An FM tuner is typically a consumer-grade receiver radio that is designed to adjust its FM (frequency modulation) setting. The device has been around as early as 1930’s, during a time when radio was finally becoming its own form of public telecommunication.
Today, FM tuners are still largely around, though thanks to many advancements through the decades, they have received significant upgrades, and are basically indistinguishable from their ancient gargantuan counterparts. If you are planning to buy an FM tuner today, you must be aware of these new upgrades, as these updated technologies will significantly affect your purchase choice, and whether FM tuners are still hip for you.
We have listed the five most popular middle-end semi-budget FM tuners that you can buy today.
NOTE: While most radios, even your radio smartphone app, are technically FM tuners, we are limiting the definition to the desk or tabletop version of the appliance/device.
1.) Pyle Stereo “Multimedia Machine”
Starting with the robust Pyle Stereo Amplifier and Radio Receiver, this machine is technically multimedia focused, but it is still an FM Tuner, with all the basic accomodations of modern electronics to boot.
As with many FM Tuners today, it tunes in and adjusts its modulation digitally, but via the classic dial knob. Sensitivity is mostly okay. Not superb, but is generally serviceable to pinpoint that sweet frequency.
Supporting its basic radio functions is a slew of integrated options that can greatly improve your listening experience. It is compatible via Bluetooth for instance, and supports most types of digital storage mediums such as USB sticks and SD cards (the Bluetooth and SD card/USB models are different versions). It can also hook up directly to a PC for even more radio tweaking options, or to stream internet radio directly.
- Not exactly an FM tuner, but provides many convenient options.
- It has the classic look and feel of a 90’s electronic hardware.
- Great value for what it can do.
- Setting and saving your own radio station frequencies can be time-consuming.
2.) Sangean Analog Wooden Cabinet Receiver
If you really want a kick out of your nostalgia buttons, or would want a more authentic classic radio listening experience, then look no further to the Sangean Analog Wooden Cabinet Receiver.
Just from its external features alone, you can instantly see just how well the product is actually made. Its inside is built with the innards of a modern FM tuner. So long as the reception is generally good in your area, expect it to provide a crisp, clear sound to whatever station you will be listening to.
Unfortunately, as it is designed to emulate a classical radio, it does not have any of the other modern conveniences that would let it integrate with newer electronics. Save for the backlighting, which is a welcome and convenient, albeit simple, addition to the product.
- Look and design reminiscent of its classical era.
- Crisp sound quality.
- Premium wooden finish defines its class.
- No station presets. Just manual dialing.
- No other modern conveniences.
3.) C. Crane CCRadio-2E
For a more professional feel, and a slip towards the latter era of home radio, the C. Crane CCRadio-2E may perhaps be the most balanced in terms of features, quality and price.
Built to receive AM/FM, and 2-meter Ham band, it can provide any remote information to whatever station is out there. It also has a clock, alarm, and sleep timer functions, which should be familiar with older-build radios reminiscent of its late 20th-century design.
In addition, the CCRadio-2E is also capable of receiving direct weather updates from the local weather station, to chime in important information about natural
- Expands to receive not just AM/FM signals.
- Very energy efficient.
- Build, design and features make it an emergency essential.
- Probably better as an AM radio instead.
4.) Electrohome Winston Natural Wood Stereo System
Another great classic design-type FM tuner, one that might even take you a few decades further, is the Electrohome Winston Natural Wood Stereo System. Actually, it is designed and introduced more as a classic multimedia machine. However, due to its design, and its actual function as an FM tuner, it gets a spot in our list.
The main difference of this model compared to the Sangean Analog Wooden Cabinet Receiver is that, while the design is classic, its innards are actually modern. First, its vinyl record player jumps a few ages ahead, then goes even further forward with a modern CD player and an internal MP3 player. It even has support for all kinds of media devices (smartphones, iPods, etc.), so long as the correct available port is used.
Definitely one of the nicest modern FM tuners disguised as a classic one.
- All-in-one player hub combines both modern and classic.
- Modern-type FM tuner covered in a classic-type finish.
- Every detail of its design sparkles with a premium shine.
- Has reported turntable playback issues.
5.) Panasonic RF-2400
For our most affordable entry-level modern FM Tuner, look no further to the Panasonic RF-2400. When it comes to direct radio tuning features inside a 90’s appliance aesthetic, nothing comes this close to this product.
The best feature of the Panasonic RF-2400 is perhaps its modern, but still analog tuner. The two number lines sitting beside that metal mesh just screams the 80’s/90’s. Despite looking aged in design, it is still improved enough using today’s electronic components to perform well with current energy standards.
An AC outlet connection is provided for the product, though it can also take four AA batteries for portable use.
- Super affordable.
- Amplifies weaker signals quite well. (compared to other similar level FM tuners)
- Exudes the perfect 90’s appliance aesthetic.
- Its modulation, while sensitive enough, may require a bit of fiddling to lock on a station.
Beginner’s Guide to Choosing FM Tuners
FM Tuners may look and seem archaic, but they are still alive and well today thanks to the continued service of radio broadcast stations all around the world. It may not be the primary form of instantaneous communication and information nowadays, but it still remains just as useful as it was several decades back.
In fact, as old as the technology may seem, modern FM tuners can actually be surprisingly expensive. Thus, a wise choice is necessary to maximize its usage, benefits, and perhaps satisfaction level, when dealing with these supposedly “modern hobby” tech.
Why would you want an FM Tuner?
The choice of buying a dedicated FM Tuner mostly falls whether you are into such older technologies or not. Functionally, FM Tuners are no longer the optimal choice when listening to today’s broadcast stations, as many have already migrated to the bigger and wider world of the internet. That being said, traditional FM broadcast stations are still very much alive and well, and so one can still very much use FM Tuners today. Just remember that purchasing an FM tuner will almost always be a preference, and is never going to be the necessity it once was.
What to look for?
Before you start purchasing any popular brand or any respectable price point for an FM tuner, do keep in mind these starting pointers/criteria:
- Modulation sensitivity – probably the most important criteria for any tuner, modulation sensitivity simply means how minute tuning is for your radio. The higher the sensitivity, the better.
- Adjustable selectivity – aside from being sensitive you would also want its tuning sensitivity to be flipped on the fly. This is to optimize the signal received from stronger, nearer stations, and to perfectly capture signal received from weaker, farther stations.
- Peripheral connectivity – as a modern device, you would also want your FM tuner to be compatible with as much as your modern hardware as possible. Bluetooth speaker/headphone connectivtiy for example, may be a point consideration for you purchase.
Lastly, other factors, such as antenna inputs, custom modulations and price per value are also important and play into your choice of FM tuner. However, do keep the above three criteria as the better priority.
What to avoid?
Generally, you would want to avoid mid-end FM tuners that are introduced at a much higher price than entry-level ones, unless you really are a dedicated fan of the technology (in which case, you probably wouldn’t need this guide) or want a certain visual theme or aesthetic. Stick to the cheaper models, but keep it close to the more tried and tested brands. The choice buying a high-end FM tuner is still there, but for practical purposes, it is not generally recommended.
Also, you might want to avoid purchasing an FM tuner altogether, if the reported FM reception is very poor in your local area.
1.) What’s the difference between a $150 and a $500 FM Tuner?
- Features, as well as support. Basic FM tuners are very cheap since it does not do anything else.
2.) Can I plug an iPod or something into it?
- Connecting external devices to modern FM tuners is usually possible. It will work fine when plugged from the earphone jack or USB.
3.) I want to keep listening to this particular station. Can I just save the frequency where it is at?
- Absolutely. Many modern FM tuners have a save function, usually as a directly accessible button.
4.) Are FM Tuners compatible with PCs?
- Yes. Most models typically support PC connections, either directly via the earphone jack, or more sophisticatedly via USB.
5.) Is it even worth using an FM tuner today?
- Of course. But it depends on whether you want to. It is never a case of you need to, unless we are discussing emergency radios.
Stay Tuned and Keep Rockin’
FM Tuners, as quaint as they are, still maintains itself as one of the staple radio telecommunication mediums in use. Combined with newer, more relevant technologies such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or even plain, simple software availability, it becomes a machine of classic enjoyability. It is perfect for those who want to enjoy the entertainment mediums of the old, without compromising your modern conveniences.