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lloyd_borrett

Suggestions for a great AM tuner

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Posted (edited)

G'day,

 

I'm in the process of resurecting my vintage stereo system:
NAD Model 200 Dolby Stereo Amplifier;
Rega Planar 3 Turntable with Audio Dynamics Corporation ADC LMF-2 Tone Arm and Amber Io Phono Cartridge;
Amber Phonostage MM Pre Amplifier;
Revox B77 Stereo Tape Recorder;
Teac Model C-2X Stereo Cassette Deck;
Yamaha Speaker System Model NS-1000M; and
Stax SR-5 Electrostatic Ear Speaker with SRD-6 Amplifier.

 

Most of the setup dates back to the 1970s and 1980s with most components purchased be me secondhand even back then.

 

The FM tuner is a Yamaha CT-7000 FM Stereo Tuner. I think it's one of the best and sweetest sounding FM tuners ever made.

 

What I've always been missing is a great AM tuner for this setup. Now I want to start the search for one.

 

Other AM sections I regularly listen to on my other sound systems include:
NAD AM/FM Stereo Tuner 4020A;
NAD 7020 AM/FM Stereo Receiver;
Sansui Seven AM/FM Stereo Receiver;
Denon AM-FM Stereo Tuner TU-260L; and
Sangean PR-D7 AM/FM Digital Tuning Radio Receiver.

 

I also have a Yamaha AM Stereo / FM Stereo Tuner T-420A that I haven't listed to yet.

 

Lately I've been using PK's Loop Antennas with success. See http://www.amradioantennas.com

 

There are those that say the best AM tuners were made in the 1960s and 1970s. A valve or solid state discrete component based AM tuner is likely to be the solution that best suits. But some of you may have other ideas and recommendations.

 

I'm certainly not interested in a tuner with a DAB+ section as everywhere I've lived, even with a great aerial setup, I just can't stand the constant cutting in and out of digital radio.

 

If I have to get an AM/FM tuner in order to get a great sounding AM section, I'll do it.

 

So, it's over to the Stereo.net.au fellowship? What AM tuners do you suggest I should consider?

 

Best regards, Lloyd Borrett.

Edited by lloyd_borrett

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An Allen Wright AM tuner is a fabulous sounding thing. Poorly constructed, but great sounding. If you can find one, an Audiosound AM tuner is probably the best ever made in this, or any other, country. Very well built and very expensive back in the day, Audiosound tuners were the choice for most Australian AM radio stations to monitor their on-air signal. I used to sell them back in the 1980s and found the reaction of listeners hugely amusing. Most assumed they were listening to an FM tuner. 

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wise words from Zaphod:

< Almost any AM tuner built by Japanese and US companies since the late 1960s is crap. Some of the best were the Australian made portable radios from the 1960s. >

My father had a Ferris portable car radio, in my teenage years every Friday night I listened to Sydney AM 2UW's Goes Underground. I had a huge aerial strung across the entire back yard!

regards Ian

from Frankston, Victoria

 

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for the pointers.

 

A bit of research has come up with the suggestion that the Electronics Australia Playmaster HiFi AM Tuner kit published in editions from Dec 1982 to Mar 1983 was basically a copy of the Allen Wright AM Tuner.

See https://www.americanradiohistory.com/AUSTRALIA/Archive-Electronics-Australia/1982/EA-1982-12.pdf

https://www.americanradiohistory.com/AUSTRALIA/Archive-Electronics-Australia/1983/EA-1983-01.pdf

https://www.americanradiohistory.com/AUSTRALIA/Archive-Electronics-Australia/1983/EA-1983-02.pdf

https://www.americanradiohistory.com/AUSTRALIA/Archive-Electronics-Australia/1983/EA-1983-03.pdf

 

Or maybe it was the ETI 475 AM Tuner Kit published in September 1980.

See https://www.americanradiohistory.com/Archive-Electronics-Today/Australia/80s/ETI 1980-09 September.pdf

 

Does anyone know more about this, or know if either of these AM Tuner kits sound okay?

 

Maybe if I can't find one of the two suggested AM tuners I could build one to the kit designs. My first ever 'hi-fi' setup back in 1975 was my builds of a kit Garrard turntable,  Playmaster Twin 25 stereo amp (later upgraded to become a Twin 40) and a pair of Phillips Magnavox MV-50 speakers.

 

Best regards, Lloyd Borrett.

Edited by lloyd_borrett

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Man.......I probably built one of those back then!

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Posted (edited)

Try a wideband AM stereo tuner from the 1980’s – they usually had much better AM frequency response than the AM sections of typical ‘hi-fi’ mono AM/stereo FM tuners. The wideband ones can be recognised (usually) by having wide/narrow AM bandwidth switches on the front panel.

 

Sony made some good ones that I know of, with better than 10kHz frequency response on AM – the ST-JX220A (their cheapest) was reviewed in Electronics Australia (EA), March 1986. By contrast, I’ve seen some Japanese AM/FM ‘hi-fi’ tuners tested as having AM bandwidth (-3dB) of less than 1kHz, and the majority have less than 3kHz bandwidth, which is about what the Sony ST-JX220A (and the others I’ve mentioned below) does in narrowband mode! So it's no wonder they sound bad, having similar bandwidth to a telephone channel (3.4kHz). I should state here that I own an ST-JX220A and an ST-JX230A, and can confirm that on AM, they are definitely much better sounding than most other AM/FM tuners (and radios), due to their wide bandwidth.

 

Ones which are definitely wideband AM tuners, either mono or stereo (not that there are many AM stereo broadcasters left in Australia, if any), include the following models:

Audiosound (Australian manufacturer) AM101 (reviewed EA Nov 80) and T751

Allen Wright Tuner 2 (reviewed EA Aug 80)

Sony ST-JX220A, ST-JX221, ST-JX230A, ST-JX420A, ST-JX430A and ST-JX520A (note that the ones with 'A' for Australia are the stereo AM models - there was also an ST-JX520 etc - AM mono, without the wideband AM frequency response)

Sansui TU-D99AMX

As well as the two kits you mentioned above (ETI-475 & Playmaster AM tuner), which were definitely wideband designs, there were also:

Playmaster Stereo AM/ FM Tuner (see EA Dec 85 – Mar 86)

Silicon Chip Studio AM Stereo Tuner (SC Feb-Apr 91, 1990’s Dick Smith kit – cat no. K5220)

 

However, I’ve been searching Ebay (and before that sold.com, which was Fairfax’s Australian equivalent) most of this century, and have never seen either  a Playmaster (apart from the earlier silver one, which matched the Twin 25 and 40-40 amps) or SC/DSE tuner for sale on there – the Sony ones do come up quite regularly, though, so are the best bet.

 

Whether or not the Playmaster AM tuner was a copy of the Allen Wright tuner, EA had reviewed that some time before, so it wouldn’t be beyond the bounds of possibility that they got some inspiration from it. There was a certain resemblance between the circuit of their universal MM/MC phono preamp, and those in many of the Sony amplifiers of the time!

 

 

Regards,

Don

Edited by dan_tech
added extra text, and extra info

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Just as a matter of interest, is AM stereo still around and if it is would any recent AM tuner be able to pick it up?

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19 minutes ago, bronal said:

Just as a matter of interest, is AM stereo still around and if it is would any recent AM tuner be able to pick it up?

I think I read somewhere recently that there is an AM stereo station in Brisbane.

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Thanks Don, that was very helpful. Here is the reference to the AW AM Tuner being copied.

 

Phil Allison wrote about the Allen Wright AM Tuner...

Quote

 

Not too many AWE AM tuners were ever made, I know as I was there in 1980
when they were producing them in Wentworth Avenue. Did you know that one
tuner went to EA mag for review and took ages to be returned. Then a near
identical design appeared as an EA project by Ian Pogson. Allen was furious!

 

There was also the Wright Audio Developments tuner in the early seventies,
it was reviewed in Electronics Today, simple all transistor design but a
good performer too.

 

The best IMO was the Audiosound AM100 valve model, I have one still going
strong.

 

 

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Posted (edited)
On 27/06/2018 at 9:49 PM, bronal said:

Just as a matter of interest, is AM stereo still around and if it is would any recent AM tuner be able to pick it up?

Possibly, and no - they only contain AM stereo decoders if they specifically say something on the front like 'AM Stereo/FM Stereo' - AM/FM stereo usually just means AM mono and FM stereo. The Motorola CQAM decoder IC's that were widely used aren't available any more, as far as I know, and I doubt any of the Japanese manufacturers still manufacture their proprietary decoder chips, which often would cater for every system available in the USA.

 

For those who don't know the history, the FCC in the USA made a decision to limit AM stereo to the Magnavox-designed system, but some of the companies who made other systems challenged it, so the wimps backed down and made no decision, allowing them all. Here in Australia, and in Canada, it was the Motorola system only, and the governments stuck to that decision, but because the USA never standardised on one system, AM stereo slowly died a lingering death. The USA finally got their act together in the early-90's, and went the same way as Australia, but because of the confusion, and the fact that the few stations broadcasting other systems weren't forced to change (since that was expensive), the US public largely ignored AM stereo.

 

The last Australian AM stereo stations I’m aware of were a station in Brisbane and 2CA and 2CC in Canberra, but I don’t know if they’re still stereo. I get 2CA pretty clearly in Hobart at night, but haven’t listened to it via my stereo tuners recently, so don’t know if they are still stereo – a few years ago when I tried 2CA and 2CC were in mono, but apparently that was due to a technical issue they were going to fix, so they may be stereo again. In the late-1980's, there were very few AM stations which weren't stereo, but most either converted to FM after the TV stations which had previously been stupidly allocated by the government to the FM band were removed, or they went back to AM mono, in some cases to save money, if they'd previously rented 10kHz-equalized phone lines to their transmitters, as the ABC did here in Hobart. Since only one line was required for mono, they saved the cost of renting two lines - the former 7ZR Hobart (now known as 936) reverted to mono last decade, possibly as a result of the Howard government reducing ABC funding, and probably all other ABC AM stereo stations did the same.

 

It was also the case that few people bothered to buy stereo AM tuners, and not many manufacturers bothered to sell them.

However, the good thing about some (not all) AM stereo-capable tuners, like the Sony and Sansui ones I listed, is their wide bandwidth, so you actually get plenty of treble – they go out past 10kHz, with 9 or 10kHz notch filters (switchable in the Sony ones between 9 and 10kHz) to prevent whistles, although at night you sometimes have to listen in narrowband (~3kHz) mode. Most AM stations in Australia transmit a 10 or 15kHz bandwidth, but few people ever hear it due to inadequate receivers, and sadly some commercial AM stations equalize their frequency response to give a treble lift, to cater for poor receivers with limited treble response.

 

If tuners don’t have wide-narrow AM bandwidth switches, they’re usually pretty inadequate on AM in sound quality– it usually means the bandwidth is narrower than the narrow bandwidth mode on wide bandwidth tuners, so you get limited treble reception. A very good (on FM) Sony AM mono/FM stereo tuner which was reviewed by EA had better than 15kHz FM bandwidth (typical of most), but 950Hz (-3dB) bandwidth on AM, so it would have sounded terrible on AM. Even in mono, the ones with wide bandwidth sound good, but it's better in stereo. A stereo simulator is a good add-on for ones which are mono - see EA April 83 for a simple one using readily available parts.

 

Regards,

Don

 

 

 

Edited by dan_tech
Fixed paragraph spacing

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Posted (edited)

Interesting in that I've seen references to valve and non-valve versions of the Audiosound AM 101. I haven't found any real information about the valve version though. 

Edited by lloyd_borrett

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On 28/06/2018 at 10:21 PM, lloyd_borrett said:

Interesting in that I've seen references to valve and non-valve versions of the Audiosound AM 101. I haven't found any real information about the valve version though. 

The valve versions are much older (or course) and, therefore, the SS ones would be the best choice. Sonically, there's nothing between the two, except that valves will wear out and, being older, will likely require more work. Additionally, SS variants run cooler and would be better for both longevity and potential for (lack of) drifting issues. 

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On 27/06/2018 at 8:22 PM, dan_tech said:

T

Sony made some good ones that I know of, with better than 10kHz frequency response on AM – the ST-JX220A (their cheapest) was reviewed in Electronics Australia (EA), March 1986.

I have one that's no longer used - if someone wants it.

 

A decent wideband tuner sounds better than the standard narrow IF varieties but there's less gained these days because most AM stations limit their bandwidth to about 4-5kHz. There's also the 9kHz birdie problem after dark if you're not in close proximity.

 

For AM listening I tend to use my FT2000 transceiver with the roofing filter set to 15kHz..image.png.a01d20c3953a2834c501ad205aa76a79.png

 

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51 minutes ago, Zaphod Beeblebrox said:

Pfftttt. NO where near enough buttons, knobs and dials. 😃

 

I'm thinking ahead to old age when complexity becomes a problem. 

 

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2 minutes ago, Art Vandelay said:

 

I'm thinking ahead to old age when complexity becomes a problem. 

 

LOL! 

 

You're already there! 

 

Back in the 80s I owned one of these. I gained considerable joy when asking a friend to put a tape on and play some music. Mostly, people would just stare at it, with an expression of serious confusion. 

 

Ya can't have too many knobs and buttons. 

 

 

nakamichi_1000zxl_computing_cassette_deck.jpg

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Even better, these days you can have a display with that many "knobs and buttons" on a 7cm touchscreen. Misaligned.

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On 26/06/2018 at 12:31 AM, lloyd_borrett said:

What I've always been missing is a great AM tuner for this setup. Now I want to start the search for one.

Hi Lloyd,

Apparently the Philips AH6731 has one of the best AM sections going around.  And it's an awesome FM performer too.

Would be right at home with your 70s/80s collection.

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4 hours ago, Zaphod Beeblebrox said:

LOL! 

 

You're already there! 

 

Back in the 80s I owned one of these. I gained considerable joy when asking a friend to put a tape on and play some music. Mostly, people would just stare at it, with an expression of serious confusion. 

 

Ya can't have too many knobs and buttons. 

 

 

nakamichi_1000zxl_computing_cassette_deck.jpg

Very nice Zaph. Actually, even with the knobs and buttons the 1000ZXL had a high level of automation for its time. 

 

Fwiw, I prefer the look of the 700ZXL, although mine now sits in a cupboard, gathering not too much dust hopefully. Not sure what I'll do with it, along with a few other cassette decks from the 80's that were fav's of mine, including a Nak LX-5 and a TOTL Aiwa.   

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1 minute ago, Art Vandelay said:

Very nice Zaph. Actually, even with the knobs and buttons the 1000ZXL had a high level of automation for its time. 

 

Fwiw, I prefer the look of the 700ZXL, although mine now sits in a cupboard, gathering not too much dust hopefully. Not sure what I'll do with it, along with a few other cassette decks from the 80's that were fav's of mine, including a Nak LX-5 and a TOTL Aiwa.   

Funnily enough, I wanted the 700ZXL, but my mate who picked mine up in Hong Kong, decided I should have the 1000ZXL.

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2 hours ago, surprisetech said:

Hi Lloyd,

Apparently the Philips AH6731 has one of the best AM sections going around.  And it's an awesome FM performer too.

Would be right at home with your 70s/80s collection.

Thanks, I hadn't heard about that one.

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I've recently managed to get my hands on a Wright Audio Developments AM Tuner. The transformer in it is dated August 1972.

 

It's been cleaned up, checked out, and new RCA leads fitted. An aerial terminal block has been added onto the back so that aerial connection is easier than the DIN socket it was originally using.

 

Doug Wood in Rye who was doing the service work for me was very skeptical at first and tried to talk me out of doing anything with it. But when he finished and hooked it up for testing he was amazed at how nice it sounded. It's a solid state device but with a rich, smooth valve sound. I still need to find a knob for the pot on the rear, then I'll post some better pics.

 

wright_am_tuner.jpg

Edited by lloyd_borrett

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Theres a couple of classic old tuners in the classifieds  at the moment 

 

I had a look at your  current set ups and had to think  I have a   system in each room   like yours but not as many 

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54 minutes ago, david j said:

Theres a couple of classic old tuners in the classifieds  at the moment 

 

I had a look at your  current set ups and had to think  I have a   system in each room   like yours but not as many 

That may be so, but NOTHING compares to the Allen Wright AM tuner or the Audiosound AM ones. 

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Don't know much about early radios but I do remember listening to a  old valve radio when I was young   and as far as  I can remember it  sounded great at the time 

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