Today I have the first Dual turntable on my test in a new Dual CS 429 Review article.
- 1 The History of Dual Company
- 2 Dual CS 429 Review – Intro
- 3 Dual CS 429 Specifications
- 4 Dual CS 429 Review – Construction
- 5 Dual CS 429 Review – Assembly and Operation
- 6 Dual CS 429 Review – Sound Test
- 7 Dual CS 429 Video Review
- 8 Final Verdict
The History of Dual Company
Dual is one of the oldest turntable manufacturers still in operation. Its origins date back to 1900 when brothers Christian and Joseph Steidinger founded a clockwork workshop in St. Georgen, a city in eastern Germany, situated in the mighty Black Forest. In 1907, a factory “for precision mechanics” was established, which in 1912 was called Perpetuum. Initially, it manufactured spring actuators, and almost 25 years later developed a spring-driven electric motor solution, which was called “Dual-Motor”. In 1935, this was the name of the entire company: Dual.
With time, turntables appeared in the company’s portfolio, and one of them in 1937 at the World Exhibition in Paris won the first prize. The breakthrough year was 1949 when the Dual 1000 record changer was introduced to the market. Three years later, Dual developed the first suitcase turntables with crystal cartridges, and at the turn of 1955/56 expanded its offer with amplifiers. Equally successful were the newly developed tuners, speakers and compact systems, and even cassette decks – I had such a miracle myself … In 1973 the first automatic turntable of this brand, the ‘701’ model, was created. So Dual has almost fifty years of experience in the production of this type of device.
The 1980-90 decade turned out to be not very kind to Dual, mainly due to competition from Asian companies, and the company underwent a series of ownership changes, passing under the wings of the French manufacturer Thomson-Brandt, then Schneider Rundfunkwerke AG and Karstadt AG, chain stores, outside turntables left in the hands of Schneider Rundfunkwerke. At the turn of 1993/94, the brand was divided into three parts, and the part called Dual Phono GmbH was acquired by the German company Alfred Fehrenbacher GmbH. In 2003, turntables with the Dual logo appeared again, and in 2018 the company once again changed hands, which is now ANDREAS LAUX.
Dual CS 429 Review – Intro
The Dual CS 429 is a fully automatic turntable. This means that we don’t have to worry about moving the arm over the record, finding its beginning and lowering the stylus, or having to lift the arm up and slide it back into place when the record is finished – the device does it automatically. The user presses one button and everything “does” itself.
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 we 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.
Dual CS 429 Specifications
- Drive: Belt
- Speed settings: 33/45/78
- Wow & Flutter: < ±0,08 % (DIN WTD)
- 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
- Material: Aluminium die-cast
- Mat: Rubber 2,5 mm
- Bearing: Hardened steel spindle Brass bushing
- Diameter: 305 mm
- Weight (incl. Mat): 850 g
- 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 the manual here->Dual CS 429 Manual
Dual CS 429 Review – Construction
It is important to mention that although the tested turntable was manufactured in China, it was designed in the same place where the company used to operate, i.e. in St. Georgen. Its 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.
The tested 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.
The CS-429 is equipped with a cast aluminum platter, an adjustable arm with the Ortofon 2M Red cartridge, and a phono stage. The adjustable arm 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 we 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).nThe 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.
The arm 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 arm, 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.
Dual CS 429 Review – Assembly and Operation
The most important, or actually – how to think carefully – 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.
The box includes a base with tonearm, as well as a separately packed platter and a mat. For transport, the headshell and counterweight are removed and the anti-skating is set to zero. There is a power supply in a separate box. Take out the base and put it on a level shelf – the legs are not height-adjustable. We take the platter out of the box and put it on the axle. It has a pre-tensioned drive belt with a ribbon to assist in positioning it over the motor shaft. When we do that, we put a mat on the platter. The next step is screwing in the head of the tonearm and putting on the counterweight.
The Ortofon cartridge requires a pressure of 1.8 g and it is the only more difficult assembly moment. If we have the right weight, setting it up is easy. If not, it can also be done quite accurately. We adjust the counterweight so that we feel that the tonearm is in balance, that is, it does not fall in either direction. In this case, it is not easy, because the tonearm is connected to the automation system, but it can be done (all the time with the power off!). After achieving the balance, we place the counterweight on the scale to “zero”. Then turn it until you see ‘1.8’ on the scale. Connect the power supply and it’s ready.
The operation of the Dual CS 429 is actually fabulously simple. Select the rotational speed with the large knob, press the “start” button, and the arm will automatically move over the record and lower onto it. When the side is over, the arm will raise and return to the resting position. If we would like to stop the playback, we can do it at any time by pressing the “stop” button.
However, there are a few things that need to be discussed. The first concerns the playback speed of 10” records. At the base of the arm, there is a record diameter switch. We only have two available – 30 and 17 cm, that is, 12” and 7”. Unfortunately, it is not possible to play 10” records automatically. This can be done manually.
The second thing is that there is no mute system until the tonearm is fully raised. Had it been used, the exit click would have been cut out and we would have “entered” the music without this “attraction”. Also the annoying slowing down of revolutions, which we deal with after pressing “stop”, would be sent to electronic space. It is obviously true that both of these things apply to almost all automatic turntables, not only to the Dual, but they are real problems that manufacturers should have dealt with long ago.
Dual CS 429 Review – 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),
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.
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 monophonic Ortofon 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. Really 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 in a strong and clear way, 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 actually small. And yet I listened to the first edition of the album from 1981.
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 actually 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. Really 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.
And records pressed from digital files will sound in a similar way. 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
For quite a long time I wondered who the Dual CS-429 turntable was intended for. Those who only want comfort and correct sound will find cheaper propositions from other companies on the market that more than meet their requirements. In turn, sophisticated audiophiles or aspiring audiophiles will reach for classic, manual designs. So who is this “virtual”, ie the intended recipient? Honestly, this group is wider than I first thought.
First of all – music lovers, music fans, and audiophiles with limited mobility. That is, both the elderly and young people struggle with some physical deficits. Secondly, and this is equally important, people who would like to listen to music in a good edition and comfort, but are afraid of vinyl because of complications related to the operation of the turntable. And finally, those who do not want to waste energy on non-musical things. From this perspective, it turns out that the audience is potentially larger than “ordinary” music lovers.
And to this let’s add a great timbre and very well-suppressed crackles, and it turns out that the tested turntable is an extremely interesting proposition. We will play any album with it, although the better ones will sound… better. And if we want to surprise our friends, maybe even audiophiles with their noses up, let’s play them the MICHIKO OGAWA Oh, Lady Be Good / Smile record, which spins at 78 rpm, and the high price we paid for it will be returned to us within a second when their jaws slowly droop and their eyes come out of their sockets. And when we are left alone, we will sit down quietly, press “start” and immerse ourselves in the warm, cool message offered by the CS-429.
Dual CS 429 Pro & Cons
- The ease of use with the automated tone arm placement and pickup
- Easy to setup
- Possibility to upgrade with better cartridge and preamplifier
- Slightly muffled sound
- Lack of sound clarity