Let me start with what I believe is a full disclosure statement. I was the very happy owner of a MkI version of this cartridge for several years after I joined the sales staff of a UK retailer back in 2009. It was bought on the strong recommendation of the store manager who described it as the “best value cartridge that we sell”. Today I am the highly satisfied user of another Dynavector offering, the XX2 moving coil, but I have always had an abiding fondness for the 10X5. Thus when the chance came to review the MkII version, I was delighted to accept.
The 10X5 was first introduced back in 1978, but thanks to Dynavector’s improvement program it is still a leading contemporary design. Now as then, it is a high output moving coil, which pushes out a sufficiently robust signal to make a moving coil phono stage unnecessary. Indeed John Burns of Pear Audio, the long-standing UK distributor of Dynavector, made a point of reminding me to use moving magnet settings with the DV-10X5 MkII. This makes it an excellent choice for those who have a built in MM stage in their amplifier for example.
Outwardly, the MkII looks strikingly similar to its predecessor, the only visible difference being the number on the front of the cartridge body. The main changes are an improved stylus assembly with a nude diamond Shibata III line contact stylus and improved hardened cantilever material. Dynavector say that these changes improve tracking ability over even the most tortuous of record grooves, while achieving extended high frequency response and enhanced musical resolution. Although this is the entry level Dynavector, it still uses the magnetic flux dumping, patented soft magnetism and powerful neodymium magnets found further up the range, while the internal wiring has also be upgraded.
The DV-10X5 MkII was fitted onto the Linn Ittok arm on my somewhat modified Linn Sondek LP12 with tracking weight set to 2g. During the review period I used my own Lyngdorf TDAI 3400 integrated amplifier (which has a decent MM phono stage built in) and also a Copland CSA 70, which was here for review. Loudspeakers used were the excellent Ophidian Mambo2 floorstanders and my own Harbeth C7ES3XDs. I also tried it with the excellent Gold Note PH10 standalone phono stage, set for MM input.
Dynavector DV-10X5 MkII sound quality
The abiding memory of my original 10X5 was of the music just bouncing along at a jolly pace, with plenty of information being lifted from the groove being tracked, and right from the start the MkII gave me that and more. This is music-making as a joyous activity, a communication of emotion that sits way above simple electro-mechanical reproduction. Now I would be the first to admit that listing to Mozart’s Requiem in B Minor K.626 with the Dunedin Consort under John Butt’s direction (Linn Records) should not be a cause for levity, given the solemn nature of the piece, but the DV-10X5 MkII definitely took me in to the Greyfriars Kirk where it was recorded and allowed me to hear the inner workings of the instruments and the purity of the four solo voices.
Switching from that to jazz, and one of the records that seems to find its way onto the turntable regularly here these day, Bass On Top by the Paul Chambers Quartet (Blue Note Tone Poet reissue) which was recorded by Rudy van Gelder in July 1957 and was reissued in 2020, where the instruments came through with tremendous realism. The first track is Yesterdays, and starts with Chambers bowing his double bass. The sense of the body of his instrument, of rosined horse hair passing across the strings, was incredibly lifelike. Then when the other three musicians join in the sense of shared purpose and focus really shines through. All six tracks on this album were recorded in a single day and the concentration, the sense of all four players listening to each other and feeling the music, came through the junior member of the Dynavector family with tremendous energy and musicality.
Another stand out listen for me (there were many but I don’t want to turn this into a long list of album titles) was one I haven’t played for a while, Warren Zevon’s Stand In The Fire. The late Mr Zevon has long been a favourite here and this live double album, recorded at the Roxy in Los Angeles in 1980, is full of his raw energy and that is portrayed brilliantly by the 10X5 MkII. If you are unfamiliar with Warren Zevon’s work I strongly recommend that you have a listen, but I do not accept responsibility for the fact that even after one play you will be humming his music to yourself incessantly. This is real ear-worm stuff. In these current parlous times, his Lawyers, Guns And Money takes on a very timely significance.
Dynavector DV-10X5 MkII conclusion
As I have said, I played the DV-10X5 MkII through three different phono stages over the course of several weeks. Unsurprisingly, the Gold Note PH10 was my favourite, as it should have been given its price, but the built-in MM stages in the two integrated amplifiers both did an excellent job, and I would happily have lived with either. The Copland in particular sounding absolutely delightful. If your amplifier sports a phono stage then this Dynavector will deliver plenty of musical pleasure without you having to fork out for a standalone stage, but as with all things relating to this fascinating hobby, it is always worth trying to hear the cartridge through your chosen amplifier before parting with your cash.
However, none of that would be of any use unless the thing sounds good, and actually it sounds far better than that, or at least it did here. Compared with my much more expensive XX2 the very highest frequencies are not quite as airy nor is the overall sound quite as rich, but not to the extent in either case that it would deter me from a purchase. The all-important midrange frequencies are delivered with terrific punch and realism. This has many of the characteristics of a truly high end device at considerably less expense. It is currently listing in the UK at around the £500 mark, which puts it a level or two above the price of some really competent moving magnet alternatives. If it was me, I would go for the DV-10X5 MkII over any of those very worthy competitors, if funds allowed. To misuse the old cliché, it will give you a taste of the Champagne lifestyle on a Prosecco budget. It sounds like a Dynavector, which to me is an excellent thing, seems well built and actually looks good when on the tonearm. All in all, a very fine device and one that is very easy to recommend.