Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Losing those vinyl blues

After much searching, asking, reading and talking, I received several clear instructions on how to improve the sonics with the Dynavector 10x5, described below as whining away like a radio antenna trying to find a decent signal at the outer reaches of the dial. The Dynavector distributor had not heard of this problem before, nobody with any familiarity with my rig could explain it, and folks online suggested that since the cartridge was new (and generally seen as good), I should get rid of my expensive Whest Phono stage (perish the thought) or find a new phono cable that was 'better shielded'. Jim Wang at Harmonic Tech assured me his cables are well shielded and something else was afoot, and afoot it was, all the time, right there in front my eyes (well not quite, but almost).  A quick email to Whest about it resulted in a might helpful suggestion from James Henriot, chief designer, that I check the gain setting on the phono stage. Duh.......there it was, sitting way too high for comfort with the 2.5mv outputting Dynavector. One quick switch and harmony was restored, no more dive bombing sounds.

In my defense, setting gain on the Whest phono stage is not exactly simple. One gains access to the internal dip switches only by unscrewing too many tiny screws on the top, then using something smaller than my fingers to push a dip switch on each channel on or off. The recommended loading for the Dynavector is 47k when gain is set to 55dB. Any more gain and you get extra whistles with the sonic bells, so to speak. I'd managed to control these by loading the cartridge down but at a cost in liveliness and resolution. Now, when I read anyone online complaining about the 10x5's whining sonics in their rig, I know the answer is probably in their gain settings.  Me, I'm leaving the screws out of the top of the phono stage so I can get easier inside access for future changes, just laying the top on without fixing it down, it works a treat.

For the record, here's what James Henriot of Whest says you should think about when setting gain on any cartridge:
"The gain issue with catridges is simple as long as the phono stage has been designed properly:   
43dB =  MM
50-55dB high-output MC
60-65dB low-output  MC
72dB very low output MC
All Whest stages are MC designs.  The noise/load levels are steered to low output MC UNLIKE most other phonstages which are MM designs that can playback MC. The the latter designs have higher noise levels (impedances are too high) and the loading values 'fight' the internal impedances."

As for the 10x5 (and more than one person has asked what I am thinking by putting one on an SME 20/2), I have to say, it's surprisingly satisfying musically. At $450 you have few choices in quality cartridges but you should expect decent sonics, believable timbre and midrange while perhaps giving up extension at both extremes. The 10x5 is lively, full sounding,  not as resolving as the Concerto in so many key areas but engaging and lifelike, presenting music in a full and solid manner that makes me tap my toes. And believe it or not, it even had me listening to an old favorite, Paul Brady's Hard Station LP, and hearing a few details that I'd not really noticed before. How's that for the price?  More as it all settles in and I do final tweaks, but I feel comfortable enough with what I am hearing to tell folks putting their toes into higher end analog waters to buy one and live large. Just get that gain setting right!

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