For vinyl enthusiasts on a budget, Dynavox offers an array of affordable audio accessories. In this review, we take a closer look at the Dynavox TC-20 Phono Preamplifier, a compact device designed to bridge the gap between your turntable and an amplifier lacking a dedicated phono input. With a price tag of just 29 euros, we assess whether this budget-friendly preamp delivers the sonic experience you desire.
Dynavox is a German company known for its commitment to enhancing the audio experience for enthusiasts and individuals on a budget. Their product range spans from accessories to more substantial components, and they specialize in offering practical and affordable solutions for the audiophile community. Dynavox’s emphasis on cost-effectiveness is evident in their phono preamplifiers, like the Dynavox TC-20, which allows vinyl lovers to integrate their turntables seamlessly into audio systems lacking dedicated phono inputs. While they may not necessarily focus on cutting-edge design, Dynavox prioritizes functionality and quality, ensuring their products serve their intended purpose efficiently. Their dedication to delivering value to those who appreciate analog audio is a testament to their mission of making high-fidelity audio accessible to a broader audience.
|Entrances||1x RCA MM|
|Audio outputs||1x RCA|
Build and Design
Externally, the TC-20 is unassuming and designed to complement your setup discreetly. Housed in a compact and sturdy casing made of painted sheet steel, it offers effective shielding against electrical interference. However, keeping the external power supply cable away from signal cables is essential to prevent potential interference issues. A small circuit board beneath the lid features minimal circuitry, with a NE5532 stereo operational amplifier handles amplification and RIAA equalization.
Build Quality: The Dynavox TC-20 Phono Preamplifier boasts a solid build quality that belies its budget-friendly price tag. Housed in a compact and robust casing made from painted sheet steel, the device offers several advantages in terms of durability and performance:
- Sturdy Construction: The metal housing not only lends the TC-20 a sleek and practical appearance but also ensures high physical protection. This robust construction helps shield the preamp’s sensitive internal components from external interference, contributing to its noise reduction capabilities.
- Minimal Circuitry: Inside the casing, the TC-20 maintains a minimalist approach to circuitry. Its circuit board features only essential components, primarily centered around a stereo operational amplifier of the NE5532 type. This minimalist design, while rudimentary, efficiently serves the purpose of amplification and RIAA equalization.
Design: While the TC-20’s design isn’t extravagant or innovative, it adheres to a functional and inconspicuous aesthetic:
- Compact Form Factor: The TC-20 is designed with a compact form factor, ensuring it doesn’t occupy much space in your audio setup. This compact design allows it to sit inconspicuously beside or behind your turntable, making it a practical choice for those with limited space.
- Unobtrusive Appearance: The preamp’s design is understated, prioritizing functionality over flashy aesthetics. While it may not win any design awards, it’s intended to blend seamlessly into your audio system rather than drawing attention to itself.
- External Power Supply: The TC-20 incorporates an external power supply, and while this is generally a good design choice for noise reduction, it’s essential to be mindful of the placement of the power supply cable. Placing it too close to other signal cables can introduce interference, impacting the overall performance.
- LED Indicator: A green LED on the top of the case indicates whether the preamp receives power. This feature ensures you can easily confirm its operational status at a glance.
In summary, the Dynavox TC-20 Phono Preamplifier’s build quality and design prioritize practicality and functionality. Its sturdy metal construction, minimalist internal circuitry, and discreet form factor make it a reliable and cost-effective choice for vinyl enthusiasts seeking a basic solution to integrate their turntable into their audio system. While it may not stand out in visual aesthetics, it delivers a practical and space-saving design that fulfills its intended purpose.
Unique Functions of Dynavox TC-20
Despite its budget-friendly nature, the Dynavox TC-20 Phono Preamplifier offers some unique functions and features that cater to the specific needs of vinyl enthusiasts. Here are the noteworthy unique functions of the TC-20:
- Affordable Entry Point: One of the most distinctive features of the TC-20 is its remarkably low price point. This makes it an excellent entry-level option for individuals just starting to explore the world of vinyl records or those on a tight budget. The TC-20’s affordability allows more people to enjoy the warmth and nostalgia of vinyl without making a substantial financial commitment.
- Minimalist Design: The TC-20’s minimalist design is a unique attribute focusing on functionality rather than aesthetics. This design choice ensures that the preamp blends inconspicuously into your audio setup. While it may not stand out in terms of visual appeal, its discreet appearance is a practical and space-saving solution for those with limited room for additional equipment.
- External Power Supply for Noise Reduction: An external power supply is a unique and thoughtful feature of the TC-20. This design element is vital in reducing interference and noise in the audio signal. While external power supplies are relatively common in higher-end audio equipment, it’s unusual to find them in budget-friendly offerings. This feature helps maintain the audio output quality and ensures a clean listening experience.
- Compatibility with Moving Magnet (MM) Cartridges: The TC-20 is specifically designed for turntables equipped with MM cartridges, the more prevalent cartridge type on entry-level and mid-range turntables. Its compatibility with MM cartridges is a unique advantage, as it ensures that the preamp caters to a broad range of turntables commonly found in the market. This feature allows users to connect their turntable to the preamp without compatibility concerns easily.
- Noise Reduction and User-Friendly LED Indicator: The TC-20 reduces noise and interference, ensuring that vinyl records are played back with minimal unwanted background noise. Additionally, the green LED indicator on the preamp’s case provides a user-friendly visual cue, allowing users to determine if the preamp receives power quickly. This small but effective feature simplifies setup and troubleshooting.
In summary, the Dynavox TC-20 Phono Preamplifier offers unique functions that cater to the needs of budget-conscious vinyl enthusiasts. Its affordability, compatibility with MM cartridges, external power supply for noise reduction, and minimalist design make it an accessible and practical solution for individuals seeking an affordable entry into the world of vinyl records. While it may not offer high-end features, the TC-20’s unique functions make it an attractive choice for those looking to enjoy vinyl without breaking the bank.
Connections and Connectivity of the Dynavox TC-20 Phono Preamplifier
The Dynavox TC-20 Phono Preamplifier is a simple device for connections and connectivity. It is designed to serve a specific purpose: to bridge the gap between your turntable and an amplifier that lacks a dedicated phono input. Here’s a closer look at the connections and connectivity of the TC-20:
- Turntable Input: The primary input of the TC-20 is designed to connect to your turntable. This input is compatible with turntables that use Moving Magnet (MM) cartridges, the most common type found on turntables. MM cartridges are known for their affordability and widespread use.
- Output to Amplifier: The TC-20 features an output connection that allows you to connect it to your amplifier or receiver. This output typically uses standard RCA connectors, widely compatible with most amplifiers and audio systems. It provides a straightforward and reliable means of transmitting the preamplified signal to your main audio setup.
- External Power Supply: The TC-20 includes an external power supply connecting to the preamp. The external power supply is critical in reducing interference and noise in the audio signal. However, it’s important to be cautious with the placement of the power supply cable. Keeping it away from other signal cables is recommended to prevent potential interference.
- LED Indicator: The TC-20 features a green LED indicator on the top of the case. This LED serves as a visual cue, indicating whether the preamp is receiving power. This simple feature helps you easily determine whether the unit is operational, which is especially useful when troubleshooting or setting up your audio system.
- Cabling: The TC-20 uses standard RCA cables for input and output connections. These cables are commonly available and easily replaceable, making setting up and connecting the preamp to your turntable and amplifier convenient.
Regarding connectivity, the Dynavox TC-20 provides the essential connections needed for its intended purpose. It’s designed to be user-friendly, making it accessible for individuals who may not have an in-depth understanding of audio equipment. The straightforward input and output connections and the external power supply ensure that you can easily integrate this phono preamplifier into your existing vinyl playback setup without much hassle.
Overall, the TC-20 is a practical and no-frills solution for vinyl enthusiasts seeking a cost-effective way to enhance their audio system by connecting their turntable to an amplifier that lacks a phono input. Its basic but effective connections and connectivity options make it a user-friendly choice for this specific application.
Usability and Functionality of the Dynavox TC-20 Phono Preamplifier
The Dynavox TC-20 Phono Preamplifier is designed with a clear focus on usability and functionality, catering to vinyl enthusiasts looking for an affordable and straightforward solution to improve their audio setup. Here’s an in-depth look at the usability and functionality of the TC-20:
- Ease of Installation: The TC-20 is exceptionally user-friendly, featuring a plug-and-play design that minimizes the complexity of setup. Its compact size and lightweight construction make integrating into an existing audio system easy without requiring much space or effort. Connecting your turntable and amplifier with clearly labeled input and output ports is straightforward, even for those with limited technical expertise.
- Compatibility: The preamp is tailored for turntables equipped with Moving Magnet (MM) cartridges, which are widely used and known for their accessibility. This compatibility ensures that a broad range of turntables can be seamlessly connected to the TC-20, making it versatile and suitable for many vinyl setups.
- External Power Supply: While contributing to the device’s overall functionality, the external power supply also plays a crucial role in minimizing interference and noise. This thoughtful design feature maintains audio quality by avoiding unwanted electrical noise. However, users should be cautious about cable placement to prevent potential interference issues.
- LED Indicator: Including a green indicator on the preamp’s case is a small yet invaluable feature. It visually indicates whether the unit receives power, enabling users to verify its operational status quickly. This visual feedback simplifies troubleshooting and helps users ensure the preamp functions correctly.
- Compact and Discreet Design: The TC-20’s unobtrusive and compact design is another usability highlight. It allows the preamp to easily blend into your audio system, whether beside or behind your turntable. The device’s minimalistic appearance is intentional, focusing on functionality rather than flashy aesthetics.
- Noise Reduction: The TC-20 minimizes noise interference, creating a quiet and immersive listening experience. It ensures that your vinyl records are played back with minimal unwanted background noise, preserving the audio’s authenticity.
In summary, the Dynavox TC-20 Phono Preamplifier offers a highly usable and functional solution for vinyl enthusiasts seeking to elevate their audio experience. Its simplicity in installation, compatibility with MM cartridges, external power supply for noise reduction, LED indicator, and discreet design make it accessible and convenient for users at all levels of expertise. The TC-20 strikes a balance between practical functionality and ease of use, ensuring that vinyl enthusiasts can effortlessly integrate their turntables into their audio systems and enjoy the true essence of analog music.
Sound Quality and Performance:
Connecting a Rega Planar 2 turntable with a Sumiko Wellfleet MM system to the TC-20, we found that it handled noise admirably, preserving the audio quality during playback. It maintains low noise and hum levels, ensuring an undisturbed listening experience. However, where it falls short is in its sound performance. Compared to the Pro-Ject Phono Box E, the TC-20 lacks the same level of balance and dynamics. The bass response is somewhat lacking, leading to less depth in the drum sounds, and the higher frequencies fail to provide the expected tonal variation in the guitar’s character.
We played “When The Wind Forgets Your Name” by Built To Spill, a track featuring intricate guitar solos and indie rock vibes to gauge its capabilities. While the TC-20 gets the job done, the difference in audio quality is apparent. The Pro-Ject and Dynavox TC-5B, both slightly more expensive, outperform the TC-20 in terms of dynamics and tonal balance. The guitar sounds monotonous, missing the depth and soul you’d expect from a good vinyl setup. In summary, the TC-20 fulfills its basic role but falls short of delivering a truly captivating vinyl listening experience.
Sound Quality and Sound Test of the Dynavox TC-20 Phono Preamplifier
Sound quality is a pivotal aspect of any phono preamplifier, and the Dynavox TC-20, with its budget-friendly price point, aims to provide a reasonable level of audio performance. To assess its sound quality, a thorough sound test was conducted using a Rega Planar 2 turntable equipped with a Sumiko Wellfleet Moving Magnet (MM) cartridge, which is known for its balanced and dynamic sound. Here’s an exploration of the TC-20’s sound quality and the results of the sound test:
- Noise and Interference Handling: The TC-20 effectively minimizes noise and hum when amplifying MM systems. During the sound test, it demonstrated commendable performance by ensuring that background noise and interference were nearly invisible. Even during moments of silence or when changing the record side with the volume turned up, the preamp’s electronics did not introduce any intrusive noise, contributing to a pleasant listening experience.
- Bass Response: One of the areas where the TC-20 falls short in the sound test is its bass response. While it manages to keep the drums lively, it lacks the depth and weight expected from a dedicated phono preamp. While adequate for casual listening, the bass doesn’t delve deep enough to deliver the full impact of bass instruments, which can be a limitation for those looking for a more immersive experience.
- High-Frequency Reproduction: The TC-20 also exhibits some limitations in the high-frequency spectrum. During the sound test, the preamp struggled to provide the tonal variations expected, particularly in the guitar’s character. This resulted in a somewhat monotonous sound, where the instrument’s unique tonal qualities and nuances were less pronounced than desired. As a result, tracks may lack the level of detail and vibrancy expected from a higher-end phono preamp.
- Overall Tonality: While the TC-20 performs adequately, its sound test results suggest it might not strictly adhere to the RIAA equalization curve. This impacts the overall tonality, causing some tonal deviations. These deviations may not be overly noticeable for those who listen to vinyl records occasionally. However, investing in a higher-quality preamp becomes a more attractive option for dedicated vinyl enthusiasts seeking a more accurate and immersive sound.
In conclusion, the Dynavox TC-20 Phono Preamplifier provides a competent and budget-friendly solution for connecting a turntable to an amplifier without a dedicated phono input. It excels in noise reduction and is suitable for casual vinyl listening. However, as revealed in the sound test, its limitations in bass response and high-frequency reproduction suggest that it may not be the ideal choice for audiophiles seeking a highly detailed and immersive audio experience. For more discerning listeners, allocating a slightly higher budget for a premium preamp could result in a more satisfying and captivating vinyl playback experience.
The Dynavox TC-20 Phono Preamplifier offers a budget-friendly solution for connecting a turntable to an amplifier without a phono input. It excels in minimizing noise interference and is suitable for casual vinyl listening. However, for those seeking a more immersive and engaging experience, investing a bit more in a higher-quality preamp is recommended. The TC-20’s minor tonal deviations and lack of depth make it suitable for occasional vinyl playback. Still, if you’re a devoted vinyl enthusiast, the extra 30 euros spent on a better preamp will be a worthwhile investment.
Reasons to Buy:
- Affordable Entry Point: The TC-20 is an excellent choice for those on a tight budget or newcomers to vinyl records. Its low price point makes it an accessible option for anyone looking to enhance their vinyl listening experience without a significant financial commitment.
- Minimalist and Space-Saving Design: The TC-20’s compact and discreet design allows it to easily fit into your audio setup, making it ideal for setups with limited space. Its minimalist appearance ensures that it won’t distract from the aesthetics of your existing equipment.
- External Power Supply for Noise Reduction: Including an external power supply is a unique feature in this price range. It is crucial in reducing interference and noise, contributing to a cleaner and more enjoyable listening experience.
- Compatibility with MM Cartridges: The TC-20 is specifically designed for turntables equipped with Moving Magnet (MM) cartridges, the most common cartridge type found on entry-level and mid-range turntables. This compatibility ensures that it can be easily integrated into various vinyl setups.
- User-Friendly Features: The green LED indicator simplifies setup and troubleshooting, and the straightforward connectivity ensures an easy installation process.
Reasons Not to Buy:
- Limited Sound Quality: While the TC-20 offers a basic solution for vinyl playback, it may fall short of delivering the level of sound quality and detail that more dedicated audiophiles seek. The bass response and high-frequency reproduction are less dynamic than higher-end preamps.
- Tonally Deviates: The TC-20 may not strictly adhere to the RIAA equalization curve, leading to tonal deviations. This can impact the accuracy and tonal balance of your vinyl playback.
- Inadequate for Audiophile Enthusiasts: If you’re a discerning audiophile looking for a highly detailed and immersive sound experience, the TC-20 may not fully meet your expectations. You might consider investing in a higher-end phono preamp to achieve your desired audio quality.
- Limited Bass Depth: The TC-20 lacks deep bass response, which can be a drawback for those who appreciate vinyl records’ full, resonant sound. You might need to explore other options if you’re looking for a preamp to reproduce the deep bass notes accurately.
In summary, deciding to buy or not buy the Dynavox TC-20 Phono Preamplifier depends on your specific needs and priorities. It’s an attractive choice for individuals on a budget, newcomers to vinyl, or those with limited space. However, suppose you strongly focus on audio quality and seek a more immersive and high-fidelity sound experience. In that case, you may consider investing in a higher-end phono preamp to meet your audiophile expectations.