Review: Dynavector P75 Preamplifier
The Dynavector P75
Where do I start with this product? At the beginning is normally a good place, so I’ll start by saying that I’d read quite a few reviews on this product, most of which were good, and most of which alluded to this being better than products over twice their price or more. I find this sort of gushing quite amusing insofar as when you do compare the said bargain against a product that is a lot dearer, it is normally found wanting in one if not more respects, and then justifies the existence of the more expensive brethren. In other words if that super cheap product was so good the others won’t have a reason to exist and we will not be upgrading (or trapped in that path). What made this more promising was that it was a creation of the late great Dr. Tominari, and one of his philosophies and approaches was to provide astonishing products to a wider market and make it accessible to them – a good case in point is the Super Stereo processor that is very affordable, and in the times I’ve heard it ‘doing what it says on the tin’ all for the princely sum of £895 for the ADP2 model. What gave further weight to my anticipation that this product might deliver the goods at such an approachable price is the conversation I had with Pear Audio who import this to the UK; they advised me that it was so good that Dynavector took the old PHA 100 phono stage that cost about £1500 of the market as the P75 was so good, and also because it used much the same circuitry as the more costly PHA 200 step up transformer.
I am no techno bod, and shall never make this claim, but even I was aware that the great trump card and selling point of the P75 was the ‘phono enhancer’ circuit which short circuits the loading so creating the ‘ideal’ load apparently. I thought that as a result of this I should set it up as such.
I used my usual eclectic collection of music when using this phono stage, and took no preference towards selected tracks made of 180gms vinyl because of the simple fact that if a product is to go in my system the product should not dictate what I listen to, moreover it should pick out what’s in my collection in a manner most pleasing to my ears. I mean, how many times has there been great pieces of music that are not well recorded, in other words would a bad recording stop you buying the record? NO!
So turning to the sound what could I hear? In a word dynamic, a second word is imaging, and the third is quick. But I’m not going to stop there. I was aware that the P75 is known for having some low level white noise in the audio band. I did notice this when I had the volume up a bit, but it was well below the audio band once my cartridge was in the groove. To that end I considered it to be a bit of a non issue, but one can’t help but feel that this would have side effects through the rest of the audio band, and to that end this may be part of the overall sound.
I started of with a track called ‘I’ve lost my ignorance’ by the Dream Warriors on ‘the Rebirth of Cool 2’ compilation, this is a rap jazz fusion album with many tracks on it unreleased elsewhere, if you can get it, buy it. I noted that all the sounds came pouring out – the cricket creeks at the start before the syncopated bass kicked in. Plenty of depth there with no overhang. What I noted was that the sound was followed and delineated very well, however, against this was a certain lack of body and warmth to the sound. What would happen with this track are certain bass harmonies from the start of the note through to the decay and reverberation. I perceived that the edges were held together in the form of an outline, but those warm decays, and the warm rich hues of sound to colour those notes in were no longer quite so technicolour, but a bit more pastel.
What I found particularly pleasing was the way this stage just got to the heart of the performance. I mean this insofar as it wasn’t trying to be overly clever and instead concentrated on the fundamental lines of a tune, this is not to say the stage lacked detail, it is just that it was not stuck on the little bits of sound where you go ‘Oh I hadn’t heard that before’ and then subsequently going through your collection to unearth such treasures. This is not always a bad thing either – I found ‘The Groove’ by Tom Evans to be guilty of this. No detail was good and strains could bit heard clearly, but I thought that a good balance was struck in this regard.
As got myself into listening to this little box of tricks I found that one particular asset was its’ ability to have a lot of air and it’s ability to image. This was emphasised by a clean background that seemed to have a ‘sonic springboard’ from which images leapt forward. The P75 did not have a cavernous or particularly deep depth of field, and to some extent I did not feel it made the back wall totally invisible, however, and to compensate it brought the acoustic a bit further forward, and in my environment possibly a bit too disconcertingly close. Vocals had the ability to hang pretty much in mid air, and instruments took their place in their requisite row behind. This goes back to the fact I found that the P75 concentrated on the fundamentals. I found that whatever in the stage was creating this effect, it was perhaps its’ greatest trump card, and this must be taken into its’ context for price.
One thing I noted was that there was an upper mid lower treble lift in this kit, and I believe that this to some end contributed to the other elements of greater air and imaging as well. The detrimental effect was the lack of tonal colouring and also warmth (some call it bloom). This balance was very impressive on initial sit down and listen in that it grabbed your attention. For me, as time went on this became quite grating and often pretty annoying. Unfortunately it started to make me reach more for my better recordings that were smoother, or music that had less of an edge.
I decided then to move around the jump switches and configure it to 100ohm loading, and disposed of the phono enhancer. Much to my surprise and relief, the system smoothed off a lot. Whilst it lost some of that ability to project images forward in a 3d manner, and perhaps losing a bit of bass punch and depth, it compensated by bringing in greater delicacy to the table. Images did not blur in any way, and to my ears the sound was now more full and less fatiguing. It did lose that air and space too.
I feel that had I had a Dynavector cartridge to hand there may well have been a greater degree of synergy in the set up.
Also in writing this piece I have set out a criteria that I expect very much from my Conrad Johnson EF 1, a unit that is about 4 times the price. It is easy to forget that the P75 is, relatively cheap as chips. I must say that this review could also sound over critical, by highlighting what I heard were shortcomings, but I won’t back off from this view as it is honest. Also the strengths are not faint praise either.
Whether or not it meets the claim that it is better than items 2 – 3 times its’ price is open to question, and I also think dubious.
If, on the other hand one considers the cost context, and the drive it brings to proceedings, along with the imaging party trick things are far more positive. To this end it does give a real taste of the high end. As a result of this, and if I had a £500 budget I would not hesitate to buy this item whatsoever. As it happens I do have a bigger budget, and that will be the subject of my forthcoming reviews…
Amazon Model One turntable with Morch DP6 arm, Transfiguration temper cartridge and/or Shelter 501 cartridge.
Lavardin IT amplifier
Yamaha NS1000m Speakers
Speakers of my own making
Townshend seismic stand
Tom Evans 'the Groove'
Conrad Johnson EF1
Musical Fidelity XLP
Whest Audio 0.20
Renaissance Amplifiers phono amp
Paul Hynes Design
Sugden Masterclass phono stage
Audio Synthesis Passion