Tuner Information Center...gospel?

I am sure many of you know this site. It seems way too many people are taking the shootout opinions as gospel.

Obvious Kennwood bias. Units that are nothing special being rated as something special....ie: Technics ST-9038 and Sansui TU-717(ok, but flat, thin, old sounding).

For what it's worth I have owned most of what this site has in the top 30, and none are better than the Magnum MD-108 (with the exception of the Accuphase 109v).

Most of the top rated older tuners sound like that...old transistors, old(and not very good) capacitors,aluminum internal wiring, Zinc RCA jacks...etc...guys and gals these do not make for high end sound.....if so, go buy some old Sansui or Kenwood amps...you wouldn't because they are outdated sonically. Then the newer Kenwoods that are rated highly...all have cheap op-amp based audio cicuits....again, these are not audiophile parts.

If you have watched the price of older tuners...and these Kenwoods...the site has had much impact on the re-sale prices of these tuners....people are putting way too much faith in one person opinions (which is what the shootouts are).

The Mitsu 20 and the Sansui 919 are very,very good...esp. if aligned and newer caps, wire and RCAs are installed. But better than the top Magnum........nope.

Also, tuners like the top two Linn, the top Naim, and others, are not among those listened to.

All this said, I do like the site, and there is much useful information and I do like the fact that this site may have made people more interested in tuners. If you have a great FM station in your area, or a few of them, then having a good tuner is a great investment. There is useful info on the site, but the shootouts are just one person's opinion.....so do some of your own listening and don't take anyone's opinion (including mine) as anything more than that.
Everything in listening is done with the reviewers personality, listening bias and associated equipment, all thrown into the mix.

The guy that owns that site is a friend. I see him and we and listen together every week. A lot of what he likes, I like. That being said, our systems are VERY different.

I don't know how much testing is done at other locations but none is done on my system. I have a cheap tuner :^).:

link is to image of his main listening system: (Not visible are JM Lab Daline 3.1).


For what it's worth, Jim is very honest. Whatever opinions and conclusions he publishes are what he believes (no payola or ads taken).
Hi Albert,

Understand what you are saying, and as you can see in my post I am not questioning the man's honesty. Just feel that people are taking the shootout as being the last word on tuners.

Also, I trust my own ears. Most of the tuners that I have had were "tested" on a system based on Maggie 20 and a CJ ART.

I know the Magnum is expensive, and we would all like for there to be some magic that makes a used 200 dollar tuner better...it just isn't so.

Some of the tuners he has above the Magnum, if modified and aligned, can be very pleasant.

Perhaps he had a bad MD-108. I am not trying to over-hype the 108...I sold mine,...but it was/is better than the many others I have had.....and as I said, a modified 919 or Mitsu 20 will come fairly close for less money.
Well, I've had a number of tuners that have been reviewed there and agree for the most part with their conclusions.
There are some I have that I'd like to see their thoughts about, as I consider them to be quite good however mostly unknown....one being the a/d/s T2.

Recently I came across a minty used T-109V Accuphase and I can say that it has the magic here, even with a short-money Magnum Dynalab FM-2 omniderectional whip antenna I use.


Paul :-)

I understand where your coming from (your system is more like mine than Jim's)

In the end all of us must decide on which pieces of equipment makes our system "whole." What and where you test with determines that.

Look at Jim's system and at yours, easy to see why the two of you came to different conclusions :^).

Me, I have a cheap tuner. Not because I cannot hear the difference or don't want to spend the money. It's much simpler than that, we have no decent radio programming here :-).
I have not been to the site in a long time.I was flamed and racked over the coals by a particular person on this site,and it left a bad impression upon me.I stated how my Marantz 120 Tuner was modded by Joseph Chow and all the new and updated parts he put into the unit.And this person just stated its people like you how we have problem in the sale of tuners.I won't go into the rest of what he said but I just could not beleive it how arrogant some people are to a new person trying to contribute to a site their own personnal opinions and get their butt chewed out WHAT GIVES I just don't understand?
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Sorry, guess my dislike for that shade of blue-green may have had influence,..more a fan of verdigris.
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jim rivers is yust one guy in a small room w/a very good, but not cutting edge rig. which is pretty-much made clear on the shootouts site. while i do agree with some of jim's findings, i don't agree 100% w/all of them. (same goes w/the ricochets, which is a nice counterpoint to the shootouts.) but, yust like anything else in audio, the shootouts are only a starting point, not the "gospel", as you put it. use your own ears.

also, realize that jim's absolute fave tuna is a modded kenwood kt-7500. buy one for ~$100, pay someone $200-$300 to mod it if ya cannot diy, & be in tuna heaven. (i owned one of these, modded to the hilt by bill ammons - one of the best tuna techs, & they *are* outstanding, but not *my* fave.)

another point, regarding the shootouts, & how close in sound the better tunas really are, is to consider what jim says about the pioneer f-91, which ranks mid-pack in his group:

"...In a large room, in a big sound system, I might choose this Pioneer over the L-02T...."

but, regarding the md108, based upon my own limited experience w/md tunas, & what other folks w/more experience than myself have said about them, i *do* believe when jim says the mitsubishi da-f20 (which i own), is better than the md108. ;~) the md108 uses a car-stereo chip; for $6k they coulda really made a helluva tuna imo, instead of yust a wery good one. and, no, i am not one of those who gets upset when my personal gear is slighted - the da-f20 i own is *not* the main tuna in my rig. mebbe if i mod it... ;~)

doug s.
Although I hate to have to do so, I agree with Whatjd. I too noticed this overwhelming "vintage" bias to the point where you are ridiculed if you do not share that opinion. I am not saying that many of the older tuners did not have superior parts and build quality as they surely did with the greater emphasis on FM in those days. However, like Whatjd, I too had an MD-108 that I also have since sold, that easily outperfomed a few of the "vintage" tuners suggested by that group that I bought and that were modified (Sansui, Mac and HK Citiation to name a few).

I sold the MD-108 when I thought I was going to be moving to a state where there were no good FM stations. Then, my wife and I decided to stay put so I recently bought a modified Rotel RT-990BX tuner as what I thought would be a stop gap measure until I bought another MD tuner. The Rotel had Black Gates installed in the audio section and power supply, had upgraded silver wire, better diodes and an IEC connector installed to allow aftermarket PCs.

Thinking the Rotel would just get me by until I could find another MD-108, I hooked it up and was BLOWN AWAY! Hooked to the same mediocre MD ST-2 whip antenna that my MD-108 was (I have a 11" Yagi and rotator that I hadn't installed yet when I decided to sell the MD-108), the Rotel had even better sensitivity and gave me 90% of the sound of the MD-108 for a tenth of the price!

So, I went on to the subject forum asking whether anyone there thought the flagship Rotel RHT-10 "Michi" tuner (my Rotel was the step below the RHT-10), either stock or if similarly modifed would significantly improve on the RT-990BX since I had the chance to pick one up.

Needless to say that I was completely ignored. One guy e-mailed me off-line with a little help but that was it. And trust me, this isn't a forum where people are shy about giving their opinions!!!
76doublebass, i remember your postings, as i am also a joseph chow customer. i went back & searched the archives, & didn't find anything offensive about responses to your postings. in fact, i noticed i replied to one of your questions myself! :>) of course it could be that you were not the only one that took offense - the moderators may have gone back & deleted a post or two. they do that sometimes, if things get outta hand. don't be scared off by one or two folk that may get a wild hair up their a** once in a while. it happens everywhere. as i said, the moderators go in & remove the ugly stuff. some sites i know about have the posts screened *beforehand*. you wouldn't want that, now would ya? ;~)

doug s.
fmpnd, you were not completely ignored - in fact, i replied to you, referring you to more info about the rht-10 on the fmtunerinfo.com site. you will also recall i teased you about the fact that you thought your modded 990bx wasn't as good as your md108! :>)

part of the reason (the main one, imo), that you didn't get a better response, is the fact that the rht-10 is a *wery* rare tuna; (only ~500 ever made), most folk have never heard one. i certainly haven't. i had a chance to buy one a while back, i should have jumped; but it was a bit over my budget. (is the one you have a line on awailable for a good price?) :>)

i would hazard a guess that a stock rht10 would be comparable to your modded 990bx, but, per the info on the site i referred you to, it can be modded to be even better (perhaps the best, according to the info on the fmtunerinfo.com site?)

doug s.
ps - the naim nat-01 *was* in the shootouts; it fared poorly. the one *i* heard was fantastic, imo...

doug s.
I stand corrected Doug, you have always been one of the few willing to give advice without hesitation and I do appreciate it. Yes, I did wonder whether the reason I got so little response was unfamiliarity with the Rotel - but heck, these guys seem to have heard EVERYTHING out there so I figured that wasn't it. Maybe you are right.

I will say this 990 BX is a killer for its meager price. The RHT-10, although not priced very low (2/3 of retail) is LITERALLY brand new (20-40 hours at most played and placed back in the box and stored for years).

Your thoughts?

Thanks for pointing out your previos response and for all of your valued advice.

hi frank,

i really *do* believe that hardly anyone - on the yahoo tuna forum, or anywhere else, for that matter - has heard the rht-10 - too rare. which is why i pointed you to the yahoo tuna forum's sister site - fmtunerinfo.com - comments from someone there who has actually listened to a modded one.

re: whether or not the rht-10 is worth it, well, there was one f/s here on agon from israel for ~2/3 retail, i personally would pass on that. i *should* have nabbed the one for ~1/2 retail about a year ago. ;~) oh well...

there's really so many nice sounding tunas - especially after mods - that, unless you have lotsa $$$, & *really* like the looks of a certain model - like the rht-10, for example - it's hard to justify spending a lot of cash on something like that. but, then again, i am talking to someone that bought an md-108 - even used, i think i couldn't afford that! :>) in your case, it may be worth trying the rht-10. get it modded to the gills & tell us what you think. even if ya pay top dollar, it *still* will cost less than even a *used* md108. and, you could always sell it w/o taking *too* much of a hit, especially if it's been modded.

tunas that i would recommend modding for an all out assault on the best sound there is, but still at a reasonable cost, would be the accuphase t101, rotel rt-2100, mitsubishi da-f20, harman kardon citation 18, philips ah673, roksan caspian (if this can be modded?), aiwa 9700, heathkit aj1600, & sansui tu-9900. this small sampling is based upon my personal experience, and also takes into consideration "cool" factor. :>)

i await my accuphase t109; it should be coming back from joseph chow any day now, modded up big time. i also have high hopes for this one, but it's not what i would normally consider *bargain*. i was lucky, & got it *right* on ebay a while back - it was japan-spec, & needed to be conwerted from 76-90 band to usa 88-108 band. i think folk were afraid it couldn't be done, & it affected bidding. i was lucky; joseph chow did it for a reasonable price, but it took him >6 months to source the part, as accuphase wouldn't sell it to anyone here in the usa. he had to sneak one in from a friend of his in asia.

i *do* own a coupla relatively spendy tunas, but, (like my t109), i got 'em right, so i can sell 'em w/o taking a hit. problem is - i may have to keep 'em! lol!


doug s.
Well guys and gals....here's my last foray into the fantasy. The one I will call the "Ferrari for the price of a Fiat"...and once again, it doesn't exist.

I picked up a used Kenwood KT-5020, #8 on the tuner shootout list, and after burn-in, some cleaning and hooking up to an antenna...well:

In my main system...quite simply a joke...extremely mid-fi at best. Dull, little bottom end, little top end and a muffled/veiled midrange. No sense of detail, no soundstage depth, no soundstage width.....think: mid '50's Wharfedale speakers........yuk!

But, maybe unfair...I'll try it in one of my second systems using KEF bookshelf speakers, wireworld interconnects and speaker wire and an older, but near the top Sony ES series two channel receiver.....well, it sounds just the same. Thought I'd compare the KT-5020 to the tuner in the Sony receiver...wow, the Sony sounds good by comparison...has bass, has top end, you can hear details like a singer taking a breath.....wanted to make sure...so on the same song kept switching back and forth from the Sony's FM to the Kenwood..yup not able to pick up the sound of the inhale at all on the Kenwood. Not only mid-fi, not very good mid-fi. The Mitsu DA-F20 they have ranked one notch higher is a much better "sounding" tuner.

So what am I to say, the #8 ranked tuner on the shootout is not even as good as an unmodified 717 Sansui...which I feel is good mid-fi. ......oh wait, now the smear on cymbals, I'm hearing now, is purely awful.

So,...kinda have made my own point to myself that I stated in the my first post.....the "something for nothing" dream of picking up a 200 dollar used Japanese tuner that is "state-of-the-art" in sound...heck better than the MD-108 is...well B.S.

Now before everyone starts defending their tuners....the Sansui 919, Accuphase 100, Mitsu 20..and a few others, aligned and modified are very good. But most on the shootout list are nothing special, and some of ones ranked lower..the MD-108, Yamaha 7000 etc. ARE pretty special. I've wasted enough time trying too many of these old, outdated tuners.........perhaps if I bought an old set of Wharfedale's??........
Hi Frank,
Email me, I have a RHT-10 you can hear in West Bloomfield! Hi Doug, I know I have to find the ST-9600 paperwork, but basement is messy post hot water tank leak!
hey whatjd, cool - don't bother w/vintage tuna. more for the rest of us! ;~)

seriously, you need to listen to several kt-5020's before you can make a determination as to how one should sound. or, at least get yours properly serviced & aligned. tuna's are far & away the one piece of audio gear that most needs to be serviced & aligned before a serious audition. don't get me wrong - i am not defending this tuna - i have never heard one. but i know i wouldn't be so quick to judge it, based upon one un-serviced sample.

again, the shootout list is only one person's opinion, in one person's rig. i certainly have disagreements with the shootout list, but that does not mean it's patently off base. example: while i *did* think my revox b760 was fantastic, i like my philips ah673 & mitsubishi da-f20 a bit better. and my revox b261, which was thoroughly panned on the shootout list was *identical* in performance to the b760 - i decided to keep the b261 & sell the b760. and, the tandberg 3011a *sucks* - i was happy to return mine in exchange for the b261 i replaced it with. :>)

as far as "ferrari for fiat" tunas go, here's a list of those i have personally tried that all cost me <$100, that i feel can stand shoulder to shoulder w/the best, sonically. some are not the most sensitive, tho:

nikko gamma 1
philips 185
hitachi ft-8000
jvc bx1100
aiwa 9700
technics st-8600
stromberg carlson sr445 (used w/mpx stereo decoder)
fisher fm90r (used w/mpx stereo decoder)
sherwood s3000-III (used w/mpx stereo decoder)

i have not tried the hitachi ft-920, or the mitsubishi da-f30, but i suspect they, too, are winners, based upon comments of those i trust.


doug s.
Well maybe old tuners aren't the best sounding tuners there are. I haven't owned all of them but have owned a dozen or so. I do know that my modded Kenwood KT 7500 sounds great and far better than my friends Magnum Dynalab that he paid 700 bucks for several years ago. He was quite disappointed as a matter of fact as it sounded no better than the old Denon 747 it replaced. I'm not putting MD down, I'm just stating what we learned. He paid 40 bucks for the old Denon at a hock shop. So I think a good modded vintage tuner can be a real bargain compared to many modern tuners. I think alot of people have also listened without these old tuners being serviced and also without a good yagi antenna. Both are mandatory imo.
Hey Doug! This is a duplicate post from another A-Gon thread designed to get to you in hopes of getting your opinion. The guy who has the Rotel RHT-10 NEVER told me before he sent it to me that it is the 220 volt version. When he sent the Technical Manual via e-mail, it made me worry about two things: 1) will it be costly to convert to 100v? and 2) it looks like the 220v version may be set up and optimized for European stations. Do you have any ideas on this? Would Joesph Chow be able to help? If so, do you have Joseph's phone number? Or, do you have someone else in mind I could turn to?

Thanks again Doug, as always you are a great help to a relatively novice FM guy like me.


PS, I contacted you this way because Audiogon is having problems with AOL e-mails bouncing back and it wouldn't go through to your e-mail.

With the passing of time, there are (through my direct experience, aggregated over decades) some emergent biases, some acknowledged, some not.

These are just my observations and I acknowledge that they are also limited to the perspectives of a single source and the complications arising from there being "no privileged reference point in the Universe".  MOST of ALL when it comes to something as environmentally influenced as FM tuners or (or stations/transmitters/studio front ends for that matter). So, my take is this:


1. There is a pretty severe bias toward Kenwood tuners. The Top Kenwood may be deserving of its placement, but I’ll never know because they’re badly overpriced and rare, which segues into #2.

2. If it’s "weird", rare or the result of an evolutionary offshoot marketed as "cutting edge" (new or old) then it’s prized/inflated for those very reasons. The exceptions are the inexpensive tuners at the very top, which are mostly (again, see #1) Kenwoods. I’ve owned multiple samples of all of them (the 990D and the 5020) and they are both critically flawed and seem to fail often in exactly the same way. The front ends lose their ability to demodulate the 19kHz Stereo carrier which causes the tuning center displays and the Quartz Lock to cease working. Alignment isn’t the problem. I’m two samples deep on both models and I won’t be spending money on a third for either. They’re cheaply made, have poor shielding and their longevity is suspect. I acknowledge that Kenwood/Trio/Accuphase have blazed a lot of trails in amateur Ham Radio and I won’t dispute those acknowledged trailblazing honorifics. It (like Nakamichi with Cassette decks) gave the next, anti-biased brand something at which to aim.

#3 A pretty severe anti-classic Era Pioneer bias. The unjustly vilified F-93 Elite (and the identical sounding, but feature-handicapped F-91 Elite) should be at the top of anybody’s list who doesn’t live within 4 miles of all the stations one wishes to listen to with full quieting. The F-28 (I haven’t owned a 26, see the earlier comment regarding rare/exotica) sounds very nearly identical to the F-93/91 grandchildren and so close to the TX-9800 and TX-9500 II’s that the differences are very nearly not worth contemplating. The F9/90/99x are to Pioneer what the 990D/5020 are to KW. Underbuilt, ergonomically handicapped with their audio sections struggling to compensate for longevity-crippled RF sections.

#4 Tuners like the McIntosh MR78 and Yamaha T-2 are badly undervalued compared to the tuners that rank above them.

Space Weather, Terrestrial Weather, and the day-to-day variations in us, the end user wetware can dwarf the differences that we obsess over with respect to FM Tuners. That won’t stop us from doing it, but it does mean that any list is worthy of a certain amount of skepticism. I value the ricochets more than the list itself. What can be said about the shootouts themselves is that they have encouraged debate and reexamination. I think Mr. Rivers threw a couple of "berserkers" onto the list just to provoke that exact kind of engagement, and I respectfully submit that it worked beautifully. In the end, not the worst thing that could happen. I’d reserve that appraisal for the programming that’s driving the format to irrelevance. (Everyone’s mileage varies...)