Are analog AM/FM tuners still a viable hi-fi source?

They definitely are but there are four key considerations.

The most obvious one is the contingency on broadcasters continuing to use the analog 88 – 108 MHz band in Australia and elsewhere. Once these broadcasts cease, that’s it.

The secoond is less obvious and that’s source material quality. With good, uncompressed source material, the quality achievable with really good FM tuners is extraordinary. Stations like ABC classical and some of the smaller independent stations playing CDs and records can deliver excellent sound quality via a quality analog tuner, much better than the compressed, lossy streams on DAB or digital radio.

My beloved Marantz 125 tuner never ceases to amaze me with its richness and space, playing stations like these, even when they are sometimes digital streams being re-broadcast. It’s a lot to do with how they are produced. BUT, with many commercial stations, running compressed, thin-sounding streams sound bad on whatever you play them on, be that DAB or analog FM.

Thirdly, the antenna is very important with analog FM tuners, less so for AM. A proper roof-mounted FM antenna will boost signal strength, reducing distortion and noise for the cleanest reception and best sound quality.

The last consideration is tuner alignment. AM/FM tuners often have between 10 and 20 separate alignment stages that require high-performance RF alignment equipment, and a knowledge of how to use it. These alignments need to be done periodically, maybe every 10 – 20 years as components age and change. Good tuners, properly aligned often have 0.1% system distortion or less.