Dynavector P-75 MkII
The original Dynavector P-75 phono stage was a simple looking, unassuming little box that set a new performance benchmark for affordable phono stages, quickly becoming a favourite in the sub-$1000 phono stage category, second only to the Plinius Jarrah. The only real criticisms were a slightly dry, somewhat mechanical presentation and the tricky ergonomics associated with adjusting the P-75 for various cartridges.
From the outside the MkII looks exactly the same as its predecessor, a plain but nicely made little box. According to Dynavector, the P-75 has been updated with:
- Improved Phono Enhancer circuit better matching a wider range of cartridges.
- More gain and loading settings.
- Improved gain stage.
- Reduced noise and distortion.
- Better RIAA matching.
- Improved internal jumper layout.
- Improved internal power supply.
- Compliance with EU RoHS requirements.
- Improved finish
- Updated users’ manual
Grumpy old man
Substituting the Dynavector for my resident Plinius Jarrah brought re-acquaintance with the onerous task of setting up this phono preamp. Reviewing many phono stages for this august journal, coupled with the onset of middle age, has not softened the great annoyance of having to open up a preamp and fiddle around with the internals in order to make basic adjustments like changing gain and load.
While the jumper layout is now tidier and the jumpers are a little larger to facilitate their handling by normal adult sized fingers, the bottom line is that this method of making adjustments is still a PITA, especially on a unit that offers such a multitude of operational options.
Call me old or call me lazy, but I can do without this sort of audiophile masochism. If Project can provide simple, easy to use external adjustments on their much cheaper phono stages why can’t Dynavector and other high end companies?
Onto the auditioning, my resident Well Tempered Turntable and Arm, Shelter 501 cartridge provided the analogue signals. The rest of the system consisted of a Krell Integrated amplifier and Magnepan speakers, all tied together with XLO cabling.
Out-of-the-box the MkII was setup for low output moving coil cartridges with 60dB gain and 100 ohms loading. These proved to be the optimal settings for the Shelter cartridge when matched to this preamp. The other load options impeded performance, making me wish there were higher loadings available for moving coil cartridges, at least 1k Ohm and ideally 47k Ohm.
Once again the Phono Enhancer mode – seemingly designed primarily for use with Dynavector’s own cartridges – was flummoxed by the Shelter, albeit not to the same degree as the MkI. The sound took on a taut, closed in nature with slight loss of dimensionality and overblown bass. To these ears it didn’t sound as good as the un-Enhanced mode, albeit the difference this time was smaller than with the MkI.
Happy old man
Back with the standard settings the sound was every bit as good as I remembered of the Mk I. The excellent transparency allows the listener to “see” the performers and instruments realistically portrayed with a good sense of scale and focus on a three-dimensional soundstage.
Tonally the MkII shows a slightly wider bandwidth with very good detail, just a hint of treble softness, a smooth, neutral midband, some bass roll-off and reduced impact. In the manner of the best audio components, the MkII extracts a huge amount of detail from the record but presents it in a totally natural way. This naturalness is the main sonic improvement over the MkI, which could on occasion appear a little aloof and mechanical. The MkII is 100% organic, presenting music as it appears in real life, full of natural colour and an engaging immediacy that elicits hours of pleasurable listening.
Since the original review, the Dynavector’s principal rival, the Plinius Jarrah is no longer in production, having been replaced by the more expensive Koru. The prospective buyer is faced with a staggering choice of models now available. From budget models like the NAD PP2 and Cambridge Audio 640P, the extremely good value Projects, mid-priced models like the Whest Two and Plinius Koru, all the way up to the no expense spared super phono stages from the likes of Audio Research, Aesthetix, Naim, Rega and others.
Despite the increased competition, the Dynavector remains a bargain with its superb sound and easy price. Raise the ergonomics to same level as the excellent sonic performance and the little Dynavector would be perfect. As it is, it cements its position as a best buy in sub-$1000 phono stages.