Tandberg 3031A Tuner

Tandberg's long history of individuality, elegance, and performance is upheld by this tuner, the first of the company's that we have tested in some time and the first to hit the market since distribution of the products in the United States was taken over by Ortofon. The 3031A's round control buttons are a familiar sight, having become a Tandberg trademark in recent years. Internally, the design remains steadfastly committed to discrete, high-quality components (as opposed to integrated circuits) as the route to audio nirvana. But there have been significant changes, too.

The 3031A is both more stylish and less technologically convoluted than Tandberg's flagship tuner, the 3001A. It is much easier to use, comes in a more compact package, and is, in short, more practical. There are 16 presets instead of the 3001A's eight, and the analog tuning of the earlier model has given way-for good or ill-to half-channel (0.1-MHz) frequency stepping.

Beneath the large window, which displays the tuned frequency, are five buttons that control tuning. One button switches between the automatic (seek) and manual modes. The next pair are for tuning up and down the band. The final two control, respectively, the muting and the mono-only tuning mode. Next to the frequency readout are indicators for stereo reception (which will not light in the mono-only mode even if a stereo subcarrier is present), center tuning, and carrier detection.

According to the owner's manual, which falls short of Tandberg's formidable best in both verbal clarity and presentational finesse, the carrier light is supposed to dim as the received signal weakens, indicating the possibility of noisy reception. On my test sample, the LED began to fade visibly only when reception was significantly below optimum on some of the weakest stations; it was no help at all in differentiating between good and best antenna orientation for the strongest ones. (The 3001A goes to the other extreme by offering outputs to drive an oscilloscope for signal-reception analysis.)

The small display window at the left end of the front panel shows an "F" (for frequency, I presume) at turn-on or whenever the manual controls override a station preset. When you choose a preset-directly from the remote or by using the front panel's up and down buttons to step through the sequence of 16-the preset's number appears in the window. To program the presets, you tune the station, press store (which locks in the tuning), step the preset number to the one you want, and press store once again. The window flashes a "P" to confirm that it has programmed the tuned station.

The supplied RC-3000 wireless remote, powered by four AAA cells, will also control other current Tandberg components and has buttons for a receiver, tuner, cassette deck, CD player, and tape deck. For the 3031A, you press tuner on the handset, which allows the direct selection of preset numbers via a keypad, as well as the control both of manual or automatic tuning and of muting mode.

Tandberg offers a single antenna input on the back panel: a slip-on 75-ohm coaxial connector with a male hot terminal and an unthreaded shield. (Standard U.S. practice is an F jack with a female hot terminal and a threaded shield.) Two mating adapters come with the tuner. One is a balun that accepts a 300-ohm twinlead input; the other accepts a bared 75-ohm coaxial lead. If you get your FM feed from a cable company that you don't want to alienate, you may have to pay them to attach this adapter to their 7 5-ohm line in place of the standard F connector.

Despite these eccentricities, performance is very fine. If you compare Diversified Science Laboratories' data with that published for the 3001A, the family resemblance is immediately apparent. Outstanding noise and separation figures are matched by excellent sensitivity and selectivity. Frequency response at the bottom end is flatter than that of most other tuners and at the top end is on par with most of the best (though not quite up to the 3001A standard).

The lab measured output from 100-percent modulation at 1.27 volts. That's only 2 dB above the nominal 1-volt line level, but it's 8 dB above the 0.5-volt reference against which we measure preamp sensitivity. And, in fact, the tuner delivers somewhat too much of a good thing in that the 3031A plays noticeably louder than most other components, requiring that you adjust your system's volume control to compensate. Output impedance, at 950 ohms, may be a little higher than average but certainly is no cause for concern.

Given a really fine signal-and that is not easy to find on the dial these days- the Tandberg will reproduce it cleanly and with exceptional freshness. Admittedly, I tend to attribute the virtues I hear to the tuner and the shortcomings to the stations, even when there is no unequivocal way of assigning the source of unpleasant artifacts. But the fact remains that, on these same stations, broadcasting comparable material, I do not normally hear the same sonic bloom as with the 3031A. And those performance measurements are mighty impressive.

Tandberg 3031A Tuner photo