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47 Labs 4730 Midnight Blue Series Tuner Review

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47 Labs 4730 tunerPublisher’s note: The MSRP of the 47 Labs 4730 “Midnight Blue” series tuner was increased, due to the higher exchange rate, from $1,300 to $1,500 after the conclusion of this Review. Comments expressed by the reviewer in this Review are based on the previous MSRP of the 47 Labs 4730 tuner. Nonetheless, the author of this Review believes his points remain valid. Please enjoy the review.

When I was in college FM was the main way we listened to music and in fact, it was about the only way we heard new music. I knew guys who used reel-to-reel recorders to record hundreds of hours of music from their favorite FM stations. To make it in the music industry, you had to have a hit on the radio. Man, how things have changed – it seems like more people find new music on video games than radio nowadays.

47 Lab’s Model 4730 tuner and another unique product, a pre-amplifier with a USB DAC input that serves also as a headphone and integrated amplifier, are the first two products to appear in the company’s new Midnight Blue Series. One has to ask, who is crazy enough to release an analog FM-only tuner at this point in time? It seems that FM was Kimura-San’s original expertise so he was ready to release a tuner with the 47 Labs name tag. The 4730 is a full analog tuner with a special air variable capacitor. It has both 75 Ohm and 30 Ohm antenna inputs, and a single pair of RCA outputs. It is as simple as a product can get.

The first things I noticed about the 4730 tuner are its size and looks. It’s smaller than a shoe box, a lot smaller. The small front panel is made up of a large tuning dial and a small tuning knob. There are also two LEDs, a green tuning indicator, and a red stereo indicator. When the tuner is off, it remains very nice looking and seems to just say turn me on and see how nice I look; so I did. Upon doing so I have to say I was a little disappointed. It’s not that the tuner isn’t nice looking when turned on, it’s just that I was expecting some subtle green or blue coloring, and I wasn’t expecting the light to escape out the top of the front panel. Yet, overall it’s a really nice retro-looking tuner.

Using the 4730

The back panel is laid out very simply. There are connectors for a 75 ohm antenna and a 300 ohm antenna, a pair of RCA jacks, a power plug, and an ON/OFF toggle switch. That’s it, so all you have to do is connect a power cord, your antenna wires, and an interconnect to your line stage. I did find it slightly inconvenient for the ON/OFF switch to be on the back panel.

Once you turn it on the only thing left to do is to turn the tuning knob until you find a station to listen to. If you’re in a city this is pretty easy, but if you’re out away from the stations you’ll find this tuner isn’t the most sensitive of units. I have to admit that my current home is in one of the hardest areas I have ever lived to pick up radio stations. The hills that surround our area of the San Francisco Bay Area are beautiful to look at, but they also seem to do a good job of blocking radio signals. Even the car radio struggles with picking up stations.

I took the tuner over to Oakland and San Francisco, and in both cases I could pick up plenty of stations. I was lucky enough at my place to pick up a Berkeley Public Radio Station that plays a very diverse selection of music, as well as one good jazz station, and a local classic rock station. The jazz station and another sounded quite good. In fact, the jazz station sounded as good and at times better than CDs. Some of the shows on the Public Radio station were simply stunning. The sound of the 4730 was very solid, and produced a nice and natural soundstage. It was much more transparent than I had expected, and with the best program material, sounded better than a lot of CDs. There’s the catch though – there is so little decent program material to listen to where I live. If I lived in Berkley, Oakland, or San Francisco I would be more excited about this little tuner, because it does sound very good. However, music from that classic rock station was so compressed that it sounded worse than MP3s on satellite radio.

In my opinion, there are several features missing on the 4730. Why would you make such a nice little tuner and not put a mono/stereo switch on it? If I had could switch from stereo to mono I could pull in at least five more stations, maybe even ten. Some kind of signal strength indicator would also be nice. I guess the “Midnight Blue” Model 4730 Tuner is just the kind of product we have come to expect from 47 Labs. It’s small, it’s cute, it sounds really good, and it doesn’t have many features.

Still there are concerns about this product that have to be mentioned.

The 4730 tuner costs $1300; as I write this a number of vintage tuners are available on Audiogon, including McIntosh MR77 for MR78 for $800 and $1000 respectively, a Sansui TU-9900 Tuner for $600, and a Quad FM-2 for $350. I didn’t have any of these on hand for comparison, but I’ve owned three of these and they were all very good sounding tuners with more features and better sensitivity than the 4730. Of course none of these are new, and I don’t know of any new tuners for this price that sounds this good.

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