Dynavector DV10x5 MC phono cartridge

The plumber's here, and he says we need a new hot-water heater because the one we have now isn't maintaining the correct water temperature, and because it's been in use for nine years. "And the thing is, this is a five-year heater." I responded by repeating his last six words, only louder, and with decorations. And I couldn't help thinking: I've had phono cartridges that lasted longer than that. And none of them have attacked me in the shower when my wife flushed the toilet, either.

It's reasonable to expect five years or more out of a good cartridge, especially if you keep it and your records clean and avoid using it when you're drunk or high. On the other hand, it's not unreasonable for the cartridge industry, as it were, to ask you for more money every five years or so, because they work hard to make you happy.

You can support them in one of two ways: You can spend $1000 or more on a very good cartridge, then have it retipped and/or reconditioned when the need arises; or you can spend a lot less than that and just replace it altogether when the time comes. For 25 years, Dynavector has made a budget cartridge that suits the latter approach.

Dynavector's cartridges have always been moving-coil types, which many enthusiasts think sound purer and more immediate than their moving-magnet counterparts. But MC cartridges are generally more expensive and lower in output than MMs, making them a tough sell in some neighborhoods: The audiophile on a budget can't afford a new gain stage and a more expensive cartridge in one fell swoop. And the purist, for his or her part, doesn't want an extra gain stage.

The answer, of course, is that budget MC cartridges should also be high-output MC cartridges. Whether or not that seems counterintuitive—spending less and coming home with more—that's the way Dynavector has always done it with their entry-level DV10x series.

The latest in that series is the DV10x5, and it offers some technical improvements over its predecessors. For one thing, this is the first entry-level Dynavector to incorporate the company's colorfully named flux damping and softened magnetism. Dynavector suggests that certain distortions are caused by signal-related changes in magnetic flux—just like back-EMF at the loudspeaker end of the system, which one might consider this phenomenon's mirror image. Their solution is to focus, contain, and even cancel out stray flux lines by means of strategically placed slivers of magnetically permeable iron (the softened magnetism) and a superfluous, shorted coil (the flux damping). Does it work? I don't know.

Sermon on the mounting
The DV10x5 is the first DV10x-series cartridge whose body is fastened to a machined aluminum mounting plate instead of to the usual plastic molding or cheap metal stamping. The DV10x5's mounting surface is quite chunky, and appears commendably flat, although I was surprised to see that it lacks threaded mounting holes.

More to the point, however, the new plate—or the way the body is fastened to the new plate, or something—poses a challenge to whoever installs the DV10x5. Here's how I discovered that: With few exceptions, the first thing I do when I get a new cartridge is to gleefully throw away the mounting hardware supplied with it. That's especially true of inexpensive cartridges, most of which come with slot-head screws rather than the stainless-steel hex-head bolts we all think we're supposed to use. I, for one, know better than to use those cheap, crappy screws and the stupid little round nuts that come with them. Ha.

But mister, you're in deep trouble if you toss the hardware that comes with the DV10x5—you need it, so you'll have to fish it out of the trash. (Hope you didn't have anything messy for dinner.) This is hard to describe, but there isn't quite enough clearance between the top of the cartridge's big red body and the underside of the new mounting platform to which it's fastened for anything other than a screw with a very shallow head—ie, the freebos.

Speaking of setup, I did almost all my listening to the DV10x5 with one combination of turntable and tonearm: a Rega Planar 3 with standard (unmodified) Rega RB-300 arm. It seems likely that many, if not most, people who would buy such a cartridge would use it either with that very package or at least with some other player that has an RB-300 arm, re-badged or not.

US distributor: Toffco
4600 McPherson Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63108
(314) 454-9966