Arcam has a strong history in tuners, both analogue (FM/AM) and digital. So it's no surprise to hear of a new addition to the range, but what's interesting about the T32 is that it features iPod integration, via Arcam's rDock or rLead.
Isn't this an odd thing to build into a tuner, you might ask? But, then again, why not? It's easy enough to build iPod connectivity into anything with some control logic in it, which these days means practically anything.
When we asked Arcam why the company chose a tuner to host this function, the answer was simple: a two-line text display is needed to work an iPod efficiently – ditto for a tuner. Basically, says Arcam, this was the simplest way to build an iPod interface into a simple stereo hi-fi. You do need to add an 'rLead' (£60) or an 'rDock' (£140) though.
You'll need the supplied cD90 universal remote control to get sense out of an iPod and it also helps with radio functions. Basic tuning is arguably easier from the front panel, though, using the 'analogue-like' tuning knob.
Manual tuning is brisk and efficient, while presets (100 of them) work in the usual way. DAB tuning, as ever, is a matter of scanning for stations just once, then selecting them by name. In all modes functions are basic but sufficient: the one we missed is any way of fast-forwarding with a track on the iPod.
While many current DAB/FM tuners use a single module for both bands, Arcam has gone the whole way and fitted completely separate circuits for both. The FM section is not, as is frequent practice, a complete bought-in module, but Arcam's own design based on a small pre-assembled first stage and followed by high-performance decoding chips, including RDS.
Audio stuff is handled by high-grade op-amps, while a very good quality DAC converts DAB to analogue. With an eye to international appeal, inputs include Sirius radio (available in the USA). But, there's no digital output.
There's no denying that this is one of the best new FM tuners we've heard in a while. It may not have high-end pretensions and it would indeed be seen off by a Magnum Dynalab or something of that ilk, but such models are rare and for a modest sum of money we can't think off-hand of any current tuner that will outclass it for its combination of clarity, natural tonality and freedom from obvious reception nasties.
That last point requires some slight clarification, for this is after all not a 'DX' (distant reception) model and needs a reasonable amount of signal to work properly, but given that it is admirably immune to breakup or breakthrough, due to unwanted station frequency being too close to the one tuned in.
We even had fair results in inner London with the supplied wire antenna, but for most listening preferred a rooftop one. Thus equipped, the T32 produced a lively, energetic sound with impressive discrimination between instruments and particularly fine bass, firm and solid with clean attack and unambiguous pitch.
The treble is nearly as good: there's a little more constriction than we've heard from some high-end tuners, but once again we'd have to say that performance here is about as good as it gets from any sub-£1,000 tuner. Stereo imaging is good with fair depth – a very tricky aspect of FM to get just right.
DAB sound is less clearly differentiated from the competition: it's good, but in our experience if a DAB tuner works basically correctly (and most of them do) the differences in sound from one model to another are smaller than between examples of almost any other item of audio kit.
The same is largely true for iPod docks, though differences can be clearer with uncompressed audio. With an rDock, we had some very good results from the T32. FM, though, is the tough test and we're pleased to say the T32 passes it with flying colours.