Product: Dynavector Te Kaitora Rua moving coil pick-up cartridge
Manufacturer: Dynavector - Japan
Importer: Pear Audio; Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Price: ±2500 € (YMMV - check with your local importer due to currency fluctuations)
Availability: official local distributors and mail order
Reviewer: Mark Wheeler - TNT UK
Reviewed: June, 2011
Dynavector cartridges first came to notice when your old scribe was handed a lavish booklet at a hifi show in 1980 while peering at a pick-up arm that seemed to be competing with the contemporary Transcriptor Vestigal for ultimate weirdness points. The spanner like arm was supporting a cartridge that was extracting groove detail with alacrity. Sitting down with the leaflet and reading, complete with the equations to derive Dr Tominari's Analytical Methods in Vibrations, opened your old scribe's ears to the idea that there was more science to pick up cartridge design than ultimate trackability and more art than merely assembling precious materials on misty mountain tops. The white paper, summarised in that leaflet, looked like a well researched PhD dissertation (which is hardly surprising as Dr Tominari was a professor of magnetics at Tokyo University) and the exotic cantilevered pickups sounded like something was very right about those theories.
Unlike many moving coil cartridge solutions, the Dynavector models have maintained a dedication to response and phase accuracy, exemplified by their founder Dr Tominari's original research back in the 70s. It is interesting to note how many evenly balanced cartridges like the Dynavectors end up on the front of lush valve based systems while so many lush romantic cartridges made from exotic materials end up sweetening the source for solid state systems. However, Dynavector are also front rank choices in the domain of the Flat Earth, indicating pacey performance preserving good rhythm and timing.
They say, "Dynavector have always remained indifferent to the endless digital formats that purport to be the next breakthrough in music reproduction, safe in the knowledge that the vast heritage of music recorded on vinyl can easily equal, if not clearly out perform these new formats"
Dynavector have kept in their range the flagship model of 1980, the diamond cantilevered DV17 Karat (now in mkIII guise) which is now nearer the entry level of the range as audiophilia extortionata has climbed the inflation gravy train towards the land of diminishing returns, as each successive generation of flagship has found better solutions to converting groove wiggles into current. The entry level 20 series has always had more character and therefore still attracts loyal fans, while the Karat Ruby and Diamond models went for maxxing out the top end extension and speed (Decca style) and still have loyal followers despite a succession of ever higher states-of-the-art being introduced in the intervening decades. One of these higher states of reproduction was the Te Kaitora, commissioned by the New Zealand importer in one of those classic synergies of concept and execution between importer and manufacturer that audiophilia seems to engender.
Installation is a nightmare of fear inducing proximity to exposed micro-engineering. The Threaded titanium top plate making it much easier than if nuts and bolts were needed. Socket head stainless steel bolts are supplied in three lengths. John at Uk importers, Pear Audio, has found that installing three nylon washers in the Troika position, helps control headshell resonance. The Hadcock vestigial headshell will not allow this, but being a vestigial casting it is not prone to the resonant behaviour of the bigger girders of some arms. Just for a laugh the SME 3012 Series 1 was tried and the washers do make a big difference there. Once bolted up, set up is a breeze, it is as insensitive to VTA as I am, varying bias makes little difference and varying tracking force merely changes balance in a wholly predictable manner. Providing that extended contact stylus azimuth is correct it tracks as well as any cartridge (including the MusicMaker) and it is really obvious when azimuth is wrong as one or other channel mistracks. Simples.
The Dynavector Te Kaitora Rua moving coil cartridge is therefore, theoretically, a breeze to set up, providing care is taken not to touch any delicate exposed bits. Having once trashed one of my own 'naked' cartridges before, I have spent much of the review period petrified of the potential to damage such an expensive jewel.
Despite the ultra low coil resistance and inductance, the Dynavector Te Kaitora Rua moving coil cartridge does benefit from optimising input load; this cartridge has the lowest coil Z of the whole Dynavector range, and hence the lowest output. Where multiple gain and resistance settings are available (as on the Canor TP 306 VR+) bass quality could be altered by changing resistance. Definition tends to improve with higher resistance, but at the cost of bass weight. Finding the right compromise is an identical process to finding the right bass Q for a given driver/box combination in loudspeaker design. 300Ω+ makes the Te Kaitora Rua work for your old scribe, who tends to prefer Bessel shaped roll off, lower Z seems slow and bloated in comparison, despite Dynavector's mere 30Ω+ recommendation. All this faffing explains why TNT-audio scribblers tend to leave cartridge reviews in the patient hands of Geoff.
|Cartridge type||low output moving coil|
|Magnet type||alnico with flux damper|
|Output Voltage||0.26mV at 1KHz, 5cm/sec stereo|
|Channel Separation||30 dB at 1KHz|
|Channel balance||1.0 dB at 1KHz|
|Frequency response||20 - 20,000Hz ± 1dB|
|Compliance||10 x 10-6 cm/dyn|
|Tracking force||1.8g - 2.2g|
|DC resistance||R=5 ohms|
|Recommended load impedance||>30 ohms (see text)|
|Cantilever||6mm length solid boron|
|Stylus||PF Line contact,radius: 7 x 30 micron|
The Dynavector Te Kaitora Rua moving coil cartridge rewards this load tweaking with PRaT enough to please the flat earthers. The attention to phase response across and beyond the audible bandwidth accounts for this. In pickup cartridges, the low frequency resonance, including the shape of the peak, the way the peak is controlled (damped), how close to the audible band and how far from structural resonances elsewhere, all obviously affect the psychoacoustic perception of pace and rhythm. Clearly the electrical component of the damping (just like the electromechanical circuit of moving coil loudspeakers) is a significant contributor to the total Q in the Dynavector Te Kaitora Rua, judging by the audible effects of changing electrical load.
The Dynavector Te Kaitora Rua succeeds in timing well across the audible bandwidth, reproducing convincing percussion envelopes and brass overtones suitably coherent with the fundamental notes. Again, phase performance is responsible, especially the resonances (including the vinyl/tip HF resonance) above the top end limit of audibility, that affect in band phase and intermodulation. This is one occasion that audiophile vinyl demonstrates its worth, not just because the original signal is better preserved when cut, but the actual pressing formula is more consistently elastic.
The word 'STEREO' is Greek for 'solid'. It does not mean 2 channel, binaural or two of anything, Stereo means SOLID. Blumlein's experiments were all about trying to create the audible illusion of solid performers via electrical means. The Dynavector Te Kaitora Rua moving coil cartridge achieves this exceptionally well in comparison to moving iron competitors like the Cartridge Man MusicMaker or the Decca London.
Not only does the Dynavector Te Kaitora Rua moving coil cartridge manage to make the aural image more solid than moving magnet or moving iron rivals, the scale of the presented soundstage is increased and proportionate. As ought to be the case, predicted by the theoretical phase information available from 2 channels, the soundstage is a big elipsoid extending laterally slightly beyond the speakers and thickening to good front-back depth in the centre, with some delusion (word chosen carefully) of height at the centre too. The coloured girls have never got so close as they go doo do doo, do do doo, doo do d'doo doo doo d'doo, doo do doo, do do doo, doo do d'doo doo doo d'doo dooooooo..., when spinning Lou Reed's Walk On The Wild Side beneath the Dynavector TKR's boron cantilever.
Compared with other low output moving coil cartridges as a genre, the soundstage has more stability than many. The TKR lacks the euphonic midband warmth of some MC rivals but does have some mid bass bloom (tamed by optimum input load) which might explain its popularity in Naim Aro equipped Sondeks but not supported by the Ekos in the flatter earth. This would also be a benefit of Pear Audio's recommendation of a 3 washer filter between cartridge and headshell. The TKR also avoids the tinkly treble colouration of many moving coil cartridges. This tinkly quality adds sparkle reminiscent of ribbon tweeters and is probably caused by a dominant even harmonic distortion. So the TKR is no placebo tonic to lean sounding solid state systems and its behaviour would probably be at its best in mechanically inert but rigid arms like the Michell Tecnoarm or pacey unipivots like the Naim Aro or Hadcock 242SE or even Dynavector's own DV507. An arm like the SME IV or SME V might reflect too much energy at the headshell interface but aluminium tubed versions like the SME 309, 310 0r 312 might prove a more forgiving match. The structural integrity of the TKR, combined with its lack of colouration, imply that this is not a pick up that will suffer foolish arms gladly.
The bass quality took some time to nail down. The Dynavector Te Kaitora Rua does seem to be particularly load sensitive in terms of bass weight and articulation, and averagely
sensitive to tracking force in this respect. Tracking force at the importer's Recommended 1.9g is spot on for tracking (actually the TKR tracks like a high compliance MM down to 1.6g in the
Hadcock arm). So at 1.9g, with 400Ω input load and 62dB gain, no arm damping and the full height Orbe SE washer and clamp holding Return to Forever's Romantic Warrior
securely to the platter Stanley Clarke's Alembic gives the bass end a workout.
Disc after disc portray the strengths of the Dynavector Te Kaitora Rua. There are no obvious weaknesses and I wonder how much difference the more expensive models could make to justify the BIG price hikes as the range progresses. The TKR tracks securely, sounding secure even when it is about to let go. This is the antithesis of the Decca, which always sounds as if it is about to jump from the groove. Both actually begin to mistrack at the same lateral velocity on 3 test discs used. The TKR, however, maintains its composure much better with vertical modulation, pinched grooves if you imagine, effectively out of phase signals. No doubt this contributes to the solid soundstage illusion as one can consider the two channels recorded as out-of-phase 45° groove walls in another way: lateral modulations are mono music information (just like a mono LP) and vertical modulations are spatial positioning information. The 3 dimensional eliptical stage generated by this cartridge is testament to its vertical tracking and phase accuracy.
Speculation about the benefits of the higher end models applies equally to the next model down in the Dynavector range. The Dynavector XX-2 is half the price of the Te Kaitora Rua, and on paper the specification looks remarkably similar. The picture above does show that the TKR construction is more massive around the Yoke area, probably also accounting for the extra overall mass of the TKR despite its naked construction. John Burns of Pear Audio is supplying TNT-audio with a factory fresh sample of the Dynavector XX-2 to run a comparative review of the two models.
Most of this Dynavector Te Kaitora Rua review was conducted with the excellent Canor TP 306 VR+ phono stage, but being a valve design it's transformer (despite being an excellent Lundahl) could be a limiting factor. Signal transformers do have well documented problems (which is nothing to do with "miles of wire" that I have read in the wet-behind-the-ears paper audio press who clearly know nothing of the behaviour of electrons); i.e. some hf phase shift and some softening of bass depending on transformer core material and construction. Thus, your old scribe dug out the balanced current amplifier Aqvox 2Ci (and 2Ci part 2), wondering how the near short circuit load of this current amplifier would affect the TKR, which had so far favoured higher than Recommended input Z. Dynavector's own phono pre-amplifiers have pioneered current amplification and balanced inputs so the Aqvox might seem an obvious partner, except for the TKR's apparent preference for higher input impedance (Z). The Aqvox 2Ci confirmed all the experiences with the Canor TP306VR+ and further revealed great Flat Earth rhythm and exemplary timing. The Aqvox could not equal the Canor's soundstage solidity and scale of soundstage, nor could it match the TKR's wonderful portrayal of male vocals through the TP306VR+, but for PRaT fans the current amplified output is a tonic for the troops.
The Dynavector Te Kaitora Rua moving coil cartridge builds its sound on solid bass foundations. Attention to phase response puts everything in the right time and place, all the way to the top where stick noise precedes shimmer and ring without unsightly gaps.
The Dynavector TKR portrays a spectacularly solid soundstage, and after all, the word 'STEREO' translates as 'SOLID'.
The Dynavector TKR features frighteningly unprotected features. All its splendid technology and workmanship is there to see and break. I'd like to compare it with an enclosed version (there is no such thing) to determine whether the reduced sonics would balance the reduced anxieties.
The Dynavector Te Kaitora Rua is only worth this much money on the front end of a system capable of exploiting its strengths, starting with a good turntable on a proper support and carrying a suitable arm (correct mass) capable of exploiting the TKR's strengths. The phonostage has to be sufficiently low noise to handle such low output and variable input impedance would be an advantage. Speakers big enough to accommodate a slim adult are always an advantage too, when analogue bass is this good. The Dynavector Te Kaitora Rua moving coil cartridge is a solid performer.
© Copyright 2011 Mark, The Old Scribe - www.tnt-audio.com