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October 2001
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
The Dynavector Karat 17D2 MK.II MC Cartridge
Review by Vangelis Lazarou 
Click here to e-mail reviewer

 

Dynavector Karat 17D2 MK.II MC Cartridge  It looks almost crazy, yet compared to these new "high-resolution" digital standards a phono cartridge still remains the most difficult to build item in the audio gear in my opinion. After all, the cartridge is the turntable's "business end". Theoretically, a cartridge is based on simple principles: a moving coil across a magnetic field induces voltage. The signal is made from a needle "vibrating" due to traversing over vinyl. On the other hand, and practically speaking, there are some difficult linear and rebound problems to be solved. One reason moving-coils are generally more expensive than moving-magnet cartridges is that they are more difficult to manufacture. Because the mechanical engineering needed to make them work at all must be more precise, the mechanical integrity of the transducer assembly and its mounting tends to be inherently better. Most of the cost of a cartridge goes into the stylus and cantilever, so a range may share the same body while spanning a price difference of 5X, with different standards of cantilever, stylus and quality control. Improved styli could enhance high frequency performance, but only if the turntable and arm is good enough not to scramble the potential improvement. Nowadays having cartridges like DV-Karat 17D2, the improved stylus and cantilever, seem to change our viewpoint about their influence on the total sonic result. A cartridge is a transducer changing the mechanical stylus/groove energy into electrical energy. It therefore has a specific tonal balance, which is largely determined by the frequency response and in this respect; cartridge selection can be a useful technique for fine-tuning the overall balance of a system.

While all we the vinyl lovers do appreciate the sound of a good analog playback system, we must also accept that we don't really know if "that" sound is representing the original, or it is just something we like to listen to. If we want to be sure we are "correct" the only way to find out is to compare the results directly with the original master tapes.

Finally, we are at a "crossroads" of sorts. Must we accept that this is truly it, "I can't do anything more" or are we left searching trying to reach "the truth"? I guess the former is on the musical side of view and it is of course an easy way to pass through, lay aside the latter to the "scientific" side of view. The same problem also exists for virtually every other components within a music reproduction system.

17D2 MK.II MC Cartridge Close your eyes when you listen to your favorite music, play a few records and soon you are going to realize that all the records seem to have been recorded, mastered etc, in almost the exact way and at the same place (i.e studio)! And that conclusion is far away from the truth. The "musical" way of listening (that is, we don't care for anything else but listen to the music just "good") has many benefits and always seems more human to us. On the other hand, the "neutral" way of listening, while it is also the "hard way to live with", is capable of reproducing the recorded program more precisely than the emotional way. It also imposes on us more knowledge, more passion and finally, makes us discover some really strange sonic results, since not all the records have been recorded in the proper way and under the highest standards.

 

Where the Dynavector belongs...

Let us be clear from the start: The Dynavector 17D2 Karat is among the more accurate cartridges. I discovered this bloody small gold thing by accident when I needed to have an inexpensive low-output MC cartridge for my experiments. According to an old law of nature, nothing is entirely known except that you are...

When first receiving the Dynavector 17D2 Karat cartridge I noticed the terrific construction of the cartridge body. Yes, to be honest I've not seen any cartridge yet with the same appearance, even double the price of it. And it's not only the golden one-body construction here that counts positively, but also the minimalist build of this jewel. I've seen many cartridges (up to $1,000). Some of them with a good sound (why not?) but something in their appearance made me think seriously that in the future there may be some problems with them. Especially with some wooden small ...coffins (wooden bodies are in fashion today, but they don't tell us that the wood is cheap stuff and easy to shape, compared to a special material like, i.e. titanium). Looking through my microscope which I use for cartridge examination one could see a nearly silly way of construction with some lower-priced cartridges.

I'm telling you this to emphasize the build quality of the Dynavector's Karat cartridge. I have two Lyras and G-d knows how many slaps they have patiently suffered from me, not to mention the countered mileage. So, the Karat 17D2 MKII is a superior built cartridge. Let me now tell you what exactly makes this cartridge so exciting to me.

 

Solid Construction

This is a very small unit... almost microscopic. It weights only 5.3 grams! Keep in mind that when you have to deal with moving masses and at the same time you want to keep them speedy, low mass is a must. Inertia at this point must be kept as low as possible. Some think that a part (or even the whole) of the mechanical movement must be damped from the cartridge body itself, thus, must we have big mass here to control the vibes. From one point of view, it looks fine since that way we don't have to care for what the tonearm is doing just after. But, we forgot -- according to this -- the vibrations don't appear only on the cartridge, but on the combination of cartridge/tonearm. The ideal situation might be to have a tiny cantilever, a small damping just after, low mass cartridge body with a strongly stiff construction and finally, a light tonearm with adjustable damping. This may sound simple, but wait a second. Why do we not see all the other brands using the same construction? Because it is the hard way, fellows. It needs very special tools of very low tolerances, a high level of engineering and finally, must invest a lot of money...

 

The dispersion theory and the special cantilever...

The cantilever and the stylus shape of this cartridge are the most sophisticated parts within this design. Why is that? Well, trying to locate where the cantilever and the stylus is extremely hard due to their very small size. Especially when you are at the age of 40+! What the hell, where are these? There are quite possibly the smallest cantilever around! Keep in mind that none of the other current DV's cartridges have such kind of stylus/cantilever, even the highest in range. From my point of examination, this must be the main hidden secret of the cartridge's sonic performance. Dynavector's dispersion theory dictates: "having a shorter and stiffer material (for the cantilever) you also get smaller dispersion effect on the cantilever. Given this small dispersion effect you also get an ideal frequency response..."

Just compare now, the 1.7 mm cantilever length of the 17D cartridge to the 7 mm length of another cantilever! Moreover, we are talking about a cantilever made of a solid diamond. If my memory serves me correctly, this is the only cartridge carrying a solid diamond cantilever. As a side note, Lyra knows the benefits of the diamond since their Parnassus uses a diamond-coated, ceramic-reinforced aluminum cantilever.

 


Fig.A is input square wave form comprising frequency components
up to 200th higher harmonic component.
Fig.B shows the wave deformation by the dispersion
in 7 mm aluminum cantilever.
Fig.C shows the effect of dispersion of 1.7 mm solid diamond cantilever.

 

 


Figure D is from DV's lab and shows the totally flat response of the cartridge.
Notice between 150Hz to 10KHz the extremely flat frequency response.
The sharp cut off near 20KHz is obviously due to the measuring system.

 

After long listening sessions I did find that the DV's guys describe in their charts as the musical events I heard. I've experienced that damned fast and flat response and the rapid way of ups and downs of the whole reproduction of music. Beyond any shadow of a doubt, the DV-Karat 17D2 behaves like an instantaneous accelerometer. Its applied dispersion theory works wonderfully!

 

Some Words Concerning The Micro Reach Stylus...

DV states, this kind of stylus is the newest that was born by the most advanced technology for videodisc player systems! "The Micro Reach Stylus, it is also unique stylus like its carrier (cantilever). Well, the most excitement thing about it, is the unusual shape of it. It has microscopic curvature of contact surface with records. This makes Micro Reach stylus does not change the contact radius by the wear after long playing time. You can always listen to music by the new stylus.." Do you hear this? Amazing! Always with a new stylus...

 

Stylus

 

Micro Ridge Diagram

I wish that statement is true, since the testing item I have was playing only for -about-100 hrs and I had no way to check it out. However, I noticed a different behavior at the burn-in period time in contrast to other cartridges: After 8-10 hrs of use, the performance was exactly the same.

 

Benefits Of The DV-17D2

The cartridge was hung in three tone arms: Rega RB-900, VYGER Vision-arm and the Well-Tempered Reference. Though all of the above three tone arms gave top sonic results and very good synergy with the cartridge, most of the time I used the Well Tempered Reference. Especially for its damping convenience. For the record, the DV-17D2/Vision-arm was a bloody killing combo... especially in dynamics! (By the way, there is also some news here: VYGER has a new tube ready for the Vision tonearm, dedicated to 17D2. Pino Viola told me that somehow the cartridge will be...in one body with the tube).

Well, from the very first musical notes I was wondering what exactly this transducer was trying to tell me. Maybe it was that damned neutral performance which actually made me jump to those strange conclusions. Indeed... If my brain was working good enough at that time and had nice feedback from my heart, too. I guessed the experience is nothing more than top digital sound. Digital sound? Yes, but hold on!

More precisely a kind of sound like the digital sound should be! I use here the term "digital sound" just to describe the stable sonic characteristics of this cartridge, and to be honest, digital has stable characteristics. Despite the fact that the final sonic results are under skepticism and criticism from many of us. The DV-karat 17D2 MKII with its sophisticated design on the front, finally tried to say this: "It's time, fellows, not only to beat the digital in the field of musicality (which is most of the time the established situation) but also to give it a good lesson. Specifically, what exactly a precise reproducer is."

I have something in my mind about it, since this unique behavior made me remember some reference lacquers (also called reference acetates) hearings from the past. Having listened to these, I still remember the super dynamics and of course the absence of noise. Must be something going wrong just after the cutting process, till the final product (our record) clamped on our turntables. This is one reason, but in our case there must be some others, too, as the Karat traced not the lacquers -of course- but my records! So, how the Karat discarded so easily the applied added noise from the next press processing, and generally the noise? I guess this has to do with the Thermodynamics... The cutter head of the cutting lathe makes the first bad thing, while it makes the" best" good thing for us, too! Melting the lacquer while transforming the electrical information to groove modulation, it also transmits the melting heat to the lacquer. That transforming heat is one of our first noises and we can't do anything to avoid it. Happily, at this point, the noise level is actually of small amount, almost according to our needs. How exactly that heat creates "noise" also ...creates some discussion. But again, is there someone out there to inform me if the above-mentioned heat doesn't cause any problem at all?

 

More Tests

While continuing testing the Karat and appreciating its very extraordinary behavior, I had some added thoughts about what the hell is going on. How was it so extremely fast, so extremely dynamic, so quiet and so clean? Some things may be explained from my above theory. But I have something else in mind here. As you know, bass has always more energy than the other frequency bands, if it is in nature or if it happens to deal with any energy transformation. This is one reason why the cutting engineers put the R.I.I.A pre-emphasis on the process. But-I guess- this only refers to the volume that is Ok to one point, since we use the anti-R.I.IA in our playback systems. But the way the bass region transients behave along with the bass harmonics-spreading out and mixing up with the upper bands, is a "blind" area. Keep in mind that I'm wondering here just how the cutter stylus puts the signal into the groove. So, even keeping -40 dbs the bass, the different bass transients (and harmonics, too) in relation to the other frequency team the problem still remains.

If this bass or upper-bass behavior is somehow uncontrolled especially in the playback, we will see (as always) some tremble "modulation" by exactly this useless bass activity. This is one reason why many times we have a "grainy" ambience in our listening rooms. In nature, the problem does not exist like that. Every instrument or vocal is a discrete source and the over-masked frequency phenomenon is faced up quite well with our sophisticated ear. But, to distinguish the frequency band on a stylus is something beyond stylus nature.

Digitaleans, on the other hand, tried to solve problems like these with their great algorithms doing a very good job. Well, giving the microscopic and make of diamond stylus/cantilever design from Karat, the bass transients and harmonics are quite well controlled leaving the upper band do its job without any harassment. I hope this short explanation will help to understand the Karat's unique ability to pass over the grooves so damned noiselessly along with a great track ability and a never before approached clarity , but please, think of my "theory" as my personal view. These things must be examined with extreme care and need enough time, too. Perhaps, this is the hidden secret behind the DV's dispersion theory or a part of this. I really don't know.

Listening to the music through the Karat, you always have the feeling that this is exactly what was recorded in the studio. An almost "hysteric" monitoring cartridge, any way. But, never gives you a sterilized, clinical sound. No, actually what we get here is all the benefits from both worlds, digital and analog (sic!). Karat is not new in the business and it is strange, indeed, why we have so few tests for it. Or, might think I'm deaf or crazy? I guess, this comes mainly from the low price, knowing that there are many snob hi-end writers around. Do you have any idea why we find blind-tests so rare today? Perhaps we would extract very different results from the established ones...

So, one must review the safest way possible. Read to get the proper information, but never forget to trust your ears! Given the fact that DV-Karat have supremacy in the "digital domain", it is now good to see what it is doing in the field where it was supposed to have been judged... the analog domain.

Well, my friends, I had to re-examine my old taste of how I like to listen to the music. And with this golden small thing, I found a new lovely way. Just imagine this: If the reproduced music material had been scaled from some expletory bits which sometimes we like and sometimes we don't, such as rich harmonics (which, actually we are not sure if we get anytime the correct amount of them and this is a problem, of course) and leave the program free of any of them, what might be our expectation?

There is a 3D-style focusing on the music scene, a totally noise-free music drama ambience and unparalleled dynamics. The bass region was like a crash of thunder piercing the loaded sky and then kicking mother earth without warning. This cartridge is the best rocker I've ever met. Voices have breathless start and a sharp edge, not any adding effects to put you in confusion. I always flirted with this kind of midrange, so I found the DV-Karat a lovely partner. The midrnage also is reproduced with an extraordinary bevy of dynamic expressions.

 

Finally... Or Just No Comments

If I didn't know the price of the DV-Karat 17D2 MKII and had only its sonic performance in front of me, I would buy it at once. Considering now the almost silly price for what I got, I really don't know what to say. This transducer is revolutionary in any case, my friends. Very highly recommended!


Tonality

90

Sub-bass (10 Hz - 60 Hz)

95

Mid-bass (80 Hz - 200 Hz)

95

Midrange (200 Hz - 3,000 Hz)

95

High-frequencies (3,000 Hz on up)

95

Attack

95

Decay

95

Inner Resolution

85

Soundscape width front

85

Soundscape width rear

85

Soundscape depth behind speakers

85

Soundscape extension into the room

85

Imaging

90

Fit and Finish

85

Self Noise

95

Value for the Money

95

 

Specifications

Type: Low output moving coil cartridge with
         flux damper and softened magnetism 
Output Voltage: 0.23mV (at 1KHz, 5cm/sec.) 
Channel Separation: 25 dB (at 1KHz) 
Channel Balance: 1.0 dB (at 1KHz) 
Frequency Response: 20 - 20,000Hz ( 1dB),
                              20 - 100,000Hz 
Compliance: 15 x 10-6 cm/dyn 
Tracking Force: 1.8 - 2.0grams 
DC Resistance: R=38 ohms 
Recommended Load Impedance: 100 ohms 
Cantilever: 1.7mm length, 0.25dia solid diamond 
Stylus: Micro-ridge 
Weight: 5.3 grams 

 

 

Company Information

Dynavector Systems Ltd.
2-16-15 Iwamoto-cho Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo 101-0032
Japan

Voice: 813 3861 4341
Fax: 813 3862 1650
Website: www.dynavector.co.jp

 

US Distribution:

TOFFCO
4600 Mc Pherson Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63108

Voice: (314) 454-9966
Fax: (314) 454-9965
E-mail: pranka@i1.net
Website: www.dynavector.co.jp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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