Hi-Fi for a fiver

Or Do you need that FM tuner?

Andrew Rowland | 1 August 2016 | 0 comments

Rather apologetic email from my parents. Finally got around to connecting up the Hi-Fi in their new house, and suddenly realise that they don’t have a VHF aerial for the FM tuner. ‘Apologetic’ because I installed their satellite dish not so long ago and could have done it for them then.

The agèd ones have an old but still excellent Hi-Fi system and a Humax Freesat box for the telly. Both are in the living room. Music is important for both parents and they enjoy listening to Radio 3 and their CDs. They can’t get good reception with an indoor aerial.

I pointed out that all the radio stations they listen to (and a lot more) are broadcast digitally by satellite, and unlike DAB, where only Radio 3 can be said to be FM quality, most channels are broadcast in Hi-Fi quality equivalent to good FM [Note]. The same applies to FreeView and Virgin Media. All they need is a wire to connect the Humax box to the Hi-Fi and they are good to go. I sourced a good quality phono cable on Amazon and had it delivered to them. It cost £15 because it had to be 5m long to reach the Hi-Fi, and you need a well-shielded cable for that length. But it still cost a lot less than installing an FM aerial would have! A shorter length might only cost a fiver.

The Humax box is great because it has a display showing the station name, so all they have to do is remember that Radio 3 is channel 703, Radio 4 is 704 and so on [Full list of channels], and they can flip up and down the channels using the remote and see what they are listening to, all without needing to switch on the telly. It can be recorded too. They don’t have a separate soundbar for the TV, so a major advantage is that they can now listen to the TV in proper hi-fidelity. And the tuner has been consigned to the loft.

Andrew Advises…

If you have a set-top box with a display, I recommend connecting the box directly to your Hi-Fi so you don’t need to use the telly to set the radio station. But if you don’t have a set-top box it is OK to connect the TV’s audio output.

Many TVs will blank the screen to save electricity after a short while, when they realise that you are listening to the radio. You may need a trip into the menu to activate that option.

Given that modern tellies are just too thin to give good sound on internal speakers, you would benefit from better sound quality if you play the TV through your Hi-Fi. If you already have a soundbar or TV sound system, maybe you don’t need to connect anything else – just remember that that TV is also a good radio when you are listening in the lounge.

© Andrew Rowland 2016

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