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In the Forum: Off Air Audio
In the Thread: A tube tuner? REL Precedent 646C
Post Subject: A tube tuner? REL Precedent 646CPosted by Romy the Cat on: 7/28/2008

A couple months back I sent to Dima a link with a wonderful collection of audio articles from first part of the 20s century:

In next couple days, talking with Dima he asked me: “Roma, what is REL Company all about?” I told that REL is a British company that makes subwoofers? “How good their tuners” Dima asked. I answered that I have no idea – “Most likely if should be nothing special if they do any”. Dima replied that it is very strange as at the link I sent his he came across a schematic of R.E.L. Precedent 646C FM tuner  (closer to the bottom) that was one of the very few schematics that he feel was describes a near perfect tuner. Dima, did pointed out to some simplifications as shortcoming of the schematic but he also told the it was the most properly made commercial circuit he even seen. Dima, pointed out: “This REL was designed by people who truly knew what they do and from point of tuners design it is almost as good as Rohde & Schwarz EU-6201 but made around tubes. Roma, juts because the tubes the REL might be even better then the Schwarz. Get it and try it.”

Well, I have some aversion to tube tuners:

Never was able to have them to sound right.  They have fine reception but no good sound to my ears. However, considering the in REL tuner there is not sound before output of detector and considering that I was not going to use anything after detectors I decided to try. I learned the REL stand from Radio Engendering Laboratory of Long Island NY. The company is long gone and the Precedent 646C was their flagman model. There was some chatter on line about REL Precedent but what I was able to read more indicated about the Moronity or Idiocy of the people who pass their comments then about providing any useful information about this tuner. Not to mention that I generally treat the comments of audio people about audio with no more esteem then blabbering of a 3-year old baddy about the Theory of special relativity.

Recently, I discover 4 REL tuners available for sale and I discovered that one of them was serviced and aligned by Charles King. I dealt with Charles around my Stellavox machine and was very pleased with his service, he is also one of the few who hears and recognized the heard. So, I decided to give it a try… I even drove 100 mile away as the tuner never was shipped after the Charles’ alignment – I would like to keep it this way…


The very first thing that I did was checking how different Morons told me that Precedent is “spectacular” mono tuner and that “it is so good in mono that you would not need stereo”.  Well, I was listening the Precedent in full mono. I was revolting. The tuner has fine reception, not super-sensitive but fine selectivity and low noise. However, the quality of the sound was not just revolting but truly laughable. The Sansui TU-1X goes 10 times better running AM of the stock antenna...

Then I disconnect the de-emphasis network from REL and run the composite signal to my external Multiplex decoder. It was also very bad. There was not good bass and not good tops. The sound was euphoric, lazy and truly tube-like in turns of very-very bad tubes design. Dynamic is not there and my system sounded more like 64dB sensitive electrostats driven by a 2A3 amp… It was clear that the REL’s output stage is garbage, what is very much visible and was predictable from the schematic. Taking the signal before the REL’s output stage, right after the detector changed situation a LOT. The sounds become listenable. It is still not as good as Sansui of the Schwarz. It is not even contestable at this point but I think it is a good first step. I would n to put a buffer after the REL detector to drive my multiple and make some minor change in the REL detector (change diodes to Shotky and the 2 mixing resistors to better resistor). I do not know if the REL will be able to sound at the level of TU-1X or Schwarz. I hope… From the positive side: REL it looks like has some elegance and grace. It has no balls, perhaps the week detector can’s drive my 1.5 meter cable to decoder. Charles is putting the MPX decoder right into the REL – but I did not hear the complete unit with a built in decoder. It does not make send for me to put decoder into the REL as then it would force me to use another decoder in Schwarz and to replaces the cables if I would like to record the FM feed (I have just two A/D processors).

So, so far the REL Precedent is very much NOT plug and play solution and it would take some efforts to make it sound good – of it ever can sound good. Now is a bigger question: what the hell I am trying to accomplish and why I am being a fool with 3 tuners. I admit that I do not need 3 tuners. I need one or max two that would be optimized for the specific reception condition (strong local vs. weak suburban from saturated local). With all equal I would stay with TU-1X with pain in ass manual attenuator. I do it for sake of sound – the untouchable, particularly this specific unit that I left for myself. The TU-1X  is also is extremely comfortable to use. I also stay with Rohde & Schwarz EU-6201 as the best SS tuner ever built. Schwarz kills TU-1X in reception and equal to TU-1X in sound BUT I still would like to have Schwarz with better decoder and be able to over-perform TU-1X. So, what REL doe in my room? The RELL is trying to do what TU-1X or Schwarz do or perhaps is trying to be better then they. The stupid debate about tube vs. SS is being played with my tuners again only now we do know that fro Radio Frequencies the tubes are questionably better. If REL is the most promising tube tuner ever made then now I need to learn how to get out if it a adequate sound. Will see what happen next…

Rgs, Romy the caT

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