January 04, 2009

Arcam FMJ T21: FM/AM Tuner

Arcam FMJ T21: FM/AM Tuner

Arcam FMJ T21

Introduction FM or DAB?

I have been wanting to get another tuner for my hi-fi for a while ever since my old beloved Trio finally broke down. I had already installed a good aerial for analogue which seemed rather a waste. I have been surviving by running a signal from my Nokia Freeview box to my TAG-Mclaren DAC. The trouble is that the signal is ropey and the TAG spends most of its time muting the signal.  A key question for anyone purchasing a tuner at the moment is should it be a digital one? There is crtainly a lot of pressure to go this way as continuous ads on the BBC for pople to get them as presents indicates. However glancing through various mags from Hi-Fi News through Gramophone and BBC Music shows that most afficionados prefer high quality analogue broadcasts such as BBC live concerts on Radio 3. As I only listen to the BBC anyway that has been one reason  for keeping an eye out for end of line high quality analogue tuners. Another thing is that is is by no means certain when analogue switch-off for radio will occur. There are simply too many car radios that are analogue to make this easy. There is certainly no rush to go for DAB unless you want a myriad of not very good commercial stations broadcasting on a low bit-rate. As DAB chips are also very power hungry there is an ecological issue as well here.

Trawling for Bargains

Of course a big advantagane of the internet is that one can easily check out hi-fi shops around the country to see if they are getting rid of their analogue tuners.  I found one Midlands shop with an Arcam FMJ T21 demo model now half-price. This seemed preferable to another ARCAM bargain FM tuner the DiVA T61 which can be found around half-price in a few places right now. The FMJ is part of their premium range with better specifications and sound circuitry. Usefully the ARCAM site provides information on discontinued products and info about the FMJ T21 is readily available.

Arcam T61 tuner

Arcam T61 Tuner

Naturally I'm looking forward to the arrival of the equipment however it creates another consumer problem which is what interconncts to use. My current interconnects are Chord Chameleon IIs which are now no longer made. This has led to research some other potential cables within an affordable category but which go well beyond the nominal 10% which som suggest should be allotted to cabling. My ruminations on this are contained in another posting but suffice it to say I have become convinced that cabling is important in terms of resolving fine detail etc.

Do remember that a good quality aerial is essential if you want to get good quality radio broadcasts whether in analogue or in digital.

- 3 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Mike Willis

    DAB seems to be something of a lame duck. It seems like a nice idea in theory, digital – ooo futurisitc, but in practice offers no advantage over FM to the average listener.
    My Mum needed a new small portable radio for use round the house/garden last year and for she bought a DAB one, probably because she kept hearing stuff about it on the BBC. She only listens to Radio 4. A few months later she went out and bought an FM radio because she’d found that the the DAB radio needed new batteries far too often. I listen to one show on BBC 6Music. I don’t have a DAB tuner though so I steam it online or listen to it later on iPlayer.
    The Register published an interesting article on the problems a few days ago:
    In the ditch with DAB radio

    04 Jan 2009, 18:59

  2. Thanks for this useful comment Michael. I can’t say I’m an expert on DAB and portables although I had been considering getting one, however, I had discovered as has your Mum that DAB portables are heavy on batteries. There is now a Roberts portable DAB with solar panels ( http://www.hifix.co.uk/sku2.lasso?item=7c028ccc96fb9ac33cece834f4dc6659 ) in it which looks like a good option and its Ecologic range have built in battery chargers ( http://www.hifix.co.uk/sku2.lasso?item=59089f889d0bb9484ef2ddc374f2e6a16bc26e053d11a9b2 ). There is little doubt that there is heavy pressure from government and commercial broadcast interests to go digital. The more broadcasters there are the more license fees government can gain from the airwaves. As far as commercial interests are concerned the recession is having a dramatic effect on advertising revenues however in the medium to long-term many see it as a growth market. Analogue commercial and local radio has been badly hit by the growth of DAB as audiences have fragmented. The major concern for people who like and demand high quality radio broadcasts is the low bit-rate being used. Commercial greed is winning out again over quality. As I understand it internet radio is fine for not critical listening but it is also dependent upon a good broadband connection. This is simply not universally available and universality should be at the core of broadcasting policy.

    05 Jan 2009, 06:13

  3. I’ve now had my Arcam FMJ T21 installed for a couple of weeks and the analogue sound is lovely on Radio 4, both warm and detailed. No concerns about lacking DAB!

    11 Feb 2009, 11:59

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