05/30/06: Revised Sansui TU-X1 writeup.
05/28/06: Added Harman/Kardon Citation 14 and 15 listings and Eli's comparison of the 14, 15 and 18; revised existing Citation 18 writeup and McIntosh MR 74 writeup; added Tim Schwartz of Bristol Electronics to Repairs section.
05/27/06: Revised MCS 3050 and Sony ST-2950SD writeups; updated eBay sale price data for all tuners on the A-N and O-Z review pages through April, 2006.
05/21/06: Revised Marantz 10B and Sony ST-5000FW and ST-J75 writeups.
05/20/06: Revised Onkyo T-4711 writeup; revised Yamaha section on Paul's Receiver Rack page.
05/14/06: Revised Akai AT-2600, Kenwood KT-815 and Marantz 24 writeups; added Tim's input to the AM Tuners page; added Optonica ST-3636 and Kenwood KT-5020 reviews to the Modified Tuner Report page; added Terry Dewick to Repairs section below; revised Alignments section below.
TIC's panel of experts (including audiophiles, FM DXers, engineers and tuner collectors) and an elite team of trusted contributors have personally used and reviewed hundreds of different FM tuners. We're also requesting input from readers on nearly 200 more tuners listed in the On-Deck Circle, many of which will be added to the review pages once first-hand information is obtained and as our Editor's time permits. We focus on tuners, rather than receivers, because (a) very few receivers come close to matching the performance of that manufacturer's top tuners, and (b) we stick to what we know best. Our primary emphasis is on tuners that were manufactured between the early 1970s and the early '90s, before home theater receivers largely replaced separate stereo components. We will review tuners of more recent vintage, but do not seek them out as fervently as we do the older stuff.
Your own experience with a particular tuner will depend, to some extent, on reception conditions in your local area. For example, a listener in a metropolitan area where strong local stations crowd the FM band will need a tuner with excellent selectivity if he or she wishes to receive any of the more distant stations between the locals. (Alternate channel selectivity is the measurement of a tuner's ability to reject an interfering signal 400 kHz, or .4 MHz, away from the station you're trying to hear. Adjacent channel selectivity, rarely quoted in manufacturers' specs, refers to rejection of a station only 200 kHz, or 0.2 MHz, away from the one you're tuned to.) Overload rejection and image rejection are other important considerations for listeners who live close to stations' transmitters. Listeners in more remote or rural areas, however, will generally be more concerned with sensitivity, which is the tuner's ability to clearly receive weak stations' signals. Many tuners with good sensitivity can be modified to be more selective, but poor sensitivity cannot easily be improved upon. See the Better FM page for info on diagnosing and correcting FM reception problems.
Manufacturers' own specifications for sensitivity and selectivity are sometimes imprecise or exaggerated, and even two examples of the same model tuner may be very different in performance (especially when they're 10 to 30 years old!). Also, a tuner that is out of alignment will not function properly; Stereophile's reviewers even used to receive brand-new misaligned review samples occasionally. For what they're worth, key specs for many top tuners may be compared on the Specs Database page. The Fanfare website has pretty good definitions of the most important commonly recognized tuner specs.
One important reception characteristic of a tuner that is often overlooked, and rarely listed accurately on a spec sheet, is the tuner's ability to handle strong signals that can create mixing products. The typical problem occurs when two or more strong local stations on different frequencies, as a result of non-linear effects in the tuner, combine to create a distorted signal at another frequency that is stronger than the station that should be there. This usually happens when the RF gain transistor and/or mixer is driven to overload and creates harmonics of a local station. These harmonics then mix with other strong stations to create ghost stations in the amp or mixer. In very dense urban markets, the harmonics created can be so numerous as to create an overall increase in noise on all stations. In FM tuners, the most common RFIM distortion results from two stations mixing together in the relationship 2*f1-f2 or 2*f2-f1.
The most troublesome mixing products are caused by very strong stations that are close to each other in frequency, and also close to a desired weaker station. This is because RF gangs are generally 2-3 MHz wide, and most tuners have only one gang in front of the first RF amp (although better tuners have two gangs before the RF amp). When the gangs cannot attenuate undesirable strong signals, the ability of the RF amp and mixer to withstand RFIM is tested. For example, subtracting 93.3 from the second harmonic of 94.1 would yield a mixing product at 94.9, and there are other possibilities like f1 + f2 - f3. These stations are all so close in frequency that one gang of the front end will do little to attenuate them. In cases like this, using a directional external antenna is the best way to prevent the unwanted stations from overloading the front end. Many tuners also have provision for handling strong RF signals, which usually means circuits to bypass RF amps, add attenuation, or both. The problem with this is that the weak station you want to listen to also gets less gain/attenuated. It should be noted, though, that this scenario in which all three stations are less than 2 MHz apart is the worst case. Usually the strong signals are farther apart in frequency, or farther away from the one you are trying to listen to, and then the gangs will do their job and attenuate strong offending stations. All other things being equal, two bandpass filters will have better out-of-band rejection than one, and for this reason two gangs before the RF amp is preferred over one in very strong signal environments.
Mixing products can be referred to in many ways - intermod, IMD (intermodulation distortion), RFIM (RF intermodulation), third-order IM, etc. A calculation of how an individual amp, mixer, or composite RF stage can handle third-order RFIM, called "IP3" (third-order intermodulation product), is a combination of measurement and graphical extrapolation, usually expressed in dBm (the higher the better). In tuner specs, in theory, the ANSI/IEEE 185-1975 tuner spec for Spurious Response Ratio (6.15.1) should capture the worst case of three individual measurements, one of which is a very difficult third-order RFIM measurement (section 6.16, RF Intermodulation, where two RF generators, one at 98.8 and the other at 99.6 MHz, are used while monitoring 98 MHz for interference). For some reason, based on a survey of tuner owners and written opinions of others like David Rich, it does not. Perhaps the wording of the spec itself, confusing at best, is to blame. Or perhaps creative marketing departments chose to interpret the spec to mean the best, not worst, of the three measurements. A few tuner companies do break out and independently specify third-order RFIM; Accuphase, for example, lists 80 dB for the T-109V. For most tuners, however, field testing under actual conditions appears to be the best way to determine resistance to strong-signal overload, unless you have access to RF instruments and can perform the RFIM measurements yourself.
In general, many, but not all, older tuners designed before the modern FM station congestion can have problems with RFIM. This would seem to include models like the Marantz 10B, according to personal accounts by some of our contributors, who said the Scott 310 series had much better RFIM performance.
Our panelist David "Anonymous" adds, "The problem of RFIM is caused fundamentally by too much gain and not enough selectivity in the front end. It is worsened by adding an RF amp in front of any tuner even if there are tuned elements in front of it. Also, the use of RF AGC worsens the problem and can create additional harmonics. Therefore, having two or even three tuning elements (caps or varactors) prior to any RF amplifier elements helps a great deal because it limits the bandwidth coming in and therefore the total energy being directed at the RF amp(s) and the mixer. This is correctly called RFIM and is usually specified as a level of attenuation relative to a certain deviation from the tuned center frequency. It is important to understand that a 7 effective gang tuner that is arranged as 3 tuning elements, an RF amp, 3 elements, a mixer and a single element for the local oscillator will radically outperform a 7-gang tuner that has 1 element, an RF amp, 2 elements, another RF amp, 2 elements, a mixer and 2 tuned elements for the LO. Also, a tuner with a single properly designed RF amp will always outperform another tuner with two RF amps in terms of the RFIM parameter. In addition, unless varactors are very carefully selected and designed, there is fundamentally more front-end selectivity when one uses tuning capacitors."
Our contributor Brian B., however, disagrees with David on one point: "RF AGC does not necessarily worsen RF intermod. If the intermod originates in the mixer, AGC will help, not hurt. This is the usual case. For example, when I added RF AGC to my Kenwood KT-7500, stations that were obliterated by RF intermod popped out of the grunge and became listenable."
Gangs: In our reviews, we usually mention the number of FM (front-end) tuning elements in a tuner, when known. These elements can be either variable capacitors or diodes that vary capacitance as a function of voltage, known as varactor diodes. As a general rule, older tuners typically have variable capacitors and newer ones tend to use varactor diodes, but there are exceptions to both. The term "gangs" refers to individual capacitors physically tied together such that they all change capacitance when the tuning mechanism is actuated. We may refer to both varactors and variable capacitor sections as gangs for convenience, or call varactors "the electronic equivalent" of gangs. Variable capacitors are superior in a number of respects: they are essentially perfectly reliable as passive components, as opposed to active diodes which can be damaged electrically; and they maintain their characteristics across the FM band, as a function of signal level, and have a much higher Q (essentially the ability to reject unwanted frequencies in favor of a desired frequency). Variable capacitors create some measure of front-end selectivity where it has no negative effects on the signal, as opposed to selectivity in the IF which can have a profound impact on the signal.
The number of gangs and the overall front-end architecture of a tuner directly correlates with its ability to reject spurious signals and images, and usually indicates the tuner's ability to handle strong signals from local transmitters without overloading the front end. Our contributor Brian L. explains why: "Each tuned stage is tuned to a particular frequency and amplifies that frequency only (actually, a range of frequencies near the desired frequency). The RF amps are tuned by the gangs of the tuning capacitor, one gang per tuned circuit. One gang is left over to tune the local oscillator (LO). Therefore, a 3-gang tuner has only two tuned circuits to select the desired station and reject the rest. A 5-gang tuner has four tuned circuits to select only the desired station's signal and this leads to better attenuation of the undesired signals, i.e., better image rejection and better overload protection from other stations removed from the desired station."
Many other factors, including, but not limited to, mixer design and RF amplifier topology, also influence RF performance. How the gangs are arranged and what they are used for is also critical. For example, a 7-gang tuning capacitor can be arranged as one section prior to the first RF amp, two sections prior to the second RF amp, two sections prior to the mixer and two sections tuning the local oscillator and a buffer (1/2/2/2), or it can be arranged as (2/2/2/1). Different front-end architectures can be expected to yield different performance from the same number of gangs. However, we have found that the number of gangs can be a convenient "shorthand" indication of the overall build quality of a tuner, affecting sensitivity, image and spurious signal rejection, maximum signal-to-noise ratio, and other front-end parameters. This attention to detail and performance in the RF front end may, or may not, carry through to the IF, detector, multiplex and audio stages.
The number of gangs used commercially in quality tuners has ranged from a low of 3 to a high of 9. Each tuning element inserts loss that must be compensated for by RF amplification or the gain of the antenna. Some tuners have different operating modes or bypasses that reconfigure or bypass gangs. We have found that tuners need a minimum of 5 gangs to perform optimally over a wide variety of reception conditions, but some 4-gang tuners will provide excellent performance in most situations. Even some 3-gang tuners are quite sensitive, but may have problems with strong signals showing up in many places across the dial due to front-end overload. Our contributor Eric B. posted a nice (mostly correct) writeup on counting gangs in our FMtuners group. Here are some photos showing two of the possible configurations of 4 FM gangs and 2 AM gangs in the tuning capacitors of the (analog) Sansui TU-717 and TU-719, and the varactor (digital) equivalent of 6 FM gangs in the controversial Sumo Charlie.
Filters: All tuners use IF (intermediate frequency) bandpass filters nominally at 10.7 MHz. From the 1970s on, multiple 2-stage ceramic filters have been used to attempt to eliminate alternate channel interference and minimize adjacent channel interference. "Filter mods" are modifications that involve (among other things) replacing the tuner's original ceramic filters with narrower bandwidth filters to improve selectivity, and some information on this site is intended to assist and encourage those who wish to do so. In our reviews, we usually include the number of ceramic filters for which the tuner has slots in its circuit board, when known. A tuner with 3 or more filters can almost always be made more selective with a filter mod, and the most selective tuners use 4, 5 or even more filters. See Bob's Filter Corner for more information on filters and filter mods, with links to other good info. Would-be filter modders are cautioned that while replacing a tuner's stock filters with new narrower ones will certainly improve selectivity, if the new filters have not been professionally measured and matched, there is likely to be a noticeable degradation of audio quality.
An alignment can improve a tuner's weak-signal reception, distortion, and stereo separation. Also, in many cases the tuning dial reads incorrectly, and an alignment solves that problem (although it should be pointed out that a well-calibrated tuning dial does not necessarily indicate that the tuner is properly aligned). Setting the tuner's detector correctly can also improve reception of adjacent-channel stations. If one listens primarily to strong local stations, it may not be apparent that a tuner is out of alignment, and a misaligned tuner can have sensitivity as high (poor) as 10-15 uV and still sound fine on locals. With a good alignment, the sensitivity of many top tuners can be improved to 1.5 uV or even lower.
To do a decent tuner alignment, one needs a low-distortion FM generator made exclusively for FM tuner work, like a Sound Technology ST-1000A; a good AC/DC multimeter; a 100 MHz oscilloscope with X-Y capability; a 125 MHz counter; a very good distortion meter; and a very low-distortion audio signal source. Then a bunch of BNC cables, test leads, probes, etc. In some cases, you may have to build adapters or probes from scratch or otherwise improvise. Procuring the equipment is one thing, and figuring out how to use it successfully is another. Many people could do it with proper training and help, but it is best learned by observing in person, like learning a trade, rather than by reading how to do it. Usually the manual for the stereo generator is a good starting point. Our panelist Bob discusses alignment techniques in our FMtuners group in the series of posts beginning here, and here are useful discussions of alignments of Marantz and Scott tuners, most of which have broader application. A current source of high-quality FM Stereo alignment generators is Levear (formerly called Panasonic). These are sold and supported by Howard Anderson at WHA Electronics, reachable at whaelecATinsightbb.com (replace the AT with an @ sign).
When selecting a shop for tuner modifications, repairs, or even just a tuneup, ask what kind of test gear they use to complete the final RF checkout and alignment. We believe it is critical that RF mods, repairs, and alignments be fully measured to ensure that the tuner meets or exceeds factory specs as set forth in the service manual. This critical measurement should be in addition to the final listening test.
See our DIY Mods page for information on modifying tuner audio sections. Bill Ammons, Antenna Performance Specialties, DeWick Repairs and Audio Video Service Labs, all listed just below, are well-qualified to do this work.
IF Section Mods
Bill Ammons, an RF design engineer with more than 20 years of experience in the broadcast equipment industry, manufactures a small PCB called the IF FILTER ADDER PCB (TM). This small PCB fits in place of a standard ceramic filter and provides sockets for two filters plus some additional IF amplification. There's more information about the board on our Filters page, and here are some of the variations: switchable PCB 1, switchable PCB 2, PCB for KT-8300, PCB for TU-919. Bill also measures and sells matched sets of ceramic filters, and sometimes has modified tuners for sale to DXers or audiophiles. Bill is also experienced in AM stereo tuners and has filters available for AM IFs as well. Contact Bill at ammonsphxATearthlink.net (replace the AT with an @ sign).
The best information we've seen on all aspects of antennas can be found on Jeremy Lansman's website. It's an absolute must read. And to demystify the murky world of antenna specifications, be sure to check out our contributor Brian Beezley's webpage, with computer-modeled performance results and reception patterns for many antennas.
Antenna Performance Specialties designs and sells the best consumer FM antennas available. As both an audiophile and an FM DXer, Ed Hanlon, the founder of APS, is uniquely qualified to diagnose reception problems and recommend an antenna to maximize the performance of your FM tuner or receiver. APS's antennas have received top recommendations from Stereophile and other publications since 1996. Tuner mods have always been a staple of APS's work, and APS offers full alignments and custom mods to improve audio quality and/or selectivity. Mods are performed using a Meguro MSW-721E IF sweeper, which takes the guesswork out of ceramic filter selection and is a must for modding the likes of Kenwood's 600T, KT-8300 and L-07T. A changing selection of top-quality modified vintage tuners and receivers is always available for sale at APS's website. Contact Ed at infoATantennaperformance.com for more information (replace the AT with an @ sign).
TIC's top recommendation for tuner repairs (but not mods) is Mark Wilson, a/k/a Absolute Sound Labs, in Burnsville, Minnesota. Mark has been doing audio restorations for almost 40 years and his work has received rave reviews from several of TIC's most trusted contributors, as well as from the famously fussy and cantankerous James Bongiorno. Mark can handle repairs and restorations from almost any vintage audio manufacturer, including tubed gear. Contact Mark at absoundlabsATsihope.com (replace the AT with an @ sign).
For affordable repairs and alignments of most manufacturers' tuners, we can heartily recommend Stereo Surgeons in East Hartford, Connecticut. Owner Ken Bernacky has 30 years of professional experience and is honest and reliable. Stereo Surgeons has worked on many of our contributors' and panelists' tuners over the past few years. Visit their website, email them at stereoATsnet.net (replace the AT with an @ sign), or call them at (860) 528-8837.
Terry DeWick in Knoxville, Tennessee, is well known to many McIntosh customers as an extremely talented technician, but his expertise and services are not limited to McIntosh products. He states on his website: "Specializing in the repair of audio equipment both Solid State and Tube, old and new. Also repair of Antique Radios, A.C. and battery. Authorized McIntosh warranty repair. Tuner alignment and updates, Amplifier updates, measured data returned with each unit." Email Terry at dewicktATesper.com (replace the AT with an @ sign) or call him at (865) 691-2446.
Chuck Rippel of Audio Video Service Labs in Virginia Beach will do repairs and custom mods (including filters) and alignments on most '70s-'80s tuners, including Harman/Kardon, Kenwood, Marantz, Onkyo, Pioneer, Nakamichi, Sansui, Sony and Yamaha. Their impressive website also lists a large selection of service manuals. AVSL's Earl Pruitt's work on two Marantz 150s got rave reviews from one of TIC's most trusted contributors.
Rick Rupert in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania offers repairs and restorations on all makes of tuners, receivers, and other equipment, whether new or vintage, tube or transistor. Two trusted TIC contributors vouch for his work. Contact Rick at rrupert104ATaol.com (replace the AT with an @ sign) or call him at (570) 323-2911.
Tim Schwartz of Bristol Electronics in Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey has worked on several pieces for two trusted TIC contributors, one of whom says, "His work is superb, turnaround time reasonable, fairly priced, and he's honest to a fault." Tim is a Certified Repair Facility for McIntosh, Arcam, and several other brands. He can be reached at (201) 447-4299.
Eric Barbour, well-known to many tube audio fans from his Glass Audio and Vacuum Tube Valley articles, specializes in repairing, rebuilding and aligning tube tuners, including the Marantz 10B. He also works on tube amps, preamps and receivers, and has a stock of parts for tough repairs on Scott and Fisher tube equipment. Contact Eric at synthATmetasonix.com (replace the AT with an @ sign).
Foster Blair rebuilds and repairs all types of vintage Scott equipment, including amplifiers, tuners, multiplex units, and the hardest to work on, tube receivers. He has over 35 years experience working with Scott equipment and has an extensive collection of vintage Scott gear. Foster has the necessary test equipment, schematics and knowledge to fix dead, sick or wounded Scotts at very reasonable cost. Contact Foster at fjblairATcomcast.net (replace the AT with an @ sign).
Approved Audio Service in Bantam, Connecticut claims to "specialize in repair and calibration of all high-end audio equipment." None of us has used them yet, but based on our discussion with them they seem to have good expertise, good equipment, and fair prices for alignments and repairs. They're an authorized repair center for many high-end brands and one of the few options for Tandberg owners. Visit their website for more information.
None of our panelists has used him, but Heinz Preiss of Parrish, Florida apparently did a nice job refurbishing a Tandberg 3001A for one of our contributors. Heinz's German Radio Service will also work on Revox, Grundig, and the other brands listed on his website.
In addition to a discussion of tuners and related topics, our "FMtuners" discussion group (groups.yahoo.com/group/FMtuners) contains photos of vintage equipment, old magazine ads and manufacturers' brochures, and a database page listing key specs of most of the tuners on this site (and some others). Registration is relatively painless.
The Better FM page on Malcolm Pritchard's amateur radio site is the best explanation we've seen of ways to improve FM reception. It's an absolute "must read" for FM radio and tuner enthusiasts. To help you locate all the FM stations in your area, or for trips to unfamiliar areas or DXing, Bruce Elving's FM Atlas is a must. The Atlas lists stations by state and city, by frequency, and on individual state maps. Information on FM and TV reception and DXing is available from WTFDA, and Mike Hawk's AM and FM DXers Resource site has good info and many useful links.
You could easily spend hours investigating the websites indexed at Steve Ekblad's Audiogrid. Audiolinks is another great compilation that also offers useful electronics FAQs.
Ben Blish's classic-audio.com, the authority on vintage Marantz gear, also covers Pioneer and Technics equipment and has interesting material for all fans of vintage audio. Another stop for Marantz fans is the "MarantzTalk" group on Yahoo. Ben's site should not be confused with classicaudio.com, which features seriously outdated pricing data.
There are a number of other good websites for fans of particular hi-fi brands, including Anthony Young's Silver Pioneer Reference Site, which is dedicated to silver-faced Pioneer equipment from 1971-1981. It's a must visit for Pioneer fans and others. Anthony also runs a separate site covering Pioneer's Elite series of components. Dave Compton has finally reestablished his excellent Sansui appreciation site at classicsansui.net, and there's a "Classic Sansui" discussion group on Yahoo with some very gracious and knowledgable Sansui fans who can answer questions on virtually any Sansui gear. Hans Hilberink's new website covers vintage Luxman equipment, as does the Luxman group on Yahoo. You can also find Yahoo groups for "Kenwood Audio" and "Vintage Harman/Kardon". Anthony Young moonlights from his Pioneer sites to run sites covering Phase Linear (phaselinearhistory.com, down as of 11/05) and Soundcraftsmen. The Vintage Technics site is useful for specs and brochure photos of all types of Technics equipment, although Mark Kouts freaks out if anyone copies his photos (fine, we'll get our Technics photos elsewhere even though we once sent Mark some old brochures). "Jim's SAE Site" has information on SAE equipment, including specs and images of brochures, and there's an "SAE Talk" group on Yahoo that also covers Sumo equipment. Also on Yahoo, Rat Shack fan Ed Hanlon has created the "Realistic Audio" group.
TIC unabashedly borrows tuner photos from k-nisi's site (page 1, page 2, page 3), which has lots of cool Japanese tuners rarely (if ever) seen in the U.S. and other equipment, too (scroll down to the blue links). Thanks to our contributor Lorne in Japan for this translation of k-nisi's tuner pages. The Vintage Knob, a growing "online audio museum," has beautifully designed pages with photos and commentary on all types of audio gear (including tuners).
Dan Collins has a terrific site called radioswapmeet.com, that he calls a "resource and social center for radio clubs, collectors, restorers, and hobbyists." It's jam-packed with a gazillion links to radio-related sites, including parts and manuals sellers, and is a must-visit for readers of TIC who like the older stuff. And speaking of antique radios, you won't find tuners at Radio Era Archives or antiqueradios.com, but they're also excellent sites. Finally, if you'd like to have a PC that looks like an antique radio (or some other vintage item), check out Facade Computer.
The most popular and efficient forum for buying and selling tuners is the thriving marketplace for vintage audio equipment on eBay, which far surpasses even specialized sites like Audiogon for purposes of liquidity (the ability to find a ready market whether you're buying or selling). Our panel has bought and sold on eBay hundreds of times, making us uniquely qualified to analyze prevailing prices of top tuners. Some will find the most valuable aspect of this site to be the updated, accurate sale price information for the equipment we cover. To make it easier for TIC readers to locate tuners on eBay, there are little "Search eBay" links next to most TIC tuner listings. But please note that eBay listings with misspellings or misplaced hyphens may not show up in the search, so if you're desperate to find a particular tuner you might want to do a search for all tuners by that manufacturer.
Please note that some eBay sellers are not willing to stand behind what they sell, reciting the mantra "sold as is, as always with used electronic equipment." They're full of it! It's not "always" and it doesn't have to be that way. Prices listed on this site are for tuners sold by reputable sellers who guarantee that they'll work. "As is" sale prices are often much lower. If you're tempted by an "as is" listing, ask the seller specifically what problems the tuner has, and if you're not comfortable with the response, don't bid. If all the readers of this site try to avoid "as is" auctions (they're justifiable in some cases), we may even help reduce the number of shady sellers selling damaged items "as is" on eBay.
Here is an eBay "Rogues' Gallery" to warn electronics buyers about nasty, fraudulent or maybe just deceptive sellers. If you've been abused or scammed, please email us with the details. To start with the worst rogue of all, we note that several TIC readers had unpleasant experiences dealing with a guy named Henry Jean-Louis of Valley Stream, New York, who used to pad his feedback by buying books for a penny and then tried to sell things like multi-thousand dollar Accuphase equipment. He used to go by the names "mcsolaar2002," "accuphasedealer" and "nmt_student," became "lynda_boutique" in 9/03 (and was using that name on Yahoo auctions in 5/04), and used the names "Takanatokumoto" on Audiogon and "pure_audio_master" on eBay in 12/03. He now has a website, presumably so he can rip people off without eBay's pesky rules getting in the way. On eBay, he makes his feedback and bidders' identities private, which prevents good Samaritans from emailing the bidders to warn them. You can read about Henry in our FMtuners group in a series of posts that begins here, or in the Yahoo Classic Sansui group in a thread that begins here. Our thanks to Beatlefred and everyone else who helps us keep track of Henry's activities.
An eBay seller from Toronto called "vlad20001" is not in Henry's league, but with 50 negative feedbacks we'd avoid him, too, despite his over 90% positive rating. Don't bid on anything of his without reading this. Our contributor Chris bought a tuner from him and reports: "Vlad waited for a week after receiving my payment before shipping. There was a 'hidden' handling fee, and he ignored two e-mails regarding info on shipping dates. The unit was adequately, but not well packed. In other words, he makes the minimal effort on his schedule." And then the tuner arrived with a mechanical problem, but it's not certain that Vlad was aware of it. Another eBay seller named "trabuegentryauctions" sold cheap Allen wrenches for $9.99 apiece by calling them "Sansui Tuner [or Amplifier] Tuning Tools." He ran out of suckers and stopped doing this, but we'd continue to avoid his other auctions, too, on principle.
One of the sleaziest things we've seen on eBay was pulled off by a seller in Las Vegas called "glo-works." (Apparently, even an eBay "PowerSeller" designation doesn't mean the seller isn't a slimeball.) In his listing for a Tandberg 3001, this guy copied TIC's entire writeup on the 3001A without attribution, except for the part at the end where we gave typical eBay prices (which are much lower for the 3001 than for the more recent 3001A). But he didn't stop there: We said that the all-time high sale price for the 3001A was "a stunning $1,434 in 2/04 for a mint one," but this scummy seller changed it to $2,434 and increased the other numbers as well. When confronted, he replied, "Like I give a s--t?!?! ...But don't worry....I'll return the favor!" Glo-works usually sells crappy trinkets and we believe is not someone to be trusted. EDIT 12/9/05: Glo-works just placed a fraudulent "Buy-it-Now" bid on eBay just so he could give us negative feedback, then DJSpeclK@aol.com sent us a profane email. Stay far, far away from this creep. EDIT 12/15/05: We just received the following email from another eBay member: "i just had to comment about your comment/website posting about glo-works. he should be taken OFF e-bay, i contacted e-bay regarding retaliatory feedback he gave me (i gave him a neutral, i got a nasty negative). they weren't really interested in doing anything. unfortunately i think we are out in the cyberwilderness with this character." EBay does seem to be inappropriately protective of "PowerSellers": after a brief suspension for what he did to us, he's back and undoubtedly ready to berate more hapless buyers. (The feedback he has left for others resembles Vlad with a serious anger management problem.)
An eBay seller called "rolltide98" isn't a scammer like the guys above, but his eBay listing for a Luxman T-115 was so filled with blatant nonsense that we wouldn't trust anything he says, so we'd avoid his tuner auctions. He said that the T-115 "has won some industry sound quality awards" (we'd like to see him name just one of these supposed awards), has sold on eBay for $200-350 "depending on the exact model number and condition" (excuse us, sir, but the T-117, T-110 and other Luxman tuners that may sell in that price range are totally different tuners from the T-115, which always sells for much less), and - best of all - "it's a bargain here on eBay compared to ordering one brand new" (and how, exactly, would someone order a 1981-model tuner brand new in 2004?).
Another BS artist (but not a scammer) is eBay seller "jeffreywrightbooks," who wanted to sell a Vector Research VU-1200 tuner (list price of $109.95 in 1984). This tuner has a grand total of four buttons (power on-off, AM, FM and muting), and absolutely no high-end features, but the eBay auction listing included a ton of hilarious audiophile-babble. Some examples: "This low profile unit tested well with my reference system, particularly in the pronunciation of horns and cymbals in the high end and midrange, with plenty of throat in the low mids.... I ran this unit for two straight days to capture drift information, spatial field, and to search for anomalies and particular quirks that occur in tuners (you might remember that certain early production Hafler and some Kenwood and Sansui tuners are plagued with memory, drift, and synchronization problems). [What the heck is this guy talking about? - Editor] I lifted the cover, lubricated the tuning gang bearings and bushings for quietness, and touched up the weighted dial knob to ensure smooth bandwidth travel." OK, fine, he doesn't know what "bandwidth" means, but who knows what he squirted in there to gum things up. Well Jeff, your ridiculous writeup deceived a couple of people so you managed to unload your cheapie tuner for $66.50, about $50 more than it's worth, but now you're in the Rogues' Gallery. Was it worth it?
Another purveyor of misinformation on eBay is "classical88," who went into lots of detail about how the MCS 3700 was a "relabeled" Technics tuner (it's not). He then added, "Unlike most low cost digital tuners, stations can be precisely tuned in due to Technics Gyro Touch Tuning" (even if this were a Technics tuner, is it really hard to tune in stations with digital tuners?) and finally claimed that this low-cost department-store brand tuner was or is "used by many telephone system installers for background music on hold feature." Huh?
Finally, a friend of TIC says he attempted to buy a McIntosh MR 77 for $400 from a guy named Christian Schmidgall of Pompano Beach, Florida, and sent him a money order, but they couldn't agree on the shipping cost and the creep didn't send the tuner or return the money. Schmidgall used to go by "Catman777" on eBay but he changed his user name after we exposed him, so be careful dealing with ANY eBay seller from Pompano Beach.
Our panelists prefer not to receive private emails requesting personalized tuner recommendations and the like. Instead, please register and use our "FMtuners" Yahoo group for all general comments and questions about tuners, mods and related topics, so that others can benefit from the discussion. You should also post in FMtuners if you have a correction or suggested addition to TIC. If you have a question on repairs, antennas or mods, you can email one of the experts named in the relevant sections above... and if you do use any of the service providers listed on TIC, we request that you post feedback in FMtuners, whether positive or negative, on your experience with that person or company.