Musical Fidelity MX-VYNL phono stage review


Weak and sinful person that I am, I went ahead an indulged myself and bought a Musical Fidelity MX-VYNL phono stage. Note that I'm using it in an LP to digital (CD) mastering studio signal chain, which of course is rather different from a conventional "living-room" setup. My TT is a VPI Scout Signature powered by an SDS power supply and fitted with a Shure M97xE cart with a JICO SAS stylus. The TT to phono stage interconnects are Mogami Neglex Quad Audio Cable w/ RCA connectors, all others are XLR balanced. The signal goes straight from the MX-VYNL to a Mytek ADC sampled @ 88.2 kHz/24-bit word. The output of the Mytek goes both to my DAW via Toslink/SPDIF and also directly to a Mytek DAC for monitoring and then directly to my PSI A-21 monitors. All AC is balanced by Equi=Tech. In short, it's a top quality pro mastering system with a very short signal path.

OK, now that that is out of the way, on to the MX-VYNL itself. WOW!! A truly remarkable piece! Much quieter even than its nearly silent processor. I'm located less than a kilometer from 2 FM transmitters, so RFI has always been a concern and challenge. The fully balanced design of the new MX-VINL has completely eliminated the tiny but perceptible FM interference that I had been dealing with. (That was a major factor in my decision to buy the new unit. Needless to say, I'm utterly satisfied.) What's more, the unit itself is simply silent. The specs are SNR A-wtd -101 dB! I'm not equipped to measure it that closely, but I'll believe it.

The build of the MX-VYNL appears to be absolutely top quality. The unit is heavy, obviously well shielded, and all of the switches and connectors, most notably the RCA receptacles, are exceptionally heavy and well made. On the back, the MX-VYNL has both balanced and unbalanced inputs and outputs, including switch selectable inputs, and outputs that are NOT selectable so both must be energized simultaneously. What's more, the balanced outs are said to be fully balanced. On the front it has a very well-considered selection of loadings that can be selected for both MM and MC carts, a +6 db gain boost switch to aid in level matching, and a selector for either the RIAA or IEC equalization curves. (The IEC curve rolls off infrasonic frequencies, reducing LF and rumble problems with subwoofers and amps, and intermodulation effects at higher frequencies. I like the sound.) The settings can be changed "on the fly," and the unit mutes for a couple of seconds when they're changed. A good thing. The power supply is indeed a tiny switching type wall-wart with a very long cord. It looks & feels flimsy, but switching supplies are technically better, and, at 12V/500mA DC, it will be easy to substitute an 8 D-cell battery pack if I so desire. So far, it doesn't seem to need it.

Now for the important part, how does it sound? In short, and as far as I can tell, it doesn't. I haven't yet had the time or resources to audition a great number of LPs or several different cartridges, but from what I've heard so far, and seen in my DAW using the spectral analysis, the MX-VYNL has NO perceptible sound of its own. None. It's "fast", balanced, utterly clean and has an altogether (un)remarkable sonic signature. Using my very high resolution system, I get the sense that I'm listening directly to the LP, with nothing in between. What more can one want? I can not imagine how a phono stage could (not) sound any better at any price. In short, for $1,000 US, it's a steal.
lp2cd
Yes, I agree with all said  except I use the RIAA eq. I prev used the M1-vynl witch replaced an Audio Research PH-3 Special phono. When I saw the new MX, I had to give it a try. I was, and am blown away by the improvement - bottom to top freq and tonal qualities are superior to M1.
Thanks for the amen! It's reassuring.

As for EQ curve preferences, RIAA vs IEC, it's mostly a matter of taste, and it's a plus that the MX-VYNL gives one the choice. The MX-VYNL's EQ curve is speced as highly accurate to the frequency extremes. On the high end, the result is that there will be no spurious ultrasonic distortion leaking into the audible range, and both the RIAA and IEC curves are identical in nearly all of the audible range. It's in the infrasonic ("subsonic" means "slower than the speed of sound," BTW...) where things get interesting. You can read the technical details here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RIAA_equalization#IEC_RIAA_curve . While infrasonic frequencies are, by definition, not audible, amplifiers and some speakers will respond to them, and the results can be significant IM (intermodulation) distortion in the audible range and possibly other problems as well. The IEC curve is a very gentle 1st order roll-off below about 20 Hz, which *may* help reduce some spurious and subtle infrasonic distortions in the entire system.

I don't know. As I said, it's a matter of taste, and very likely one's system. My setup, being a pro mastering system, is extremely revealing and essentially flat down to 30 Hz, and the differences are subtle. I generally preferred the RIAA curve with the M1-ViNL, but so far, I prefer the IEC curve with the MX-VYNL. Quite reasonably, YMMV.