Review: Dynavector KARAT 23 R Cartridge

Category: Analog

This is one of those high end cult items, that just seems to have enduring value. Dynavector did it all very right with the 23R.

This is one was a NOS item. Was in the right place at the right time. It had never been mounted or used and came with original box,paperwork and accessories. A true rare find.

Mounted to the Oracle Alexandria with Sumiko FT3 tone arm. Mounting the 23R was one of the easiest I have ever done. Two screws go thru the headshell into the body of the cartridge. Thats it. Set the Balance dial in 1.5 grams tracking force.Set the overhang and VTA. Forte phono pre amp set to MC and loaded the 23R at 100 ohms, with capacitance set at 50pf.

Now off to spin some vinyl.First up was a MFSL album from Hiroshima. Main reason for this was to test the sonics of the different instruments that this band uses. Hiroshima has unique blend of asian and contemory musical instruments. To say I was totally stunned is a major understatement. Instruments appeared with depth,detail,transparency and clarity, that I was not prepared for. In fact played side 1 again just to make sure,what I was hearing was true second time around - it was!

The second LP was some rock from Santana, the venerable Abraxas on 180 gram pressing. Once again the 23R just literally came to life and Santana had taken on new and dramatic sonic signature, that I knew was somewhere in this album.

The third LP was Hows Everything - Sadao Watanabe - Live At Budokhan. Another slam dunk listening experience. Have heard this album many times with different moving coils, such as Denon,Sumiko,Yamaha. Have never heard this album played back with more authority and presence than with the 23R. The soundstage just literally came to life. This is a live recording and it was very enjoyable to hear things I had not heard from this album.The 23R is the most musical cartridge I have ever heard. The Sumiko Talisman S comes close,but thats about it.

The last Dynavector prior to this one was the high output 10x3. While a very good cartridge,clearly no where near the 23R in performance. According to the Dynavector Website the 23R is no longer listed,what a true shame that it is. Maybe their 17D is better. I can't say on that. But the 23R is a true joy to listen to.

The Dynavector 23R is truly worth seeking out.

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It has been my reference for many years. I too picked up a NOS recently so the beat goes on.
To the e-mails on this. The R does not stand for reference,although it is in my opinion a true reference cartridge. The R actually means RUBY. The cantiliver that the diamond is attached to is made from ruby stone. No doubt this is a big part why this cartridge has the sonic signature that is so desireable.
Output Voltage: 0.2mV
Frequency Response: 20~50,000Hz
Channel Balance: 1dB
Channel Separation: 20dB
Compliance: 15 x 10 cm/dyn
Stylus: Ellipitcal,naked diamond
Cantilever: 0.4mm x 0.4mm x 2.3mm oblique cut solid
VTA: 20 degress
Playing Weight: 1.2 to 1.8 Grams
Height: 17.5MM
Weight: 5.3 Grams.
Find one if you can and enjoy analog in a different realm.
Don't forget about the cartridge that was even more dear at that time and that was the Dynavector Diamond. There was the Ruby cantilever and then there was the Diamond! It was a bit pricier.

My Ruby (on a TD160 Super/Grace 707 which the ex has) was lovely until a rowdy party one night. The following morning the stylus had become half the size and not much use except to ruin records.
I had several of these mounted to a Magnepan Unitrac 1 on an Oracle Delphi II. They would sound absolutely beautiful for about 100 to 200 hours of listening and then the compliance would just disappear. The cantilever would end up hanging at a weird angle and the cartridge would lose its dynamics and distort at peaks in the signal, especially on the inner grooves. The deterioration was always slow and subtle at first and then one day I'd realize that something was terribly wrong. I'd send it back, and the company would refit a cantilever, charge me $150, and the process would repeat. I'd heard of this happening to others at the store I bought it from although the store wouldn't admit it. Maybe it had something to do with the unipivot exerting forces that the cartridge couldn't handle. I ended up with a Sumiko Talisman Boron which proved to be much more durable. I changed it out for a Sapphire which I picked up as NOS many years later, but the Boron is still functional after at least 12 years of use. I've been afraid to try Dynavector products ever since, but I do miss the sound. Can the 23R be refurbished still?
Dynavector no longer refurbishes the 23R, 23RS, and Diamond cartridges. Instead they offer an exchange towards the 17D2 , or the 20X. I looked into this as I was interested in buying a 23RS without a stylus on E-Bay last month.
I just mounted a used Karat 23R on an old Grace 704 unipivot arm. I must say I was astounded at the open, natural ease with which it presented music. More detail than I'd heard before in my last rig, which was a Sonus Dimension 5 mounted in a Grace 707. However, due to the unusual stylus shape of my 23R, I used only "sacrificial lambs"--vinyl of which I have multiple copies! This stylus appears to be only half of what I expected to see under my gemstone lupe. The "leading" edge is all there, but the "trailing" edge appears to be perfectly shaped to a right angle to the cantilever. I would normally expect a less extreme angle on the "trailing" edge. There is also evidence of a horizontal "shadow" in the ruby cantilever. Could this be a crack? And if this thing is so messed up, why would it sound so clean, detailed and magnificent? Please excuse my ignorance, but if anyone out there has an answer, I would be interested to see it!
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I couldn't agree more! I have used the 23Rs since ever and my most recent one (MR23RS) is still mounted in the Magnepan Unitrac I (a fabulous arm) on my Sota Sapphire. It is an open, crisp and superbly musical combination that has trounced every other analog or digital source I've auditioned. I'm forced to make the exchange for the new 17D3 now. My 23RS has been in storage for 13 years and the output has weakened too much for my Marcoff PPA 2 and RGR 4-1 to boost reasonably. I'm confident the 17D3 will sound great, too. I can't believe that a company that made such an oustanding product that is so specialized would ever go backwards. I also note that after a VERY rough decade or two, they are still in business. Got to be something to it.
Thanks for such a wonderful read! The Dynavector Ruby has been my reference point for a long time. Sounds like the Karat 23R is similar although I personally have not listened to one as of yet. Can't help but wonder how they would compare to each other. Thanks for keeping Analog alive on!
To dig up an old thread. Does anyone have axperience with SoundSmith rebuilds on these? I just got one in a trade which doesn't have a cantilever.
I too am interested if anyone has experience with a SoundSmith rebuild of a 23R. Mine has the "off-angle" cantilever syndrome and I would like to get it rebuilt if possible.
Has anyone had communications with Soundsmith regarding a rebuild of this gem? My Karat 23R was purchased in the early 80's and the cantilever disappeared a couple of years ago. It was mounted on my Oracle Alexandria but not used for many years. I would really like to have it restored and have tried to contact Soundsmith but have not received any replies after and email and voice mail message. I am now using a Denon DL160 but really miss the detail and beautiful dynamics of the 23R!
I just got back today a 17d2 and 23rs mr from Phono Cartridge Retipping. one had a missing stylus, the other a broken cantilever. both have been repaired beautifully. I will try over the next few days to see how they sound. turn around was about 2 weeks from when they got them.
I bought a 23R new waaay back, and it lives in a very low-mass Breuer 5A arm.  It still sounds pretty much as I recall it (though I confess I listen to more CDs than I do vinyl nowadays, for very few modern bluesmen record on vinyl).  I forget what the settings are on the phono card of my Levinson 326S, but I suspect I set it correctly, as the Prokofiev "Romeo & Juliet" on Sheffield will still blow one out of one's socks.