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Disappointing experiences with a Dynavector XX-2 mkII, Linn Kore, and Ekos 2

Discussion in 'audio' started by hifiaf, Apr 23, 2020.

  1. hifiaf

    hifiaf pfm Member

    Hi everyone,

    I hope you'll all managing well in these strange and awful times.

    Those who have been following my LP12 upgrade adventures might be interested in an update. After receiving a Lingo 4 with a noisy motor (a situation I'm still trying to resolve), I had a good experience with Edmund Chan's SSP12 inner platter. Then I was really excited to finally try a fancy MC cartridge— something I've never been able to afford to do in my student-budget hifi life.

    I initially installed my Dynavector XX-2 mkII on my Roksan Nima arm — and the results were terrible. It replaced an Adikt, but made the system sound much worse. Not necessarily a knock on the XX-2, though — for reasons I explain in this post I wasn't able to get it 100% correctly aligned, though I was able to get in the ballpark. But it sounded so bad — "thuddy" and indistinct — that something else might have been up as well.

    Then I tried again with a seemingly more appropriate setup. I swapped the Nima for an Ekos 2 and replaced the Mober one-piece subchassis with a Linn Kore. I got a Mint LP "Best Tractor" alignment protractor custom made for my arm/table combination, and spent hours getting the alignment spot-on. It sounded much better than the previous setup, but still not as good as the much cheaper Adikt/Mober subchassis/Nima.

    This left me a bit puzzled. In my latest post, I speculate on several possibilities. First, the XX-2 doesn't seem to be tracking very well. I just got the Hi-Fi News test disc, and the XX-2 fails on the +16dB and +18dB stress tests (my Rega P3 with Elys II makes it through all four). But I'm new to the HFN disc and I don't know what to expect or what's normal. I've posted a video of my cartridge's performance below (it's also in the link above). Does that seem particularly bad?

    Most interestingly to me, the Kore subchassis I have (which I bought used) is clearly not flat/straight/true (whatever the right word is). The armboard has a visible bend in it and doesn't sit flat on a level surface. Here's a photo into which I've drawn a thin yellow line showing a bend in the armboard. Here's a link to a video showing it knocking on my level countertop (my other one-piece chassis, Mober and Greenstreet, sit perfectly flat here.) You can see clearer images in the full post here.


    Since the purpose of a one-piece subchassis is to hold the main bearing and the armboard in alignment, it seems that my Kore is not fulfilling its "kore" purpose. And I don't believe it's possible to get a cartridge properly aligned if the main bearing and tonearm bearings aren't being held in a level plane. I replaced the Kore with another Mober subchassis (this one with the Linn-spaced cutouts) and early listening tests seem to suggest this sounds quite a bit better. (Tracking seems slightly improved, too.)

    But I do still wonder about the XX-2 and the Adikt. Maybe, despite the cost differential, the MM cartridge just sounds better to me ears — maybe I'm an "Adikt." Something to think about. My next step will be to install the Mober DC motor kit, after which I'll fiddle with cartridges some. I have a retipped Troika to play with as well. It will be interesting to see what happens when I then go "backwards" from nice MC cartridges to my humble Adikt.

    Then I'll install a Naim Aro in a Greenstreet subchassis. That should be the last step — and it's the one I'm looking forward to most. I've lusted after an Aro since I was a teenager and I'm dying to finally try one...

    On a less gloomy note, I've also been having a lot of fun doing "Best Pressing Shootouts" of any discs I happen to have multiple pressings of (many of them borrowed from friends for the purpose). Highlights include comparing original Plastylite Blue Note pressings to King Japan reissues, four different pressings of Mingus's The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, and comparing Beatles "Blue Box" records to the Giles Martin remixes...
    Mr Pig likes this.
  2. david ellwood

    david ellwood Kirabosi Kognoscente

    You don’t have much luck with buying stuff used do you?
    Wolfmancatsup and Woodface like this.
  3. hifiaf

    hifiaf pfm Member

    I really don't. One of the many lessons I've learned from this process is that it's probably worth buying things new, with warranty, from dealers. But for people like me, curious to try lots of things and working on a fairly limited budget, the lure of used gear — usually half the price or less of new — is a powerful siren song...

    YNWOAN 100% Analogue

    Did you buy the XX-2 new?
  5. Strictly Stereo

    Strictly Stereo Trade: Strictly Stereo

    The XX2 MkII should work fine on a Nima. Check your setup. If your setup is fine and you bought it brand new then send it back to your dealer and have them check it over. If you bought it used then you can send it here and I will check it over for you.
  6. hifiaf

    hifiaf pfm Member

    I got the XX-2 used -- from someone I've bought other things before over the years and I trust. He bought it new and told me it had 50 hours on it. It did indeed look immaculate and pretty much untouched in its original packaging. I take it the performance on the Hi-Fi News test tracks indicates a serious problem, then. Strictly Stereo, I appreciate the offer!
  7. foxwelljsly

    foxwelljsly Keep Music Vile

    I'd be on to Linn directly about that if you can't get a refund from the seller. Pretty shocking for a piece of machined aluminium retailing for £800.
    chris@panteg and hifiaf like this.
  8. hifiaf

    hifiaf pfm Member

    As I mentioned in the longer post, I don't see any evidence of it having been dropped — the paint is perfect — so it's not obvious what caused that bend. And even it had been dropped, I don't think dropped a piece of machined aluminum would cause a bend like that. Seems to me you'd have to work pretty hard to get it to bend like that... Seems most likely to me it left the factory with that bump in it. I wonder if other Kore owners have seen something similar.
  9. DavidS

    DavidS pfm Member

    John Burns at Pear Audio will advise you on the xx2 , give him a call or email , you will find him an extremely helpful chap.
    Snufkin and hifiaf like this.
  10. 2ManyBoxes

    2ManyBoxes pfm Member

    It's difficult to see from images of a Kore but it looks to me like the armboard isn't one single piece, it looks like two pieces that are joined at various points. The thickness of those individual pieces isn't that great.

    I can imagine that dropping something like a power amp on it, when removed from the LP12, would be enough.
    hifiaf likes this.
  11. dadgad

    dadgad pfm Member

    My XX-2 tracks very well, getting through the Ortofon test disc at all levels. That's in an elderly Ittok (1986), with standard sub-chassis. It was bought new at Loud and Clear in Glasgow and installed by John Nilson of Audio Origami fame. I'd take yours to someone similarly experienced who can check everything out?
    hifiaf likes this.
  12. hifiaf

    hifiaf pfm Member

    That's true: it's several pieces screwed and glued together.

    Good advice. I really do have the WORST luck with used stuff. If anyone has a suggestion in Canada, that would be much appreciated... International shipping is a bit risky at the moment.
  13. Mr Pig

    Mr Pig ^'- -'^

    I don't know. The real benefit of buying used is that you can try things and sell what you don't like without losing a lot of money. Seems to me like that's exactly what you're doing.

    The cartridge might be a dud. I guess the best thing to do would be to get it checked by a dealer. You might want to mention your concerns to the seller. I don't know how you paid for it, or if he's a decent guy, but you might get somewhere with that.

    The arboard, while clearly not flat, doesn't look that bad. Remember that it's only from the mounting area to the arm hole that matters, where the front of the armboard is is irrelevant. Mount the bearing and subplatter and use a good bubble/spirit level to check the patter against the arm collar. My bet is that you'll find it's not far out and if it is, you can shim it. Maybe not seem ideal but it will work
    hifiaf likes this.
  14. Shadders

    Shadders pfm Member

    I think anhammond may be referring to the problem where used stuff may have been connected to a poor mains supply, and the equipment will have been affected by the spuriae permanently.

    The burning in of a piece of equipment also means that poor quality signals and mains can cause the burning in period of an amplifier to sound different, as opposed to it being connected to better quality signals and power.

    If you are going to buy an expensive piece of equipment, you must ensure that the burn in period mains and signals connected are top notch. Failure to do so, may leave your equipment sounding dire for ever more.
    matt j and hifiaf like this.
  15. YNWOAN

    YNWOAN 100% Analogue

    I accept the armboard isn’t flat but that isn’t responsible for the poor sound you are experiencing - a dud or worn out cartridge would be where my finger of guilt would be pointing.
    Years ago I bought a used cartridge from a very well respected and honest chap who had said it was in fine working order. However, a quick listen confirmed it was totally worn out and it sounded dull, leaden, muffled and completely undynamic. This was fine as I was planning a rebuild and after that was sone the sound was completely transformed.
    hifiaf and Mr Pig like this.
  16. hifiaf

    hifiaf pfm Member

    Thanks for all your help and input. I take the point about the bend in the armboard not necessarily mattering much given the critical connection between the bearing and arm collar (though I'm not totally sure that's in perfect shape either!).

    I still think the most likely thing is that I messed something up on the initial Nima setup — mostly likely the alignment, but it might have been something as simple as a loose lead plug — and then had inflated expectations of what the XX-2 would sound like. Right now I'm listening to a particularly nice-sounding record (Prince Lasha and Sonny Simmons, Firebirds) with the XX-2 & Ekos remounted on a Mober subchassis, and the music sounds really good — definitely not dull, leaden, or muffled. It seems the XX-2 is capable of sounding good and that the Mober subchassis sounds at least a little better than the Kore.

    But then there is the performance on the Hi-Fi News test disc, which appears not to be very good -- though I have read some forum posts here and elsewhere that suggest good performance on +16dB and +18dB test tracks don't matter much in the real world.

    Thanks as always for your thoughts and help, everyone!
  17. Mr Pig

    Mr Pig ^'- -'^

    eBay is a great place to buy used cartridges. I don't think there are any badly worn cartridges on there. All are very lightly used. Even the thirty-year old ones.
    sq225917 and Wolfmancatsup like this.
  18. banjoman

    banjoman pfm Member

    Sorry to hear the DVXX2 isn't working out for you.
    I've had the exact opposite experience - bought a lightly used DVXX2 Mk II from this forum a few months back just to try. It replaced a Benz Wood SL in my system - 401m, AN mk2, Whest PS30-RDT
    Its been the most well balanced and fun cart I have had for a very long time - going strong and had no problems with tracking or set up. Just had to fiddle a bit with the loading options for my preference
    Its a good cart and unless there is some mismatch in your system (doesn't sound likely), I would really look at the set up very carefully
    kevinrt likes this.
  19. hifiaf

    hifiaf pfm Member

    If you or anyone on the forum with an XX-2 happens to have the Hi-Fi News test LP, I'd be really interested to know how your cart handles the torture tracks on Side 1. Mine is set to 2.2 grams and 3g anti-skate in the video above (I know the anti-skate seems high; apparently the HFN disc is notorious for suggesting a higher-than-usual or too-high anti-stake force...)
  20. Mr Pig

    Mr Pig ^'- -'^

    That anti-skate is far too high. Try it at maybe 1.8g.
    torstoi likes this.

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