Yamaha T-D500 Tuner

Back in the mid seventies, Yamaha's flagship CT-7000 wowed the world with its amazing FM sound quality. Since then, the company has been well respected for doing fine hi-fi tuners; the glory of the '7000 may be long gone, but the company's good name remains. This T-D500 is a very different thing though - 40 years later, it costs a fraction of the price of Yamaha's classic and sports DAB, DAB+, FM and AM. The analogue section is synthesiser-tuned, has 40 presets and the FM part has RDS. Basically, it's a do-it-all design, at a low price.

All Yamahas feel lovely to use - even the budget ones - and the T-D500 isn't any different. It has a very neat two-line, 16-character display, a swish brushed aluminium fascia and very responsive switchgear. A handy autotune feature will fi ll the presets with stations, if you can't be bothered to do it yourself. A small remote control is supplied, which duplicates all the features. At just 3.3kg, the unit seems a little flimsy - and the thin pressed steel is far more resonant than, say, the Arcam T32. But in defence of the T-D500, it still feels very impressively finished at the price, and in these days of chip-based designs there's little need for much more weight. The tuner works reasonably well from its supplied 'wet string' indoor antenna, but only really quietens down with a proper aerial, so buyers should always factor this in.

Here's a budget tuner that doesn't sound like one. It's not as good as most others here either, but it's not far off several far more expensive models, and gives a clean, crisp, open and expansive sound. It works nicely with simple pop on commercial stations; Emeli Sand? on Heart FM is certainly bright and upfront, but doesn't grate and bounces along very satisfyingly. Contrast this to the somewhat sterile, stand-offi sh sound from DAB and for proper music listening you'd choose FM any day. The piano has a nice tone, with a reasonable amount of body, and her voice doesn't disappoint - it can sound brittle on some cheaper tuners, but not here. Strings are nicely smooth and lacking in edge; indeed this tuner's greatest crimes are a rather two-dimensional stereo image that tends to hang around the plane of the speakers, plus a slight lack of bass punch. Moving over to Radio Two, and Heatwave's Always and Forever is nicer still; cymbals are crisp and extended with a decently delicate feel. Vocals are actually quite creamy, and the tuner is well able to signpost the sweetness of this classic seventies recording. Again, strings soar and the drums have a nicely tight and dynamic feeling to them. Whereas some budget tuners can make this track sound quite processed, the Yamaha doesn't. Zipping up the dial to Radio 4, and The World Tonight is an airy affair, nicely delicate and detailed - vocal tone is generally natural, with no sibilance, although compared with the Arcam T32 there is just a trace of nasality and an obvious lack of bass. Overall then, a fi ne performance at the price. Unlike some budget hi-fi radios, it's not too fl awed and doesn't draw attention to its failings. The result is a beautifully fi nished, easy to use device with a nicely listenable sound; not the last word in sonics, but it's surprisingly good for the money.

Yamaha T-D500 Tuner photo