Adventures with cartridges

for the past few years I have used Ortofon Quintet Bronze on an SME309 on a Gyrodeck. Its a decent enough cartridge but a bit rolled off in the highs and has a bit of a laid back presentation which works well on some albums but less so for more guitar based rock. I was craving a bit more bit, attack and excitement . There are lots of carts out there but getting to hear them is sometimes a bit tricky

I figured that as the cartridge might realistically have 6months life left in it and thought that it was time to consider a new cartridge. A few weeks ago I ventured up to Audio T in Reading where they let me hear three carts : Audionote IQ3, Rega Ania Pro and a Hanna Ml all on their Rega RP9 .

I had heard the Rega cart before and thought that was likely to be the winner however, it seemed really harsh and smudged compared with the other two , The Hana had a high treble extension which was controlled and lots of air and space m it was smooth across the full range but lacked something, I am not sure what the right term is ,to me it lacked a bit of bite and the bass seemed a bit lean. the Audionote had plenty of punch and attack and whilst lacking the same treble resolution was a lot of fun. I found the Audionote whilst not as hi fi as the Hanna was certainly a lot more exciting with the music I was playing ( mostly rock and some complex prog)

The Hanna at £1030 was at the top of my budget however, I ended up receiving a backdated pay award and now have enough spare cash to splash.

At the weekend I was meeting friends for afternoon tea at the Wallace collection and wandered into KJ West One who extolled the virtues of the Lyra Delos. Claiming that it was one of the best sub £2k carts out there. So I have a demo booked in two weeks time for that. I will ask if they can let me hear the similarly priced Dynavector XX2
I suspect a new phono stage will be in the works for next year

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You should also have a listen to the D17DX. Same price as XX2. You might prefer it.

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I have the same deck and arm - I listened to both the Lyra and the Dynavectors, could have lived with either but following the dealers’ advice I also heard the Linn Krystal which to my surprise sounded better than the others. Mine is set up via a Naim Superline so the impedance etc could be tailored to the cartridge. If you are near a Linn dealer I’d suggest having a listen.

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I have just had a Dynavector XX2 installed on my LP12-Ittok by John K at Brighton Audio-T, upgrading from a 10X5. It is better in all areas, bass deeper, tighter and cleaner. Mids and tops are also cleaner, and better articulated, and stereo imagery is improved. It gives a really engaging listening experience in my system. Took a day or so to fully bed down and needed bias tweaking a bit to get the best from it. Currently just listening to it and will probably do some more tweaking at the weekend to see if I can get it any better.

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I had a DV17DX, followed by three XX2MkIIs. I thought that the XX2 was better by a considerable margin in my lovely ARO.

I have now a Te Kaitora Rua, which easily betters both - as it should, given the relative prices.

I think that Dynavector cartridges are great value for money, if anything so expensive can never be given that term.

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That’s a shame - you could have had my ‘dead’ XX2 FOC, and got yourself a 40% discount on the ‘new’ price!

And I know Audio T in Brighton well.

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Interesting stuff. Your description of the Audionote is typical of comparing many MM carts to a MC cart.

I have had 2 Hana SLs and the bass does not wake up for about 50hrs. Did you have any indication of the hours on the carts you were listening to?

All the Lyras I have heard have been bright to my ears and Dynavectors have generally sounded lovely.

Hope you come up with what works best for you.

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I had no idea how many hours of run in on where on the demo carts

I now have a 2 week wait simply because my weekends are so packed and saturday generally is easier for me at the moment

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I’m convinced that the ARO is a lovely arm but it’s definitely not for me. Much too wobbly. I much prefer the solidity of the Ittok and I believe that the Ittok and ARO are poles apart in terms of cartridge compatibility. I tried a Vertere DG1 a few months ago and it sounded lovely but the arm suspension is just something I don’t think I could live with. It does the job, but in an even more wobbly way than the ARO. Maybe wobbly is the right way for SQ but not for me I’m afraid :blush:

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The Lyra or DV will have the “bite” you’re looking for. Maybe a bit too much “bite”…

The ARO and a black Ittok ( which carried a 1o% uplift) are the only unequivocally great tonearms that I have had, and am familiar with.

I think that each can handle the very best cartridges.

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I ventured over to KJ West One where they had the Lyra on a Brinkman Bardo and a set of Sonus faber stand mounts.

The Delos was certainly exciting, with plenty of bite and attack with guitars, it was a touch lean with the low end a little rolled off. Wide soundstage, with vocals being driven out with great energy. It was a very dynamic and vivid sounding cart

We then tried the Dynavector which sounded a bit congested in comparison and little more relaxed. the treble lacked quite the same extension. compared with the Lyra it sounded like everything was dialled down. However, the bass was a lot fuller. The Dynavector sounded a touch warmer

I thought they sounded more exciting than the Hana which was kind of smooth and easy but made my copy of Zeppelin 2 sound a bit laid back.

When I set off on this adventure I resolved to spend no more than £850 so I am not sure how or why I decided on the Lyra. But well, here I am

Much to my surprise the dealer was so taken in with one of the albums I played that he went onto discogs and ordered himself a coy. That is a first for me

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The Lyra’s a great cartridge - I used them for 20 years. Went back to MM with replaceable styli this year in acknowledgement of my aging dithering manual dexterity (or lack thereof)!

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Was it this one you got in the end. We have similar musical tastes - rock and complex prog. I current have the AT OC9, wondering if the Delos might have the detail and more of the wham slam and punch that rock needs?

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The ‘wobbliness’ of the ARO is very disconcerting at first, but you will get used to it very quickly, and the neutrality of the arm allows the qualities of your chosen cartridge to shine through.

I believe that only around 1,400 were ever built, and I have two of them!

You’d be very welcome to come and listen if you’re ever in the Brighton area.

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Glad I’m not the only one…I found the DV XX2 Mk 2 to sound as you describe.

I had three DV XX2 Mk 2 cartridges in my ARO over the course of ten or twelve years.

Last year I traded up to a Te Kaitora Rua, which is a very considerable improvement over the XX2s.

Dynavector make a range of very good cartridges, of strikingly different design, and I don’t think that they get the attention or credit that they deserve.

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Indeed, over the yrs I did trade up to the TKR, much better.

It rocks! And no hardness or brightness. Wonderful cart, I had two before.

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If “wham slam and punch” is what you’re after go for a good MM instead.

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