Antique Collector Installment 2
By Steven Stone
Scotts' first FM tuner, the 310A was introduced in December 1954. It was boxy, 4 1/2 " by 13" by 10 1/4" housed in a metal case. Its 11 tubes all pointed downward. This tuner predates the "Scott Look" (Circular Vernier tuning dial, backlight, and small centrally
located tuning meter, beveled edges with rounded corners, and the golden - bronze color) devised by Marketing head Victor Pomper and Sales Manager Marvin Grossman.
The 310 series were Scotts' top-of-the-line tuner models. The last 310, the 310E was made in the last half of 1963, and was the only 310 with built-in multiplex circuitry. All previous 310 models required an outboard multiplex adapter for stereo operation. The fabled 4310 was really a 310 in spirit. The 4310 was made for only one year, 1963, and is the most sought after Scott tuner, with used prices in the $1000 to $1500 range. When you consider it was listed for $480 in 1963, which in 1987 dollars is about $1475, it has just about held its value. It was outrageously expensive in 1963, and in 1987 is still exorbitant.
Scotts' numbering methodology had almost no logic whatsoever. While 310s were more expensive than 311s, and 350s were better than 370s, 350s were also better than 314s and 312s. Only a set of price lists, or a chart of when each unit was made, and its' list price can clarify Scotts' numerical and alphabetical avalanche of models. While the following chart may seem a bit complicated, it does give a clear idea of what was released when, and is far easier than pouring over the individual yearly price lists from which it was compiled.
Rather than go through each individual model, one by one, I'm going to pick representative products from each series for more in depth review. While a 310C is different than a 310D, they are similar enough that both need not be discussed in detail. In some cases such as the 330C and 330D, the differences are primarily in the front panels and AM circuits, the FM tube complement and arrangement are identical.
The 310C was made from October 1959 to September 1960. It was the first of the 310 series to have a multiplex output jack, so with the addition of a Scott 335 multiplex adapter you can have stereo sound. The front panel sports the Scott trademark circular backlit tuning dial, an on-off switch, a distant-local switch, and an output level knob, and a Dynaural noise suppression knob. Its measured IHFM sensitivity is 2.1 uv. It has no AFC circuit because Scott tuners don't need one. A 1957 ad for the 310B tuner, quotes a satisfied owner "I tuned my 310 to WXHR, Boston, left it there for several weeks, simply turning it on and off each day. The 310 didn't drift off station once." My own experience with the model 310C confirms that Scott owners' testimonial.
The sound of the 310C is on the warm side. It makes commercial rock stations sound better than most transistor tuners I've heard. The top end is very good, unlike many tuners of the l959, some of which had as much as 6 db top end roll-off at 15KHZ. Cymbals retain their sizzle, and flutes still have their air over the 310C. Bass response is rounder and fuller than neutral, with a slight mid-bass hump. The midrange is the 310s glory. Disco, Heavy Metal, New wave; it all sounds wonderful through the 310. Yes, it's euphonic as the blazes, but when you stop to consider how many stations the 310C makes listenable, it's worth having around even if you already own a state-of-the-art transistor tuner.
The soundstage of the 310C with the outboard MPX adapter is remarkable. It equals the width of the Magnum Dynalab FT 101 tuner, and is wider than the Scott 350. The focus is also excellent, noticeably better than the 350. On Friday afternoon and Saturday evening live broadcasts from Boston’s' Symphony Hall, the 310 retains all the spatial information, and depth of the broadcast.
The question has come up "How do you judge FM tuner quality since there is no standard reference source, like a favorite record that you can slap on for comparison?" My favorite reference source for harmonic balance is the human voice, and what voice is more repeatable than that of a disk jockey? My favorite reference voice is that of Robert J. Lurtsema, from NPR member station WGBH. I've been using his voice for years for fine-tuning subwoofer and bi-amp setups. It is just low enough that excess midbass becomes painfully obvious. At 7:00 AM, when he first comes on, he uses about five minutes of bird sounds from Tanglewood to open his program. What better way to check high-end response than the sound of small feathered creatures in heat? I have a subscription to the Boston Symphony, and very often I tape, and listen, to the Friday broadcasts of concerts I attended Thursday evening. Sometimes it is amazing just how close to the actual live sound the broadcast sound can get. Dynamics are compressed by the radio station to avoid blowing up their transmitter, but soundstage information, and
overall harmonic balance are retained very nicely.
While in theory, tube tuners suffer from greater tendency toward front end overload by powerful stations in urban environments, RF interference, and inferior multipath rejection of "ghost" signals than transistor designs, I haven't heard any practical demonstrations of these shortcomings with the 310C. I'm located about 3 miles from downtown Boston, and while some stations do occupy a broader area on the 310Cs' dial than they do on my Magnum Dynalab 101 tuner, in late night logging tests using the Magnum "Silver Ribbon" dipole antenna, the 310 brought in 39 stations to the Magnums' 45. Not too bad for outmoded technology.
On days of poor reception, the 310C is not appreciably worse than the Magnum. WBUR, an NPR station in Boston affiliated with Boston University occasionally produces background hum or whistles with the Scott 350 in multiplex stereo mode, but the 310C is as silent as the Magnum. If you do a great deal of off the air taping, as I do, you will find that the 310C is the equal of almost any modern tuner, this can't be said for many older tube designs. On the Scott 350, for instance, there is no way to insure that during the course of a two hour live symphony broadcast it will maintain good clean reception for the entire length of the concert.
Early 310s (up through the 310D) are quite inexpensive on the used market. The problem is that the multiplex adapter, model 335, needed for stereo reception is not as readily available, and is usually more expensive than the tuners themselves. Other manufacturers' MPX adapters can be used with the 310s. I've tried the Fisher unit, and the results were virtually identical in terms of performance, it did sound differently, however. Other adapters like those made by Eico or Bogan may not produce as satisfactory results, as some of their early units were not up to the quality of the Fisher and Scott units.
The 310E was made for a limited time in 1963. It is my favorite Scott tuner. I like it so much, I sold my Magnum Dynalab Ft101, in favor of the 310E in my main system. It brought in almost as many stations as the Dynalab (43 stations to 45 for the Dynalab), and did it with more musical sound. It is as drift-free as the 310C or the Dynalab, and best of all, it was cheap - $75. The 310E is more neutral than the 310C. Gone is the mid-bass hump, and excess warmth. The 310E has a more extended top end than the 310C. Its' top end extension is the equal of the Magnum Dynalab FT 101. The 310E has a slightly more spacious soundstage than the 310C, and more apparent depth than the Dynalab. While the Dynalab is certainly not raspy or hard, like many solid-state tuners (the Sony STJ-75 comes to mind), it sounds somewhat raspy compared to the 310E.
The only negative about the 310E is its looks. It resembles, not so much the middle period Scott tuners, like the 350, as the early solid-state models, like the 312. Gone are the curved corners and brass knobs. Instead we have plastic knobs with metal caps that come unglued and fall off, similar to the knobs the famous Fisher 500 series receivers. It is boxy, and squat, and even a well-finished wooden case won't help it much. Yup, it looks ugly, but sounds beautiful.
The 310E makes a very good argument for never spending more than $100 for a tube tuner. While I haven't done a mano-a-manos with Scott 4310s or Marantz 10Bs, I can't see why, other than collectors' mania, anyone would put out the big bucks for these pieces. The 310E blows away a stock Macintosh MR 71 tube tuner. The Scott receives more channels, with higher definition, more high-end extension, and better harmonic balance. The Mac sounds dark and harmonically constricted in comparison.
When I asked Daniel Von Recklinghausen, Scotts' chief design engineer during the period of "classic" tube equipment, which Scott tuner he liked the best, he said, without hesitation, the 310E.
The 350 was the first tuner to have a built in multiplex adapter. Its front panel is simplicity itself, containing the by now famous circular tuning dial, AGC Multiplex-mono switch, Stereo noise filter switch, level control knob, on-off selector knob for mono, stereo, and stereo with sub channel filter, and tuning meter. It is finished in the traditional golden bronze brushed aluminum.
The 350 has good sensitivity (2.5uv IHFM method), and 35db selectivity. When compared to a Scott 310C, it logged in as many stations, but only the strong local stations were of equal sonic quality to the 310C. With some stations there is a tendency towards whistling and humming if the station is not tuned in precisely. Luckily the 350 has an output level control, because at full output the 350 is capable of overloading some preamp line inputs. Like the 310C, the 350 as the ability to soften the hard edges, and warm up the metallic midranges of Rock stations. It is a euphonic unit, but its effect is subtle enough not to engulf stations with good sonics in a honey dipped glaze.
As I mentioned earlier, the 350 is not the equal of the 310C. Reception quality can vary from day to day, and sometimes hour to hour. There is a noticeable midbass hump that on most systems will require an adjustment of subwoofer levels. The soundstage is not as wide, nor does it have the focus of the 310C. Tuning is made more difficult because the tuning knob is metal, and by touching it you become part of the antenna system. Perhaps the best way to deal with this is to tune the 350 wearing gloves, but in the summer this may be rather uncomfortable.
The 350 series went through the 350D, which was finally discontinued in September 1966. The 350B had a neat feature on the front panel - a quarter inch stereo phono plug for going directly into tape recorders.
The 330 series were both AM and FM tuners. None of the 330s had built in multiplex, but the C and D do have MPX out jacks. The 330s call themselves stereo tuners, but they are not. Early experiments in stereo broadcasting involved putting one channel on AM
and the other on FM. The 330s are set up so you can get AM in the right channel and FM in the left. This is great for listening to the ball game and the opera at the same time, other than this rather bizarre use its contemporary functionality is limited.
Cosmetically, the 330D sports dual circular vernier backlit tuning knobs. One nice touch is that the light is brighter on the dial in use. In AM/FM stereo mode the two dials are equally lit. Besides the two tuning dials, the 330D has a AM-FM tuning meter switch, a knob that turns the unit on and selects mono, stereo, or stereo reverse mode, and a knob that chooses AM, wideband AM, distant AM, and FM. The 330D has 12 tubes. The FM side of the 330D sounds much like the 310C, and all my comments about the 310C could be echoed here. The AM section is a pleasant surprise. In wideband mode it is quite listenable, with extended highs and a well-controlled bass. If Stereo AM broadcasts sound this good, there may be a future on the AM dial after all. It's too bad that in Boston there isn't anything accept ball games on AM worth listening to, unless talk-radio is your oeuvre.
The 333 is the first of the 330 series with a built-in multiplex adapter. It wasn't made until September 1962, and by July 1963 had been replaced by the 333B, which was discontinued in September 1965, along with a majority of Scotts' tube products.
The 340, introduced in September 1962, is the precursor of the modern receiver. It was basically a 350 tuner combined with a 299 integrated amplifier. It was rated at 60 Watts (30 per side) utilizing 2 7559 output tubes per side. The pre-amp section consisted of 4 12AX7s. While Scott tried to keep as close to the styling of its tuners as possible, with the ever present circular back-lit dial, the 340 has a somewhat clunky look of most of the early receivers. It weighed a hefty 35 lbs, and measured 16 3/4' by 5 1/2" by 16 1/2", not the largest tube receiver ever made, but still quite a load to carry. This is the sort of piece that UPS loves to drop from off the back of their trucks due to its size and weight. I have not seen or heard one of these beasts, so I can't tell you how it sounds. I could guess that its sounds very much like a 350 through a 299C or LK-72 integrated amps, both of which will be discussed later in the series.
A unique feature on the 340 was a little thing called a "sonic monitor". To find which FM stations were broadcasting in stereo, the user had merely to switch in the sonic monitor and tune across the FM band till the tuner emitted a monitor tone through the systems' speakers. The user was then assured of tuning a "true" stereo signal. Perhaps it even worked, but it did not find its way onto any later designs.
The 355 was an 333 AM/FM multiplex tuner combined with a 130 preamplifier. Scott recommended their 208 40 watt per side power amplifier as a companion piece. Unlike the 330 series, which had two circular dials, the 355 has only one dial that serves double duty for both AM and FM. I find it overly busy looking, but those who are into knobs and switches may find it attractive. It weighs 19 lbs, and measures 16 3/4" by 5 1/2" by 13". The preamp section may be bypassed so that the tuner may be used alone. The FM specs are the same as a 350.
The 311 series were a less expensive alternative to the 310. The 311D was Spartan in appearance, with only a circular vernier dial, and on-off power switch, a tuning meter, and a volume level knob. Its specs were only slightly inferior to the 310 while it was only 2/3 the price. Both the C and D have MPX out jacks. The 311 series was replaced by the model 314 in July 1960, it too had an MPX out jack. The 314 was made until September 1964 when it was replaced by the solid-state model 315 in September 1965.
Considering how inexpensive early 310s are on the used market, there would seem to be little reason to pick up a 311, but a 311 is nothing to be ashamed of, and its performance with a 335 MPX adapter is superior to the 350.
This was a kit made by Scott between September 1960 and September 1962. It was available briefly as a factory-assembled kit for about six months in 1961. It was slightly more sophisticated than a 311D, but not as good as a 310. The LT-10s' specs were quite respectable, with 2.2 uv usable sensitivity, 60 db SN ratio, 6 db capture ratio, and 30 to 15KHZ frequency response +-1 db. The LT-10 was available in brown as well as the more standard golden bronze.
When compared to the 310C, the LT-10s' performance was identical. It logged in the identical number of stations, with an equal number of listenable quality. It has the same warm sound, reasonably extended highs, and midbass bump. It does not have quite the soundstage presentation of the 310C, it is a bit narrower, and the focus is slightly more diffuse.
The stereo version of the LT-10 is the LT-110. It is identical except for the inclusion of an internal multiplex decoder circuit. Its intriguing that later LT-10s had space set aside for an internal MPX decoder, but to my knowledge such an internal add-on unit was never brought to market. The LM-35, a kit version of the 335 external MPX decoder was marketed from September 1962 to April 1963. There was also an LT-110B, made from September 1964 to September 1966, as well as an LT-111, made for nine months in late 1963.
Of all the Scott tube tuners, the LT series are the most plentiful. Probably their bargain price of just under $90 for the LT-10, and $162 for the LT-110, excellent specs, and ease in assembly made them justifiably popular. I picked up an LT-10 along with its companion model LK-72 integrated amplifier at a thrift shop for $40 for the pair. This price, rather than being a steal, is a fair price for this equipment. Depending on a particular kit builders' skill, you may find them to have workmanship even superior to factory-assembled models.
Touted as "The Best Where Only The Best Will Do", the 4310 lived up to Scotts' marketing hype. Its usable sensitivity exceeded 1.9 uv, selectivity was better than 50db, spurious response rejection over 85db, separation better than 35db, measured frequency response of 19 to 29KHZ, and capture ratio a minimum of 2.2db. The 4310 had 20 tubes, 21 diodes, and weighed 25 pounds. It was the last example of tube tuner technology to emerge from Scott, and was only made from April 1963 to September 1964. At a list price of $480 not many
Among the 4310s' unique features were a special series of relays which automatically selected between stereo and mono reception depending upon which could provide a minimum satisfactory signal. The minimum standard was user adjustable on the front panel by a "Stereo Threshold" knob. VU meters were supplied for each channel to monitor output levels and indicate separation levels while a third meter indicated signal strength. Other front panel details included separate level knobs for each channel, a master level knob, AGC switch, A function knob giving the user a choice of normal, sub channel filter or stereo filter, and assorted lights for stereo, and standby. If you get the impression the front panel was rather busy, you're right.
Some radio stations who were part of a national concert broadcast network used several of these tuners in a series, with antennae set up slightly different on each, and rigged up so that which ever tuner was receiving the strongest signal at any one time would be the receiver for his or her own broadcasts. Imagine three of four 4310s lined up side by side.... the mind boggles.
I've never seen a 4310 "in the flesh" so any attempts to describe it sonically would be an exercise in speculative fiction, at best. Even if it is only slightly better than a 310, it would be an impressive tuner indeed. Perhaps for a later installment I'll locate one to compare to a Marantz 10B, or Fisher FM-1000.
The 4310 was replaced in September 1964 by the 4312, a solid-state version. The 4312 was not completely solid state however, the front end used four nuvistors. It was $115 cheaper, was even uglier than the 4310, and was made for only one year.
With the 4312, our survey of Scott tuners comes to an end. While I would never suggest people sell their Magnums, Sequeras, and Macintosh MR 78s, and buy old Scotts in their place, there are some very good reasons for owning an old Scott in addition to a modern tuner. The euphonic and forgiving nature of Scott tuners makes them ideal for listening to some of the nastier signal sources on the FM dial. In their original walnut cases, fully restored, they look marvelous. For half the price of a mint copy of Casino Royal you can
have an infinite source of music.
Next Installment of "The Antique Collector" will cover Scott power amplifiers, preamps, integrated amps, and Turntables.