Manufacturer: Dynavector - Japan
Price: approx 3500 Euro
Author: Geoff Husband - TNT France
Reviewed: February, 2005
Product: Dynavector 507 tonearm
Manufacturer: Dynavector - Japan
Price: approx 3500 Euro
Reviewer: Geoff Husband - TNT France
Reviewed: February, 2005
This is the second 507 I've had in my greasy hands - the first, sent over two years ago was a MK1 supplied to go onto the Loth-X Aida turntable. Sadly Loth-X screwed up and sent the wrong armboard, as this was a massive hunk of stainless steel I could do little about it and continued the review using the Hadcock 242. With nothing to mount the 507 on (too big, too heavy for the Orbe) it was passed on and so an arm I'd long wanted to test escaped my clutches.
Move on to last summer (2004). Dynavector introduce the 507 Mk2 DRT (*) which as well as detailed improvements is designed to be more widely compatible being more compact than the Mk1. So Dynavector send one over and I contact Michell for an armboard - no way were they going to agree to me testing the 507 on the Orbe! Why? Because the thing weighs 3lbs (1380 grms) and would have the Orbe chassis flat on the bumpstops...
But I'm not to be denied... With the immense patience of Dynavector, I hunted for a turntable capable of coping with such a heavy beast - in effect a top, solid-plinth design. And 'voila' Opera Audio came up trumps with their beautiful LP 5.0.
Great :-) Then I noticed that they'd screwed up with the armboard and put the holes in the wrong place (I'd supplied the correct template). Soooo, you've guessed it, the Hadcock got roped in to do arm duties and to save my neck again...
But I still had to review the 507. Opera supplied a second armboard - and guess what - it was just the same as the first... AAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!
By now I'm getting embarrassed, Dynavector are politely asking what's going on and so I storm over to my father-in-laws workshop and drill out the damn armboard myself (OK he did it but I watched...).
Perfect. The arm slotted in perfectly - er... but the DIN plug/cable exits straight down on the 507 and the supplied cable needed about 70mm of clearance, not the 50 offered by the Opera.
Lesser men would have cried at this point but I'm made of sterner stuff. I had a blank DIN plug with a right angle exit (SME) which would be perfect. Ever soldered a DIN plug? Me neither - I ended up with a lump of melted plastic, a hole in my jumper and a wreaked plug. Now I cried.
"Fear not young man!" cried Len Gregory (of Music Maker fame) "I'll make you up one of my solid core silver cable with an SME plug."
The man is a saint (he supplied the Hadcock too...).
So after 8 months of waiting the thing was finally bolted up on a turntable and set spinning.
Was it worth the effort?
If you look at my 'primer' on arm design you'll not find the 507 mentioned - it doesn't fall easily into any of the categories described, it is a totally unique take on the problems of arm design and I'm going to do my very best to explain the ideas behind it.
If a record groove was perfectly flat and ran like a tape in a straight line, then the perfect arm would be a block of concrete holding the cartridge absolutely stationary. But sadly an arm needs to track across the disc and ride over warps (no record is perfectly flat).
Every other pivoted arm on the planet (to my knowledge) pivots around one point in space, to give vertical and horizontal movement. Parallel trackers only have one vertical pivot and otherwise glide on some other bearing (e.g. air) to track across the disc. The 507 splits the two.
The 507 is in fact two 'arms'. The first is pivoted at the arm base giving only horizontal movement, the second is a vestigial arm, which offers only vertical motion, the pictures do a better job than my description :-) As the former applies no downforce, and in the vertical plane is 'invisible' to the cartridge it can be massive. And so it is, perhaps better to call it a gantry - a thick aluminium channel section bar (no pipe resonances), thoughts of rigidity simply don't come into it.
The second arm is only 85mm from pivot to stylus and because it is so short it is very light, in this case the very shortness guarantees stiffness.
Why bother? - What the cartridge 'sees' is a very low mass arm in the vertical direction allowing it to ride over warps with ease, the stylus/cantilever/generator remaining in the ideal alignment rather than being forced out of line. Horizontally the cartridge sees something pretty close to that block of concrete - a very high effective mass, thus holding the cartridge absolutely solid in the groove. This is possible as the arm isn't totally solid but only needs to allow for the slow movement of the arm across the disc and slow frequency back-and-forth drift of eccentric records. Measuring the resonance frequency of the Dynavector XX-2 with 507 gave a horizontal frequency of 6 Hz, a vertical of 11 Hz, confirming the huge difference in the effective mass the cartridge 'sees'. Another way to put this would be that the 'ellipsoid of inertia' is a squashed oval, rather than the circle of something like an SME V.
This is a similar result to that which you get with some parallel trackers. The difference is that such arms are generally fussy as the horizontal bearing needs air pumps or motors or all sorts of weird and wonderful bearings, all of which need to be kept perfectly clean. Their horizontal motion is sometimes a bit 'sticky' as such linear bearings are very tough to get right. The 507 dispenses with this by being a more conventional bearing race, simply pivoting around a point. It does mean that the cartridge will swing through an arc so cannot give the perfect alignment a parallel tracker is theoretically capable of.
The other characteristic shared with parallel trackers is that short and very stiff vestigial arm tube. There's a school of thought that the performance advantages of a parallel tracker are primarily down to this rather than 'perfect' alignment - if so the 507 has many of the parallel trackers advantages without the disadvantages.
So much for the theory, but the 507 has other tricks up it's sleeve. Damping is provided by electromagnetic induction, a curved ferrous plate running between two magnets. The arm rest has a little magnet corresponding with a tiny steel pin on the main arm so that as the arm swings back it finally goes 'click' into the rest - beautiful. Both anti-skate and downforce are dialed in, the latter at the end of the main arm. Arm height can be adjusted 'on-the-fly', the lever working in a curved slot is no micrometric adjustment, but it works. And on that point VTA obsessives should write the 507 off their lists (along with parallel trackers) as the very short armtube multiplies any error by a factor of 3-4 compared to a conventional arm.
One controversial design feature, and one that traces the arms origins to the 1970's, is the use of a detachable headshell using an SME type collar. These went out with the Ark as they add a joint in the armtube, a break in the signal wires, reduce rigidity and add resonances. BUT it seems that for many people arm 'wands', which have a joint at the pivot end, are very popular and this led me to think that perhaps the biggest disadvantage of the detachable headshell is that it places a big lump of unwanted mass right at the end of the armtube where it will raise effective mass the most. Mass that could be better used stiffening the arm or just lowering effective mass overall. We've already seen that the 507 has low effective mass despite the headshell so have seen no need to get rid of it - certainly from a convenience point-of-view it's a godsend.
To emphasise this the headshell of the 507 weighs a massive 15 grms - it's machined from a solid block of aluminium - needed to get the effective mass high enough for most MC cartridges (?). But think for a minute, own a V15 or some other ultra high compliance cartridge? Just fit a lighter headshell and drop the effective mass further so it's perfect match. Having tried a V15 on the 507 I was pleased to find all the problems it can show with high mass arms, bouncing around when cued, skipping on warps, were absent. In fact with any cartridge the rock solid horizontal arm and the simply superb, lightly damped armlift made cueing easier than any other arm I've tried.
Then there's the question of balance. The downforce 'zero' balance is simply achieved by fitting one of the three supplied weights, sliding it along the damped counterweigh stub and locking in place. But there is another adjustable counterweight. At the end of the main arm is a big square counterweight slung behind the pivot - this doesn't effect downforce of course but helps load the main horizontal bearing evenly. Above this is another round weight, which is slid back and forth to match the weight of the cartridge/headshell and to fine tune this bearing loading. Now as the arm will work perfectly well with this big mass removed entirely, it can be used for something else - by altering it's position you can change the horizontal effective mass that the cartridge 'sees'. OK it's not recommended but it's a though :-)
Finally fit and finish. Here SME is the benchmark and has been for many years. The Dynavector is the first arm I've seen that matches this standard - if you imagine SME going into heavy engineering then you get an idea of the quality of the 507.
Setting up the 507 is a doddle, the sheer solidity of the thing inspiring confidence. The detachable headshell made cartridge swaps as near to a pleasure as you are going to get and the clever little alignment gauge that fits on the headshell (see pic) speeded the process. As mentioned cueing is very easy, and mounted on a decent solid plinth turntable the combination is resistant to shocks, warps and footfalls. After briefly trying the V15 I also used the Music Maker cartridge (lowish mass, highish compliance) and Dynavectors own XX-2 and DRT-1s (the latter heavy enough to cause some arms problems). All were perfectly happy, the Music Maker, which can be fussy, being 'deliriously happy'...
One problem did manifest itself. I always do tracking tests for various cartridges using the 300 Hz test tones on the HFNRR test record. In a Hadcock, the Music Maker will clear even the highest modulations, it's the best tracking combination I've ever tested using this method. In the 507 the tracking performance reduced a little. I have a theory on this. In a vinyl groove we have a V-shaped profile with one side of the V being one channel and visa-versa. With high modulation levels these two walls will exert a force perpendicular to their surface and when summed will have a considerable upward force. As on the test record this force is constant I suspect the stylus is driven upwards against the low effective mass of the vestigial arm and loses intimate contact with the groove wall. The very light weight of the Music Maker not helping here as of course with such a low arm mass the weight of the cartridge will have a greater overall effect on effective mass. This performace was improved by using slightly higher tracking force than I would use normally (1.55 grms rather than 1.48 grms). The XX-2 tracked slightly worse than on my SME IV and the heavyweight DRT-1s tracked just as well. However at no time did mistracking raise its ugly head with any music programme so in operation it isn't a problem. I'll add that end-of-side performance was excellent, another indication good geometry and of the cartridge being given an easy time.
If you look through the TNT analogue review list you'll see I've a had a fair few arms here and I have to say that there is considerable difference in presentation between them. From the fast, dynamic, driving Hadcock and Roksan, the sheer heft of the EKOS to the mellifluous and natural Morsiani and Triplanar. Pinning the 507 into one of these sub-groups wasn't easy.
Let's look at one piece of music to illustrate the point. Everyone has heard Holst's 'Mars' so let's use that. It opens gently enough with massed strings bouncing in time, the Hadcock would pull out the sound of the bows the 'rattle' they seem to make as each bow accelerates over the strings. The Morsiani majored the flowing nature at the end of the first section as the strings soar, to be followed by the whole bass powerhouse of the orchestra building up to the climax - here you'd wish for the EKOS or maybe the SME to pin your ears back. The 507 managed to make a fair stab at combining them all. It lacked the tiny ambient clues of the 'rattle' but didn't leave you feeling robbed, rather it let the music built naturally but then when the stops were pulled out the slam (with the DRT-1s) was very close to the EKOS/ARKIVA combination. I didn't feel detail was being lost in the name of good dynamics and the whole thing hung together beautifully.
What was particularly interesting was that swapping between the cartridges showed more difference than with the SM. With the Music Maker the 507 sounded very like the Hadcock with a tremendous, clean, detailed presentation, well ahead of the Music Maker performance on the SME. Putting the DRT-1s on produced a gorgeous flowing performance with tremendous control throughout the range right down to the bottom octave. There's two ways of looking at this, either the 507 is allowing each cartridge to give of it's best, effectively disappearing, or it is exaggerating the difference between the two, particularly in respect to the big difference in vertical effective mass the two set-ups produce. Who knows? Either way this combined with the ease of cartridge swapping did make fine tuning a system using different cartridges particularly effective as in both cases the actual quality of reproduction was top class.
The arm timed very well without the rather breathless pace of the Roksan, there was no exaggeration of leading edges to the detriment of everything else. That said, if I were to characterise the presentation overall, especially with the Dynavector cartridges, then there is no doubt that the 507 leans towards the musical, flowing, natural side of the spectrum. I spend a great deal of time listening to some classic female vocal - Joni Michell, Rikki Lee Jones, Nina Simone (in mono...) et al. The 507 really let you sit back and soak up the atmosphere, emotion and texture. It cossets and warms and flatters. Very low surface noise helped keep the illusion intact.
But then drop the needle into a slab of 70's New Wave, The Undertones 'Teenage Kicks' ("greatest single of all time" according to John Peel) and all the grit and angst stab out at you - driving rhythms holding together even during wall-of-sound workout of Nirvanna's 'Breed'.
Where the 507 is slightly off the pace compared to the best is in the area of soundstaging. Here it tends to present a strong central image populated with more instruments that something like a Hadcock would separate out. This is partly due to a certain lack of 'air'. From a personal point of view I find this one of the less important perimeters of reproduction and far less important than the musical integrity the 507 shows, and which arms which do throw huge stages often lose, but YMMV - priorities again.
When it comes to detail the 507 is close to the very best. This is a really tough area to judge. The classic example is where you put on a new component and "wow! I've never heard that before" as a new detail comes out at you. As often as not you find that going back to your old set-up that detail is actually clearly audible but doesn't get pushed out at you and is integrated into the whole - so you don't pick it up. It's one reason why quick A/B demo's in shops and shows are such a recipe for disaster, initial enthusiasm followed by disillusionment. The 507 didn't pick up any new details and at first I put this down to a certain blurring of fine detail. As time went on, and as I played swaps with arms, I realised that all the detail was there, it missed nothing significant, but that nothing was pushed out at you. I grew to appreciate this quality of ease, the lack of artifice, and as sometimes happens the 507 insinuated itself into my affections rather than blinding me with a quick infatuation.
The biggest surprise though was its ability with the Music Maker. This Sumo wrestler of a tonearm working brilliantly with that quirky plastic bodied lightweight. If you want your 507 to wake you up and make your heart race the Music Maker transforms it into a lightweight - quick on it's feet and bubbling with detail.
OK I bought it (**). As you know I'm building a listening room with a system specifically for reviews (having got fed up of ripping the living room apart). Along with the Opera LP 5.0 it will be the main source for the system. Why the 507? Perfect and bomb-proof build. Easy cartridge swapping. Wide compatibility and superb sound quality.
For nearly 30 years the 507 and it's predecessor the 505 have been widely respected but rarely seen. The hegemony of suspended turntables, especially the Linn LP12 meant that compatible turntables were few and far between. But with the arrival of an increasing number of high-quality, solid-plinth decks, perhaps the 507's time has come at last.
© Copyright 2005 Geoff Husband - www.tnt-audio.com