MAGNUM DYNALAB: THE CRAPPIEST TUNER *EVER*!

Ryan <rmhuizenga@avemarialaw.edu>
 

Hah. I should go to bed, but this will be so much more fun to type
at 3:00 in the morning, and you'll have much more fun reading things
I write this late.

See, the nice thing about working on others people's stuff is you
don't have any attachment to it and you can just knock it with total
impunity. So I will. Magnum Dynalab tuners, in particular the FT-
101A, are complete and total pieces of garbage, and should only be
purchased by stupid people who like wasting their money. This will
be a continuing theme. Further, in order to make one of these half
as good as a $100 Kenwood KT-7500, which was sweet relief to align
after the Magnum, you will have to pay someone a few hundred bucks
to upgrade it. The only problem is that it is so badly designed,
that they would have to totally redesign it to make it not
completely and totally sucky. Why? This tuner sucks more than a
Tim Taylor Hoover Special. Let me explain.

Every decent high end-ish tuner made in the last 25 years or so uses
or used low distortion GDT type ceramic filters, or LC or SAW
filters. Why? This is the only way to make a tuner not suck. We
have discussed this many times here. So, you would think that a
tuner "specialist" like Dynalab would have a giant bag full o'
SFE10.7MX filters, or some close equivalent. You would be wrong.
They use garden variety 230kHz filters. They have an ugly group
delay curve and basically suck like the aforementioned Hoover
Special for high fidelity use. I'll spare the details. Does this
stop Dynalab? Heck no. They give you TWO of these beauties in WIDE
mode! Wow. All of this generosity results in a sickening .15
to .25% THD in wide mode at 6kHz with ~90% modulation or so on a
fully aligned tuner. Well, okay, .10% if you tune it really
carefully by staring at a distortion meter. This is among the worst
I have measured. Ever. It is worse than narrow mode on many
tuners. Here's the rub: Drop in two low GDT filters (I used 280kHz
FALLs, but industry standard GAXX would be the same, and a bit
better) and THD drops right to .03% or so. Changing to this part
would cost Magnum NOTHING.

So, what is an enterprising and surprisingly obnoxious young tuner
geek to do? I thought it would be fun to call Magnum to bitch about
how much their tuner sucks and how stupid they are. So I did. I
got to talk to someone who claimed to be their engineer. He was
very stupid. He had no idea what group delay is, apparently. And
this guy is an engineer? I'm not sure he spoke enough English to
understand me, but I hope he got a little piece of the hint I was
trying to give him. I was even so nice that I gave him a part
number for the GAXX filters! Now I have civic pride.

Oh, but if you think that is the end of the story, you would be
wrong. Now, just about every tuner since the beginning of time has
had a little adjustment for channel separation. The good ones have
ones for wide and narrow. The really good ones have separate ones
for Left and Right too! Fun adjustments like this mean we can get
60dB or more separation. Magnum makes really good tuners, so they
have separation ones for wide and narrow and left and right, right?
No. In fact, they have none at all! They told me that separation
was "set by the IC." Yeah, set to about 35dB midband and 20dB by
the time we hit 10kHz. Set to the worst levels I have ever seen
from ANY tuner EVER! Morons.

More fun: Good tuners tend to have stuff like pilot cancellers and
such so we don't have huge steep output filters. They tend to have
fairly linear response out to about 15kHz within a dB or so. NOT
MAGNUM! That would be FOLLOWING THE PACK. No, they are going to
have a sweet little filter that woulda been totally SOTA around
1972. And they are going to roll those highs off like you never
seen before--like you never even DREAMED! Yeah, they're gonna
dump 'em down pretty close to 3dB by the time we get to 15 thousand
cycles! And they're going to, once again, turn in (get this) THE
WORST MEASUREMENT I HAVE EVER RECORDED! Who woulda thunk it!?

Oh, you think it ends here? Heck no! We've also got that FAMOUS
all analog front end! Oh WOW! You mean that front end made of
varactors that is based on a car radio IC? Oh, yeah, that analog
front end. But hey, it does have a Philips chip that has a double
balanced mixer on it, so it must be good, right? HAH! Have you
learned nothing by now? Remember my monster station at 102.9?
Good. Remember how I have a Detroit station at 103.5 quite a ways
away that isn't really all that strong? Good. Well, 102.3 is
completely illegible on this tuner. And it isn't a selectivity
problem, what with a 180 and two 150s in there and all. It is just
STATIC. KT-7500 I did at the same time? Just fine. Marantz ST-
17? Just find. TU-X1? Fine. F-99X? Fine. Get the picture?
Then the *REALLY* fun stuff. All those filters I thought I could
sure get 102.7 in there, because a TX-2000 Yamaha did with much less
selectivity. Nah.. that all analog front end crapped all over it
with some nice crossmod or somethin'. Oh.. oh, but what about that
nice jazz station at 101.9 that ALWAYS comes in decent on EVERY
tuner? HA!! This was the first tuner in recent memory that didn't
pull it clearly! Interference! Static! Fun! Oh, okay, fine, so the
front end is pretty sensitive. Whoopee. So it every other front
end, and they don't have to suck in every other possible respect.
Once again Magnum gets the award for WORST TUNER TESTED.

So what have we got:

WORST Front End
WORST Harmonic Distortion
WORST IM Distortion
WORST Channel Separation
WORST Frequency Response
WORST Sounding Blend Circuit

Basically, we have the WORST TUNER EVER, and it will only cost you
$500 or more for the old version. They told me the new versions
have pretty much all the same design flaws, too. Brilliant. At
least they admitted none of their tuners have any channel separation.

Stock, this tuner is *GARBAGE* and was thoroughly HAMMERED by every
other tuner that I own. I have been calling them scam artists and
swindlers for ages, and now I've got the measurements and the
listening tests to prove it. THESE TUNERS SUCK AND YOU SHOUD NEVER
BUY ONE UNLESS YOU ARE COMPLETELY *STUPID* AND WANT TO THROW MONEY
DOWN A HOLE. Call Magnum and tell them Ryan said they are selling
crap and you want your money back. Also tell them that I said their
engineer is a twit and a moron.

On the upside, with those FALL filters, it sounded really good until
you got right into the sweet spot and then flipped to a real tuner
with extended frequency response and actual channel separation. On
my system, the way the soundstage just sucked right in with the
Magnum was NOT subtle. Before I swapped the filters around, how
PATHETIC it sounded was also not subtle.

Oh, and the really funny part? Haha, hold onto your socks because
this is REALLY funny. The tuner I was working on was maybe 3-4
years old. When I yanked the PCB to drop in the BlackGates, I
noticed some gold colored tinsel-like stuff hangin' right off it.
Yep, that's right, the traces were falling right off the board! The
outputs were completely ungrounded. Being kind, I soldered some
wired onto the bugger and taped 'er up. I kid you not.. there was
white stuff that looked like oxidation all over the board, but I
suppose it was probably just magical audiophile dust, and they need
a whole lotta dust for these suckers to sound like anything other
than CRAP.

I'm sure I just pissed off lots of Magnum owners. Too bad. You got
swindled. Deal with it. Now go pass off your piece of crap on some
sucker on Audiogon or pay someone to fix it. Well, what you
actually CAN fix anyway. Most of it is beyond repair and really
isn't worth wasting your money on. Have a nice day.

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