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FM radio; is it going the way of the dinosaurs....?

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  • #31
    Originally posted by jonathanhorwich View Post
    Wouldn't the real test be to listen to the Accuphase versus another tuner and see if it sounds better or not despite whatever limitation or negative processing FM is entangled with? Maybe I'm missing the boat Tech 7738 is describing as technically it is far beyond me. Also no matter what $5,000.00 might be to me or Tech 7738 it might not be a lot to another at all--just a drop in the bucket.
    Only if the listening test was done properly, with matched levels, identical RF input signals, etc. And double-blind, if for no other reason than the Accuphase looks so good!

    But my point is, the audio signal that is being broadcast is so severely...um...modified, any decent tuner with a good RF signal will recover what's left, which isn't much. I can't thing of a good analogy, but consider that you have a cassette recorded on an early Norelco Carrycorder (mono, dictation-grade), and you want to play it "perfectly". Well, the tape has high noise, poor frequency response, and flutter. If you played it back on a theoretically silent player with flat response out to 22kHz and zero flutter, you still would have the original at its poor quality. Then you play it back on a $200 consumer deck with higher noise, but still far better than the tape, decent response, and reasonable flutter, the overwhelming limiting factor is the original recorder and tape. You don't gain by playing it on a better, even perfect player, and those will cost a lot more.

    In FM, the audio quality has been the victim of a 50 year long loudness war, which is still raging. Stations that broadcast high quality music are very, very few in number, and even they process a lot. Tuners, even one built into a $500 AVR, are capable of approaching perfect reproduction of the best FM could do, but since stations aren't transmitting that, not even close, the tuner is simply not a factor.

    As I've said, the one factor that a tuner could address is multipath, which can cause a whole lot of problems, and does. And there are many reception locations that are just plain bad. In those areas, something like the Accuphase might be a real benefit. But it's a reception issue, which means an antenna issue. Provide any tuner with a good RF signal, and it's happy.

    The other issue is program offerings. I'm in a major market, and there is so little to listen to casually, much less as a foreground concert source. Pretty much two stations, and one is heavily processed (jazz) and the other's processing is over done for their classical music. What does that leave us with to spend $5000 to receive? Just not sure it makes any sense.

    Then, if you have it to burn, that is one of the sexier looking tuners. All I can afford is a picture of it.

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    • #32
      I agree on the $5,000.00--I'm with you. But if I had money to burn I'd buy an Accuphase in about 2.6 seconds and I'd be in heaven, if only for the idea and looks. But to your main point I did get this the first time and I understand your (the) logic of it. But I'd have to try two different tuners to know how much a difference it makes. How much the limiting, negative factors of FM limit the tuner differences I don't know. You're right the source is really holding back the quality. But like trying a Naka 1000 with the cheap cassette, I'd have to try a comparison to know if it is worth buying the Naka (Accuphase for FM example) versus an inexpensive player. I've run into this on some of my old jazz master tapes done poorly to begin with and at 7.5ips. Ghastly. How much difference does my super expensive playback deck make in that? I just don't know as never tried a mediocre deck with the crummy master to see. Hope this helps.
      JLH

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      • #33
        I'm just concerned that there may not be a full understanding of how that comparison needs to be done. If two devices are actually identical in every way, but one is a fraction of a dB louder, it will sound different and usually be preferred. Level match is extremely critical when comparing devices that have little difference to begin with.

        I knew the cassette analogy was bad, I'm sorry I used it now, because it's actually more complex than comparing tuners. There are many adjustments in tape recording and playback that have a major impact on the end result. Just swapping players playing the same tape will almost certainly present a clearly audible difference because they are not aligned equally. You could compare two samples of the same player and end up with major audible differences because of alignment discrepancies. Those issues are not present nearly so much in FM tuners, though alignment issues do occur.

        What you don't want to do is plug one in, listen and form an opinion, then plug in another, listen and form an opinion. The perceptual bias is dominant, you won't be deciding based on real differences. True for every signal type of device.

        And now, I dive into the foxhole to cover my head!

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        • #34
          Got it. I get that and very true. Don't dive too deep. No one is shooting.
          JLH

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          • #35
            It's just that I suggested a controlled, level-matched double-blind test in a forum that is dominantly counter-polarized. Usually some ammunition is fired at guys like me!

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            • #36
              Hey, I admit I'm too lazy or whatever to be as exacting as your suggestion. I test the sound of tape decks by making sure they are aligned and I listen for a good while and then decide which I want. I will never ever do a rapid A/B. Never. I listen for a good while to each components. It works for me. Maybe it isn't perfect but I'm happy and I love what I do and I get away with it or even if I make some wrong choices I'm happy and good. You're not wrong. I just don't spend that much time to do it other than listen a good while. I'm testing a new amp right now and am listening and listening. No A/B. I hear more and more the characteristics of the amp. Scientific? Nope. Am I satisfied? Yes. It's my money and time. Someone wants a tape deck I tell them which has what sound from my long term experience. It works somehow.
              JLH

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              • #37
                Originally posted by jonathanhorwich View Post
                Scientific? Nope. Am I satisfied? Yes.
                That's the key right there. It takes different things to satisfy different people. But ultimately, satisfaction is why we're in this in the first place, whatever it takes.

                I'll just say that it has been proven that the color and design of the front panel makes a difference in perceived sound. The question, at least for me, becomes: does it really? Well, you can't find that out by sighted listening, so....(turns out, the color has no effect at all once it can no longer be seen).

                We are all highly subject to perceptual bias. It's part of what makes this all so much fun. It's part of what we pay for. It's why gear that looks great is preferred over gear that looks like junk, even though the junk may actually perform better. And designers know this very well. Just look at Dan Dagostino's designs. OMG, I don't even care what they sound like! But if someone were to ask me if their sound is worth the money, well, that's a very different question, and I'd have to eliminate the sexy visuals completely to answer that one.

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                • #38
                  Originally posted by Tech7738 View Post

                  Here you go...

                  And that underscores my earlier comment. There is nothing transmitted on FM anywhere in the world that is good enough to warrant that price. Nothing.
                  Hey, don't overlook the free shipping ;-) ...

                  I largely agree that $5K is a waste of money for an FM tuner, but if you've got that burning a hole in your pocket, then Whiskey Tango Foxtrot... Also, those stations that it was hard to tell from CD's? They were all public stations that did not have a commercial incentive to be the loudest station on the dial and 'took it easy' with their signal processing. Maybe that helped their sound be as good as it was, In my radio market, between Baltimore and WDC, there is one part-time Jazz station with a lot of airtime devoted to public affairs programming (WPFW), one Classical station (WETA),; Baltimore has one Classical station (WBJC) and one college station that plays some Fuzak. I believe there is a full time 'Smooth jazz' station in each market (tweaked to sound 'loud', plus I hate the 'smooth jazz' genre in general). I could get the Baltimore stations reasonably well if I put a beam antenna and a rotator on the roof. Did that back in the day, but why bother when I can get superior SQ from Tidal.

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                  • #39
                    Originally posted by Aperiodic View Post
                    ... if you've got that burning a hole in your pocket, then Whiskey Tango Foxtrot...
                    ...then put that $5K into something that makes an audible improvement, like speakers and acoustic treatment...you know, the stuff that makes a an actual big difference.
                    Put FM tuners dead last in the priorities.

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                    • #40
                      Originally posted by Tech7738 View Post
                      ...then put that $5K into something that makes an audible improvement, like speakers and acoustic treatment...you know, the stuff that makes a an actual big difference.
                      Put FM tuners dead last in the priorities.
                      Agreed. I'm constantly amazed seeing photos that show systems in the 25-40K (and up) range- in rooms where the acoustics budget was obviously zero. One dollar spent on the room probably has an effect equaling $10 spent on the equipment.

                      Sadly, I just don't think there are enough first rate FM stations to justify a big investment in FM anymore.

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                      • #41
                        Yup, that's completely correct. I had a system calibration client with $350K in gear in a room that was 80% hard reflective surfaces. He had two choices: take it or leave it.

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                        • #42
                          Originally posted by Tech7738 View Post
                          ...then put that $5K into something that makes an audible improvement, like...acoustic treatment...you know, the stuff that makes a an actual big difference.
                          Tech - if you were designing a dedicated listening space...whom would you choose?
                          Vbr,

                          Sam

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                          • #43
                            Originally posted by c1ferrari View Post
                            Tech - if you were designing a dedicated listening space...whom would you choose?
                            Well if I were designing a dedicated listing space, I'd be doing the design (part of what I do). If you wanted a custom designed dedicated listening space, you might consider a professional in your area. Designing the space is one part of the project, but supervising the various contractors to make sure the design is not compromised is a big part of the job. Got to be on-site for that. Then there's tuning, installation...etc., etc...

                            Look for someone through the Home Acoustic Alliance, or THX.

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                            • #44
                              Appreciate your input. The general contractor is critical and should have a reliable crew that respects the various trades and takes pride in their work!

                              I've never heard of the Home Acoustic Alliance.
                              Vbr,

                              Sam

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                              • #45
                                Perhaps it's different in other areas, but I've never yet run into a GC or architect who knew anything about acoustics. Most of them have odd concepts of the basic principles of isolation, like they put up a wall with double layers of drywall to create a "sound wall", then punch an outlet hole in them negating the double layers, or flanking paths are ignored. Or they blow it with HVAC duct work. Perhaps isolation doesn't matter as much in a particular job, but if they don't understand those concepts, they sure don't get any other part of interior acoustic design either. No, I'd get a real acoustics expert involved with the GC and architect very, very early. They will change your design to meet your goals.

                                HAA has been around for many years. I'm personally not a member having elected the THX path, but the principles are the same, and training is similar.

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