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Dual MTR-75
p2
p3
p4 sound quality
p5 conclusion
p6 measured performance
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Budget Dual

 

At just £250 Dual's new USB turntable offers a great deal for the money – and can sound even better with a cartridge upgrade, says Noel Keywood. 

 

As I watched the arm smoothly lift from its rest, traverse to the disc then settle down gently into the run-in groove, I smiled. It was a masterful performance, carried out in muted silence, unlike the Garrards I once used that would crash their way through the process. And all Dual ask for their new MTR-75 turntable is £250. Fantastic.

But, listening to some old blues reminded me they have hellhounds on their trail. I’ve been very impressed recently by the Audio Technica AT-LP5 (Oct 16 issue) and Reloop Turn 3 (Jan 17 issue) that cost £350, both of whom could be considered serious competitors, since they have similar facilities and a higher spec...yet cost just £100 more. Bearing this in mind, because the budget turntable market is getting quite hot, let’s look at what the MTR-75 has to offer.

 

 

A nice, clean underside with well made nylon gears, autochange stampings and small frontal servo-motor. 


This is a two speed (33rpm, 45rpm) fully automatic turntable that comes as a complete plug-and-play package. It has an on-board phono preamplifier, making an external phono stage unnecessary, and it has the now-obligatory USB digital output that turns the analogue sound to digital so it can be recorded on a computer. This is almost unbelievable ability at £250. So what are the drawbacks?

   Dual of Germany have a reputation for producing good budget turntables that stretches way back to the 1960s. Those products were built in Germany, this product comes out of China. And that means not Hanpin of Taiwan who so ably produce the Audio Technica and Reloop turntables. Chinese turntable producers are rarer than hen’s teeth because China has no history of using the LP. Mao was a spoil-sport and would not let them have it, since decadent Rock ‘n' Roll would upset the revolution. 

 

 

 

A record size selector sits close to the stylus: care is needed.

 

 

In spite of this historical interpretation (!), Dual has found a Chinese turntable manufacturer, able to build a decent product I found – for peanuts. Drawbacks are an uber-budget unmarked Audio Technica cartridge that, they say, tracks at “3-3.5 grammes”, or perhaps that should be “tractors” at that weight, ploughing through grooves, since it is a worryingly high figure. I found, however, that the unit worked perfectly well, according to our tracking test disc (CBS STR-110),  at a more reasonable 2.5gms so this was how I used it. 

   The plinth is a lightweight plastic pressing that resonates when tapped with a finger whilst a record is playing – not ideal. But the up-side is that the player is very light at 3.9kgs. It is also low profile at 122mm high, with a well finished tinted acrylic, hinged dust cover. The plinth is 372mm (141/2in) deep and a 14in wall shelf is needed for enough rear clearance for the dust cover to open. Width is 435mm.

 

 

The arm bearings had no play and no friction either, allowing free movement in both planes.

 


Set-up was very easy, aided by an anti-skate force dial at rear, and a calibrated counterweight. The cartridge comes fitted to a plug-in headshell with standard bayonet fitting so a spare shell with better cartridge could be used. The only fiddly bit was getting the drive belt over the motor pulley.

   I took a very close look at the turntable’s mechanisms and they were all well made. The auto system would trigger at the end of an LP, to lift the arm, with tracking force right down to 1gm – and the cartridge wasn’t even disturbed. The arm bearings were free of slack and moved freely in both planes. And the auto system worked flawlessly. Press the Start button on the front of the plinth and the MTR-75 does the rest, placing arm onto LP then lifting it off at the end, returning it to the rest. It was uncanny to see all this again, working so smoothly and quietly; Garrard would have cried. 

 

 

Audio Technica's AT-3600 cartridge in a headshell stiffened by side webs.

 

The arm is capable of taking a much better cartridge and I went with a Goldring 1012GX after first using the Audio Technica. A lift/lower is fitted and you can even hand cue the arm, although the finger lift isn’t ideally shaped. A replacement head shell would fix this though. 

  The rear carries one small slide switch to select the internal phono stage (Line), or direct (Phono) if an external stage is preferred. Measurement showed the internal stage is pretty good; it even has a warp filter, interestingly similar to the filter in the Hanpin turntables. Even the USB outlet was very similar, fitted with the 16bit Analogue-to-Digital convertor (ADC), operating at 44.1kHz or 48kHz sample rate. This offers CD quality and under measurement worked well. 

    Dual even offer a copy of Audacity's editing software on a CD to enable digital recording. You do have to use a digital audio editor like this to record LP to your computer as a digital file, but Audacity is available free on-line, works well and has comprehensive on-line user guides to explain all. 

   With no mains earth, as there is no exposed metal casework, earthing is through the phono leads. A captive two core mains cable is terminated in a UK 13A plug – no wall warts here.


SOUND QUALITY

All internal electronic circuits switch off when the turntable stops rotating, so the deck is absolutely silent when not playing.

As the arm hit the first LP I played, however, I heard a slight drone in the background, coming from the motor, something playing a silent rumble test track at high volume confirmed. It was slight though – and inaudible in normal use. 

   I ran the deck first connected through its phonostage (Line) to an Icon Audio Stereo 30SE amplifier driving Martin Logan ESL-X hybrid electrostatic loudspeakers and all was fine, the Dual having plenty enough output.

   In spite of my reservations over the Audio Technica AT-3600 cartridge, an AT-21 variant (conical stylus, 2gms tracking force) with dual V-magnet and carbon fibre cantilever, it sounded very good. By this I mean smooth and easy, not dull or warm – and with great midband push to horns that would shame any CD player at the price. 

 

 

 

The rear carries a small phono/line slide switch, and USB digital output socket.

 

With classic Rock tracks like Dire Straits So Far Away, from Brothers In Arms, there was strong low-end drive, drums and bass sounding meaty and muscular, just what you hope for from LP. At the same time there was no low-end wallow, due to the warp filter. Whatever I played moved with a sense of speed and dynamic snappiness, 

I constantly went back to this thought: the Dual was every bit as easy to use as a CD player but had a fuller bodied, more natural and musically engaging sound with the Audio Technica, with mild upper treble free of sharpness or spit, or excessive warmth. What you don’t get from a conical stylus is extended treble or forensic detail; it’s all a bit generalised up top, but Audio Technica know their cartridges and the AT-3600 was a good listen (bought separately they cost £21). I see also they say the carbon fibre reinforced cantilever is “capable of standing up to rigorous commercial use” so this is a turntable the family can use! An excellent choice of cartridge then.

 

 

 

A calibrated counterweight and anti-skate dial make set up easy. 

 

Playing an LP with sustained piano notes (Solid Acoustic Reference, No8) piano had a sense of ‘cracked tone’ and temporal indeterminacy. On occasion the MTR-75 sounded a tad drunken after using our Timestep Evo modded Technics SL-1210 Mk2 Direct Drive reference. Piano aficionados may detect this but with most else it will pass unnoticed. The Hanpin manufactured decks from Audio Technica and Reloop manage obviously better here – and that is part of what you get for paying £100 more. 

   With the Goldring 1012GX cartridge fitted, I switched to using the direct (Phono) output, feeding an Icon Audio PS3 valve phono stage. As expected the sound became much better defined and more insightful; the arm does not give the hard defined images on the sound stage, left to right, as a Rega arm for example, or the sense of dynamic impact, but it doesn’t destroy dynamic contrasts or imaging either, which is why I enjoyed listening. 


CONCLUSION

Watching an automatic turntable perform its little ballet is amusing – today when such things are meant to be long gone. But Dual’s MTR-75 went through its sequences perfectly. It is a budget turntable that has been very well balanced throughout to deliver what you hope to hear from LP, combined with ease of set up and no-hassle use. For £250 – it is nothing short of fantastic. 

 

 

 

 

DUAL MTR-75 £250

 

 

OUTSTANDING - amongst the best 

 

VALUE - keenly priced

 

VERDICT

A fine little automatic turntable at a super low price. It has a lovely sound and will fit easily into any system. The whole family can use it without fear. 

 

FOR

- fully automatic

- easy to set up and use

- smooth yet dynamic sound

 

AGAINST 

- slight motor drone

- resonant plinth

- speed instability

 

Dual c/o BRS

+44 (0) 1344 893932

www.bigredsales.co.uk

 


Rohde&Schwarz UPV spectrum analyse – phono stage measurement.

 

MEASURED PERFORMANCE

The needle of our Kenwood FL-180A Wow & Flutter meter swung cyclically and strongly around 0.25% wow (DIN, unweighted), exceeding 0.3% at times – close to unacceptable for a hi-fi product. No amount of run-in changed things. So this amount of speed variation was related to invariables such as mechanical eccentricity in main bearing or the platter’s belt rim. Our spectrum analysis shows the high variation lay at basic rotational frequency 0.55Hz (33rpm), eliminating the motor as the problem.  

   With DIN weighting, total Wow and Flutter measured 0.15% – a much better result because the DIN filtering suppresses variation at 0.55Hz. Speed was fast at +1.6%.

Subjectively, low rate variation like this makes for ‘watery’ pitch, softening time domain grip. Occasional slur, on sustained piano notes for example, may be apparent.

   The internal phono stage that provides Line output had a useful gain of x80 (38dB), giving a high 0.8V output from just 10mV input from a cartridge. This is more than enough to drive amplifiers to full output. Overload margin was adequate at 27mV in; few cartridges can deliver this. RIAA equalisation was very accurate and an excellent warp filter has been included, our analysis of equalisation accuracy shows here. Noise measured a low -70dB IEC A weighted, a respectable figure. 

   The USB digital output reached digital maximum (0dB) at exactly the limit of the fitted Audio Technica cartridge’s tracking ability, +15dB on CBS STR-112 tracking test disc (63µm peak amplitude). This was equivalent to 14mV in. USB has been well matched in.

   The ADC is 16bit resolution offering sampling rates of 44.1kHz and 48kHz. Noise measured a low -77dB IEC A weighted, the effective dynamic range of the ADC and a respectable figure for budget 16bit.

  The MTR-75 had poor speed accuracy and stability. The internal phono stage and USB digital convertor by way of contrast were very good, accepting they are budget items. The cartridge tracked well at 2.5gms and doesn’t need to be run at 3-3.5gms quoted in the handbook. NK

 

 

Speed error                   +1.6%

Wow                              0.25% 

Flutter                            0.08%

Total W&F weighted      0.15%

 

 

Hewlett Packard HP3561A – wow and flutter spectrum analysis.

 

 

FREQUENCY RESPONSE phono

 

 

 

WOW AND FLUTTER

 

 

 

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