By Don Lindich
Week 11, 2014
Q. The tuner section on 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, at around $150-200 and I do not 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 that newer receivers don’t put a lot of money into the tuner sections.
-Tommy B., Minneapolis, MN
A. You could get an inexpensive receiver and run the tape monitor outputs to an input of your receiver, but I do not think that is the way to go.
You are correct that most modern receivers do not have very good tuner sections. Despite inflation, over the past 25 years prices for receivers have remained the same or even gone down, while they have moved from stereo to surround sound, added multiple surround modes, automatic setup, among a plethora of other features too numerous to mention.
Adding features while holding the price usually means that the money has to come from somewhere, and the two biggest places are the amplifier section and the tuner section. Ironically, it is these two parts that comprise practically 100% of a classic stereo receiver.
I suggest looking on eBay for a used, working tuner. Your best bet is 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 been experienced even when your receiver’s tuner was at its best. If FM is very important to you, try and find an Onkyo T-9090. It was one of the best tuners ever made.
You may want to check out some thrift shops in your area before you go shopping on eBay, and don’t rule out tuners with analog tuners. I once purchased an excellent Kenwood analog tuner for $10 in a thrift shop, and it still works very 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 do not need anything fancy, just a $10 set from a department store. Try it. You will be amazed at the improvement in signal strength and the additional stations you will pull in.
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 have read to use a 1-to-2 (Y-splitter) RCA/composite cable, but I have also read a suggestion use a 1-to-1 RCA/composite cable into the subwoofer’s left channel.
A. Either way will work, but all you really need to do is connect the receiver’s subwoofer output to the left input of the subwoofer.