Sound Advice: Most modern receivers don't handle AM-FM reception well

  • Article by: DON LINDICH
  • Updated: March 28, 2014 - 2:05 PM
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VHF rabbit ears make an excellent FM antenna.

Q: The tuner section of my 10-year-old Onkyo TX-SR602 receiver is fizzling out. It just can’t seem to grasp FM stations. I love the old thing, and it still pumps out great movie sound. What are your thoughts on adding an AM-FM tuner?

Rotels are available on eBay usually for about $150 to $200, but I don’t know if this is the way to go. In all my years of enjoying audio, I have never used a separate tuner.

Could I run an inexpensive stereo receiver into my Onkyo and use that as a tuner? It seems as if makers of newer receivers don’t put a lot of money into the tuner sections.

A: You could get an inexpensive receiver and run the tape monitor outputs to an input of your receiver, but I don’t think that’s the way to go.

You’re correct that most modern receivers don’t have good tuner sections. Despite inflation, over the past 25 years, prices for receivers have remained the same or even gone down — yet they have moved from stereo to surround sound, adding multiple surround modes and automatic setup, among many other features.

Adding features while holding the price usually means that the money has to come from somewhere. The two biggest places are the amplifier section and the tuner section. Ironically, it is these two parts that make up most of a classic stereo receiver.

Look on eBay for a used, working tuner. Your best bet would be models from the 1980s. Onkyo has always made great tuners, and they probably will match the appearance of your receiver. You can probably find one for $30 to $50, and the performance will likely be much better than you have experienced even when your receiver’s tuner was at its best.

If FM is important to you, try to find an Onkyo T-9090. It was one of the best tuners ever made.

You might want to check out thrift shops in your area before you go shopping on eBay. Don’t rule out models with analog tuners. I once purchased an excellent Kenwood analog tuner for $10 in a thrift shop, and it still works well.

Don’t forget the antenna. A good antenna can make a world of difference for FM reception. One of my best and most cost-effective tips is to use an ordinary set of VHF rabbit ears for an FM antenna. You don’t need anything fancy, just a $10 set from a department store. Try it. You’ll be amazed at the improvement in signal strength and the additional stations you will pull in.

Connecting a subwoofer

Q: I have a powered subwoofer with stereo RCA inputs (red-right, white-left) and a receiver with a single subwoofer output. How do I connect them properly? I’ve read to use a 1-to-2 (Y-splitter) RCA/composite cable, but I’ve also read a suggestion to use a 1-to-1 RCA/composite cable into the subwoofer’s left channel.

A: Either one will work, but all you really need to do is connect the receiver’s subwoofer output to the left input of the subwoofer.

Send questions to Don Lindich at donlindich@gmail.com. Get more recommendations and read past columns at www.soundadviceblog.com.

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