Dynavector SUP200 Step Up Transformer Improves Performance With Right Cables
Audio Equipment Review: Dynavector SUP200 Step Up Transformer
by Dennis Russo
Published: February 25, 2013
The SUP 200 is a step up transformer from Dynavector designed to extract the very best musical performance from most moving coil cartridges. Although predominantly designed for Dynavector cartridges, the SUP200 has 26dB of gain and can be matched with all moving coil cartridges within the 3-35 ohm impedance range and an output of more than 0.1mV. The unit retails for $2650.00
I have long believed that in getting somewhere the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and that the shortest path to the best sound would be to have "straight wire with gain." But as anyone who drives knows, the shortest route is not necessarily the best route. The shortest way could be under road construction, go through a bad part of town, be bogged down with heavy traffic, or full of stop signs and traffic lights, to where the best route might be to go a little out of your way. Adding a little distance could mean a much more pleasurable experience
So, could adding another component that is not powered in any way into the signal path actually be more beneficial to the sound, and draw us even closer to the holy grail of recreating the live musical experience?
The answer is, yes -- if you do your homework.
Let me explain.
Since I currently use a Dynavector 20X cartridge and a Dynavector P-75 phono stage in my system, this beautifully made little gem seemed like a natural fit. I connected them all together using Kimber Cable Timbre interconnects, from my turntable to the phono stage, and from the phono stage to my preamp.
I really liked the sound that I heard at the shop with the SUP 2000 setup in the system there, but did not have an opportunity to hear the sound in a "before" setting to compare it against. Then again, good sound -- nay, good music -- is just that: good, no matter what you compare it against. When I took the SUP200 home from the shop, I also borrowed from them two pairs of Auditorium A23 interconnects. These are my favorite sounding interconnects (yes, I said "sounding" -- heavens to Betsy, clutch the pearls!), and ones that I some day hope to own, because I find them to sound even better (there, I said it again) than the Kimbers in my system. I made the mistake though, of only borrowing two pairs, since the step up transformer means that three pairs of cable are actually needed. But I figured after auditioning the step up transformer with an all Kimber set up first, I'd put the two pairs of auditorium cables in the system next, one from the table to the step up transformer, the other from the step up transformer to the phono stage, keeping the Kimber from the phono stage to the preamp.
Before installing the SUP200 in my system, I first listened to several albums, ranging from vocals to instrumentals, blues and jazz, rock (both classic and vintage metal), full scale orchestra and small ensemble. I even some threw in some folk. After some thorough and enjoyable listening, I put the step up transformer in line. Since this unit is not powered in any way, I was not sure what it was going to do to the music in my system. I mean, I knew what it was supposed to do, but was still not sure what it was I was going to hear.
Well, I definitely heard a difference in the sound, but I'm not sure exactly what I heard was an improvement.
I likened my initial response to the sound to the scene from the Mel Brooks movie, "History Of The World Part One." Dom DeLuise played Caesar, and, when he was given an alabaster bathing vessel as a gift, he looked down at it and said, "Nice. Not thrilling, but nice." That was my feeling here... it was nice, not thrilling, but nice.
Things seemed more open, airy -- not tinny nor harsh. It just seems a little brighter, sharper. The bass might have been a little less defined, and the vocals, although cleaner, just a tad less human sounding. I was listening to the same tracks, on the same albums, so I was comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges.
Overall my impression is that I preferred the sound of my system a little more without the SUP200 in line (now before you think anything, yes, I had my P75 adjusted to optimize the SUP200 prior to putting it in line).
For my next phase of the listening session, I changed the cables out. Remember, I had only borrowed two pairs of cables when I really needed three, but I figured this would still provide me with a good feel for how the unit would sound with different cables. I earnestly thought I was going to hear a marked improvement. I had mixed these two cables before, and heard a marked improvement in the sound, but alas to my amazement, the sound was worse than before. The soundstage depth disappeared and put everyone on the same plane of existence in front of the speakers. Width was decreased as well. More importantly, the life of the music just wasn't there anymore.
I found this more than just a little odd, and called up my resident guru of audio gear. We talked about what I was experiencing, and with little hesitation he offered that it could be the last set of Kimber cables that wasn't changed out that was causing this issue. (How wonderful it is to have a resident audio dealer/expert you can call up discuss things with. Try doing that online, all you who shop for internet "deals"!)
I thought it strange that one Kimber cable would cause the issue, since the all Kimber cable sounded better than the two third Auditorium, one third Kimber combination (especially since, as I said previously I have mixed the cables before and got very positive results). But, as I've come to know all to well after years of listening to audio equipment, anything is possible.
I asked him if he would mind bringing over another pair of Auditorium cables to go from the phono stage to the preamp, and to do some listen to see if he could hear what I was hearing. He unhesitatingly agreed. (True audio dealers make house calls! Take that yet again you internet/big box audio buyers-bah!)
He came over and listened before changing the last cable out and he was in agreement with me on what we were hearing -- the sound just wasn't what it should have been, nor what we had heard back in the shop.
When we swapped out the third pair of cables, I really was not prepared for what I heard. No, seriously, I was not. Putting on the exact same song that we had just listen to (the swap-out took two minutes at best), all of a sudden everything that I expected to hear when I first installed the SUP200 instantly was there. This is not a case of wishful thinking, hoping I would hear it. We heard it! The expansiveness of the soundstage in width and depth was back where it belonged. The "fleshiness" to the human voice was even more "human" than I remember ever hearing it in my system -- yes, I was downright giddy -- and that pace and rhythm, which was sucked out previously, was back and was even a little more life-like. Oh, how I love this hobby!
The biggest improvement I heard, however, was how much more of everything there was to hear. More, in that instruments seems clearer with more timbral accuracy, without -- and this is important -- sacrificing any of the musicality of the event. Leading edge transients had that snap of a live event feel.
Think of it like this -- and those of you that have come to wear glasses later on in life like myself can relate. When you have had good eyesight your whole life, you don't realize as you get older that things are not as sharp as they should be. You seem to see as good as you ever did, so you think everything is as clear and sharp as it ever was and going to be... until that day you'r in a department store, and walking past the eyeglass counter you try on a pair of nondescript reading glasses because you like the cool frames. And all of a sudden, pow! Things instantly snap into focus. You see better! What I'm saying is that even when you think something is as clear and open as it could be, when something comes along that shows you something that makes it better, all of a sudden you realize what you had before wasn't as good as you thought, no matter how good you thought it was. It is now better.
That is exactly what the Dynavector SUP200 has shown me. But how could changing just one more set of cable make this difference? I don't know, but it did, and in a big way!
With the all Auditorium cables connected, the SUP200 refined the music. While keeping the pace and rhythm intact, everything seemed to play together, more complex passages were more articulate, solo voices hung there in an imaginary space before me. As they were before, when called for, the instruments behind them were in their own place within the soundstage, but even moreso now. In this instance, adding more to this system, let more of the music come through.
I was not done putting the SUP200 through its paces. After swapping back in all the Kimber cables, I re-listened again to the same set of songs, and while I much preferred the sound of the SUP200 all Auditorium cables over the all Kimber cable sound, the all Kimber set up sounded much, much better than the blended cables. Again I just don't know why. But what does it matter? It did, and the music was better for it.
So can I recommend this component? Yes definitely, if you are willing to take the time to try in your system, and then try it with different cables to find the best match for you, then with the proper set up, its a no-brainer. This shouldn't sound like it was or is a chore, because one of the biggest joys of this hobby is trying new components, listening to them, and then trying some more, all to find the best combination that sounds the best to us.
I really enjoyed my time and music with this gem, and miss what it revealed to me now that it is gone. So would I own it? Again, yes definitely, if I had the Auditorium cables to connect it with. For me, that is a prerequisite and one I sincerely hope to be able to obtain one day.
In this day of "plug-n-play" stereo, components that take time to match properly may be frowned upon by those who want instant gratification or who don't want to be bothered because they feel all components sound the same. But why? Isn't that part of the fun? And doesn't the end justify the means, which in this case is great music? I say resoundingly, yes! And to paraphrase Mr. DeLuise again from the same movie, once he found out what the bathing vessel was for: "I'm going to have a treasure bath!" And that is what the SUP200 will do, allow you to be bathed in wonderful music. I based my grade of the SUP200 on the quality of the sound and music I heard with the all Auditorium cables connected.