Stereo Amplifier

Review: Sony ST-S570ES Tuner

Station seeking, either for subsequent storage or casual search, is accomplished by the large knob at the right of the front panel. However, this is not the continuously variable adjustment it would seem but rather an adaptation of the more common pair of Up/Down push switches and changes the tuned frequency by discrete steps of 50kHz on FM and 9kHz on AM. It has a loose flywheel action and scoots up and down the bands so fast that even if one knows the actual frequency of the desired station a certain amount of overshoot and backtracking is almost inevitable. There is a pair of alternating red arrows on the fluorescent display which at first I thought were directing one to the correct centre point of a received station, but all they do is to (rather pointlessly) indicate which way you are turning the knob. Correct setting is then indicated by the illumination of the word Tuned. The set is muted whilst the knob is moving and you therefore have to stop each time the signal strength graph shows the presence of a transmission if you want to know what it is. Most annoying of all, if you are listening to a station, memorized or selected, and someone or something happens to brush against this so easily moved knob, then you have lost your programme and will have to relocate it. This can all too easily ruin a recording. I found that you could prevent this possibility by switching to 'Character' setting, for this same knob does double duty. When you are labeling other than RDS transmissions you use it to cruise up and down the alphabet , first capital s and then lower case, number and symbols. You then enter each sequentially, as with a digital watch, and finally 'File'.

How it performed

Setting aside all supernumerary functions discussed so far, the actual tuner itself is well specified and has features available such as a choice of IF bandwidth on FM (increasingly valuable now that the band is filling up in some parts of the country) and the options of Hi-blend or Mono override for weak stereo transmissions. As I write, the Proms season is in full swing, which always intensifies radio listening, so I have been making comparisons of received quality with my much older Sony STJ-75 tuner, a not particularly expensive model but one which I always felt had an edge on most competitors at the time. Having just come to the end of a most inspiring performance by the National Youth Orchestra, I find little to choose between the two; so Sony have maintained a high standard over the years. However, the new tuner, at a comparable price, has so much more to offer, not least the inclusion of AM transmissions at a much above average standard of quality which I feel have had their response rather cleverly shaped to make the best of reception on these bands.

As the specification shows, the ST-S570ES has adequate sensitivity and other characteristics which are not difficult to achieve with modem components; much more important is how it behaves in a practical situation and there can be no disputing that here it does well. A new owner will need a fair degree of patience in understanding its little idiosyncrasies, particularly in the initial setting up; but once done ten programmes are instantly available at the touch of a single button, each with a clear read-out of its source, something casual family users will relish. As for the 20 others available, that should be more than enough to accommodate all tastes.

The tuner comes with a two-metre fixed twin-core mains lead, a one-metre dual phono-to-phono audio lead and a coupling which permits remote control from other Sony units. A separate AM stand-alone loop aerial with rather short leads is also part of the kit, although an additional long wire is recommended. My sample arrived with a temporary photocopied instruction book which dealt with three tuners in four languages. All I can say is that I hope the permanent one is, as Sony UK expect it to be, much better.