Reviewer: Tim Smith
Financial interests: click here
Source (digital): 2 TB iMac 27” quad-core with 16GB RAM, AIFF, iTunes, streamed to Apple Airport Express; Musical Paradise D-1; MHDT Labs Paradisea+; Maverick Audio Tube Magic D1; Marantz SA-8003 and SA-15S2 Limited Edition SACD players; Marantz CD5003 and 5004 as transport; Resonessence Labs Herus
Source (analog): Pro-Ject RPM 10.1 with Dynavector 10x5
Phono preamplifier: Graham Slee Era Gold Mk V
Preamplifier: Audio Research LS17
Amplifiers: FirstWatt F5; Line Magnetic 518IA; Wyred4Sound SX-1000 monos; Musical Paradise MP 301MkII and mk3 Deluxe; Coincident Dynamo SE; Bottlehead Crack DIY amplifier, Musical Paradise MP-303
Loudspeakers: Harbeth Compact 7-ES3; Tekton Design M-Lore; Magnepan 1.7; Mordaunt Short Carnival 2; DIY with Fostex FE 103; Pioneer SP-BS41-LR
Headphones: Beyerdynamic DT 770 (32 Ohm) and DT 880 (600 Ohm); HiFiMan HE-400 with Audio Sensibility Impact SE 7N OCC cables
Cables: Audio Sensibility Impact SE; DH-Labs Q-10; Connex/DH Labs BL-Ag; Kimber Kable 4TC, PBJ; Paul Speltz Anti-Cables; Canare; Cardas; QED; Connex/DH Labs power cords; Shunyata Research Venom HC
Power conditioning: Shunyata Research Venom PS8 with Venom Defender; Emotiva CMX-2
Equipment rack: Apollo, Target, Tableau
Isolation devices: Cardas blocks; Teo Audio-supplied 'earthquake foam'
Speaker stands: Skylan
Room size: 8.5 meters long with nook at each end; 3.3 meters wide; 2.1 meters high
Review component retail in USA: $1'499

'Anything you can do I can do better; I can do anything better than you' wrote Irving Berlin for the 1946 Broadway show Annie Get Your Gun. This is the implicit message of audio designers who launch a 'mark 2' version less than two years after the initial offering, sometimes to the chagrin of the purchasers of the original. When Israel Blume emailed 6moons to ask if I would be interested to follow up my September 2014 review of his $1'299 Coincident Dynamo 34SE with a comparison to the new $1499 Dynamo MkII, I was surprised. I'd thought the original was a fabulous amplifier punching well above its weight in just about every category. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Having engaged in an obsessive buying binge of ChiFi push-pull and SEP amps from 2010-2014, I thought that the Dynamo was possibly without peer at its price. Accordingly, I'd bought the amp which since 2014 has acted as the solid anchor of my second system adding weight, warmth and drive to every small bookshelf speaker I paired it with. If the Dynamo had more than one input and remote control, I'd be tempted to sell more expensive gear and use it as my main amplifier with high-efficiency speakers. What could the MkII offer which the original amplifier had not?

As it turns out, a great deal. Your additional $200 buy an extra 4.5 kilos or 10 pounds of transformer iron, bigger and better capacitors, a shorter signal path, better grounding and several other upgrades. This 15kg amp is to the single-ended pentode EL34 amp family what the 45kg Mastersound amps are to the single-ended triode 845 genre. With their over-spec'd transformers bulging from their cases, these products surprise with their ability to manhandle complex music.

With substantially larger irons, the Dynamo MkII is not simply more of the same. It's like going from the Prologue to the Dialogue series in the Primaluna product range. They are worlds apart. Capacitance goes up 50% for more headroom and deeper bass - not just drier and deeper bass but noticeably more dimensional and on certain recordings, it must be said, a touch of bloat. Sonically this is the only weakness but entirely expected of a SEP amp. Ten extra pounds of iron won't overcome the typology's limitations. But with each passing year it seems that the gap between tube and transistor amps narrows and the MkII is clear proof. With voltage capacity increased by 40% and a shorter signal path, there should be more incisiveness and certainly is. Guitars pierce the air just a little bit more. The MkII seems a bit faster, better able to keep up with techno beats, better able to track dynamic swings with orchestral music and heavily produced rock. I was thoroughly satisfied with the way the Dynamo MkII handled "Dark Side of the Moon". it was noticeably more propulsive than the MkI and rendered the clock bells on "Time" with a touch more depth and body. Micro detail emerged from a quieter background. This amp strove for a different sonic signature.

In this regard the owners of the original Dynamo can rest with the knowledge that they are not living with a trial run. They are living with a warmer more romantic sound, a less angular amp, a different taste for a different market, a different ear. The Mk1 was all about the dense and meaty midrange. The MkII is more balanced, more clear, sometimes bold and brash. Frankly the differences are such that a total name change would not have been out of order. If others agree that this is a different sort of amp, the initial investment and secondary market value of Mk1 purchasers is probably safe. In any case, the single greatest improvement lies in the noise floor. It drops to the point where I heard no hiss or hum from 95dB sensitive speakers when seated one meter away. The transformers are dead quiet, emitting no mechanical hum. The MkII is probably as quiet as the fabulous Almarro A205MkII I once owned, which was the quietest of the two dozen single-ended amps I have had in the house. It takes one hour before the Dynamo MkII's transformers become noticeably warmer than the ambient air. Sometimes three hours are required before they are hot and they never become uncomfortably so. This may indicate the potential for a long life span. The icing on the cake is that the Dynamo's headphone section is night and day quieter than the Almarro's noisy afterthought.