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On construction the 20X-2 clearly shows its almost x 4 price tag versus the DL103. You get a full metal body over the Denon's plastic and although the Dynavector's cantilever is aluminum just like the Denon's its micro-ridge nude tip seems to extract far more information and dig deeper into the groove than the round tip of the DL103. I actually mean this quite literally. On discs I thought clean the 20X2 always seemed to come up from the groove saddled with dust whereas the Denon emerged clean. That was a very humbling experience. It had me modify and intensify my record cleaning procedure until the 20X-2 stopped exiting each listening session like a dumpster diver.

Setting up the DV 20X-2 was easy. The straight sides of the cartridge make alignment reasonably easy and its weight of 9.2 grams fell well within the range of what my tone arm accommodates. Dynavector recommends a fairly narrow downward force range of 1.8 to 2.2 grams and I'll happily agree that the cartridge sounded best at 2 grams. Fresh out of the box the Dv 20X-2 was very far from impressive. The dynamic chops it develops later are initially completely MIA and it does sound bright with a serious lack of body. Things improve significantly at the ten-hour mark where tonal balance falls mostly in place but you will need to give it fifty hours to know what it really sounds like especially on dynamics.

Now you probably expect the 20X-2 to be a DL103 with better extension at both ends since that’s how I introduced this review but it’s not exactly the case. The DL103 is actually voiced very clever. It takes exposure to a cartridge not voiced the same way to realize that the DL103's midrange is actually slightly forward (especially in the upper midrange). That creates a feeling of enhanced contrast in that range coupled with a slightly 'edgy' character. Voilà, the recipe for this very dynamic but at times also in-yer-face expressivity we have learnt to love in the Denon.

By contrast the Dynavector is far more neutral. Initially it won’t come across being as contrasted as the Denon but over time I became convinced that its true dynamic capabilities are actually greater both on the macro and micro level. It's just not initially obvious if you've been exposed to the Denon's enhanced presentation for too long. In truth the DV 20X-2 is more neutral, honest, resolved and elegant across the board. It too can make you sing, dance and swing but does so without playing tricks. That takes a little getting used to at first.

One of the areas where the DV 20X-2 showed its superiority right away was on opera especially sopranos and mezzos, i.e. the range where the Denon is weakest (slightly edgy and lacking in ultimate resolution). The greatly improved tonal elegance and resolution of the Dynavector became immediately obvious on an original 1971 pressing of Gluck's Orfeo Ed Euridice recorded at Covent Garden with Marilyn Horne and Pilar Lorengar in the title roles. When it comes to interpretational style this performance directed by Sir Georg Solti is completely outdated today. It seems heavy and slow compared to more period-inspired renditions. Yet the singing of the two leads remains simply unsurpassed (equalled yes, bettered no) and the DV 20X-2 showed the full range of emotional content both singers are capable of. Marilyn Horne's sotto vocce singing requires a finely articulated cartridge to showcase all her control and subtle intonation.

Here the DL103 simply falls short not in absolute terms but compared to the Dynavector it glosses over the complex low-level signals.

At the same time the 20X-2's ability to render those nuances is not due to a forward upper midrange. Here the cartridge is very open and resolved but forwardness would automatically translate to harshness on hotter recordings which never happened. The DV 20X-2 simply reaches very deep and reveals lots of detail from the midrange up.

Moving to Tarentule Tarentelle proved that the Dynavector's superior resolution, timbral accuracy and flow extend all the way to the upper treble. I discovered a whole new world of information in the upper harmonics of harpsichords, lutes and metallic percussion that the DL103 not only glossed over but missed altogether.

If you have wondered about that special vinyl treble over digital everybody talks about, the DV 20X-2 is a great cartridge to hear it. It provides a tremendously extended, varied and thus ever changing treble without any hint of glare or hardness.