I noticed the last few times that the Dynavector XX2 Mk. II was souding a bit strange. Oddly, I’d say it sounded “cheap” as it has not been tracking very well, reminding me of the muddy sound of some of the cheap phono cartridges I used to own (like the crap Ortofon I had on a Dual turntable). It not only has been sounding very congested, there was dull sibilance where I don’t remember it being before. Something’s up, and I need to send it out to be looked at.
I needed a replacement. I had a few on my short list (like the excellent, musical Hana SL), but ultimately ended up with the Audio Technica ART7. For the uninitiated, this is a low output moving coil with “special line contact” stylus on a boron cantilever. I got it lined up using the MintLP protractor, and still have yet to finish dialing in the SRA and azimuth.
Right out of the gate, it is an excellent tracker, the best I’ve had since retiring the old V15 Type V. It still has a few dozen hours to fully break in, but it has a lot of clarity going for it with the improved tracking ability.
The only achilles heel right now is the phono stage–I am really not liking how noisy the Phonomena II+ is. I’ve even replaced the $1.50 chinese switching mode power supply with a linear regulated power supply, but the noise remains. This is basically “amplifier rush,” that white noise that comes from high-gain amplification. I have records so quiet that the noise from this phono stage is audible over the vinyl’s background noise.
I am only afraid that if I replace it, the replacement will also have similar noise. Step-up transformer? Perhaps, but I got this phono stage to eliminate having yet another device in the system, and to have many loading options available.
On my short list is the Pro-Ject Tube Box DS2, largely due to its two selectable outputs, one of which I can sum to mono using a Y adapter at the output and use in a spare input on the preamp. I can also roll tubes to shape the sound as needed.