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Thread: Why the widespread lack of digital tuners?

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    Flashaholic* was.lost.but.now.found's Avatar
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    Default Why the widespread lack of digital tuners?

    I've been losely in the market for a couple small stereos/boomboxes, one for my son's room and one for the wife and I when we are outside enjoying nice weather (not now obviously). I've really just been looking for something small and cheap - nothing fancy. Essentially the only features I cared about where CD player, integrated speakers, and digital tuner. The digital tuner has always been important to me because you just get a much better lock on the station when it's being tuned digitally.

    I have been very surprised to see a lack of cheap boomboxes (less than $50) that have a digital FM tuner. I know I can find them online, I'm not looking for suggestions, but rather was posing the question of why are analog tuners still in such widespread use? It's not like the digital FM tuner is such new technology. I had a tape player Walkman in high school that had a digital tuner and tons of presets that was less expensive than the cheapest digital tuner boomboxes available at Wal-Mart and Target 15 years later. What gives? Are there benefits to the analog tuner I'm unaware of? Is the digital tuner technology really that much more expensive? I honestly thought that analog technology would be completely phased out by now.

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    Flashaholic* Steve K's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why the widespread lack of digital tuners?

    I've got a Sony boombox that's about 10 years old (guessing). It has a digital tuner and a remote control. Very handy! Of course, it cost around $100 new, so maybe that's the difference.

    For $50, digital may just be too expensive. Maybe the best bet is to look for something used? Ebay or Goodwill, perhaps?

    Steve K.

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    Default Re: Why the widespread lack of digital tuners?

    I'll guess they're still made for the same reason a lot of cars still have analog speedometers-people take a long time to adjust to anything new, even when the new is demonstrably better in every way. I highly doubt digital costs more these days given how inexpensive electronics and display technology have gotten. Analog probably costs as much or more than digital. You're even starting to see digital controls in low-end air conditioners. Apparently enough people are buying things with analog tuners, or they wouldn't continue to be made. I can't think of any other reason.

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    Default Re: Why the widespread lack of digital tuners?

    Quote Originally Posted by was.lost.but.now.found View Post
    The digital tuner has always been important to me because you just get a much better lock on the station when it's being tuned digitally.
    I have been very surprised to see a lack of cheap boomboxes....
    This is a great question, I wish I had an answer for you. I've been looking for a clock radio that has a digital tuner because I want pre-sets.

    Quote Originally Posted by was.lost.but.now.found View Post
    I had a tape player Walkman in high school that had a digital tuner and tons of presets that was less expensive than the cheapest digital tuner boomboxes available at Wal-Mart and Target 15 years later. What gives?
    This is why it's so surprising to me too. My Walkman tape/digital radio still works great, so it isn't that they technology is un-reliable.

    Quote Originally Posted by jtr1962 View Post
    Apparently enough people are buying things with analog tuners, or they wouldn't continue to be made. I can't think of any other reason.
    I guess that must be it. Probably the same people that buy those huge 2 D cell flashlights that only get bright, for a short time, when they smack them hard into their hands.

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    Default Re: Why the widespread lack of digital tuners?

    why are analog tuners still in such widespread use?
    How do you know that they are indeed analog? Many / most receivers and such that look analog are digital tuners but with a big knob.

    Also, the demise of digital tuners has a lot to do with people being able to cram thousands of MP3s on a single disc.

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    Default Re: Why the widespread lack of digital tuners?

    Quote Originally Posted by blasterman View Post
    How do you know that they are indeed analog? Many / most receivers and such that look analog are digital tuners but with a big knob.

    Also, the demise of digital tuners has a lot to do with people being able to cram thousands of MP3s on a single disc.
    I'm talking about a digital FM tuner; not sure if that's what you're talking about. I don't perceive it as digital (even if it's digital in the guts of the radio) because the signal "floats" even without touching the dial.

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    Default Re: Why the widespread lack of digital tuners?

    Quote Originally Posted by jtr1962 View Post
    I'll guess they're still made for the same reason a lot of cars still have analog speedometers-people take a long time to adjust to anything new, even when the new is demonstrably better in every way. I highly doubt digital costs more these days given how inexpensive electronics and display technology have gotten. Analog probably costs as much or more than digital. You're even starting to see digital controls in low-end air conditioners. Apparently enough people are buying things with analog tuners, or they wouldn't continue to be made. I can't think of any other reason.
    OT, but why do you feel that a digital speedometer is better? (I am referring to the manner of displaying information, not a mechanical vs. electronic speedometer)

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    Flashaholic* Steve K's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why the widespread lack of digital tuners?

    Quote Originally Posted by Random Guy View Post
    OT, but why do you feel that a digital speedometer is better? (I am referring to the manner of displaying information, not a mechanical vs. electronic speedometer)
    the tendency does appear to be towards an analog speedo display. I work for a company that builds earthmoving and other assorted construction equipment. The speedo's are completely digital except for the display. The needle is driven by a stepper motor that is controlled by data coming over a serial data bus, etc.

    I do quite nicely with the digital display on my bicycle's speedo, but I also use an analog speedo in my car. Not sure if one is better than the other, but the digital one has the appearance of being more precise.

    For tuners, I do prefer the digital display. No question about whether I'm at the right spot or not.

    regards,
    Steve K.
    (and my Casio watch has analog hands with a multi-function digital display)

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    Default Re: Why the widespread lack of digital tuners?

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve K View Post
    the tendency does appear to be towards an analog speedo display. I work for a company that builds earthmoving and other assorted construction equipment. The speedo's are completely digital except for the display. The needle is driven by a stepper motor that is controlled by data coming over a serial data bus, etc.

    I do quite nicely with the digital display on my bicycle's speedo, but I also use an analog speedo in my car. Not sure if one is better than the other, but the digital one has the appearance of being more precise.

    For tuners, I do prefer the digital display. No question about whether I'm at the right spot or not.

    regards,
    Steve K.
    (and my Casio watch has analog hands with a multi-function digital display)
    I completely agree that analog is usually as good or nearly as good for a display (like a clock or spedometer as you say), but when adjusting, such as with a radio, digital is SOOOO much better.

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    Default Re: Why the widespread lack of digital tuners?

    Quote Originally Posted by Random Guy View Post
    OT, but why do you feel that a digital speedometer is better? (I am referring to the manner of displaying information, not a mechanical vs. electronic speedometer)
    Actually, my rant is more against mechanical dials or tuners or displays rather than analog displays ( which can be emulated electronically). I should have been clearer. In this day and age there is just no good reason for them. They're imprecise, prone to breakdown, and usually more costly.

    Analog mechanical speedometers inherently are imprecise in their display of information unless they're HUGE. It's rare to see an analog speedometer with even 1 mph gradations, never mind something more precise, whereas digital speedometers reading to tenths of a mph ( and accurate to such if calibrated ) are common in the cycling world. Even worse, unless they're the stepper motor type, analog mechanical speedometers are inherently inaccurate as well, often off by several mph at one speed, even if perfectly calibrated at another. This is why I believe auto speedometers are regulated to be -0/+10% accurate. They can't be made dead accurate at all speeds, so the compromise is that they are allowed to read up to 10% high. There would be no need for that with a digital speedometer, which if calibrated properly should be accurate at all speeds.

    I do see some advantage to an analog display, combined with a digital numerical readout. You can determine acceleration or braking by how fast the needle is sweeping the dial, and also a quick glance at the dial can give you a rough idea of your speed by the dial position. However, I see absolutely no advantage or point to having a speedometer with a physical needle and mechanical movement, as opposed to a graphic representation of dial on a display screen. As a mechanical device, the dial is subject to vibration, inherently inaccurate unless stepper motor driven, and likely more costly given how inexpensive display technology is. A graphic dial on a display screen suffers none of these problems, can be dead accurate at all speeds, and can be supplemented with a digital readout of speed ( to tenths of a mph ) in case greater precision is desired or needed. In fact, it should always be supplemented by a digital readout IMO as there's only so much resolution an analog dial on a display screen can give you. Best of all worlds in my opinion.

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    Default Re: Why the widespread lack of digital tuners?

    Maybe because there are two separate items: one is the digital meter. This indeed is not expensive relative to an analog display.

    But the more important and expensive element is the frequency locking circuit. This is what tracks and adjusts to FM signal drift, which keeps the signal reception as clear and strong as possible.

    The good FM receivers have both of these elements. Cheap radios then tend to exclude frequency locking, and then there is less reason to include a digital display either.

    There used to be a more committed radio listening group than we have now, including short-wave enthusiasts, which would be really hard to do with analog meters given the several SW bands (though, not impossible). As that has died down, probably so have the manufacturers stopped making more sophisticated models.

    I had to replace a radio some time ago, and was surprised to find pretty bad quality offerings. In fact I got a digital display model, but now find it keeps losing the signal--which shows that the frequency locking circuit has gone the way of the dodo, with the digital display maintaining the appearance of sophistication only without the guts.

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    Default Re: Why the widespread lack of digital tuners?

    Quote Originally Posted by jtr1962 View Post
    Actually, my rant is more against mechanical dials or tuners or displays rather than analog displays ( which can be emulated electronically). I should have been clearer. In this day and age there is just no good reason for them. They're imprecise, prone to breakdown, and usually more costly.

    Analog mechanical speedometers inherently are imprecise in their display of information unless they're HUGE. It's rare to see an analog speedometer with even 1 mph gradations, never mind something more precise, whereas digital speedometers reading to tenths of a mph ( and accurate to such if calibrated ) are common in the cycling world. Even worse, unless they're the stepper motor type, analog mechanical speedometers are inherently inaccurate as well, often off by several mph at one speed, even if perfectly calibrated at another. This is why I believe auto speedometers are regulated to be -0/+10% accurate. They can't be made dead accurate at all speeds, so the compromise is that they are allowed to read up to 10% high. There would be no need for that with a digital speedometer, which if calibrated properly should be accurate at all speeds.

    I do see some advantage to an analog display, combined with a digital numerical readout. You can determine acceleration or braking by how fast the needle is sweeping the dial, and also a quick glance at the dial can give you a rough idea of your speed by the dial position. However, I see absolutely no advantage or point to having a speedometer with a physical needle and mechanical movement, as opposed to a graphic representation of dial on a display screen. As a mechanical device, the dial is subject to vibration, inherently inaccurate unless stepper motor driven, and likely more costly given how inexpensive display technology is. A graphic dial on a display screen suffers none of these problems, can be dead accurate at all speeds, and can be supplemented with a digital readout of speed ( to tenths of a mph ) in case greater precision is desired or needed. In fact, it should always be supplemented by a digital readout IMO as there's only so much resolution an analog dial on a display screen can give you. Best of all worlds in my opinion.
    Most (if not all) cars these days with an analog dial-type speedometer have electronic speedometers. It has been this way for a while, at least for some companies. I think Volvo started using electronic speedometers on the 200 series sometime in the '80s. I think most modern cars don't even have a dedicated speed sensor. They figure out how fast they are going with the ABS system (makes sense, it already has a speed sensor on each wheel). My '86 Chevrolet S10, on the other hand, does have a mechanical speedometer. The needle sways when you go over bumps. If the expansion joints on a bridge are spaced the right distance apart, the needle will actually sway +-5 MPH from what you are actually doing.

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    Default Re: Why the widespread lack of digital tuners?

    I can't believe that you want a FM Radio however it's tuned ! We are all switching over to DAB radios in the UK.

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    Default Re: Why the widespread lack of digital tuners?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    I can't believe that you want a FM Radio however it's tuned ! We are all switching over to DAB radios in the UK.
    For better or worse, the same transition is not happening currently in the US. We have a form of digital radio called HD Radio, but it has yet to see widespread adoption.

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    Default Re: Why the widespread lack of digital tuners?

    Quote Originally Posted by Random Guy View Post
    Most (if not all) cars these days with an analog dial-type speedometer have electronic speedometers. It has been this way for a while.

    Seconded. True analog speedos were going out in the 80s. Gone totally, I'd guiess, by the 90s. Can't imagine any modern car with one.
    Ryan

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    Default Re: Why the widespread lack of digital tuners?

    Quote Originally Posted by Random Guy View Post
    Most (if not all) cars these days with an analog dial-type speedometer have electronic speedometers. It has been this way for a while, at least for some companies. I think Volvo started using electronic speedometers on the 200 series sometime in the '80s.
    OK, but the indicator itself is still a voltmeter of sorts with a mechanical movement, and all the issues I mentioned which that entails ( unless they use a stepper motor movement, which as I understand it is still rare ). Why aren't autos using a graphical dial on a display screen, supplemented by a digital display? Seems like it would be a better, more cost effective solution. You could use the same screen for all the gauges, in fact, and as a bonus the driver has the ability to customize the screen to display information in whatever manner he/she prefers. And you can use any generic monitor instead of making custom gauges for every different model car. Those custom gauges HAVE to cost a lot more. Planes and trains have been doing it with screens for quite a while, especially the former. Go into the cockpit of a modern airliner, and it's nothing but display screens. Basically, what's being done now costs more, and doesn't seem to offer a single advantage that I can think of. You can do analog on a display screen better than you can do it with a mechanical movement. It's sort of like the 1-9 dial controls I still see in some refrigerators, as opposed to the much nicer digital ones which allow you to set the actual temperature. I see those dials and I ask WHY? Same thing with the lack of digital tuners. It all just seems that the public is used to things looking a certain way, and just can't get unused to it. And as a result, we end up with a lot of functionally obsolete products which are crippled/dumbed down in some manner.

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    Default Re: Why the widespread lack of digital tuners?

    Quote Originally Posted by jtr1962 View Post
    I see those dials and I ask WHY? Same thing with the lack of digital tuners. It all just seems that the public is used to things looking a certain way, and just can't get unused to it. And as a result, we end up with a lot of functionally obsolete products which are crippled/dumbed down in some manner.
    +1, I hosestly feel sometimes like readily available (and very cost effective) modern technology is being throttled back so it can serve as an upsell to a more expensive product. Another example that comes to mind is power features on a car like power windows and locks. On some of the more subcompact cars these are still options, supposedly to keep the cost of the base model as low as possible. However the outrageous cost to add the options seems rediculous given how mainstream the features are.

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    Default Re: Why the widespread lack of digital tuners?

    Quote Originally Posted by was.lost.but.now.found View Post
    +1, I hosestly feel sometimes like readily available (and very cost effective) modern technology is being throttled back so it can serve as an upsell to a more expensive product. Another example that comes to mind is power features on a car like power windows and locks. On some of the more subcompact cars these are still options, supposedly to keep the cost of the base model as low as possible. However the outrageous cost to add the options seems rediculous given how mainstream the features are.
    HEY! I prefer manual windows, less to break, and you can roll the windows up without the key.

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    Default Re: Why the widespread lack of digital tuners?

    Quote Originally Posted by Random Guy View Post
    HEY! I prefer manual windows, less to break, and you can roll the windows up without the key.
    To each his own I guess.

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    Default Re: Why the widespread lack of digital tuners?

    Quote Originally Posted by was.lost.but.now.found View Post
    To each his own I guess.
    True dat. I also see the value of power windows, especially if you have kids. In that case, you can lock the rear windows out so they can't roll them down and fall out, or roll the window up on their fingers.

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    Default Re: Why the widespread lack of digital tuners?

    Sort of off-topic, but still relates to radios and such:

    I am looking for a reasonable clock radio as well. Something with both AM and FM, sounded fairly good. I really wanted a digital tuner, but then I stumbled across a VERY digital tuner. In fact it it doesn't have FM or AM at all.

    Wi-Fi radios.

    Anyone have one? I am looking at the Logitech Squeezebox Radio in particular. $150 gets you wireless ability to listen to 1000s of stations over the internet. All of the AM stations I listen to are available on it. Same with the FM stations.

    Then you can just listen to Pandora stations after you login, Sirius, LastFM. Some of those need paid subscriptions, but there are thousands that you don't.

    You can also listen to your own stuff off your computer.

    Seems fairly neat, and reviews on it aren't half bad.

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    Default Re: Why the widespread lack of digital tuners?

    The reason most boomboxes have analog tuners is because it's cheaper, and most people who buy sub-$50 store-shelf boomboxes don't care much about build quality or design.

    If you want a good radio tuner, look to the dedicated radio units from the dedicated radio manufacturers, like Eton/Grundig, Tivoli, Sangean, etc. Sony also has some excellent digital tuner models. And don't forget to look at their shortwave models, which usually have the highest-quality tuners. A good example would be Sangean's PR-D5: http://universal-radio.com/catalog/spcialty/0068.html

    Quote Originally Posted by bobisculous View Post
    Wi-Fi radios.

    Anyone have one?
    Although I really like the concept, the problem with most wi-fi radios is that they have a specific list of stations that they can play, and that's all you can choose from; it's usually several hundred choices, which is great, but if I'm using the internet to stream audio, then I should be able to play back any source regardless of format or origin. A better option is a netbook - it's a full computer, so it will play anything that's present on the internet. Plus it's battery powered so there are no wires, and most are the same price, if not cheaper, than a wi-fi radio.

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    Default Re: Why the widespread lack of digital tuners?

    Quote Originally Posted by StarHalo View Post
    The reason most boomboxes have analog tuners is because it's cheaper, and most people who buy sub-$50 store-shelf boomboxes don't care much about build quality or design.

    If you want a good radio tuner, look to the dedicated radio units from the dedicated radio manufacturers, like Eton/Grundig, Tivoli, Sangean, etc. Sony also has some excellent digital tuner models. And don't forget to look at their shortwave models, which usually have the highest-quality tuners. A good example would be Sangean's PR-D5: http://universal-radio.com/catalog/spcialty/0068.html
    But see you just proved my point. The link you provided seems to be for a very good quality portable boombox with great sound and the works. If you can get all that for $80-100, why can't I get something cheap (<$50) with simply a digital tuner? I don't care about quality speakers, design, or anything else, simply the digital tuner because truly that to me - pulling in the station without interference - is THE primary purpose on an AM/FM boombox. If I can't even do that reliably the what good is any other fancy feature? And further a "cheap" boombox for $40 is worthless because it can't even clearly and reliably pull in a station without "creaping". I really doubt that upgrading the analog tuner to digital is more that $5 in parts and labor.

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    Default Re: Why the widespread lack of digital tuners?

    Quote Originally Posted by was.lost.but.now.found View Post
    If you can get all that for $80-100, why can't I get something cheap (<$50) with simply a digital tuner?
    As far as I'm aware, most radio manufacturers who offer a model that is available in both analog and digital tuner variations charge about $20 more for the digital tuner - not a big deal for a decent radio, but a dealbeaker for someone looking to not spend more than ~$50 for a complete boombox. There are still some decently priced exceptions though, like this Sony: http://www.amazon.com/Sony-CFDS01-Ra...xp_grid_pt_1_0

    If you don't need two speakers or the full boombox size, you get a lot more options (and quality) in the under-$50 category, including the very powerful little Sangean DT-400: http://universal-radio.com/catalog/spcialty/4400.html, which has a tuner that rivals many car stereos..

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    Default Re: Why the widespread lack of digital tuners?

    Quote Originally Posted by was.lost.but.now.found View Post
    But see you just proved my point. The link you provided seems to be for a very good quality portable boombox with great sound and the works. If you can get all that for $80-100, why can't I get something cheap (<$50) with simply a digital tuner? I don't care about quality speakers, design, or anything else, simply the digital tuner because truly that to me - pulling in the station without interference - is THE primary purpose on an AM/FM boombox. If I can't even do that reliably the what good is any other fancy feature? And further a "cheap" boombox for $40 is worthless because it can't even clearly and reliably pull in a station without "creaping". I really doubt that upgrading the analog tuner to digital is more that $5 in parts and labor.
    Not that this means anything, because cheap boomboxes probably have cheap tuners regardless of type, but a good, high quality analog tuner is probably better at pulling in stations than a cheap digital tuner.

  26. #26

    Default Re: Why the widespread lack of digital tuners?

    You're all overthinking this. There is a proliferation of analog tuners for one simple reason:

    People still buy them.

    Despite the digital media storage boom we're experiencing, there's not a lot of revolutionary steps to a cheap boombox. No need for a manufacturer to upgrade when the cash is still flowing in.

    My Mp3 player has a built-in FM radio - wish it was HD, the only blues station around here is HD. I'd be happy with a set of internally-powered speakers that has a volume control knob and an input port and nothing more.
    Last edited by Diesel_Bomber; 01-11-2010 at 03:10 PM.
    Got Biodiesel?

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    Default Re: Why the widespread lack of digital tuners?

    LED Thrift...

    As for that digital tuner Clock Radio, do a search for the Sangean RCR-22 (emphasis on the 22, the RCR-2 is an older model, the 22 is nicer).

    It's the best clock radio I've ever owned, and is built better, and has more useful features than 99% of the junk sold in B&M stores.

    It has two alarms, that you can set to go off by time, day of the week (M-F for the work week is a nice feature, you can pick each day according to your schedule), "chirp", or radio, and you can set the radio station independently for each alarm, in addition of when using it as a radio.

    For example, I have an alarm that sets off to a sort of quiet, folk oriented college station, that I use as a gentle "wake up to the world" alarm, and a half hour later, the second alarm goes off to one of those loud, corporate rock stations (meaning it's really time to get up).

    There are pots on the bottom of the radio to adjust the volume of the chirping alarm, and the brightness of the display; which is great for those who are trying to sleep without a nuclear blue glow lighting up their entire bedroom like cheap clock radios do.

    It also has an antenna to set the time by satellite, but living in a house with aluminum siding, it doesn't work for me, but then I only have to set the time when switching from Daylight Savings to Standard Time (it's plenty accurate without the satellite feature).

    Oh yeah... the speaker is pretty decent. I used to have an old Sony Dream Machine that had great sound (for a clock radio). Everything I hear at the chain stores sounds like garbage, you would think for a buck or two more they could really upgrade the speaker. The Sangean actually sounds half decent.

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    Default Re: Why the widespread lack of digital tuners?

    I always thought one of the points of analog tuning was the ability to detune; sometimes a signal is a bit off, or at slightly different frequency than it's sposed t' be? Like if you are getting a stronger reflected signal than the direct signal?(I dunno that much about radio)

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    Default Re: Why the widespread lack of digital tuners?

    Quote Originally Posted by TedTheLed View Post
    I always thought one of the points of analog tuning was the ability to detune; sometimes a signal is a bit off, or at slightly different frequency than it's sposed t' be? Like if you are getting a stronger reflected signal than the direct signal?(I dunno that much about radio)
    I wonder if that is the reason some digital units can tune to even stations (i.e. 100.2) even though no such station exist. Nevertheless, I have NEVER in my whole live had a single occassion where using one of those with the 'even' tuner actually did anything of value.

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    Default Re: Why the widespread lack of digital tuners?

    my ccrane radio seems to have several incremental steps in it's digital tuning between numbers, the dial 'ratchets' with many fine increments, I often get a stronger, or a more clear signal a few clicks away from the actual station frequency..

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