Thursday, April 12, 2012

2130: My new reference tuner?

Well, no.  But it may become my living room tuner for the forseeable future, or however long it is that my favorite station KPAC is operating at lower power than it used to have.

Unlike the Kenwood 600T, the Marantz 2130 is a nice sounding tuner, with analog-like sweetness.  It also has good quieting, I found a week station that was significantly quieter on the 2130 than my reference Pioneer F-26.  Since I use different antennas, this was not a conclusive test, but it shows the 2130 is in the ballpark, and actually could even have better quieting for weak stations, which is what most people mean when they say Sensitivity.  I am not finding this tuner to lack sensitivity or selectivity, contrary to David Rich's observations.  WRT selectivity, the "wide" has enough of that for most purposes.

But one way the 2130 is definitely superior to the F-26, for me, is the control interface.  The F-26 is a weird statement piece, with only three controls in front: power, tuning, and <?>.  No mono switch, you set the stereo threshold in back.  No muting switch, you set the muting threshold in back.  Actually, in a number of ways, this unique interface makes sense, and would particularly be desireable in some family or public situations.  It may also reduce the number of switches in the signal path.  But it's not very flexible and convenient.  And, the F-26 has no blend or filter switch at all.

That's where the Marantz wins.  It has every popular control on the front panel.  Including a very nice working blend switch makes stereo on KPAC tolerable.

Last year I had started working on a special stereo filter for the F-26, a notch-blend filter that would filter out the 10,000Khz tone in the L-R of KPAC.  Now the 10K tone is less of a problem, the problem is mainly weak signal.  So a plain old high blend or blend switch might be just the ticket.

I should probably figure out how the stereo filter on the Marantz works.  It does not seem to reduce highs at all, and I like that.  So what is the "cutoff" frequency and depth of blending that Marantz uses?

The Marantz also has a level control on the front panel.  I think it's best used as an attenuator when you are tuning only.  Otherwise, if you set it more than 10dB down, you can get noticeable shift in stereo image, just as with all but the most expensive potentiometers.  I myself now have no "pots" in my three main audio systems.  Attenuation is done in the digital domain, perfectly, and with perfect balance.

The volume control is nicely smooth and totally quiet though, so nice to use.

The scope is very nice to use for tuning and stereo checking.  It's about three times the area of the scope on the 20B.  Just yesterday, I lost a bid for a Kenwood KC-6060A, a small scope intended for attachment to an audio system.  The unit is from the early 1970's (it matches the Kenwood KT-7000; I had one of those 12 years ago that drifted horribly) and not refurbed, but sold at auction for $750.  You could easily buy used lab grade scope like Tektronics for that much money.  A way more powerful scope.  But it wouldn't fit so nicely into a hifi system (I have tried).

I paid $950 for the Marantz, fresh from authorized service center alignment (which seems to have been OK).  So, at worst, I got a very excellent tuner thrown in for $200 with my scope.

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