of the ST-5130, and had aligned and then tested 2 ST-5000s. It also outperforms the ST-A6B in stereo quieting, which a better tuner than the ST-5000.

    To Kevin,

    All of the better tuners were sold, the aforementioned ST-A6B last week, and the others over the previous year, and there are just a few stragglers remaining of average quality which were not reviewed.

    To Anonymous,

    I have watched the progress of Magnum Dynalab over the years with increasing dismay. The FT-101 is quite a good tuner (see the www.fmtunerinfo review), like the Fanfare FT-A, which I owned for several years, which is better. Recent Magnum Dynalab “World” tuners have been ridiculously expensive, especially for receiving crappy sounding satellite or internet radio, costing $6000 or more for fancier models. For that purpose, the pricing, in my view, is tantamount to fraud, when you can get a decent sounding Sanyo internet radio for under $200. Magnum Dynalab today appears to me to be just another high-priced high-end hustler.

  5. JAR Head c-unknown Says:

    If you are prepared to pay up to $7000 +/- for an FM tuner, why not try the Belar Electronics FMCS-1 modulation monitor. I recently purchased one for a client and, while it’s a measurement instrument designed for professional use, the sound quality is incredible. I was listening through Beyer DT-200 headphones and found the sound definition was outstanding.

    I was only using a large dipole antenna in my attic but was still able to measure transmitter parameters accurately and easily pull in signals from 60 kilometers away very well, including CBC Radio 1, 2 , various campus stations and the usual commercial offerings. It’s interesting to actually hear a Motown recording cleanly over the air with it’s wide open bass and drums, as played on an oldies format FM station.

  6. Andrew Marshall c-unknown Says:

    A less expensive pro-oriented tuner is the Fanfare FT-1A, which I owned for several years in its consumer version. These are used by many FM stations as monitors, or as receivers for repeater transmitters to fill in or extend coverage area.

    However, I still feel the Accuphase tuners sound better than most pro models I’ve heard, and kept the T-101 for recording off air from CBC radio 2.

  7. Eric Fung c-us Says:

    I appreciate your comparison here weighted on the sonic performance rather than the DX capability as emphasized by FMTunerInfo. I have two T-101, a Fisher KM-60, a Sony ST-5000FW, a Sony ST-5055 and a mono Sherwood S3000-III. The first T-101 I bought from a gentleman through Audiogon that has audiophile modification which have all the tantalum capacitors in the signal path replaced by metalized polypropylene film capacitors and the power supply filtering capacitors are replaced by Blackgate capacitors. It sounds fabulous. Then, I looked into circuit of the Sony ST-5000FW. I figured out that the electrolytic capacitors at the output had degraded the sound. So, I replaced them with polypropylene caps too. It sounded much better after the mod. But, the sonic was not as transparent as the modded T-101. Instead replacing the old ELNA electrolytic caps in the power supply filters, I patched two 10uF polypropylene caps on the two ELNA caps. That increase the mid and high frequency response dramatically. Now, my ST-5000FW sounds like the modded T-101. The other T-101 I bought from ebay had one channel broken. After I fixed it and upgraded the caps, it sounds like my ST-5000FW. I also have a Fisher tube tuner KM-60. It sounds like the audiophile modded T-101 too. The mono Sherwood S3000-III sounds very good too. It is quieter than other stereo tuners; but, lacks stereo image. The Sony ST-5055 sounds good too as a budget tuner; it also used single-end class A amplifier. I do not own T-100. But, I studied the circuits of the audio amplifiers of T-100, T-101 and ST-5000FW and figured out that the amplifier circuits of the T-101 and ST-5000FW are both single-ended class A. The subtle different is on the feedback. The amplifier circuit of T-100 is different. It has opamp like circuit built by discrete transistors. It uses dual voltages and the output stage is push-pull. Well, sometimes more does not mean better.

    I live in Silicon Valley, California. My favorite FM channel is KDFC Classical of San Francisco. I am using a vintage Sony TA-4650 V-FET 30WPC integrated amplifier as a power amp. The preamp is a JFET buffer amp that I built by using the circuit that resembles Nelson Pass B1 buffer amp. The Sony TA-4650 also had low-grade 2.2uF electrolytic caps at the inputs of the power amp. After I removed it to make the inputs as direct couple, it sounds fabulous.

  8. Andrew Marshall c-unknown Says:

    Hi Eric,

    Thank you for bringing your informed comments to our discussion. I’ve been attacked for my preferences for the Accuphase tuners, but the ears don’t lie, though my Sony ST-5130 can sound very good with distant signals, the recent Sony XDR-F1HD provides unprecendented DX reception with incredibly low noise and distortion for $100.

  9. Eric Fung c-us Says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I came across the schematic of the ST-5130. If you know how to replace the electrolytic caps with metalized polypropylene film caps in the signal path, your ST-5130 will sound much better.

  10. BrianL c-unknown Says:

    Nice set of comparisons. I’d like to have seen a Philips 673 or 6731 included. I also wish you had thrown in a Sherwood S3300 or SEL-300. Looking at the reviews it was nice to see as many Sonys as you reviewed hit the list.

    I have a ST-5066 and it is rather amazing just how good it is especially, considering the average price.

    The above Sherwoods are not on the radar for most persons and an absolute bargain. I have 2 of the S3300s, an early all-FET and the later version with FETS and microcircuits. I’ve not heard the all-fet version as of yet but the later version has my Mc MR77 siting on the sidelines except when I need to go long distance for some reason. The SEL-300 is a S3300 later version with an extra IF filter under the hood.

    While I do not have a ST-5000 I own a pair of Sony receivers from the era and can attest to the build quality of Sonys from that period. 2nd to none. The tuners in the receivers, a STR6060 and STR6120 are so good that getting the receivers just for the tuners is worth the effort. Back when I was in the audio business the ST-5000 was known with the audio guys as the tuner to get if make was not a factor while absolutely 1st rate quality was. We were a Sony dealer and the majority of the employees would order the tuner for themselves.

  11. Brauny c-us Says:

    I have owned an Accuphase T-100 since the middle 1970’s. It was just my dumb luck I would buy such a fabulous tuner without knowing it would be so good for so long. I bought a T-101 a few years ago when one became available on Craigslist, locally. I think it even better than the T-100.
    My question to you: If I spend big money on an Accuphase T-1000, would you think I would be amazed (blown away) or would you say it sounds much like its older siblings. Would you say the digital output a necessity or just a nice feature? I already own an Esoteric SA-50 SACD with a spare DAC input to process the T-1000 digital output. It seems strange to take an analog FM broadcast signal, convert it to digital and then back to analog.

  12. Andrew Marshall c-unknown Says:

    Hi Brauny,
    I agree with you about the T-101 being better than the T-100. I also feel that the T-1000 is an exercise in futility, in that it can’t sound better than the T-101, though the sample I reviewed did not have the digital output option. I mean, how good can FM sound?

    In fact, my conclusion was that the T-101 sounded better than the T-1000, and it is still my tuner of choice for recording the occasional good jazz live broadcast from CBC Radio 2. However, for DX use, such as bringing in Classical WNED-FM from Buffalo on a dedicated FM Yagi, the Sony ST-5130 remains the hottest tuner in my experience after the amazing XDR-F1HD.

    So don’t waste your money on a T-1000. You’re right that the digital conversion isn’t going to improve FM in any way, and you’re better off with the sound of the T-101.

    cheers, Andrew

  13. marc c-fr Says:

    hello , i agree : the t 101 is the best tuner i have ever hear , i have also one revox b 260 and a marantz with blue oscilloscope but on french radio public ( france musique , fip , france inter ) , the sound of live concert jazz is amazing with my fanfare antenna ( only 89 EUROS IN PARIS IN LITTLE STORE )
    i record with dat since 15 years and i transfer some one concerts with my hhb brodcoast recorder and it’s better than cd !!
    hello from france !! paris

  14. Neil Schubert c-us Says:


    I have the Yamaha T-1000 tuner which in comparison to many others seems to have the best stereo separation and accuracy. It is the same basic design as the t-700. I also have a Sony XDR-S3HD, which I have no use for the HD portion, but which is great at cleaning the noise out of weak stations, and, by far, has the best channel spacing separation I have used on a radio to date. I am able to separate a full signal on 94.3 from a weak signal on 94.5. The sound quality is good, but it’s digital noise reduction does get a little chirpy when the signal is weak. It does even digitally remove impulse noise, which is awesome.

    That being said, it is probably better than a mono or dulling blend circuit, or the noise itself. I had to add a line out jack.

    I like the Yamaha for moderately strong local signals, but when there’s static, it’s time for the Sony.

  15. Neil Schubert c-us Says:

    The Yamaha is good at rejecting multi-path and handles over or improperly modulated signals, or even mis-tuned transmitters.

  16. SAB c-unknown Says:

    I have the Accuphase T101 and recently started using its variable outs directly into my amp- a wonderfuly transparent sound. It’s hard for me to imagine any preamp improving this.

  17. Allan c-unknown Says:

    I am also a Toronto resident who has suffered for decades from poor WNED-FM reception. In 1989 I purchased a Sony 730ES, which when connected to an old TV antenna and tower easily pulled in both WNED-FM and Rochester’s all-classical WXXI 92.5. That lasted a year until I moved and it was back to the same old reception. There is also the issue of poor WNED-FM reception in vehicles.

    The only way to solve all of the above issues is for WNED-FM to re-direct its signal and/or increase its power. The Toronto market is now six times the size of the Buffalo market. WNED-FM tries to cater to its Canadian audience, particularly during funding raising drives, by playing Canadian content classical. Little do they seem to realize that we are not listening to WNED-FM for Canadian content. However, it would serve them well to look into the economics of tinkering with their transmission facilities in the context of potential increases in the Toronto donor base.

    I would be happy to accompany you to WNED-FM’s offices to lobby them in that direction.

  18. Fred Stark c-us Says:

    Accuphase now has a newer model. The T-1100 is available. It is more expensive, but it might be worth the investment.

  19. Andrew Marshall c-ca Says:

    Given the state of FM these days, another ultr-expensive tuner is probably exactly what the market is not looking for!

    Here’s an email comment from a more typical FM lover about one of my favourite tuners:

    “Hi Andrew .
    Season’s greetings.

    I have been reading your reviews for many decades now,all informative and easy to “dig”. I guess you still receive the odd comment on your tuner reviews. I bought last year a Sony 5130 tuner that was used 2 years and in storage 36 years. Audio Oasis cleaned it up tested and brought it up to factory specs for $65.

    Andrew I have had ALL the big boys in your evaluation including 3 Sansui 9900s. Hands down, to my ears this stock Sony has the best reception,and with my Xindak tube pre and PrimaLuna el 34 tube power amp going to my Volent CL2 speakers is the best sounding tuner I have heard ever.
    I wish your onine magazine had more frequent reviews.

    Best, Nigel Marsh

  20. Andrew Marshall c-ca Says:

    Hi Nigel,

    Thanks for your kind comments. I still have my ST-5130, but must confess I don’t listen to it very often any more. With the only decent Classical signal in the Toronto GTA being WNED-FM from Buffalo, I am just at the extreme fringe where my ST-5130 (the best of 3 I tested) simply cannot provide a clean signal. Of course, this is exacerbated by the station’s use of HD Radio to provide their AM NPR signal on a sideband, which takes away some of the overall signal strength of the FM station. So, I bought the new super-hot Sony XDR-F1 tuner, which is probably the best FM reception tool ever designed, which also brings in HD Radio.

    But one could say it, too, has been silenced by HD Radio, a broadcast system that overlays an extra digital signal on the analog signal, and switches back and forth between analog and digital with low-level signals, causing a nasty burbling noise through the XDR-F1. As a result, I rarely get a clean FM signal, so have been driven to internet radio via my modestly priced Sanyo R227 radio’s recording output.

    There I get clean stereo sound from stations all over the world, and those who care enough to provide a decent bit rate provide acceptable sounding signals. Programmed currently are WFMT, Chicago (48 Kilobytes-per-second, marginal), WCLV, Cleveland (64 kBps, a little better, WQXR, NY (127 kBps, better), WGUC, Cininnati (189 kBps, quite pleasant), and AVRO Baroque, Hilversum, Holland (256 kBps, excellent), with JazzRadio from somewhere in Europe also programmed (64 kBps).

    With their swoon into mediocrity (at best), CBC Radio is virtually unlistenable, and it’s just too much trouble to pick the gems out of the dross. I occasionally tune by Katie Malloch’s Tempo in the evening or the Sunday midday Classical ghetto, but, according to recent ratings, Radio Two (or “Tiew”, as they say it) has effectively halved its audience from the small core of devotees it once had. A sorry state of affairs, indeed.

    But this just allows me more time to listen to my growing collection of multichannel SACDs, and my large collection of LPs. When a good signal is available from Radio Two, I use my superior-sounding Accuphase T-101 tuner, especially if I want to record something. One of these sold last night on eBay for just over $400, so I guess it’s held its reputation as one of the best tuners ever made.

    Best wishes for 2012!

    cheers, Andrew

  21. Brauny c-us Says:


    I hear your sorrows brother; tired of all the commercial interruptions, station identifications and signal interference. I often turn-off the analog tuners in favor of digital streaming via Mac Book Pro. I have fine-tuned the computer connection to my DAC and really enjoy traveling to Paris, Budapest, San Francisco and Liverpool without leaving my living room. Pandora is nice, too (though I have never been there).

    Don’t get me wrong. I still own two Accuphase T-101’s and one Accuphase T-100. They are the best of the best and serve me well in my office and master bedroom, where it is easier to hit the power button and listen. However, the T-101’s are for sale. The T-100 is part of a larger Accuphase C-200 and P-300 set I dare not separate unless I sell the whole ball of wax together.

    Are the days numbered for FM broadcast? Hard to tell. Vinyl L.P.’s were all but gone but have returned with strong demand. Heck, a company named Acoustic Sounds in Salina Kansas is pressing virgin vinyl. College and small community radio FM stations are still going strong. Has anyone tried KKFI 90.1 FM in with all volunteer staff and interesting program schedule? Lots of blues, jazz, funk, etc.

    Kansas City

  22. Andrew Marshall c-ca Says:

    Hi Brauny,

    Nice to hear an immediate response to my latest outburst about FM. I cut my teeth in broadcasting at CFRC AM and FM at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario as an undergraduate, and later went back to manage the station after a couple of years teaching high school English, then freelancing my way into Toronto to work at CJRT-FM, CBC Radio, and doing my longtime gig of Audio Ideas (2 1/2 minutes 5 times weekly for 13 years - over 3000 shows) on CKFM, then Canada’s most-listened to FM station. Of course, CKFM was bought by an idiotic conglomerate in the mid-80s, fired all of us, and went from a 10% overall broadcast market share to 4% in 6 months. Their new format was called “THE MIX”.

    As you can see, I’ve been around broadcasting, inside and out, for a long time, as on-air voice and brain, as well as writer and critic. I’ve interviewed Glenn Gould, Neville Marriner, Vladimir Ashkenazy, and many other luminaries in a career that spanned the death of AM and the decline of FM. I think FM in particular, is moribund for the most part, and AM was hastened to it grave by attempts first, to make it stereo, and then digital, neither of which worked, and FM is suffering a similar fate at the hands of HD Radio, which compromises signal quality and range to purportedly provide more reception options. Campus and Classical stations stand out in this haze of mediocrity.

    Rife with bottom-denomination programming in a bewildering variety of barely distinguishable formats of mostly awful music, radio is truly an endangered species that doesn’t know it, as ears turn away to other options. Maybe all the radio stations that are online will find that one day that’s where the majority of their listeners are, listening to radio without borders.

    By the way, by an accident of fate (my father’s travels as a Chemical Engineer during the 2nd World War), I was born quite close to where you live, in a Catholic hospital in Joplin. Otherwise, my family has 200-years-plus roots here in Canada, specifically southern Ontario.

    cheers, Andrew

  23. Pekka J.Poutiainen c-fi Says:

    Its been my pleasure to find you column.I love radio.Friends nicknamed me as a Mr.Radio,way back in the´60s.I had a all tube Sherwood and a german relay monitor rx late´50s Rochde&Schwartz,built like tank.And cost like a Mercedes Benz then.Revox A76, many Yamaha´s, Marantz(Ray Secuerra desing!)late ´60s,Pioneer, NAD or YEASU FRG-9600 bought last year.One kept secret is the mixer and detector.Japans used silicone diodes vs. germaniums .If you use Schottky diodes as I did since mid ´80s as detector diodes, you wont believe what change happened!!!Philips BAT 83 and 85 are superb quality!I used BAT85 for AM and a 83 for FM detector. Try it and wondering what you are lost last decade! Japans used silicone diodes for detector and lost sensitivity. Then more rf gain and mixer overloaded. It´s a fact!Drop down rf gain after modifying for Schottky diodes and wondering.Mixer stage is the more fragile point and not the IF stage ! Mostly I tuned to Sweden FM P2, cause good Jazz and a classical music. My AM number one is a German Deutschlandfunk from Köln (sorry Eau de Cologne). Das ist Kultur! By the way, I love old germans portable radios like Grundig or Nordmende from the 1960´s. 73´s from Oulu, Finland by Pekka J. Poutiainen

  24. BrianL c-unknown Says:

    In the last year I decided to downsize and did some sole searching. Tne McIntosh MM77 lost out to my Philips 6731 so it went as did a number of other tuners. I kept the Philips and do wish you had included it in your reviews.

    For daily listeners, the 2 Sherwood S-3300s versions I have were very close to the MR77 soundwise; I am not as interested in sensitivity so did not count stations and the lowly Sony ST-5055 that while not getting any awards as a competitive high end tuner, has the signature Sony started wit the ST-5000 and seems to have maintained during its analog era. I also, kept a sleeper that no one seems to have an interest in, a Fisher TFM-300 hybrid tube/transistor tuner. The front end is the same from the Fisher 500-C receiver that many tube fans love. It needs capping but, for the time I listened to it, it shows promise as having a decent tube front end sound.

    I’ll probaby be selling off more as time goes on as I seem to be listening to only 1 or 2 stations now and can not justify so many tuners. I suspect the Sherwoods and Sony may survive teh next cut. I love the Philips but am preparing to sell the matching the preamp and power amp so decided the system should go as a set.

  25. Andrew Marshall c-ca Says:

    Hi Brian,

    I hope your shoes are OK after all that “sole searching”. I’ve kept 3 tuners, the super-sensitive Sony XDR-F1 digital tuner, whose stereo sensitivity equals its mono, the Sony ST-5130, probably the best other Sony DXer, and my classic Accuphase T-101, which brings good broadcasts right into my listening room. The T-101 sound better than any Mac I’ve heard, not to mention all the Kenwood, Marantz, Sansui, or Luxman models I reviewed.

    That said, my advice is to keep one tuner for sensitivity, and the other for sound quality. And do take a look at some of the better internet radios or tuners, the Sanyo I recently reviewed an especially good value, which I still enjoy for its ability to bring in such stations as WGBH, Boston (which I am currently listening to as I write), WFMT, Chicago, or WQXR, NY.

  26. Mark Sime c-us Says:

    Well , it’s July 2016 and here I am commenting on a subject that ended years ago,.Andrew I just want to tell you how much I enjoyed your artical and that I strongly agree with your evaluation of the sonics of the Accuphase T101 tuner.
    FM broadcast at its best I found nothing like it sound quality wise be it a exceptional recordings on vinyl , reel to reel or top shelf digital play back the best of FM was unique from other top performance formats such as those mentioned.
    Things have changed of course with these modern times and I find myself looking at some of the best available for streaming radio , however I wonder if I will ever hear as you put it ,… the studio realism along with everyother sonic delight equal to the best of FM broadcast of years ago.

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