Professional
Tuner Upgrades

Don’t sell your old tuner; have it professionally upgraded.
If you are thinking of buying a new tuner because you’re not happy with the sound being delivered by your old tuner, perhaps you should reconsider. Consider getting a professionally engineered tuner upgrade from Component Plus, USA instead.

Who is Component Plus? (click here)

Words of Praise for Component Plus Upgrades
Here are a few testimonials from Audiogon members, who as members are more discriminating than usual. Their remarks, with the exception of those of Joebone, were unsolicited words of praise, but after receiving them, we did request permission to print them here using their Audiogon name.

Joebone wrote: "His mods to my Accuphase T-109 tuner unquestionably reflect genuine value.    The tuner is even quieter than it had been before, leading to a degree of resolution, micro-dynamics and transparency that exceed one's expectations from FM broadcasts.    Bass information is much more precise . . . and on good classical and jazz programming, brass instruments are showing genuine sheen and bite.   The lateral soundstage is also improved, and I think there may be a bit more depth.   On the right material, I find a transparency reminiscent of master-tape-in-a-control-room experiences and monitor-board recordings from my prior life as a professional musician. . . . I would not hesitate to again utilize Joseph [Chow]'s expertise."  (Joebone)

Hrtless, who had his Kyocera tuner upgraded wrote: "First let me say, you do beautiful work. The insertion of the RCS connectors and the IEC plug is very well done. Second, I will be very proud to show off that silver sticker on the rear of the unit that notes that you modified the tuner." (htless)

Cola 45 wrote: "I got the tuner today [a TU 9900]. [I have]just one word for you. You are amazing. Thanks. (cola 45)

Gargoyle, who purchased an upgraded Sansui TU-719, wrote: "I got the tuner on Friday and got it powered up today. All I can say is WOW! I never knew FM could sound this good. This Sansui is fantastic and it looks like it just came off the shelf not like a 20+ year old unit. You are a true credit to the hobby." (gargoyle)

Nealhood, who was a little uncertain about buying an upgraded Sony ST s555ES, wrote after receiving it: "The bass and midrange on this Sony sound quite natural and pleasant. Overall I am very pleased." (nealhood)

Boozerocket, who purchased a Sansui TU-9900 for what he considered a good price, wrote: "I received the Sansui yesterday. This is the tuner I have been looking for. It is truly exceptional." (boozerocket)

Finally, Stressnot had these lengthy comments to make about a Yamaha T-85 that underwent extensive upgrading modifications: "Overall, the tuner sounds incredibly good. Maybe it's taken a little while for some of the new parts to properly burn in, but as I listen to it now, I am hearing sharp detail, without it sounding at all harsh. The bass goes deep, but remains focused, and the highs sound smooth, but not rolled off.

"I think that the IEC AC inlet installation alone is a great improvement. It allows me to use a much better power cord, which provides an airy and expansive sound. But of course, all the other new parts make it all even better.

"I just had an FM outdoor antenna installed, and get a clear, beautiful sounding signal on many distant as well as local stations with it connected to this tuner." ( Stressnot)

We want our customers to be pleased and so far they have been.

Benefits of Upgrading
We are all aware that replacing an OP amp, IC, or critical audio capacitor with a superior one will make an immense difference in the sonic performance. But few of us realize that all the materials, even supposedly minor ones like the wires used, and the entire architecture of the unit design contribute to its performance, not just obviously critical audio components.

Let me cite an example: Joseph was recently asked by a friend of his to examine his VTL Stereo 90 tube amplifier. Since it was an old design, there was a veritable snake pit of wires coiled throughout the amp. Joseph told his friend that there were a few caps that should be upgraded with better quality ones, but that the main task was to replace and reroute the poor, low grade, noisy wire snaking through the unit. His friend seemed disappointed that Joseph was not going to engage in a wholesale upgrading of components. But in fact, replacing inexpensive, thin, noisy 26 AWG copper wire with larger, low noise, high Q wire and rerouting it if necessary, is critical to the sonic performance of any unit. Of what use is it to have a marvelous circuit and superior components in it if the wire that will carry the signal is simply not up to the task?

When upgrading electronics, we must examine the unit as a holistic design from the AC plug through the output jacks and speaker plugs. Joseph told his friend that he would replace the AC cord with a superior low noise, high Q power cord (See photograph below); that he would replace all the low grade critical wires running throughout the unit with high Q, low noise wire and reroute them as necessary; that he would replace the old RCAs with high Q gold plated Teflon RCAs; and that, finally, he would replace the old speaker posts with new, high Q gold plated ones. Only then would he consider replacing key components in the circuit.

The before and after modifications measurements and performance improvement were immense and visible on shots of the waveform. Three hundred dollars in upgrades (with less than $30 being in parts) had utterly transformed the amplifier.

Internal Wiring Upgrade
This brings me to a key point: We have almost all of us been made terribly sensitive to the quality of our interconnects, and more recently to the quality of our power cord, though still not enough of us pay attention to matching the Q and capacitance of our interconnects with our units. Despite that, we still insufficiently appreciate how critical the layout and quality of the internal wiring of our units is. People boast of the Burr Browns and Blackgates in their units, but then utterly ignore the mass of thin, cheap, noisy copper wire snaking through the unit from the power cord (which itself is really nothing more than 18 awg lamp cord) to the outputs.

If large sonic improvements are to be made and they can be made to a modestly priced 20 year old quality Sony purchased on eBay for under $200 as well as to an expensive Sansui or Kenwood, we have to look as deeply as possible not only into the circuit path and the quality of key components used in it, but also into the sound characteristics of the materials used at the smallest level possible. This search for distortion and noise at the minutest circuit and material level begins 1) out of respect for Q [defined as the “quality factor of an inductor or capacitor. It is the ratio of a component’s reactance ... to its effective series resistance” Dictionary of Electronics] and 2) out of respect for the elimination of noise.

Every upgrade must first attack noise wherever it occurs with the goal of lowering it because lower noise levels expose the sonic characteristics of individual components. No designer, no matter how fine his ear, can improve a design below the noise level, for at that level he cannot hear the difference between one component value and another, one circuit modification and another. Low noise permits the designer to hear more clearly the very fine sonic differences small component changes and slight circuit modifications make. And what is true for the designer is also true for the listener listening to music.

In response to various people asking that Joseph to upgrade their tuner, Joseph has decided to accept a limited number of quality tuners for upgrading. If he doesn’t feel your tuner merits upgrading, he will tell you, and e-mail you a list of prospective tuners that might satisfy your budget and merit upgrading.

Why upgrade?
Often the performance from a quality upgraded tuner will exceed the performance of a much more expensive rare and exotic tuner. For example, an upgraded Sansui TU 717, available unmodified in excellent condition on the used market for between $200-$300, in direct A-B tests with a switcher to permit instant switching, bested an unmodified Kenwood L-07T II, which usually sells for between $600 and $800, and even bested an unmodified Kenwood KT 917, which usually sells for between $550 and $850.

And don’t be dazzled by the specs on the newer digital tuners. It’s true: the older analogue tuners will not have the signal-to-noise (S/N) of a newer digital tuner, or the dynamic range. But to these pluses of digital tuners one must add the following very big minus—an insufficient decay time that results in a crisp, dry sound that can not capture the flowing experience of actual music. Anyone who compares a quality LP played over a first rate cartridge, arm and phono stage with a quality CD played over a quality solid state transport and DAC will know exactly what I’m talking about. There is softness to the musical edges, and a perceptible flowing together of the music in the analogue system that can not be matched in the digital system.

One of the reasons we gravitate to tubes over solid state is precisely for this reason: tubes generate slower decay times than transistors and IC’s, which is a major reason why they sound richer and more musical.

The same is true of the older tuners. They’re just more musical.

Will the Upgrade alter the sonic character of my tuner?
The answer is yes and no. Do Hollywood stars—or your girlfriend or wife, for that matter--look the way they do when dressed to the hilt and made up to the nines? No. Do they preserve the same family resemblance? Yes. So it is with any makeover.

The capacitors used in the audio stage of these older tuners, with rare exceptions, were not premier audio grade capacitors. Replacing them with premium audio coupling grade Blackgate capacitors costing ten to fifteen times the original cost of the OEM capacitors will make a difference. Similarly, the op amps used in many of these tuners have been superceded by vastly superior op amps—after all, some twenty five odd years have passed, enough time for components to demonstrate a dramatic improvement in performance. Just as upgrading an OEM tube—say a $6.50 Sovtek—with a $100 NOS Siemens or Telefunken will alter the sound (more accurately, enhance the sound in ways too numerous to count), so the same is true when one upgrades the components in a tuner. But just as new tubes do not transform a sound system--the sound system remains discernibly what it was before the tube upgrade, only perhaps altering the sonic balance between low, mids, and highs, or tightening a boomy bass, or adding a top end that was previously absent, or generating a wider soundstage and sharper imaging, or revealing detail that formerly was lost in the noise--so upgrading tuner components has the same effect.

The tuner remains discernibly what it was—a Sansui TU 717, a Kenwood KT 8300, etc.—only with a sheen, transparency and vividness formerly lacking.

Is any tuner worth upgrading?
Of course, not every tuner is worth upgrading. If the basic circuit design is poor, then attempting to salvage it will simply be throwing good money after bad. There are too many bad old tuners around to even begin to enumerate them. But conversely, one does not have to start out with an expensive Kenwood L-01 or L-07T II, or a Sansui TU 919 or TU-X1 either, though of course, the finer the tuner is to start with the finer its upgraded version will sound. In other words, while an upgraded Sansui TU 717 will sound better than an unmodified Kenwood L-07T II, it will not sound better than an equally upgraded Kenwood L-07 II.

There are a number of recognized tuners that make excellent upgrade prospects: they are plentiful and reasonably inexpensive on the used market: the Sansui TU 717 is one that immediately comes to mind, the Kenwood KT 8300 is another. Sony, Yamaha, Luxman and Accuphase also made some excellent tuners. Attached are photos of a number of tuners from high end to low cost which have been upgraded by Component Plus. On the rear photos note the new RACs and the IEC input socket that replaces the old powerBut, again the list is too long to enumerate here. If you are curious about whether your tuner is a prospect for an upgrade, please contact me at audiohorizons@yahoo.com and provide as much detailed information about your tuner as you can.

When you add the cost of a basic upgrade to the cost of buying either the Sansui TU 717 or Kenwood KT 8300, you are in the $475-$700 total cost range.

But excellent upgraded tuners can be had for less. There are a number of sleeper tuners that for odd reasons can be bought for a song, and which with basic upgrade would only cost about $375-$450. For example, the Sony ST S555ES (See photo) scares people off because it has a non-standard DIN connector, and requires a special interconnect with impedance matching circuit in it, with the result there is little market for it. It usually goes for $100-$125 with the interconnect and circuit included. Without the interconnect and circuit it is virtually worthless and can probably be had for $75-$90. This tuner is a very fine sounding tuner and a very sensitive one; with $300-$400 in upgrades, including replacing the DIN connector with gold plated Teflon RCA’s and building and installing the impedance matching circuit (if it is lacking one) inside the chassis so that the unit can accept standard interconnects, it is a very, very fine sounding tuner.

What are the sonic differences between an unmodified and modified tuner?
The first thing that impresses you after a Basic or Premium Audio Upgrade by Component Plus, USA is how quiet the unit is, how the sound emerges out of a much blacker background, one usually associated only with excellent LP’s or digital products. The gain in S/N comes from four sources: 1) Adding an AC line filter between the AC cord and the power supply. This insures that a great deal of line noise is removed before it even reaches the power supply. 2) Improving the quality of key wiring and rerouting key wiring. 3) Improving the quality of key components in the power supply and the audio stage.

The next thing that impresses you is how much cleaner the sound seems. In reality a large portion of this perceived sense of improved clarity comes from the improved S/N, but a portion of it is due to actual improvements in THD levels. These stem from the improved quality of the high Q wire used, and the improved quality of the components, including Blackgate capacitors, used in the upgrade. Whatever the cause of the perceptible improvement in sonic clarity, it has the effect of moving tuner sound in clarity closer to digital sound, and also of diminishing listener fatigue so common to those who listen for any length of time to tuners.

As a consequence of the larger, higher voltage, upgraded power supply capacitors, bass is usually much tighter, more controlled and has more impact. The Blackgate coupling capacitors in the audio stage result in an enlarged soundstage and improved imaging. Finally, the upgrades have eliminated that overblown presence so common to tuners and replaced it with a cleaner, more lifelike presence.

In sum, the differences are not small. And if you get the Premium Audio Upgrade and use a quality AC power cord on the system, the sonic improvement can be immense.

Upgrade Packages
Component Plus, USA offers three audio upgrade packages:

Audio Upgrade.
Included in the Audio Upgrade package are the following upgrades:

  1. Replace all audio stage coupling capacitors with coupling grade Blackgate capacitors, which by enhancing the audio transfer efficiency enhance all aspects of the audio performance, especially more body to the lows and more airy highs.
  2. Replace the power supply capacitors with larger, higher voltage, upgraded capacitors to insure better dynamic range and tighter, more controlled bass response.
  3. Upgrade the existing grungy chrome RCA fixed outputs and skimpy wire with new gold plated Teflon RCA outputs and new high Q Teflon wire run from the new RCA’s to the PC Board).
  4. Replace the audio stage Op Amp IC’s with Burr-Brown or equivalent, using a plug in socket so when improved Op Amp IC’s become available, the old ones can be removed and the new ones easily inserted. Improved Op Amp IC’s improves all aspects of the sonic performance.
  5. Check narrow and wide band IF filters. Replace if necessary. Often the filters in these units are of higher quality than many currently available filters, so they should not be replaced unless they are bad.
  6. Replace DC power supply rectifier diodes with High Speed Soft Recovery (FRED) Diodes because their fast response time, high current capability, soft recovery and lack of ringing and overshoot place them a big step beyond other high speed diodes in dramatically lowering noise, increasing dynamics, reducing grain and glare.
  7. Raise up and isolate the transformer from the chassis if there is room in the chassis to do so. This will further reduce the noise level.
  8. Check the lights.
  9. Align the tuner. This is indispensable if the tuner is to perform up to its potential.
  10. Clean the exterior and interior of the tuner.
  11. Provide an itemized list of parts replaced, including a bag with the replaced wire and replaced parts.

The Audio Upgrade costs $425, including parts.

Premium Audio Upgrade.
Included in the Premium package are the following upgrades:

  1. Replace the 18 awg power cord with an IEC input, which permits us because of the ground, to isolate AC noise. If there is no room to install an IEC socket, a 16 awg upgraded grounded AC cord will be hard wired to the component.
  2. Replace and upgrade the wire from the IEC to the Power supply PC Board with low noise, high Q wire. This will result in lower losses and better signal transfer across the entire bandwidth.
  3. Replace all audio stage coupling capacitors with coupling grade Blackgate capacitors to enhance all aspects of the audio performance.
  4. Replace the power supply capacitors with larger, higher voltage, upgraded capacitors to insure tighter, more controlled bass response.
  5. Replace the audio stage Op Amp IC’s with Burr Brown or similar quality, using a plug in socket so when improved Op Amp IC’s become available, the old IC can be removed and the new ones easily inserted.
  6. Check narrow and wide band filters. Replace if necessary.
  7. Replace DC power supply rectifier diodes with High Speed Soft Recovery (FRED) Diodes because their fast response time, high current capability, soft recovery and lack of ringing and overshoot place them a big step beyond other high speed diodes in dramatically lowering noise, increasing dynamics, reducing grain and glare.
  8. Replace critical audio path wire with high Q wire and if necessary reroute.
  9. Raise up and isolate the transformer from the chassis if there is sufficient room in the chassis to do so.
  10. Check the lights.
  11. Clean and lubricate the tuning mechanism.
  12. Align the tuner.
  13. Clean the exterior and interior of the tuner.
  14. Provide an itemized list of parts replaced, including the replaced parts.

The Premium upgrade costs $550, including parts.

For those who want an upgraded AC power cord using high grade plugs as well as the Premium Package, there is a $30 discount on the $195.00 two meter High Q 14 awg AC Power cord, resulting in a total package price for the Premium upgrade and Premium AC power cord of $600. With return shipping and insurance $630.

Slight additions to these costs will occur where there is a great amount of internal wiring to be upgraded inside the unit. Please indicate the make and model number when requesting a quotation. Some models lack sufficient room to add the Premium Line Filter. Where it is not possible to add the Premium Line Filter, we will deduct $25 from the cost of the upgrade.

Where replacement bulbs are not available and we must replace the defective light bulbs with a bank of 8 LED's, please add $50. If you ordered a premium upgrade, there is a $15 discount for this service.All upgrades are guaranteed, parts and labor, for 90 days.

Specialty Modifications
Component Plus, USA does not repair tuners, but it does do specialty modifications.

DXing Upgrade. For DXers who wish they had just a little more capability, we have a Dxing Package, which involves not only replacing the IF filters, but inserting sockets into their footprint so DXers can experiment with different filters. Again price varies by model depending on the number of filters and their availability.

Power Supply Upgrades. For those who are reluctant to tamper with the sound of a fine sounding tuner like a Kenwood L-01T or L-02T or a Sansui TU 919 but wish the sound were a bit more relaxed and the bass a little more controlled, we provide two Power Supply Upgrades. The Basic Upgrade involves putting a high quality AC line filter in line between the AC cord and the power supply to clean up the high frequency noise characteristic of typical AC power lines. We also upgrade the size, voltage and quality of the power supply OEM capacitors with high quality Rubycon or Blackgates capacitors. These two upgrades alone will yield cleaner sound and clearer and more controlled bass. The Basic Power Supply Upgrade costs $90 plus the cost of the Rubycon or Blackgates capacitors (usually two or three in number and which usually cost around $25.00 each).

For those who feel they need a larger, higher quality transformer as well as the Basic Power supply Upgrade, we have a Premium Power Supply Upgrade. Joseph will need to know the specific model to be upgraded before we can estimate the cost of this upgrade.

Foreign Tuner Conversion. Component Plus, USA can convert foreign made tuners from 220v to 120v and alter the reception bandwidth to accommodate the US bandwidth, 88 to 108 MHz. For example, Joseph were recently asked to modify a Kenwood L-03T purchased in Japan. FM Tuner Info noted that “The L-03T is a rare tuner that would bring a very high price if ever offered for sale in the U.S. We've never seen one since early 2001.” Prices for this modification will vary from tuner to tuner.

We can on certain units with a digital readout also add specialty items such as a Radio Data System decoder which could identify the piece being played.

If you have special DXing requirements, please contact Joseph by email at audiohorizons@yahoo.com.

Shipping including insurance in the US will be a flat $30.00, inclduing up to $1000 of insurance. For more insurance, add $5.00. Canadians please email for S/H/I rates. Please contact us about the cost of S/H/I if you wish air shipment

General Comments
All units to be upgraded must be in perfect working condition. If repairs are required in addition to the upgrade or specialty modification, please indicate what they are before you ship the unit and we will discuss the cost of repair as an additional service.

We are not responsible for units damaged in transit, so please package your unit carefully, remembering that we will return the unit to you in the same packaging. Damaged units will be returned freight collect.

Shipping including insurance in the US will be a flat $25.00. Canadians please email for S/H/I rates. Please contact us about the cost of S/H/I if you wish air shipment.

Payment for services must be made within 7 days of being informed the work order has been completed. We will ship the unit to you as soon as your funds clear our account. If you wish to pay with PayPal, please add 3%.

Select Upgraded Tuners for Sale
Occasionally, for one reason or another, Joseph has a small number of quality upgraded tuners for sale. These units have all been upgraded by Joseph and are therefore operating perfectly. They are usually available at very reasonable prices. Please send email to audiohorizons@yahoo.com for details and availability.
Thank you for your interest in tuner upgrades by Component Plus, USA