Dual CS 429 Review

by Bruno Brozovic

Dual CS 429 simplifies the vinyl experience with its fully automatic, one-button operation, making it perfect for those who value convenience. While the automation does trade off some sound quality, the Ortofon 2M Red cartridge and built-in phono preamp still offer a warm, pleasant sound. It’s forgiving of record imperfections, making it a solid choice for everyday music lovers, though it might not satisfy purist audiophiles.

The History of Dual Company

Dual is one of the oldest turntable manufacturers still in operation, dating back to 1900 when brothers Christian and Joseph Steidinger founded a clockwork workshop in St. Georgen, Germany. Initially producing spring actuators, the company developed the “Dual-Motor“, a spring-driven electric motor, in 1935. This innovation led to the company being renamed Dual.

Over time, turntables became a significant part of Dual’s portfolio. In 1937, a Dual turntable won first prize at the World Exhibition in Paris. A major breakthrough came in 1949 with the introduction of the Dual 1000 record changer. By 1955/56, Dual had expanded to include amplifiers, tuners, speakers, compact systems, and cassette decks. In 1973, they released their first automatic turntable, the “701” model, marking almost fifty years of expertise in turntable production.

The 1980s and 1990s were challenging for Dual due to competition from Asian companies, leading to several ownership changes. The brand went through French manufacturers Thomson-Brandt, Schneider Rundfunkwerke AG, and Karstadt AG. In 1993/94, Dual was divided into three parts, with Dual Phono GmbH acquired by Alfred Fehrenbacher GmbH. In 2003, Dual turntables reappeared on the market, and in 2018, the company changed hands again, now owned by Andreas Laux.

Intro

The Dual CS 429 is a fully automatic turntable, making the entire record-playing process effortless. With this model, you don’t need to manually position the tonearm, locate the start of the record, lower the stylus, or return the tonearm to its rest position once the record finishes. Just press one button, and the turntable handles everything seamlessly and automatically.

Dual CS 429 Review

 

Cool isn’t it? This saves a lot of nerves and allows you to tame the fear of scratching the record or damaging the needle. So why aren’t all turntables automatic? This is because the complex machinery required for this significantly changes the sound for the worse. Therefore, automation is found only in inexpensive models, and more expensive ones are almost always operated manually.

The CS-429 I tested, however, belongs to the mid-range price range, because it uses solutions that are to solve some of the automation problems. What’s more, it is equipped with a very nice Ortofon 2M Red cartridge and a built-in MM phono preamplifier.

Construction & Design

I need to mention that the Dual CS 429 I tested, even though it’s made in China, was actually designed in St. Georgen. The complete Dual turntable offer is divided into two parts – “Manual” and “Automatic”, and at the very top is the custom-made Primus Maximus turntable. In the former, we have three models, in the latter two, it is not a very big offer. Moreover, it is a very attractive offer in terms of price.

The CS-429 model is the latest Dual turntable, launched in November last year. This design is based on the CS-418, the manual model, the most expensive in the “Manual” series, with full automation added. Company materials sent on the occasion of the premiere said:

Just place the record on the turntable, start it by selecting the appropriate speed and press the “start” button. The arm will automatically raise, move to the beginning of the record, and when lowered, playback starts.

This turntable is a lightweight, non-decoupled construction with a belt drive. It is built on a base made of MDF board with dimensions of 435 x 367 x 145 mm (W x H x D) and a dust cover is included. The housing is finished with black artificial veneer. The whole weighs 6.2 kg.

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  • Solid MDF plinth with a black vinyl veneer
  • Precise aluminium die–cast platter
  • Solid aluminum construction tonearm with ball–bearings
  • Low vibration DC–Servo–Motor Drive
  • Removable dust cover

The CS-429 is equipped with a cast aluminum platter, an adjustable tonearm with the Ortofon 2M Red cartridge, and a phono stage. The adjustable tonearm allows for a possible change of the cartridge in the future, although I do not see such a need. The built-in phono preamplifier can be turned off and an external preamplifier can be used, and in my opinion, that would be a good option for the future.

The base is made of two elements of the MDF board. The mechanism, together with the main bearing, is mounted on a plastic cast. This one is decoupled from the base at several points by elastomeric pads to minimize vibration. Decoupling is also ensured by large, ø 62 mm, legs with elastomer and rubber pads under the motor. This system works mainly at high frequencies, because tapping the base during playback results in a low, quite strong “ump” in the speakers. This choice gives something else – great suppression of clicks and travel noise.

On a fairly light, weighing 850 grams platter I put a thick and heavy rubber mat. It has a slightly smaller diameter ø than the record, which makes it easier to put on and take off the record. The main bearing is made of hardened steel (spindle) and brass (bushing). The torque is transferred to the platter by a rubber belt from the axis of the asynchronous motor (DC). The engine is controlled by built-in electronics and allows you to play records with speeds of 33 1/3, 45, and 78 RPM. A system with an optical sensor ensures rotation stability.

Dual CS 429 Test

The tonearm with an effective length of 221.5 mm (8.7 ”) and a 19 mm overhang has a straight aluminum tube suspended on gimballed ball bearings. You can adjust the pressure of the needle, anti-skating, and azimuth, but VTA – not. The cartridge is mounted in the tilted head of the tonearm, which is screwed into the bayonet holder. The manufacturer says that the tracking force of the needle is 0-4 g, so it covers all designs available today, and the cartridge itself may weigh from 5 to 9 g. Although there are some heavier cartridges, in practice it does not matter.

Assembly and Operation

The most important, or actually-  only advantage of automatic turntables is their “maintenance-free” operation. It does not mean, however, that we will take such a turntable out of the box and it will play, at least if we are talking about a higher-class turntable. This is also the case with the CS-429, which we need to assemble first.

When I opened the box, I found the base with the tonearm already attached, and the platter and mat were packed separately. To keep everything safe during transport, I noticed the headshell and counterweight were removed, and the anti-skating was set to zero. The power supply was tucked away in its own little box. I placed the base on a level surface but realized the legs weren’t height-adjustable. I then took the platter out and carefully placed it on the spindle. It had a pre-tensioned drive belt with a ribbon, which made it easier for me to loop it over the motor pulley. Once that was in place, I laid the mat on the platter. The last thing I did was screw the headshell onto the tonearm and slide the counterweight into position.

Dual CS 429 Review - Ortofon Cartridge

Setting up the Ortofon cartridge on this turntable was a bit tricky because it needed just the right pressure of 1.8 grams. If you’ve got the correct weight, it’s a breeze. If not, you can still get it pretty accurate. I had to fiddle with the counterweight until the tonearm felt balanced – like it wouldn’t tip either way. It was a bit of a challenge since the tonearm is part of the automatic system, but with the power off, I managed to do it. Once I got it balanced, I set the counterweight to “zero” on the scale. Then, I dialed it up until I hit 1.8 on the display. After hooking up the power supply, it was all set to go.

Using the Dual CS 429 is super easy. I just pick the speed with the big knob, hit “start,” and the tonearm does its thing—moves over the record and gently drops down to play. When the music’s done, the tonearm lifts and goes back to where it started. And if I want to stop it mid-play, I just press “stop.”

But there are a couple of things to talk about. First, playing 10-inch records. There’s a switch for record size at the base of the arm, but it only has settings for 12-inch and 7-inch records. So, no automatic play for 10-inch ones – I have to do that by hand.

The second thing is, there’s no mute until the tonearm is fully up. If there was, it would cut out the click at the end and let me jump into the music without that little jolt. Plus, it would stop the turntable from slowing down when I hit “stop”—that would be sent off into the ether. These issues aren’t just with the Dual; they’re pretty common with automatic turntables. Still, they’re real annoyances that the makers should’ve fixed a long time ago.

Connections

Dual CS429 Backside

On the back of the Dual CS-429, there are several key connection points:

  1. Phono/Line Switch: This allows you to select between a built-in pre-amplifier (“Line”) or an external pre-amplifier (“Phono”).
  2. RCA Output Jacks: These are used to connect the turntable to your sound system. They are paired with a ground terminal to prevent humming.
  3. USB Output: For digitizing your vinyl records by connecting the turntable to a computer.
  4. Grounding Terminal: Used to connect a grounding wire to eliminate electrical hum.
  5. DC IN 12V: This is the power input where you connect the power supply.
  6. Power Switch: To turn the turntable on and off.

Each of these plays a role in the setup and functionality of the turntable, from audio output to power supply and grounding.

Dual CS 429 Sound Test

The CS-429 turntable was tested in my reference system. It was placed on the top shelf made of carbon fiber, on the Finite Elemente Master Reference Pagode Edition MkII rack. I set the tracking force with a REGA ATLAS scale, I also used the DS Audio ST-50, an element for cleaning the needle.

During the tests of Dual, I treated it as a complete offer, that is, I listened to it with a factory-fitted cartridge and an internal phono preamplifier; I even used proprietary cables. Ultimately, it’s supposed to be a play-ready design out of the box. Only to check the results I used the Belden 8402 interconnect (“Line” output),

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and then the external iFi Audio Zen Phono preamplifier (“phono” output), from which the signal was sent via Acoustic Revive RCA-1.0 Absolute cables.

iFi ZEN Phono - Preamplifier for Turntables and Record Players (RCA Output)
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  • INPUTS - Selectable MM and MC cartridge input
  • OUTPUTS - RCA and Balanced 4.4mm Pentacon Outputs
  • CUSTOMIZE TO YOUR TURNTABLE SETUP - Ultrawide 36dB to 72dB gain
  • INTELLIGENT - subsonic analog filter
  • ACCESSORIES - Includes 5V DC power supply and RCA cable

If I thought about changes, I would start with replacing the interconnect, and then place the turntable on a good anti-vibration platform. Then I would think about… a power supply. Dual is powered by a wall-mounted 12V DC switching power supply. Voltage is supplied not only to the drive system but also to the preamplifier. Replacing it with a good linear power supply(a 2.5mm plug is standard) will give you an immediate improvement. If not, then the use of an external phono preamplifier should be the next step. I wouldn’t touch the cartridges unless we want to listen to mono records. Then I would try to get a second headshell unit with a permanently installed Ortofon 2M Red cartridge.

Recordings used in the test

  • CLIFFORD JORDAN, Hello, Hank Jones, Eastworld EWLF-98003, “Direct Cut” LP (1978)
  • ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA, Time, Jet Records JET LP 236, LP (1981)
  • FRANK SINATRA, Swingin ‘Session !!!, Capitol Records / Mobile Fidelity MFSL 1-407, “Special Limited Edition |Yeah. 346 ”, 180g LP (1961/2012)
  • MAANAM, Maanam , Wifon LP 028, LP (1980)
  • CHARLIE HADEN, The Private Collection, Naim Label LP110, 3 x 180 g LP (2000/2008)
  • Cosmic Machine, A Voyage Across French Cosmic & Electronic Avantgarde (1970-1980), Because Music BEC5161705, Limited Deluxe Edition, 2 x 180 g LP + CD (2013)
  • SADE, Stronger than Pride, Epic | Music On Vinyl, 180 g LP (1988/2014)
  • MICHIKO OGAWA, Oh, Lady Be Good / Smile, Ultra Art Records UA-1004, 78 rpm, 180 g LP (2019)

I started “From a Thick Pipe”, which is from the CLIFFORD JORDAN album titled Hello, Hank Jones, registered in 1978 for the Japanese label Eastworld in the direct-to-disc technique. This means less noise and higher dynamics than in classic recordings. It turns out that the tested turntable has a very nice tonal balance because nothing jumped out of the mix. Both the drums set in the middle and the piano located in the right and left channels (this is how the right and left “hands” were separated) sounded great, either by Hank Jones or, again in the middle, by Clifford Jordan’s saxophone.

This is important because it means this is a real turntable and not a product that pretends to be one. In the sound of the album, a slight tilt of the timbre towards the mid-bass caught my attention. Light, yet it gave a feeling of fullness, depth, and large scale. This is not a turntable that would diminish or suppress the sound. Although the high tones are rather sweet and are not shown strongly and clearly, their attack is very good, and therefore they are constantly “underneath”, giving the whole a lightness and giving the recordings a breath.

The timbre is well-saturated. This is the case when we play the record and don’t worry about anything, because everything has its weight and size. Ah, how great the bass sounds with it! It is not particularly spotty and clear, but it has great color and saturation. It was clear with the previously mentioned album, especially with stronger drum inputs, but it was even nicer with the Time ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA, on which the bass is pressed harder in the Prologue.

This record also showed an important property of Dual, namely low sensitivity to crackling. Yes, you can hear them, and no, they are not separated from the music, it is not an expensive construction after all. But also thanks to the “forgiving” nature of the treble, the travel noise and crackles are “hidden”, they are not pulled out in front of the music. They are small. And yet I listened to the first edition of the album from 1981.

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  • Solid MDF plinth with a black vinyl veneer
  • Precise aluminium die–cast platter
  • Solid aluminum construction tonearm with ball–bearings
  • Low vibration DC–Servo–Motor Drive
  • Removable dust cover

When we play some top pressing on vinyl – in my case it was FRANK SINATRA with the Swingin ‘Session record !!!, played from the 2012 edition of Mobile Fidelity Records – the turntable disappears from the equation, at least when it comes to its mechanical guts. What remains is a warm, dense, extremely pleasant presentation. The one where we sit smiling and relaxed.

Selectivity, or clarity, is not a priority for this construction. It is also not energy. You can say with a lot of certainty that this is a slightly muffled sound. The Americans in the reviews talk about this kind of damped correction. So the dynamics are not fully developed, and the transients, i.e. fast beats and their harmonics, are not developed. This seems to be part of the price we pay for automation and it has taken some of the funds away from other parts of the design.

But guess what? I understand it, respect it and accept it. In my opinion, this is not a high price for what we get, namely incredible ease of use and such a pleasant sound. Incredibly pleasant, because it is coherent, somehow “harmonious” internally. And we will get it not only with good realizations and the best pressings but with any record. I have already talked about the ELO album, so I will add to this list the debut of the Maanam group.

Records pressed from digital files will sound similar. This was the case, for example, with the Cosmic Machine compilation. A Voyage Across French Cosmic & Electronic Avantgarde (1970-1980), I achieved a similar effect with the SADE Stronger than Pride album, released by the Dutch Music On Vinyl label. In a word – it does not matter what we play, because Dual will show it in the most favorable light. Although the records pressed from files had lower dynamics, and the Dual’s presentation is not particularly energetic their timbre, fluidity, and “melodiousness” were – for the money – very pleasant.

Dual CS 429 Video Review

Dual CS 429 Specifications

Motor:

  • Drive: Belt
  • Speed settings: 33/45/78
  • Wow & Flutter: < ±0,08 % (DIN WTD)

Tonearm:

  • Auto-Start/-Stop-Function: Automatic
  • Bearing: Ball-bearing
  • Effective length: 221,5 mm
  • Offset Angle: 25,6°
  • Overhang: 19 mm
  • Type: statically balanced
  • Stylus Pressure Range: 0 g to 4 g
  • Cartridge Weight Range: 5 g to 9 g
  • Factory-installed cartridge: Ortofon 2M Red

Platter:

  • Material: Aluminium die-cast
  • Mat: Rubber 2,5 mm
  • Bearing: Hardened steel spindle Brass bushing
  • Diameter: 305 mm
  • Weight (incl. Mat): 850 g

Plinth:

  • Material: MDF, folded
  • Surface finish: Vinyl veneer / Black
  • Feet: Ø 62 mm / Elastomer
  • Connection: RCA socket
  • Connection to Phono Input: ✓
  • Connection to Line Input: ✓
  • Digital Output: ✕
  • Dimension, closed dustcover: 435 x 367 x 145 mm
  • Dimension, open dustcover: D: 415 mm / H: 400 mm
  • Weight: 6,2 KG
  • Power plug AC / DC: External power supply

You can download & view the manual here->Dual CS 429 Manual

Final Verdict

I’ve been thinking, who’s the Dual CS-429 really for? It’s not just for those who want easy listening—there are cheaper options out there. And it’s not just for hardcore audiophiles who prefer manual setups. It’s actually for a broader crowd.

It’s perfect for music enthusiasts who might have trouble with fiddly bits, like the elderly or folks with disabilities. It’s also great for those new to vinyl who want quality sound without the hassle. Plus, it’s ideal for anyone who’d rather focus on the music than the mechanics.

The Dual CS-429 offers excellent sound quality and keeps the crackles at bay. It’ll make any record sound good, but the high-quality ones will shine. And for a bit of fun, I can play a 78 rpm record for my friends and watch their amazement. When it’s just me, I hit “start” and lose myself in the music that the CS-429 delivers so well. It’s a turntable that’s more versatile than you might think.

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