Audio Design Associates Duo Tuner

Audio Design Associates Duo Tuner
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Audio Design
Duo Tuner
Don Scott
U D I O D E S I G N Associates
(ADA) was founded nearly 30 years
ago by Peter McKean and Albert
Langella. I can remember stopping
at the company’s exhibits at several
early Consumer Electronics Shows
and thinking, “These guys are nut
cases. Who cares about multi-room
audio?” Well, now I am eating my
antiquated thoughts because bigger
magazines than this one, for example the January 2006 issue of
Architectural Digest, suggest that no
home designer should do a job
without such a system in it. Frankly,
I concur; no truly competent designer should do a top-flight job these
days without including both multiroom audio and multi-room video.
ADA was the one of the first to
go into this field and apparently will
continue to be a leading innovator
in multi-zone/multi-source audio
and video. For instance, the company now will install for you their
iHome Multi-Center. In conjunction
with the MusicGiants Network, an
early leader and specialist in highquality downloads, ADA offers
extensive music libraries from the
four major record label groups as a
new source of quality audio
throughout one’s home.
As new technical products
emerge (first HDTV and now HD
Radio) I too, as a reviewer, am
caught up in the advertising hype. “I
got to have HD; I must; no way
around it!” Consequently, the ADA
DuoTuner caught my attention
because it is one of the few professional-grade HD products available
and offers an abundance of features
and configurations that just might
satisfy my new craving. I would not
even let UPS bring it to me, I rushed
to White Plains, NY, myself and was
graciously loaned a review sample.
By “Duo Tuner, ADA means that
the unit is a two-slot tuner that can
be fitted with pairs of AM/FM with
HD/WX modules, either two Sirius
or two XM modules, or either one
AM/FM with HD/WX module
accompanied by either a Sirius or a
XM module. Licensing agreements
prohibit mixing Sirius and XM in the
same unit, probably to avoid some
type of inter-galactic war in your listening room. I choose a Duo Tuner
with AM/FM with HD/WX and XM
for review to avoid this difficulty.
Two modules share the same controls and common display; antenna
inputs are separate, as are audio
outputs for each module. This
Volume 11, Issue 5
means a preamp or integrated
amplifier with switching between
two pairs of RCAs will be needed to
listen to either radio source if the
tuner is divorced from a multi-room
system. An optical output is provided for HD Radio; it is an option on
XM and Sirius modules.
How It Looks
This Duo Tuner is an attractive
slim-line black model, basically
designed for rack-mount usage, but
it will not be ashamed to show its
face in the open. It is a rather large
tuner, at 19 inches wide by 17 inches deep and just 2 inches high. The
display is green with yellowish lettering. Three smallish click-type
controls coupled with momentaryclick in/out switches mounted on
the same shafts provide for changing all modes and functions: AM,
AM HD, FM, FM HD, WX, scroll
modes of text data for normal RBDS
and HD, manual station tuning,
channel select for XM, preset select,
mono/stereo, and high filter to
slope-off noise. Also, XM displays of
Category, Channel select, Preset
number, Artist, and song Title are
possible. Basically, if the tuner can
be operated at near eye-level, over39
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is that this tuner has exceptional
phase linearity and can easily reflect
what is broadcast.
The music selection singled out
to evaluate the Duo Tuner via the
same program was a selection by
Tom Hazelton at the Riverside
Church, NYC (late 2000), Toccata
and Fugue in D Minor by Johann
Sebastian Bach, very similar to the
Proof of the Pudding
Bach Passacaglia and Fugue in C
Tuner evaluations usually have
Minor featured at West Point the
two primary considerations: R.f.
day before and very similar
prowess and overall audio
in organ tonal footprint.
quality, and it is extremely
Cranking the two well-searare to find a tuner with both.
The Duo Tuner excels in You might not expect a great soned
AMPOnes and the isobaricboth categories on FM. It
tuner in a multi-room
configured Amrita Monitors
offers good sensitivity, coufull-bore, the tuner mutated
pled with 20-dB adjacentsystem, but ADA has one.
deep, deep individual notes
channel selectivity, and this
had unusual clarity, with no
allows reception of any stabloating or sameness. The
tion within reason. To do
tuner is not overly bassbetter on adjacent-channels,
without splatter between stations, it hour weekly organ-music program, heavy or bass-shy, but if used in a
would take a customized tuner, but “Pipes and Pizzazz,” hosted by John system were a little extra bass heft is
then the narrow bandwidth most Vanderlee on WVKR (91.3) from needed, it might sound lean, but
likely would slice the edges off a Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY, that’s not the tuner’s difficulty.
signal where the HD digital data one of the better-sounding analog Midrange and high frequencies had
the right balance, and low distortion
FM stations in my area currently.
resides and negate HD reception.
Featured on the program were proved itself not only in the voice
Pitting the ADA tuner against
some very good upgraded or cus- several selections played by Tom recording I mention above, but also
tomized tuners I had on hand, Hazelton, widely known as the in the correct harmonic structure
including a Magnum Dynalab FT- “Dean of the American Theatre that did not muddy up low-frequen101, Luxman T-12, Audiophonics Organ.” Mr. Hazelton passed away cy tones. Background noise, white
ST-3120, and a stock PSE Studio III, March 13, 2006, and the program noise between four to seven
the Duo was not exceeded as far as was primarily a memorial to this kiloHertz, on weaker FM stations
took on a non-peaky softness rather
station pulling power was con- excellent artist.
One Wurlitzer selection was than the typical annoying hiss,
cerned (that is, in sensitivity) and
only slightly bettered in selectivity. recorded at the old Paramount which indicates very low intermodThe PSE tuner, however, had a Theater, which now houses the ulation distortion. The tuner also
slight edge in overall life-like pre- Schwartz Athletic Center for the incorporates a mild high-blend on
sentation with super-low distortion, Brooklyn, NY, Campus of Long feeble signals that works very well,
but the concern here is what can be Island University as well as the pre- preserving stereo separation and
purchased in 2006, so the Duo served organ still used at Blackbird’s minimizing noise in the analog FM
Tuner can inhale a little pride games and for concerts, although I stereo mode.
through its two fans. In the HD understand there may be some
mode, reception was what was water damage to the building that is FM HD Audio
expected: It takes a lot of signal now being repaired. What was
In simple terms, HD radio is
strength for HD recovery, about four impressive via the DuoTuner was designed to provide enhanced
times as much as analog. It is a sys- not so much the organ’s sound, but fidelity of normal stereo programtem misdesign, in my opinion any- the “liveness” of a three-minute pre- ming and allows up to eight addiway, not the fault of the tuner; sentation by Mr. Hazelton about the tional channels of lower fidelity protherefore, an antenna that gathers history of the organ (1995). I could gramming, all piggy-backed on the
lots of signal will be needed unless hear multiple reverberations off the same station. One problem conthe tuner is used close to a HD sta- ceiling, floor, and sidewalls along ducting a contrasting evaluation
tion’s tower lights. The Magnum with his point source voice. A look between analog FM and HD FM is
Dynalab Model 205 Signal Sleuth at the picture of the ceiling in the having apples with apples. I can’t
may be of some help here with gymnasium yields clues to the mul- imagine management of a station
boosting low signal levels. Also, see tiple refection points off this decora- insisting that the engineering staff
a coming issue of TAV for antenna tive masterpiece and what I was make sure the old analog system
hearing on the personal recording of sounds superior to the new HD, but
tips to aid reception.
Audio quality evaluation is a lit- the program’s host. To reproduce all I can imagine the other way around;
tle more involved, but I had a the ambience is an unusual audio consequently, I think the truth will
chance to align my live-music trait, because normally only two- be hidden, at least with the way
memory brain cells the day before dimensional presentations can be broadcasts are likely to be received.
voting “Yeah!” or “Nay!” on this heard, not four. What this indicates What I have noticed is that when
all operation is a breeze; just read
the book. Two rather-quiet mini
fans cool the unit from the right
side, and the resulting noise was
barely noticeable because the fans
are operating at half voltage.
Internal construction looks firstclass.
tuner. On March 26, 2006, Kenneth
Dake, Director of Music at the
Marble Collegiate Church on Fifth
Avenue in New York City, gave an
organ recital on the Cadet Chapel
Organ at West Point, NY, where the
Curator of Organs, William
Chapman, had just tuned 185 ranks
of the 355-rank organ. Needless to
say, I enjoyed a live audio extravaganza. Then, gilding the lily, the
next morning, I listened to a one-
the audiophile voice
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going to HD, the soundstage is well-controlled and judicious set- that” as chief engineer of two AM
more expansive and the sound is tings of analog compression and and six FM stations. Consider this:
brighter. This may be caused by limiting. Reproduction of familiar The 38-kHz subcarrier used to
intentional differences in new pro- big-band era music floored me. Bite transmit the L-R portion in the curcessing of the analog audio, or it on brass was superb and voices rent analog FM transmission system
could be that HD is better. were perfect. I will concede this: is an AM subcarrier using the FM
However, at this time, I do not think The ADA Duo-Tuner is about as main carrier as an electronic wheel
so when comparing the best of good as you can buy for analog FM barrel. Consequently, what is coneach. Also, because the digital HD or HD FM reception. I did not have sidered all FM is actually half AM.
signal must use “look-ahead limit- means to test the audio though the Then, has AM proven to be inferior?
I don’t think so. My point
ing,” a buffering delay of
being that there is not now
about three seconds is used.
nor was there ever anything
Correspondingly, the normal
old analog audio must also The Duo is about as good as technically wrong with AM,
but the limitations of transbe delayed, which throws
you can buy for either
mission techniques dictated
additional digital equipment
into its audio path. This is analog or HD FM reception. by the FCC and modern
skunked-up AM sections of
usually done with an AD
tuners and receivers. Some
converter, digital processing
may remember in the old
with delay, then a DA converter. Thus, since one apple is tuner’s optical output, but the man- days listening to top-forty and other
made slightly rotten, a true A/B ufacturer states I would not hear formatted stations half way across
much difference because the tuner the nation at night on any decent
comparison cannot be made.
On the analog side, I have run already incorporates a superior car or home radio. WOWO, Fort
Wayne, Indiana had an on-air sloand have heard some super-quality quality 24-bit DA converter.
Could I have gotten superior gan: “The Highest Fidelity Station in
analog stations, ones where I can’t
imagine radio sounding much bet- reproduction playing the same CD the Nation,” and it just might have
ter. For example, about 15 months or vinyl at home? I question that. been. WNEW, NYC, 1130 AM, also
ago, I vacationed in Naples, FL and Farther north and in the present, I made this claim for a short while in
became fascinated by the dynamic find exceptional audio finesse from the late ’50s.
How does the AM section of the
range and pristine sound quality of the evening music on WNYC (93.9)
radio station WAVV (101.1), in New York City and general pro- ADA tuner sound? Muffled on regulicensed to Marco Island. Therefore, gramming on WJFF (90.5), lar AM, as typical, and far better in
I contacted the engineer, Al Baxa, Hydropowered Radio, Jeffersonville, the HD mode using NYC’s WOR
and did some investigation. There NY. (This station generates its own signal. Speech now had crispness
and clarity in HD, like it is supwas nothing unusual: Music was power for the studio.)
posed to, not to disappoint the
transferred unto an AudioVAULT
emperor. Note that good analog
hard-drive system, analog from then AM Evaluation
on through a Harris Medallist conI believe that most current HD response above 10 kHz is possible
trol board, Optimod 8400 audio reception product manufacturers are with AM. The Sansui TU-S77AMX
processor, Mosley PCL-606 com- purposely doping their tuners’ cir- and TU-D99AMX tuners of the ‘80s
posite microwave link, Broadcast cuitries to favor HD; otherwise, why were good out to 13.5 kHz, with a
Electronics FX-50 exciter and a 20- buy it? New has to be better. The sharp notch at 10 kHz to prevent
year-old Broadcast Electronics emperor’s new clothes must set the whistles between stations that are
BE30A transmitter. In broadcast fashion industry on fire. This slanti- spaced 10 kHz apart. It sounded
brands, this is the considered good ng to favor the new seems particu- like FM, especially when decoding
equipment, but I think the key was larly apparent to me on AM, and I the Kahn system for AM stereo: All
the simplicity of the audio path and am speaking from “been there, done the highs were there, but very
smooth, perhaps superior to conventional FM because it was not
saddled with a transmit pre-emphasis and receive de-emphasis curve
used on FM. As with all AM tuners,
the best antenna to be found is the
only way of getting any AM stations
at all in HD. There is only one
antenna input to serve both the AM
Audio Design Associates Duo Tuner, dual-slot configuration, $2,195.
and FM sections of the ADA tuner.
Audio Design Associates, 602 Mamaroneck Ave., White Plains, NY
This is not the best way to go
10605, phones 800-HD-AUDIO, 914-946-9595,
because the directional pattern of a
loop antenna is needed to reduce
Associated Equipment
noise from undesired interference
Two AudioSource AMP One amplifiers strapped mono, B&K Pro-5
and signals. ADA does make a commodified preamplifier, Amrita Monitors, BBE Sound 482 Sonic
biner for AM and FM antennas, but I
Maximizer, Magnum Dynalab 205 Signal Sleuth, twisted pair intercondid not have one to evaluate at the
nects, and ATS Reference Series “Platinum” #12 speaker cables.
time of writing.
Volume 11, Issue 5
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The Weather Band
Page 4
This is a nice feature to make
you aware of normal forecasts and
dangerous weather conditions. ADA
has purposely altered the response
for speech clarity. No complaints, it
got my area weather stations clearly
using several FM antennas, which
are certainly not optimized for the
162-MHz weather channels.
XM Performance
tem, so hopefully you’ll find some
meat in my opinions. My reference
XM unit at this time is an early Sony
DRN-XM01 car and home tuner,
which has bettered previous units
with superior dynamics, bass extension, and less listener fatigue.
All this aside, how does the
DuoTuner reproduce what XM
dishes out, good or bad? Happily,
I found it was fairly close to the
reference Sony. Coupling it with a
BBE Audio 482 processor, which
corrects for phase error between
error from the tape dubbing or
extreme audio processing,
improved stereo separation, less
smearing of highs, and increased
presence was quite dramatic. The
Duo Tuner XM module and the
482 are electronically in love
with each other, whereas that was
not so with the Sony.
Yes, I like the Duo Tuner.
Considering that some of the past
Evaluating XM is not an easy task
and present great FM tuners cost
because it is not a flawless audio
nearly $5,600 and do not
source. Some channels,
include HD, XM, or Sirius,
especially the CW and clasthen $2,195 does not seem
sical groups, are quite
out of place for a quality
acceptable in overall audio
I like ADA’s Duo Tuner.
component. Therefore, I vote
quality, most likely because
It is a quality unit which
“YEAH!” If you already own
the music is taken directly
an ADA or similar multifrom CDs. However, other
comes at a fair price.
zone system, individual
channels often have phase
modules can be added for
error that sounds like the
$995. ADA also manufacmusical selections were
tures three additional tuners
dubbed from tape onto a
hard drive with the heads on the lows, mids, and highs in reference and a receiver: Tune Suite, a fourtape playback deck misaligned and to an internal standard, I liked slot tuner with one module and balnot optimized for each tape trans- w h a t I h e a r d . W h i l e o n e c a n anced outputs for $2,499. Addiferred. I find this disgusting in this argue that something else in the tional modules are $600 each. Also,
modern audio era. If you want to audio path is not beneficial, I there is the HD-Pro, a dual-slot HD
hear this effect at its extreme, listen would agree if the test case were Tuner designed for the broadcaster
untarnished audio; however, XM for $3,500 and a Suite 8100 multito the Preview Channel.
The Duo Tuner the fourth XM- is mostly not and needs electronic room receiver with HD Radio, XM
equipped unit I have had in my sys- p o l i s h i n g . B y l e s s e n i n g p h a s e or Sirius for $4,199.
the audiophile voice
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