Rega RP6 & Dynavector Karat 17D3 - Works Perfectly

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Agitater, Jul 22, 2017.

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  1. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Toronto
    For those of you with turtables sporting the Rega RB303, particularly RP3 and RP6 owners who want to take a big step up in cartridges from the Rega Exact 2, the Dynavector 17D3 (at 15.8mm in height) is essentially a straight swap-out for the Exact 2 (at 14mm in height) or any other current Rega cartridge. Before checking the cartridge instruction manuals on the Dynavector site, I assumed that all of Dynavector's cartridges were 18mm-18.8mm in height just like the popular and excellent 10X2, 20X2 and XXMK2 MC models. Turns out, the 17D3 is the outlier.

    Prior to actually checking the Dynavector site - good grief, I wish I took my own advice more often - I installed the 17D3 using a 4mm spacer. The 17D3 looks significantly taller and wider that the Exact 2, so that appearance (along with the assumption that the 17D3 actually is, like other Dynavector models, almost 5mm taller than Rega carts) led me to use the spacer. The result, after a really easy overhang and alignment with a Feickert protractor (highly recommended), and after an azimuth check to ensure I had not overtorqued one of the cartridge mounting screws (my RP6/RB303 arm/headshel are dead level otherwise and the 17D3's diamond cantilever and stylus were pefectly aligned), was a remarkably startling absence of bass, a tipped up treble, but a luscious midrange.

    Ah hah! (I said to myself). The SHTV audio mavens are not wrong. They all use a 2mm spacer with other Dynavector cartridges (most often, as I read things here, the 10X2 and 20X2). Dopey me. So I swapped a 2mm spacer in place of the 4mm thing. That resulted in a highly detailed but much smoother treble, the same luscious midrange. More bass detail appeared, but on familiar LPs (e.g., Stanley Turrentine and the 3 Sounds: Midnight Hour, Pepper Adams: Critics' Choice, and a couple of other notably well-balanced recordings) bass still sounded far back in the mix.

    Then I checked the Dynavector web site for the actual cartridge height. 15.8mm. So I pulled the 2mm spacer and went back to the stock mount. The treble got even better, the midrange stayed luscious, bass detail and presence was back in full force. Just as important, instrument timbre (which I did not notice being off because I was concentrating on other things) was back in full, realistic force and everything better than I've heard in a long time.

    I just learned (not for the first time in my life):

    1. Check the actual cartridge specs before making decisions on spacers or arm height/VTA adjustment;

    2. A 1.8mm cartridge height difference makes such a tiny angular change in VTA on a Rega turntable/RB303 arm combo that even when using a Dynavector 17D3 with its unusually short cantilever, adding height of any kind, even as little as 2mm, is a bad idea;

    3. The Dr. Feickert Alignment Protractor is the best device of its kind I've ever used (that includes all of the various alignment tools I've used since approximately 1974);

    4. The 17D3 is a wonderful cartridge.
     
    bluemooze, Shiver, LARGERTHAN and 3 others like this.
  2. chrism1971

    chrism1971 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Glos, UK
    Lovely cartridge and very fast. I used one on a P7 for several years.
     
  3. KT88

    KT88 Forum Resident

    I've used the 17D3 and an older Karat cartridge for years on my various personal Rega tables including Planar 3, P5, Planar 2, and RP6. I have also used the 20x2 among others. The 20x2 definitely needs the 2mm spacer and 3mm is probably even more correct. I use a 2mm spacer with the Karat cartridges as well and I get a very well balanced sound. The 20x can be a little too polite for some tastes with only 2mm of spacing. I enjoy both cartridges. I have the 17D3 on an original Planar 2 table with Grace 707 tonearm at home presently.
    -Bill
     
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  4. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Toronto
    Try I as did, it just did not achieve the balance I expected with the 2mm spacer in place.

    Ears. Hearing. We're all just enough different from each other to justify all this configuring.
     
  5. Echoes Myron

    Echoes Myron Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Thanks for the recommendation. If you don't mind my asking here what are some good phono stages for the Dynavector MCs?
     
  6. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Toronto
    I've tried the Whest Two, the Trichord Diablo, Graham Slee Revelation C, Heed Thesis Phi, and an EAR 88PB. To my ears, the Trichord Diablo (from the UK) is the clear winner. I think it outclasses the Whest and the Slee. The Heed Thesis Phi sounded just wrong to me, but a lot of serious music lovers really like it. The EAR ran very close to the Trichord and may even have beaten it on a couple of really dense and complex classical orchestral albums, but the EAR was just a shade or two outside my budget. I am wholly delighted with the Trichord Diablo at CAN$2500/US$1800 (full list).

    I also tried a friend's Graham Slee Gram Amp2 with the Slee Elevator (step-up transformer). For a total of US$500, it was remarkably good. Highly recommended. Seriously. Graham Slee does a really good job with their designs.

    Earlier this evening as I typed this, a friend brought over his Lehmann Black Cube and his Pro-ject Phono Box RS. Both phono stages were creditable - good and listenable and musical - but outclassed to my ears by the Slee Revelation, Trichord Diablo and the Whest Two. Again, the Trichord Diablo is my favorite these days. Wonderful phono stage.
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2017
  7. KT88

    KT88 Forum Resident

    Well, there is system synergy at play in otherwise differing systems when goals and hearing are otherwise equal.
    -Bill
     
  8. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Toronto
    No doubt. And I agree that any two people of the same age and background picked at random from a given demographic group will often have very similar hearing sensitivity. Still, in listening sessions at home with friends who've heard a particular setup repeatedly and become familiar with it, the devil is in the details. One person is adept at letting the music wash over him, another loves the rhythm section, and another is focused on soloists. So far, the upgrade to the Dynavector 17D3 is a hit with everyone. So I agree with you again - if your system sounds great with the 2mm spacer and mine sounds great without the spacer, the lack of difference has to be due to system synergies.
     
  9. Shiver

    Shiver Forum Resident

    Location:
    UK
  10. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Toronto
    I read the group test in Hi-Fi News. I think it's a great roundup for anyone who's searching for a competitive review of cartridges in the price range. My auditions of the Cadenza series, which doesn't work notably well with the stock Rega RB-303 arm (but well enough, to my ears, with modified RB-3xx arms from Origin Live), and the Benz Ace SH (much better to my ears that the Cadenza Red, though it took quite a while to find a dealer who had one installed in a Rega or Rega-like arm and on demo) weren't wholly satisfying. I first heard the Dynavector 17D3 in a modified Rega RB303 arm mounted on a Michell Orbe SE at Executive Stereo in Toronto. That demo attracted me to the combination.

    As for the use of washers when mounting the 17D3, as Bill @KT88 noted above, ". . . there is system synergy at play in otherwise differing systems when goals and hearing are otherwise equal." Wise words. The Hi-Fi News reviewer used an SME Model 10 turntable with an SME arm and M2 swap-able headshells. That creates a completely different system synergy that (the reviewer stated) benefited from the use of mounting washers with the 17D3 in the SME headshells. The Rega arm is quite different from the SME. Just as important, his statement that the 17D3 does not track (warps, presumably) as well as the other top contenders in the group test, has not so far been borne out on my modified RP6 with the 17D3. Mild, common sorts of warps are being tracked accurately and uneventfully. That said, I'm not going to challenge the very short 17D3 diamond cantilever with severely warped LPs.

    Anyway, I tried the supplied, thin washers at each stage of VTA adjustment noted in the OP. On my system (Groovetracer subplatter/ceramic bearing modified RP6, Rega tungsten counterweight, HRS turntable platform, Trichord Diablo phono stage, LFD NCSE MK? - I always forget which iteration it is, but it's the newest one - driving Harbeth Monitor 30.1 speakers), the mounting washers had the effect of turning treble and upper midrange into corn flakes left in a bowl of milk too long. Not great. Again, I attributed the difference to the reviewer's use of a completely different arm and turntable than mine.
     
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  11. Shiver

    Shiver Forum Resident

    Location:
    UK
    Nicely put.

    Interesting the nylon washers had a treble-softening effect for you too, even if, yep, not in a good way for your set up. Wonder if they'd affect other carts similarly...

    Out of interest, other than the tracking aspect, would you say that article sums up the 17D3's basic character well, as you find it?

    It seems to do so with the Benz SL (even when previously on a RB303 (RP3)), but I haven't heard any of the others.
     
  12. Echoes Myron

    Echoes Myron Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Thaks again for the info. How does your Karat track on warped records, with the shorter cantilever?
     
  13. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Toronto
    There's no doubt that plenty of music listeners will prefer a 17D3 mounted with washers. There's such a range of hearing and listening rooms and phono stages and amps and speakers that it's just not accurate for anyone to infer from a review that what the reviewer did using washers with a particular cart is desirable or even appropriate for any other given setup. But for anyone who needs to tame treble as the apparent result of a 17D3 installation, the washers might help.

    As for the grouptest reviewer's described impressions of the 17D3 (and the other carts in the lineup), it all reads to me like just so much non-specific blathering I'm not sure I could do any better with the descriptions. I don't know what it means when a reviewer describes a cart that occasionally sounds "busy." I don't know what, "Its bass was well controlled and springy" means. I don't know what (about the Cadenza Red compared to the Benz ACE SH, that it has "oustanding bass" that outperforms the ACE, although it "it othewise slightly restrained and finer grained." It's all personal, emotional description from which we, as avid readers, are expected to derive our own individual definitions.

    My 'take' on the 17D3 is that it is a significant and immediately noticeable improvement over the Rega Exact 2. More detail, better soundstage, greater musical presence, greater instrument clarity, and more accurate instrument and vocal timbre. Basically, listening to music played by the 17D3 is significantly more enjoable and immersive. I can only conclude that I'm hearing much more of what the producer and mastering engineer wanted me to hear. I really like this cartridge.
     
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  14. Wasatch

    Wasatch Music Lover!

    I like the 17D3 on my P5.
     
  15. KT88

    KT88 Forum Resident

    Washers underneath a headshell, ie in-between the cartridge body and headshell is never a good idea for a really solid mount. It is done only when needed by odd shaped headshells or cartridges that won't fit together normally. Sometimes shims are used to adjust azimuth in some set-ups also, but just washers for some sort of damping is a bad idea IME. It will blur the sound. Most arm makers strive for the tightest tolerances and most rigid structures. Cartridges and arms need to be absolutely rock stable in their relationship and also the arm base and platter bearing should be. That eliminates any play between the parts and so limits the only movement to the cantilever, which results in the most efficient transfer of energy to the signal generator structure of the cartridge. Adding soft materials and absorbing energy anywhere in the system softens the whole whole sound and smears detail. maybe some people like that effect, but it is not accurate reproduction of the recording. And the recording should be the most accurate reproduction of the original performance. I mean that's as close as we can get as listeners, in our own home as opposed to being at the studio. The record allows us to bring home that recording and we can either play it back accurately or with coloration. Now, sure we might need to add or subtract bass etc for our speaker to room interaction, but we should not be making tonal or dynamics changes at the very first stage of reproduction. It is best to keep the original signal as intact as is possible and then only at the amplification or speaker stage to alter the response to fit the room the system is now in. By contrast, when you alter the sound of the recording signal (and the record and stylus form a simple machine that drives the playback signal generator), you can't really get back to "what could have been", ie what was intended on the recording by making further alterations later on. You get a bit farther away and then try to bring it back, so never being as exact as the original, you add some colorations and other forms of distortion that become inseparable from the original signal.

    I think that the review was actually well written and I could make out exactly what he meant with his description of "busy". Go back and re-read the original page on the Karat, then the verdict section again and you'll see where he makes reference to his earlier description, which when taken together, makes it quite clear. It also matches my experience with this cartridge, which is that it draws a lot of information with speed and detail that doesn't become saturated or blurred to form some sort of tone, rather retains all the original sound elements and so yeah, if you want to call that level of resolution "busy" and a lossy sound "soft" or "warm", then it's spot-on.
    -Bill
     
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  16. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Toronto
    It tracks mild warps perfectly well. I know that I've got a couple of really badly warped LPs in my collection, but for the life of me right now I can't remember which ones they are and therefore can't try them. There are other problems with those LPs as well - they're unlistenable because of scratches, among other things. I don't know why I've kept them around.
     
  17. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Toronto
    You've described quite accurately what I heard when listening with washers in place. I also agree with your approach. Let the cartridge and stylus extract whatever is on the LP without trying to physically modify what the cartridge is supposed to able to do. As I mentioned in the OP, my RB-303 is dead level - no azimuth issue therefore, so no need for washers. As well, the mounting surface of he 17D3 butts flush and solid against the mounting surface of the RB-303 headshell, so again no need for washers. I tried washers anyway. It was a waste of time and effort.

    I took your advice and re-read both the Karat review and the grouptest summary. I still don't find the reviewer's overall description of the 17D3 to be clear. I confess that I don't really care deeply about that one way or the other. I long ago started using reviews as just a jumping off point, gleaning whatever benefits I can from the efforts of reviewers who see, handle and listen to far more gear than me to create a list of items to audition before making a decision. I'm also lucky, living in Toronto, and having a very good relationship with several audio dealers who are eminently reputable and supportive. I can't say enough about Dave Wong at Bay Bloor Radio, Mike and Robert at Audio Eden, Ed Stone at Executive Stereo, and John Costanzo at My Kind of Music. Great people, great shops, well run businesses. If I can't audition a particular product at one of those places, with all the variety they offer, then I rapidly lose interest in the product. Trust is worth more than I can describe.
     
  18. KT88

    KT88 Forum Resident

    You are indeed fortunate. Hi-Fi shops in the US are more and more uncommon these days. I guess it is because Canadians spend more time indoors than we do here. But you can also feel free to think that it is because Canadians are just on average more intelligent and sophisticated than us 'mericans. I am beginning to wonder if that isn't the case myself...
    :cheers:
    -Bill
     
  19. Shiver

    Shiver Forum Resident

    Location:
    UK
    I personally felt I 'got' what (I think) the author of that review was trying to get across; and in retrospect the description of the Benz (SL btw, not the SH) makes sense after owning one. Aaanyway, it's not about that. Glad you're enjoying the DV - sounds like a great set-up.
     
  20. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Toronto
    Thanks! Consdering the particular background noise floor in my listening area/room, and considering the supporting gear and speakers, and the acoustic limits of the room itself, I've gone about as far as I can go in the room. The best thing is that I've listened to more LPs during the past week or so that I had during the previous two months. So the setup is definitely working well for me, and better than ever before.
     
    Shiver likes this.
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