Here is a new genre in the LP12 Modification Frenzy: a “Mini Listening Test” in which I offer briefer thoughts on a minor alteration to the system. Here, I listen to the effects of putting my Adikt cartridge back into my system after a few months with a Dynavector XX-2. You can check out my listening methodology. Full listening impressions are below. Digestible, numerical summaries of all my listening tests are here.
I had some initially disappointing experiences with the Dynavector XX-2 cartridge (see here and here), but after swapping in a Mober subchassis and (even better) installing a Mober DC motor kit, things were eventually sounding really excellent.
Still, I wondered: Given how bad the XX-2 initially sounded, what if this setup would sound even better with the humbler cartridge that the XX-2 replaced, my Linn Adikt moving magnet cartridge? That is what this mini listening test is designed to reveal.
A day after I completed the Mober DC kit listening test, I swapped my Adikt back in and did a “mini listening test,” listening to four test tracks rather than the usual twelve, and doing a somewhat abbreviated listening test for each.
The results were quite clear: the Adikt did not sound as good as the XX-2 in this setup. While it was still much better than my digital setup, and the “Mober DC sizzle” was still perceptible to some extent, the excitement factor was much reduced with the Adikt in place rather than the XX-2. I liked that the Adikt was weighted a little less obviously to the bass than the XX-2, but there was an unpleasant graininess to the added high-end with the Adikt.
So to some extent what I was hearing in the previous round was a synergy thing. The XX-2 worked really well with the Mober DC kit, Ekos, and Mober subchassis. The Adikt worked really well with the Hercules II, Nima, and Mober subchassis. Indeed, that latter setup sounded easily as good as the Adikt/Ekos/Mober subchassis/Mober DC, and it’s quite a bit cheaper.
Some caveats: I only had pretty lousy cartridge leads to work with — the ones I was using for the XX-2 were too thick to make the bends that the Adikt required. And I didn’t spend days dialing in things like VTA and tracking weight; I just got everything more or less how I liked it with the Nima and went from there.
1. The Beach Boys, “I Know There’s an Answer,” Pet Sounds (1966)
Slight delay. Much smoother on vinyl, but nothing like the differences I was hearing with the XX-2. Much more detail, focus, coherence, but more in the 20-25% range. Wow, on the harmonica breakdown, the differences are stark: way more detail, much smoother, much more pleasant on vinyl. Maybe more like 30%?
S-2-s. Yes, still way better, but the gap has narrowed. I can hear that “Mober DC sizzle,” but it’s less clear with the Adikt. In the quiet harmonica breakdown, the differences are huge. Elsewhere, it’s more like 20%. I think the main differences is in “transients,” like acoustic stringed instruments and cymbals. Let’s say…
Verdict: vinyl is 25% better (15% worse than with the XX-2)
5. Joy Division, “Atmosphere,” 12″ single (1980)
Slight delay. Very, very good on vinyl. Lots and lots of impact, way more detail. But not at the level with the XX-2. Very recognizable to me as a 30% (very exciting!) performance, and also very recognizably not as good as the last time I heard it. Hand drums detail massssssively better on vinyl
S-2-s. The bass is fuller, the details are clearer, and the vividness is turned up on vinyl. The hand drums are more perceptible, “rounder” and more lifelike, and hit way harder. But yeah, not quite at the thrill level of the XX-2.
Verdict: vinyl is 30% better (5% worse than with the XX-2)
7. Yo La Tengo, “Stockholm Syndrome,” I Can Feel the Heart Beating as One (1997)
Slight delay. The acoustic guitar is way nicer on vinyl, but not as nice as I remember it with the XX-2. I’m got getting the exciting, clear kick drum sound at all. I’m not getting the “too weighted to bass” feeling I got with the XX-2, but I do feel the higher-end details like cymbals, snares, and acoustic guitar are a little grainy. Like 25% better?
S-2-s. Clarity, snare impact, acoustic guitar texture: all hugely in favor of vinyl. The veil-lifting effect is present. But the graininess is there on the more delicate details, and is a little grating.
Verdict: vinyl is 30% better (10% worse that with the XX-2)
11. Can, “Halleluwah,” Tago Mago (1971)
Slight delay. Nah, this just doesn’t have the excitement of the XX-2 rounds. Not nearly as much slam, not nearly as much sense of instruments you can reach out and touch. It sounds a lot more like digital than it does like the setup with the XX-2. Drums have more roundness and impact on vinyl, but I definitely don’t feel like my head is actually being batted around, as I did with the XX-2 in there. Pretty big regression here. I think the XX-2 is the cart with the slam, with the “rightness,” with the “PRaT.”
S-2-s. The Mober signature of “energy” and “sizzle” is definitely still in evidence through the Adikt; I can hear it on the bell-like Strat tones in the quiet part around 5:00. (Wow, around 7:45 when there are more of those bell-like tones, I did some switching back and forth, and yes: the “sizzle,” the little tickle in the stomach, is totally there on vinyl and totally not there on digital.) But there’s less of it with the Adikt than the XX-2— and I love that “sizzle!” A bit of that high-end harshness, too. I definitely prefer the XX-2 to the Adikt, but I think I want some kind of compromise. Something with all the slam and perfect tonality and smoothness of the XX-2 but with a bit more snap and zing, just without the harshness. Maybe that’s the Troika? Wouldn’t that be nice.
Verdict: vinyl is 20% better (10% worse than with the XX-2)