My study deck is a Dual CS626 which is a wonderful automatic direct drive device that I like very much but - it has died
I may be able to fix it in time thanks to Help from the Dual aficionados on here. However I have had no luck with old replacements I have auditioned recently and all my other golden oldies are with various sons across the UK, so I decided to buy a brand new one! From the title you can see what I have ended up with and here is the full SP...
The AT-LP5 is a Chinese built direct drive manual deck with inbuilt phono amp (can be switched out), DAC and a special edition Audio Technica AT95E called variously AT95X or 95EX. It has a red stylus block and the bonded diamond is .3 by .7 rather than .4 by .7 of the standard 95E and other changes are rumours as far as I currently know. The arm is a gimbal device with very accurate tracking force adjustment by rotating the counterweight (checked with digital scales), magnetic anti skate that works proportionately though at the zero setting still acts slightly - easy to compensate for if required. The dust cover stays up if required, the platter spins flat, the feet are rubberised and the whole thing is very nicely made and comes perfectly packed.
I unpacked and set up as per any such deck plus the instructions re balance and alignment which was spot on as supplied. I set to 2 gm antiskate, plugged in to my amp (Nait 5i
) and used the supplied leads and phono amp to listen to some Hendrix (Band of Gypsies) and Springsteen (Born in the USA).
Well, well, what a surprise. I quickly settled back to do as above - "listen to some..." and quickly forgot to play the auidiophool game and listen to the gear. The key impression if I am to analyse the sound is pacey with an excellent rhythmic sense that gets you tapping your foot or rocking your head or whatever you do at such times. The speed is rock solid and despite a lid/base construction that is certainly microphonic if tapped, free from resonance in my small study room with wall mounted Usher 520s at any volume I can stand these days.
Perhaps the real revelation is the AT95X cartridge. It is a lively little beast that tracks well and after a little initial brightness has settled down to sound very involving and far livelier than the Shure M97eX I had used previously. It is also kinder to surface noise paradoxically. Mid range has fleshed out a little and the whole sound now reminds me of a Linn Axis and K9 I once had playing through a Nait 1 and Linn Kans in the same room - only less skeletal but just as revealed.
Upgrades? Plenty possible but the only one I have felt like trying has been my Graham Slee Gram Amp 2 SE simply because it sits handily by. It adds some more depth, tonal colour and flesh to the bones which makes it easier to hear rasping strings or kick drum decay but is by no means night and day - I could easily live with the inbuilt phono. I will not bother with an Ortofon or other cartridge for quite a while.
I have read disparaging remarks from other forum members about this deck. Don't bother if you haven't got an AT-LP5, your opinion is baseless. I tried several other price comparable decks including a new Rega P2 with Carbon cartridge (an AT 91 derivative) and Rega P3 with Rega Elise 2. These were my preferred choices until I auditioned them (with my system) but the P2 didn't involve me and sounded small scale while the P3 sounded excellent - very much like the AT LP5 in fact. BUT the Rega cartridge picked up motor induced hum which is unacceptable in a new design at £625. Unacceptable at any price actually. So, save a few quid and try the LP5 I thought and am pleased I did.
For those forum members who want to try a basic deck ready to go out of the box or move on from a Crosley disk plough look no further. One year's warranty or 6 if you pay a bit more. Enjoy the music.