I have been a long time follower of Barry Fox in Hi Fi News and Record Review, New Scientist, and CE Daily.

He is deeply embedded in that world which we seem to have forgotten in our rush to new and old sources … being the world of audio transmission via frequency modulation RF … or stereo FM radio in its common name.

Whilst under attack from numerous distribution avenues … internet radio, Digital radio, music subscription services, podcasts, iTunes etc, etc; FM radio remains the predominant medium in urban areas for the proliferation of music and news for a greater portion of a typical Westerners day.

Why is it then nobody comes in looking for a good Tuner any more?

Our stock has been so static that I recently took home an Audiolab Tuner 8000 as it had reached that point of stock markdown wherein the space it occupies on the floor is no longer warranted by its sensible residual stock value.

The Tuner went home to live in the country on the NSW Victoria border where one normally resides in a state of media isolation, the telephone line is party with 100 kms to the nearest exchange, internet is 3G on top of a hill and Television until recently was two channels of cloudy analogue.

I never knew there were so many interesting FM stations within the reception of a pair of rabbit ears and a decent front end reception circuit, we’ve got every form of community radio … often playing vinyl … in fulsome analogue proffering a rich cultural variety of music and opinions delivered through a noise free background with that feeling of the announcer being there in the room.

The aforesaid Mr Fox a long time ago pointed out that one of the most effectively realistic ways of renditioning a performance in someone’s home is actually through a live performance miked directly into their living rooms through the ether with a carefully prepared FM transmission.

Even though they are filtered to 19KHz due to the subcarrier signal a good FM simulcast is wonderfully true to the performance, no doubt helped by the unique signatures of a live performance: the coughs and seat shuffling, the ringing of phones, but also the rendition of the characterful imperfections of live music and the individual signature of a particular iteration of an otherwise possibly excessively familiar piece.

In much the same way that an analogue Vinyl record presents a fundamentally unfiltered insight into the music, a good FM performance can place you in the audience. One is minded of that principle of recorded music whereby the signal should go through as few stages of conversion as possible and a properly miked live broadcast is one of the shortest paths in this respect even if it is the longest geographically.

My collection of old tuners is leftover by its essential nature but currently includes:
The aforesaid Audiolab 8000.
A Creek T40 .. very English, very polite.
A NAD with Schotz noise reduction circuitry.
A 1980 Pioneer with an excellent mosfet front end.
A Sansui T707 … just because of its motorised analogue search mech.

I admit this is a feeble collection for a proprietor of an audio store ... however I am more generally inclined to sell the kit rather than take it home! For a truly wonderful collection of reception devices visit Speakerbits in Port Melbourne whose owner Tom Manning has accrued a brilliant selection of radios and tuners that I envy deeply.