View Full Version : modern digital tuners/receivers vs. vintage high-end analog tuners

04-01-2007, 08:29 PM
So, what's the deal? Are modern digital tuners in home theater receivers better or worse than their vintage high-end analog counterparts, for example the Sansui TU-9900? What are the major differences one should be aware of with each tuner?

Basically, what are the advantages and disadvantages of each, and which will sound better?

04-01-2007, 09:03 PM
Modern home theater receiver tuners are a disgrace to the name. They are an afterthought, with very low sensitivity and selectivity compared to most any separate tuner, be it analog or digital.
A separate tuner is designed especially for good radio signal pickup and good fidelity. It's a component that is designed to do that only. It's generally optimized for radio reception. A home theater receiver's primary mission is to amplify and process movie dialog and sound effects, not decode and amplify FM radio signals.
I know a guy who bought a Yamaha HT receiver. The tuner was so lousy he bought a separate TX-950 so he could listen to radio adequately.
Oversimplified, perhaps, but I'm stickin' to it.

04-01-2007, 09:11 PM
er, perhaps I should point out that I currently use a CATV feed to my "tuner" for the signal, so reception is not a problem for me at all. And for those who want to know, my HT receiver is a Marantz SR4200, but my integrated amp is a Sansui AU-20000. :D The pre/power amp switch on the back of the Sansui is a godsend, I can switch easily between using the AU-20000 as a power amp with the Marantz as a pre/source for movies, and go back to the Sansui alone for tapes and vinyl. :banana:

04-07-2007, 12:36 AM
I have a Pioneer Elite HT receiver and the tuner pulls in practically NOTHING! It is in the basement. However, every vintage receiver, no matter how bad shape it was in initially, the tuner sections pulled in stations very well--in the basement sitting on top of the HT receiver. Oddly, the best tuner section in all of my vintage receivers is in the Pioneer SX939. That tuner is great IMO.

04-07-2007, 07:31 AM
There are fine digital tuners out there, but as pointed out above, there is mostly crap. No one cares about building decent tuner sections anymore so you end up with escapees from walkman (that's a dated term I know) type stuff. HT gear tends to worry about HT, not radio.

04-20-2007, 10:07 AM
Can anyone advise which of the modern tuners, if one was to purchase new now, would be good ones??


04-20-2007, 11:02 AM
I have a Carver TX-11 tuner and, although it's digital, picks up stations out of DFW with next to nothing for an antenna. They seemed to always be highly regarded for their reception. Most all of my older receivers pick up very well in comparison. Now, on my Onkyo receiver in the living room, it picks up very well tied in to a "rabbit ear" UHF/VHF antenna that's hidden within the entertainment center.

04-20-2007, 02:30 PM
Orcinus - Some audiophiles share my opinion when it comes to modern vs old seperates tuners: fm quality went downhill from the beginning of the eighties (think the end of proper pioneer TX tuners) and is only kept alive in high fidelity by specialist makes such as magnum dynalab.

There are some great digitals: I have owned a Creek 3140 and the oddball Hitachi 5500 mk2 and enjoyed them immensely, but nothing came close to the soundstage, presentation and tube - like quality of my old technics St-9600. It had an organic sound, amazing build quality and looked it belonged in the 2nd world war. Conversely, some 'classic' tuners people harp on about i think are dire and an irritation to use, for example the Leak Troughline 3 (sounds like a seal playign a xylophone with most music).

So it all comes down to personal preference. Some modern tuners are truly excellent but a bit too expensive for me to buy new; the Arcam DT91 springs to mind, but overall nothing comes quite close enough to the Pioneer TX-9800 I found about to be turned into landfill at the dump. With an AU-20000 (so jealous after reading your find story, what with it being above my 9900 aswell!) you should definately think of investing in a high end Sansui or similar vintage. Have a look at the Kenwoods for slightly cheaper excellent sounding classics. If you can, get your 20000 into a local hi fi shop and try out some of their tuners - pick three of the most diverse - you might find a bizarrely good combination. Good hunting!

04-20-2007, 08:48 PM
The inexpensive Denon DRA-275 two channel receiver I use in my bedroom has outstanding sensitivity and sounds quite good. From the specs, it appears that Denon uses the same tuner in some of their multi channel receivers.
I live in rural Vermont where clean reception is difficult. This cheap receiver pulls in stations in stereo when expensive tuners I have tried sometimes failed to get even a good mono signal. Magnum Dynalab tuners are ridiculously over-rated in my opinion. Their tuners weren't able to get good sounding signals that my twenty year old Panasonic boom box had no trouble with.
My Denon TU-1500 tuner sounds slightly better than the receiver and is more flexible but the difference in reception is negligible. The receiver's performance is not a fluke either. My daughter has the same model and my wife uses the earlier DRA-265 in her office at work with similar results.
By the way, my house is built into a hillside. The DRA-275 is in the lower floor -underground on three sides and uses a piece of wire for an antenna. I really don't think anyone could seriously say that performance like this is crap.

04-21-2007, 10:20 AM
Why do you want a new tune? As mentioned there are new models to be had, but they are very expensive.
Vintage age and into the 80s offers MANY fine choices. Do searches here in the Tuner Forum for specific models, and also utilize the informed opinions at the Tuner Information Center at
My favorite for sheer sound quality is the Onkyo T-9, and my Technics ST-8080 and mid-80s digital Yamaha T-80 are very close in sound.
In the 70s FM was an important source for music, and all the major makers had some fine tuners.

04-21-2007, 10:48 AM
It matters a lot what you want to do with the tuner, what your locale-reception problems might be. If you want a analog tuner then take Bully's advice and study up a bit on TIC and other places and use the experience that written there..... you probably could write several books to cover the whole "what fm tuner should I buy" question. Should you happen to be looking for a new tuner (digital) with a remote that will do you well in all but the strong signal areas then look at the new Sangean HDT-1 I just bought one off the bay place last week for $199 shipping included. The fm reception is right on par with or better than any stock tuner I've used. It has a few problem related to its' Chinese quality control and the am performance is only average should that matter to ya. On the plus side if you have any HD stations in your area you'll get that and any multicasts as well. 2 cents


04-21-2007, 04:02 PM
What is your budget? The Sony ST-J75 is a very good early 1980s vintage digital FM tuner. They seem to sell for about $150 on Audiogon and Ebay. I owned one for many years until I really got interested in FM and obtained a McIntosh MR75 ( a step up in FM performance and also has excellent AM).

04-21-2007, 06:32 PM
I'd look into big, heavy, vintage analog stuff before even thinking about modern rice boxes :)

Easier to work on...more nostalgia...more metal...mmm

04-21-2007, 08:36 PM
What is your budget? The Sony ST-J75 is a very good early 1980s vintage digital FM tuner. They seem to sell for about $150 on Audiogon and Ebay. I owned one for many years until I really got interested in FM and obtained a McIntosh MR75 ( a step up in FM performance and also has excellent AM).

I'm not really in the market for one right now, I'm just curious as to the theory and differences between a good, high-end tuner and the "tuners" that are integrated in modern-day home theater receivers.

04-22-2007, 12:54 PM
I'm just curious as to the theory and differences between a good, high-end tuner and the "tuners" that are integrated in modern-day home theater receivers.

One was built for the purpose, the other was an afterthought :)

Mark W.
04-22-2007, 07:06 PM
I know that there are better tuners then my TX-9100 (the Pioneer pride of 1973) But since with my DIY J-pole antenna I can pull in as week as 100 watt stations over 40 miles away even during the day. To it peggin ght signal strength meter on the 97,000 watt stations also about 38-40 miles away. I can pickup a total of 25 different stations between the bottom of the dial and 94.5MHz with good separation. Granted most of these come in as crappy Mono but then most of them are either very low power stations or low power stations on the very edge of the fringe reception area for my local.

I have my tuner in the Shrine set to 92.3 KGON FM the local MOST OUTSTANDING Classic rock station and for days never have to adjust the tuning.

And unless your a big fan of the dark side I find it hard to believe there is a much better looking tuner then my lowly TX-9100's

I have three!

In the Shrine is the one Pustelniakr just finished refreshing for me. In my Office is one I bought off a few AKer and in my stack (waiting refreshment) is a 3rd I bought of an EX Msgt in the AF who bought it new in Germany.

04-22-2007, 08:33 PM
If you are in an area with decent reception get yourself a tube tuner mono or stereo. Very few ss tuners can compete with tube tuners with respect to sound.

04-25-2007, 01:17 PM
Of course back in the 70's and 80's I listened to a lot of FM radio at home. Not so much anymore, usually just in the car. But I will say this, my Sansui TU-717 pulls in more stations "without" an antenna than my $1200 Denon HT reciever does "with" an antenna! I would guess that 90% of the HT receivers out there, the tuner probably doesn't even get used. It is an afterthought!

04-25-2007, 01:32 PM
Agreed, many HT sets have trash tuners in them. I imagine some higher end models have better tuners but the cheapies by and large have terrible reception. When I pulled the Allied out of the living room to replace it with the cheap Yamaha that lives there now, I went from being able to listen to any station out of Philly (40 miles away) with a piece of wire to being able to get one station clearly, and thats a Wilmington station less than 15 miles away. Of course, since I did my quick tuner test, it hasn't been used so I suppose it doesn't matter much. I sit in my bedroom/office listening to my Onkyo 4500 all day and it has very good recpetion on a set of cheap rabbit ears. Wire works just as well but where it currently sits, draping the wire somewhere would be far more visible and annoying to look at than the rabbits on the speaker.

05-01-2007, 09:10 PM
My Dynaco FM-3 has been refreshed (as much as is practical) and is sounding so good that I consider it an essential source along with CD and vinyl. I can archive broadcasts on an Akai/A&D GX cassette deck (as close to a Nak as I can get, but without the hassle.) Nothing made today is going to come close to an FM-3 without spending really big bucks. But like anything vintage, there are cautions and downsides — particularly in regards to tube tuners. But with some care and patience, you may be astonished.

05-01-2007, 11:06 PM
And unless your a big fan of the dark side I find it hard to believe there is a much better looking tuner then my lowly TX-9100's

I have three!


I think the specs on the TX-9100 are pretty darn good if i remember correctly. better than many out there.