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Dynaco Stereo 70 Tube Amp Reviewed

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HTR Product Rating

Performance
3 Stars
Value
5 Stars
Overall
4 Stars

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Hmm... This is starting to seem about as much like a Stereo 70 as a Caterham Seven resembles Chapman's first version. The specifications, too, are so 1990-ish that, 35W/channel rating aside, I could be writing about any one of a dozen current amplifiers: a frequency response flat from 20-20kHz +/-0.5db at rated power, hum and noise of -90dB, taps for 4, 8 or 16 ohms, less than 0.25% distortion. This is not a recipe for nostalgia.

So, what hat to wear? When I reviewed the reborn Radford, I got what I wanted/expected: a cleaned-up Mk III with lower noise and more grunt, but all the warmth, richness and beloved tubey-ness of its predecessor. So unlike the original is the Stereo 70 Series II that I had to forget about nostalgia and think of it simply as a new offering at the #1000 point. It simply cannot be compared to a vintage Dyna, pr even a Radford STA25 Mk IV. Instead, it has to fight the wares of Croft, Audio Innovations, Tube Technology, Michaelson Audio and anyone else with a valve amp selling for around a grand.

Thoe only things I find romantic about this amplifier are the logo and the styling. It's simply too controlled, too competent, too precise and to liken to its bronzed and browned ancestor. Lots of previously unavailable extension at both ends of the frequency spectrum make an original sound positively compressed, while a sense of greater power enhances both the usability and the dynamic capabilities.

It's far drier, far more solid, considerably leaner and more detailed than the original. Try though I may I could find but one area where it aped the oldie, and that was three-dimensionality. Not that you'd mistake one for the other, because the Series II sounds far bigger, the original appearing to be a three-quarter or even a two-thirds scale model of its grandchild. But the proportions of the soundtage are virtually identical, as are the placement of the specific images within the soundstage.

Used with a variety of pre-amps and sources and with speakers which it could drive without strain (the Tannoy Six Series 603, the Spendor LS3/5a, the Genesis IM-5200), the Dyna behaved admirably, with enough composure to allow me to forget (not that I wanted to) that I was supposed to be in time-travel mode. The Series II sounded like what it is: a good, modern valve amp which parks its tush somewhere inbetween the glowing past and the solid-state present. It offers very little in the way of clues as to the presence of six valves; only when you switch immediately to a solid-state design do you note that the Dyna is a tad warmer, smoother and more coherent, with few audible indications of user abuse.

Overdriving the new Dyna is a lot like overdriving the old Dyna: it simply shrugs and craps out without much drama. The difference is that the Series II can be pushed a bit harder before it starts to clip, so you can squeeze out a few more SPLs than you could with its forebear. than an original ew more SPLs than you could from This makes it more useable with modern speakers, with even the LS3/5A acknowledging the gains.

But the Series II is not a safe-bet shortcut to Stereo 70 heaven. If you want that classic sound, you have to locate a mint or merely working original. You will want either, but not both. Chalk and cheese? Yin and yan? Black and white? Maybe it's not quite that severe, because both make pleasurable sounds, so they aren't quite as at odds with each other as my reactions suggest. But it's down to expectations, and I can't help but believe that 99% of the Series II's potential owners will be seeking out a glimpse of the past.

Do I seem disappointed? I hope not. After all, my own Stereo 70 still works, and it would be stupid to think that those who had enough gumption to restore the Stereo 70 to the shelves should have banked their entire investment in nostalge. Even Fortis improved the Harwood when that watch went back into production after 60 years in limbo. But the new Harwood tells time with far greater accuracy than the original, and only a yutz would suggest that that's a bad thing.

But maybe it's not the same with sound reproduction. A watch only has to tell the time as precisely as possible. Hi-fi equipment is supposed to seduce, amuse, charm, entertain and transport the listener, by whatever means. The original Dynaco Stereo 70 is like your first love. The Series II is the person you settled with after a couple of divorces.

Take your pick.buffwatch fancier it took to reach this stage,still form of,startershe finishld have had to performedplating or metalworkingSeries II. Andery to yank the Stereo 70 into thirtysomethingness. But the physical changes, whether newcomponentnow (-made)better controlwith be compared to a vintage Dyna, obe edight,svalves; only when you switch Stefindcovet an original or a Series IIingfor so I'm covered. 

Additional Resources
• Read more stereo amplifier reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com.
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