Tuna? Tuners?

The following two pages feature component tuners, car receivers and portable radios that have been successfully used over several years for detecting FM broadcast stations via Es, Tropo, Aircraft Scatter, Meteor Scatter and Lightning Scatter in typical urban reception areas. These are suitable for long distance FM reception. Included are detailed specifications, external reviews, key attributes and photographs.

Trying many different tuners is enjoyable, lessens listening boredom and aids in understanding the subtle (or profound) differences in design between models. Manufacturers produce owner's instructions and service manuals for every receiver or tuner. These contain schematic diagrams, calibration instructions, a parts list and electronic specifications.

Sometimes obtaining these publications can be expensive or inconvenient, so enthusiasts like to share this information freely as much as possible on the internet, to aid others who need reliable data for decision-making or comparative purposes. Indeed, whole personal sites dedicated soley to vintage FM tuners exist on the internet! Perhaps someone will find the specifications they are looking for on these pages. You can then spend that $50 on something more important! Please visit my page here to learn how to understand how tuners work and how to interpret listed specifications.

According to Audio Critic magazine's David Rich Ph.D, specifications are a reliable way of comparing tuners but not a substitute for listening tests. For example, some tuners will not handle strong signals well, some will be  cumbersome to tune, some will get too hot when left on for hours, some will not receive extremely weak signals well, some will be unpleasant to listen to when receiving extremely weak signals, some will be more prone to picking up interference, some will have inadequate visual signal strength meters and some will lose the preset memories when unplugged.

To illustrate this point, consider why a tuner with relatively good specifications like the Sansui T-80 performs poorly within two kilometres of a major TV & FM broadcast site, whilst similar tuners do not, under the same conditions. Such a tuner has only three FM gangs, and its simple front end is prone to overloading. According to FM Tuner forum contributor Eric Blacker, in troublesome reception conditions, try to choose a tuner with the electronic equivalent of four or five FM gangs. Although these tuners may be more expensive, these should generally provide the best sensitivity and immunity to overload.

Rich says there is no such thing as the perfect tuner. It's so true! Your choice of tuner is likely to be based on your personal preferences and your receiving location. Many enthusiasts, myself included, have collected a potentially disturbing number of tuners, more than could ever be used at once, given the limited external antennas available! Picking a clear favourite becomes nearly impossible.

There are two broad categories of high quality FM tuners featured on this site. Most commonly found are those FM tuners with a Conventional IF Section.  In the 1990's, a new generation of FM tuners began to feature an Adaptive IF Section

The car audio engineers at Blaupunkt were amongst the first, if not the first, to design Adaptive IF receivers. The Sony XDR-F1HD and Accuphase T-1100 have been extensively reviewed. Many commentators consider both these tuners to set the benchmark of contemporary Adaptive IF technology. 

A third page on this site features tuners which offer very good, but not spectacular performance. For this reason, these have been differentiated into a category called Second Tier tuners. These tuners have been used in the past as primary tuners. They are still used as secondary tuners. When used in extremely strong signal environments with high gain antennas, these tuners may exhibit some minor flaws. The single bandwidth Sansui T-80 is one example of a Second Tier tuner. Dual or variable bandwidth tuners are likely to offer the most flexibility for the purpose long distance FM reception. 

Every receiving location is different. Unfortunately, just because one listener is able to obtain exceptional long distance FM reception using one particular tuner does not necessarily mean another listener will! For this reason, tuner recommendations should be read with caution.
© 2009-2011 Ryan Leigh Donaldson. All rights reserved.

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