Redefining State-of-the-Art FM Reception
Magnum Dynalab's revered FT101A FM tuner is justifiable regarded as one of the most sensitive, selective, and sonically accurate FM tuners of our time. As fine as the FT101A may be, in truth the classic technology has gotten a wee bit 'long in the tooth.' The new MD-90 walks in the footprints of the FT101A by re-defining state-of-the-art in analog FM tuner design.
Classicism Meets Innovation
"Compared to the Magnum, many other tuners somehow sound flat and mechnical." -- Alvin Gold, Hi-Fi News, January 2003.
Like the FT101A, the MD-90 combines the very latest in discrete, analog technology. Its highly renowned Mosfet front end provides three stages of very careful and precise amplification. Even the most fragile signal is strengthened and further defined by using highly effective "group delay" filtering. The result is a sonically correct audio signal that contains all the inherent richness and brilliance of the broadcast source.
In addition to the features offered by its predecessor, the MD-90 now offers even greater selectivity in order to deal with urban signal congestion. The automatic variable blend is keyed to signal strength, maintaining a quiet stereo output under low signal conditions. In the "off" position, separation is held at maximum regardless of signal input level.
The MD-90 now incorporates all its functions in a totally redesigned motherboard. This integration provides the necessary design efficiencies to allow consistently higher levels of selectivity. Along with added selectivity, the MD-90 has a redesigned power supply circuit that maintains the tuner circuitry in standby mode when the tuner is connected to a live AC source.
The Lure of Analog
"Palpably superior to most conventional digitally-tuned tuners," says Alvin Gold.
There's a good reason why Magnum Dynalab relies on analog tuning instead of the digital method found in the majority of FM tuners on the market. In contrast to the frequency synthesis method of tuning, analog is not dependent on a digital microprocessor chip to establish the tuner's receive frequency. With analog, tuning is accomplished using specially-selected, discrete components in the tuner's critical "front end." These components are selected and matched so that a unique balance of sensitivity, selectivity, and sound are constant for outstanding performance.
But the most significant advantage in analog is the degree of control it places in the hands of the user. With the MD-90, infinite analog tuning establishes maximum stereo separation, while detuning slightly can minimize on-frequency noise. With frequency synthesis tuners, this capability is offered usually in fixed, 50 kHz steps. While FM stations themselves rarely transmit outside the plus-or-minus 2 kHz standard, FM station signals rebroadcast over cable may not be so precise.
Advanced Features for Advanced Performance
"The better broadcasts captured during the test period sounded highly articulate, and gave an impression of solidity and life in the depth plane, to the extent that it was almost possible to walk through and among the performers," reports Alvin Gold.
From its distinctive, no-nonsense appearance to its extraordinary performance, there's no mistaking the MD-90's heritage in the Magnum Dynalab family. Every feature on board is included for better FM reception and enjoyment. Period.
Frequency tuning uses a precision potentiometer, which provides a precise, filtered voltage for the tuning varactors. The actual tuning mechanism consists of an ultra smooth, large front-panel control knob that is a pleasure to operate. Visual output is via the digital frequency display. This independent frequency counter derives its input from the tuner's local oscillator section and displays it in soft amber 0.5" LED numerals. Function switching is provided through tactilely pleasing toggle switches with oversize replaceable paddles.
The dual, keyed automatic gain control monitors and maintains program signal level and clarity, along with providing a dramatic reduction in interference from strong local stations. A wide/narrow IF bandwidth control effectively controls annoying sideband interference. Three large, easy-to-read panel meters provide continuous monitoring of RF input level, multipath interference level, and center-tune condition. A noise-activated incorporates a manual defeat switch, while the stereo/mono mode is user switchable for added flexibility.
"The MD-90 does sound better," summarizes Mr. Gold.
"Palpably superior to most conventional digitally-tuned tuners."
"It certainly makes a pretty good fist at picking quite weak signals out of the ether, and background noise levels are well suppressed even while the stereo light remains lit, thanks at least in part to the stereo blend circuit."
"The music stands out with a physical quality, surrounded by an almost tangible acoustic (broadcast allowing) that gave the music a strong sense of occasion."
"Compared to the Magnum, many other tuners somehow sound flat and mechnical. The better broadcasts captured during the test period sounded highly articulate, and gave an impression of solidity and life in the depth plane, to the extent that it was almost possible to walk through and among the performers."
Summary: "The MD-90 does sound better."
-- Alvin Gold, Hi-Fi News, January, 2003.