Monday, October 18, 2010

Review: Dual CS5000 turntable

On my second system, I've been less than happy with my Panasonic linear tracking turntable. The sound, with a budget p-mount cartridge, has been tiny and prone to inner groove distortion. Since I spin tons of vinyl, I've decided to replace it with something better. Since this was going to be a turntable for family use, I wanted something that would lift the tonearm at the end of the record. Some searching online brought me to a used $395 Dual CS-5000 turntable.

The CS5000 was a popular 80s semi-automatic European turntable that came from the long line of 505 tables. It features a microprocesser controlled, quart referenced DC motor that drives the platter with the use of a belt. The tonearm is low mass and has a removable headshell and adjustable VTA. The CS5000 is also a suspended design, isolating the motor, arm and platter from the plinth. I found that construction quality is very good and the overall look with the oak plinth and smokey dustcover is very classy. The platter is a little on the lightweight side, but the mat is extremely thick and dense.

Upon receiving the Dual, I had to buy a cartridge. Since this is a budget rig, an Audio-Technica AT95E was selected for its reported smooth sound. Installation with the removable headshell was a snap and I soon had the turntable up and running. Using the CS5000 is easy - turn it on and push the arm until the needle rests over the record. The platter spins up to speed and 2-3 seconds later, the needle drops onto the records. When playing is done, the arm lifts but does not automatically return. Hence the term "semi-automatic".

Even through my vintage solid-state Dynaco gear, the overall sound is extremely rich and involving. Compared to my old Panasonic table, the CS5000 is more dynamic and boasts deeper bass too. Inner groove distortion is now so minimized that I have a hard time knowing that the end of the record is coming. The Dual also has a pure analog sound that is oh so enjoyable. Though lacking the detail of my VPI turntable, the Dual still has a rightness that digital seems to have a hard time matching. Vinyl noise is kept to a minimum and even normally hard to play records have an extremely clean presentation. There is a bit of a golden honey-tone to the sound that reminds me of good vacuum tube systems. Perhaps things could get a little thick with the wrong amplification chain, but it sounded just right with my current setup.

I don't know if it is the DC motor or faulty memory, but the Dual seems to have a less "washy" sound than my old Rega P2 (that I foolishly sold). The arm on the CS5000 is a little chintzy but works. I can't really comment on soundstaging, depth or the lowest/highest frequencies since this system really isn't about that.

The Dual CS-5000 is highly recommended for a budget or even a mid-priced system. This is an excellent way for someone just starting to get into vinyl.

Second System:
Dynaco PAT-4 modified
Dynaco AF-6 tuner
Dynaco ST-80 refurbished
Panasonic linear tracking turntable
Pioneer DVD-V7400 DVD player
KEF Q60 speakers
various budget cables