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Dynavector DV 20 X L

Yet another new cartridge - hooray!!!!

[Italian version]

Product: Dynavector DV 20 X L, MC phono cartridge
Manufacturer: Dynavector - Japan
Reviewer: Geoff Husband

[Dynavector DV 20X]Dynavector asked me not to give the retail price of this cartridge for the reason that due to different taxes etc the price worldwide will vary greatly.
However if I tell you that it goes head-to-head with the Shure V15 and is a little cheaper than the Ortofon Supremes you'll be able to work out that it is priced towards the bottom of the serious cartridge ladder.

A look at the photo opposite shows that for your money you get a fine looking cartridge... Milled from a solid block of alloy and with a sexy red spot it could easily pass for a four figure exotic.

Enough of my prejudice for good looking kit, what about the beef?

Construction - technical

This is a low output (0.25 mV) moving coil cartridge. There is a high output version at the same price, but the inevitably heavier coils will compromise quality to a certain extent - here we have the purist version. That alone makes it more demanding as it needs a proper MC input or a step up transformer, adding to the cost of the system. In my case I used an Audion step-up transformer into my Audion Silver Knight pre, a combination which gave a good volume match with other sources. At 12 cu it's a medium compliance device designed to work with most quality medium mass arms.
Here the emphasis is on quality, such a cartridge inevitably puts more energy into an arm than a lower compliance MM such as the V15 and so needs a rigid platform to work properly - My own SME IV fitting the bill perfectly. At 8.5grams it's of middling weight and it shares with the Ortofon Supremes all body 19 mm high.
The aforementioned solid body is very unusual at this price, supposedly giving freedom from the various resonances that joints in the structure can cause. In all these respects it resembles far more expensive cartridges. Where it differs is in the stylus and cantilever assembly.
Here Dynavector have used a simple elliptical stylus on the end of an aluminium tube. No exotic line-contact beryllium here. Against rivals from Shure, Ortofon and Goldring this part of the spec is a little prosaic but as always the proof is in the sound, not the spec sheet. Lastly Dynavector supplied a frequency response curve for the test cartridge. My thanks to them for that.
Interestingly it shows a gently downsloping trace, the mid-treble being 3 dbl. down on the bass which holds up well right down to 20 Hz. There is rising output at the extreme treble from 15 to 20 kHz. being 3dbl up from the midrange at this point, perhaps caused by tip resonance, though it looks too smooth a rise for that - more on this in the next section...

Sound Quality

Fitting the cartridge was simple as always on the SME IV, a threaded body would have been nice but I won't go on about it... The recommended tracking force is 1.8-2.2 grams so I settled for 2.0 grams and similar anti skate. I then left the beast alone in a locked groove for 24 hours to bed in.

Within a few seconds of dropping the needle onto the first test record it was apparent that here was something I was going to enjoy reviewing :-)
Some components make an immediate impression on me and in most cases it is because they have fine dynamics. Here the Dynavector really shines, Nirvannas 'Breed' crashed out with massive weight and power, the rhythm driving forward with gusto. It was obviously of the same 'bassmeister' school as the V15, bass lines rumbling or slamming out in turn.
Bass was not quite as ground shaking as the V15 but there wasn't a lot in it. Further up the scale the midrange had that open quality of a good MC, clearly showing the V15's reticence in this department, though like the V15 the slightly tailored response did leave one feeling there should be a little more there.
The top end was extended, the cymbal on Take Five shimmering appropriately in space. What the cartridge did lack was the measured neutrality of the Ortofon Supremes, though from a personal point of view the Dynavector, like the V15, made the Ortofons sound dynamically challenged... The slight hint of a ting - boom balance didn't intrude with most music, but at times sibilants could be drawn out and emphasised, especially on modern recordings with lots of reverb which are inclined that way anyway.
This is not a splashy distortion, but it could irritate at times, perhaps the price to pay for the nice cymbals...

Inevitably with a cartridge at this price there are going to be compromises. The sound didn't match the fluidity of a top MC - Dynavector wouldn't thank me if I said that it did - they make top MC's... There is a hint of grain that the Ortofons lack and the V15 avoids by being less pushy in the midrange. Sometimes there was an impression the cartridge was just working a little too hard to impress.
Soundstaging was par for the course at the price with good width but a lack of air around images, often the price paid by dynamic equipment.

Tracking ability did show some cause for concern though. Playing Marleys 'Exodus' album the heavy dubbed bass transients caught the stylus out occasionally, as did Bruce Springstein's 'Dancing in the Dark', producing a crack! as mistracking set in. Using the HFN+RR test record the Dynavector struggled to track the 16 dbl 300hz test and showed hints of mistracking at 14 dbl, something the V15 sailed through. That said the problem only raised it's head on a few very tricky records though perhaps Reggae fans might find the V15 a better bet.

Having damned the tracking, the Dynavector does shine in one unexpected area - timing. I'm not sure why but somehow it made musical threads hang together in a coherant way. Suddenly my Gyro sounded like an LP12, Los Lobos boogied effortlessly through 'Be Still' - that complex rhythm making sense at last. This sort of thing is beyond price, I'd gladly give up filigree detail, or holgraphic imaging for something that makes me want to get up and dance.


Reading this review it seems I've spent a lot of time picking holes in the Dynavectors performance. The reason is that it's a characterful device. It isn't a perfect or neutral transducer, rather it's a bouncy extrovert of a cartridge.
If you're after tonal purity then go for the Ortofons. If you don't have a top arm or decent MC stage, or if your system is inclined to be bright go for the V15, but if you enjoy the same things in music that I do I don’t think you can improve on it at anything like the price.

© Copyright 1999 Geoff Husband - http://www.tnt-audio.com

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