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Review and Measurements of Musical Fidelity MX-VYNL

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Musical Fidelity MX-VYNL phono stage/preamplifier. It is on kind loan from a member. The MX-VYNL costs US $999.

The overall look and feel of the unit is a step above DIY/mass market products:

Musical Fidelity MX-VYNL balanced phono stage Audio Review.jpg

Starting from the left, there is an on/off switch but oddly off is up, on is down. Hmmm. Kind of backwards.

There are two equalization settings, one for standard RIAA and another for IEC (see measurements for the difference).

There is a gain setting of 0 dB and +6 dB. This is on top of the standard gains for MM and MC cartridges. I did my testing at 0 dB.

The dial on the right allows independent loading for MM and MC cartridges. Oddly, changing this or any other setting causes a one second or so mute. I say odd because I am assuming such controls would be analog and take effect instantly. Otherwise it implies a microprocessor in there and electronic control which would not be needed in such a device.

The back side shows what is unique about the MX-VYNL:

Musical Fidelity MX-VYNL balanced phono stage Back Panel Audio Review.psd.jpg

There are both balanced inputs and (XLR) outputs! I don't know why this is not more common.

There are also RCA inputs of course and a switch selects between them so you can have two turntables/arms connected to it at once and switch between them this way.

Power is provided by an external tiny switching universal power supply, delivering 12 volts at 0.5 amps. It has the tiniest connector that mates with the MX-VYNL.

Overall I find the unit attractive and features very useful. Let's see if the measurements match it and the cost of the unit.

Phono Stage Measurements
Once again I am going to note that these measurements use the new standardized 5 millivolt for moving magnet input and 0.8 millivolt for the moving coil Both happen to also be the same values Musical Fidelity uses in its specifications. So that is fortuitous. What is not, is that measurements with this input level tend to be noise-bound, not distortion:

Musical Fidelity MX-VYNL balanced phono stage Audio Measurements.png


We have only one distortion spike (second harmonic) at -96 dB or so. SINAD though is much lower at 78 to 80 dB indicating we are bound by +N in THD+N, not distortion. Indeed you can see that to the left with the rising noise floor (typical of phono stages due to RIAA equalization). Put another way, if you use a MM cartridge with output of 5 millivolts, distortion will be 15+ dB below the noise floor.

Putting the SINAD as is in the table we get:

Best Phono Amplifiers Stages 2019 Reviewed.png


If I dialed up the input to 8 millivolts, SINAD improves to 82/83 dB so overall, this falls the same bucket as the phono stages to its left, sans Cambridge Audio Duo which is in a class by itself.

Notice the absence of mains noise because I am using the XLR balanced output.

Measuring signal to noise ratio we get:
Musical Fidelity MX-VYNL balanced phono stage SNR Audio Measurements.png


Musical fidelity rates its signal to noise ratio using a-weighting so I decided to measure that (on the right). Unfortunately we are still well short of 101 dB spec even when I boost the input level to 20 millivolts. Regardless, the groove noise in the turntable is likely to be much worse and the limiting factor.

Checking the RIAA equalization accuracy and looking at IEC at the same time, we get:
Musical Fidelity MX-VYNL balanced phono stage Frequency Response Audio Measurements.png


At these price ranges, I like to see channels matching better than this using trimming at the factory.

The IEC curve is pretty odd. It is not steep enough to get rid of all rumble yet it intrudes into the spectrum of music. It is a half-cure with bad side-effect so not sure why you would want to use it.

Jacking up the FFT resolution reduces the noise floor even more than what is shown in the dashboard allowing us to see if there is anything untoward:

Musical Fidelity MX-VYNL balanced phono stage Noise Spectrum Audio Measurements.png


We see that some mains leakage is there but it is at -95 dB. Oddly there is a 1 kHz tone. No idea why.

Since we are noise-bound, the THD+N versus frequency shows nothing useful:
Musical Fidelity MX-VYNL balanced phono stage THD vs Frequency Audio Measurements.png


For headroom, I devised a new test to show THD+N versus input level:
Musical Fidelity MX-VYNL balanced phono stage THD+N vs Input Level Audio Measurements.png


We see quite a bit of headroom here.

The same measurement as above but showing the output level:
Musical Fidelity MX-VYNL balanced phono stage THD vs Output Level Audio Measurements.png


The output goes up to 6.7 volts before clipping.

Here is a comparison of 1 kHz tone to Cambridge Audio Duo:
Musical Fidelity MX-VYNL balanced phono stage 1khz FFT Audio Measurements.png


We see that the Duo has a lower noise floor (in red) and no distortion spikes. The MX-VYNL on the other hand has higher noise and much higher distortion but balanced interconnection eliminates much of that mains induced noise spikes (harmonics of mains frequency).

Listening Tests
A kind soul donated a Music Hall mmf-2.2 with the stock Music Hall tracker cartridge. I had to rewire the cartridge which I managed to do after a bunch of cursing. Had to use every bit of my skills in fishing wires to get the darn wires through the arm. Anyway, it is done and I am thankful for having the unit.

For the listening test, I set up a parallel path. One was digital playback through Topping DX3 Pro. The other was Musical Hall to Musical Fidelity MX-VYNL and then to Massdrop THX AAA 789 balanced headphone amplifier. The outputs of both systems went into an AB switcher which powered either a Sennheiser HD-650 or Hifiman HE-400i. I matched levels by ear.

The test LP that I also had in digital was from one of my favorite artists, Daughter's Wild Youth. Most revealing track was Youth:


The digital version I have is a download I bought from Bandcamp I think. It is at 44.1 kHz/16 bits. It is not the best recording in the world but proved to be quite good for this testing. For one thing, I was pleasantly surprised that the two masters were quite similar to each other. The difference then came down to fidelity.

1. Imaging. In digital and with headphones, Elena Tonra's voice is dead center. Switching to LP her voice shifted a bit (channel imbalance in cartridge and/or MX-VYNL) and a bit diffused/distant.

2. Bass. At around 1:05 a set of drums come in. In digital, they are quite distinct and precise. In LP path, they fall apart, weak and sort of lost in the rest of the music. They must have been mastered to be at lower levels due to limitations of the format. They were also somewhat distorted compared to the clean sound of digital.

3. Quiet portions, details. This was very interesting. Groove noise took over like there was no tomorrow as soon as the music started to fade out. It was no question that this was severed degradation. At the same time, the high frequency content of the noise/static gave the impression of wider space. When levels increased I was surprised how quickly the groove noise became inaudible.

4. High frequencies. There was a bit more distortion here in LP than digital although not as bad as I had heard with lower fidelity phono stages.

I have a few more LPs coming in this weekend for which I have matching digital so I will continue this testing and report then.

Conclusions
Objectively the Musical Fidelity MX-VYNL seems to be well designed. It looks nice and I really dig and appreciate balanced inputs and outputs. Alas, it loses in distortion and noise to Cambridge Audio Duo. In subjective listening though, the format (LP) itself seems to be the limiting factor by far, then the phono stage. So perhaps it is good enough. Will have to do more testing and get more experience under our belt.

Subjective testing showed there is no magic to LP as a format and the combo as a musical experience. Other than groove noise possibly having a side-effect of giving one at times the impression of wider stage, the experience is definitely inferior to digital. Nothing was done in the MX-VYNL to bring more reality to music.

All in all, I am going to go ahead and recommend the Musical Fidelity MX-VYNL because of its inclusion of balanced interconnects, and rich set of features plus decent looks. You have to decide if nearly $1000 is worth it to spend on it.

----------------------
Questions, comments, critique, etc. are welcome.

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maty

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#3
Subjective testing showed there is no magic to LP as a format and the combo as a musical experience. Other than groove noise possibly having a side-effect of giving one at times the impression of wider stage, the experience is definitely inferior to digital. Nothing was done in the MX-VYNYL to bring more reality to music.
You must listen to bad vinyl recordings I suspect. O modern digital recordings, badly recorded, and then passed to vinyl. The best vinyls are made from old analogue masters. It is the sad reality, the best current technology is wasted from the recording studio. There are always exceptions, logically, but the phenomenon gets worse.

Yesterday https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...t-is-and-why-is-it-happening.3392/post-183475
 

VintageFlanker

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#4
Interesting evolution of your subjective test, @amirm. Many were waiting for this more detailed part. Sure, this has no "value" from a scientific point of view but still interesting: If a unit measures not so great but without audible issues, for exemple. Or if you (probably) can't pick up two differently excellent measuring units.
 

Daverz

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#5
Pretty rare to have so many capacitance settings for MM if you get any at all. And having a nice big dial for capacitance and resistive loading right on the front is really nice. This is often done with dip switches that may even be inside the chassis.

The balanced input looks like a DIN connector. My SME 309 tonearm has a DIN output, but I don't think DIN output is that common. You might have to rewire your tonearm to be able to connect to this.
 

Jimster480

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#6
You must listen to bad vinyl recordings I suspect. O modern digital recordings, badly recorded, and then passed to vinyl. The best vinyls are made from old analogue masters. It is the sad reality, the best current technology is wasted from the recording studio. There are always exceptions, logically, but the phenomenon gets worse.

Yesterday https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...t-is-and-why-is-it-happening.3392/post-183475
Digital is just so superior to older analogue recordings that there is no ground to stand on here.
 

maty

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#7
I agree. The problem, the great problem, is the terrible job they have done in recording studios since a few decades ago. The quality of the recording is the least important.

All of the above is true with modern commercial music.

Jazz, classical... of recognized labels do take advantage of the best current technology. Another thing is that one likes the current jazz (I do not) and modern classical performances (I do not), each time with the highest tuning to make it sound spectacular, but that is another story.
 

Jimster480

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#8
I agree. The problem, the great problem, is the terrible job they have done in recording studios since a few decades ago. The quality of the recording is the least important.

All of the above is true with modern commercial music.

Jazz, classical... of recognized labels do take advantage of the best current technology. Another thing is that one likes the current jazz (I do not) and modern classical performances (I do not), each time with the highest tuning to make it sound spectacular, but that is another story.
I enjoy plenty of modern jazz artists and a few modern classical artists (although there are many talents such as Lang Lang and Yo Yo Ma who play true classical music).
Modern "mainstream" music is typically horrible as you say. There is no emphasis on audio quality. Its mostly about volume and copious amounts of bass. Some of the "remastered" stuff sounds worse then the originals...
 

daftcombo

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#9
Hi,

I have this phono pre-amp at home, which name is "MX-VYNL" without an "I".

I am very happy of it, use it do to rips which sound good. I process them with IzotopeRX to solve potential channel imbalance (which I don't hear when I listen directly to LPs in my asymetric room), which can also be caused by the cartridge.

I was very impressed by it when I got it, it was a huge improvement over my DJ mixer phono stage. Dead quiet as far as I can tell in everyday listening.

My cartridge is an Ortofon SuperOM 20. I use it in IEE mode, Low Gain, 200 pF.
From what I saw in your rewiew, I should switch to RIAA for my rips though!

Thanks for reviewing it!
 
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Frank Dernie

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#11
Starting from the left, there is an on/off switch but oddly off is up, on is down. Hmmm. Kind of backwards.
That is the standard way for a power switch in the UK, and a lot of other countries I have visited ;)
I have visited the USA many times and the one thing I can never get used to is all thye switches being the wrong way round :)
I did notice my Meridian surround speakers have their switches the "wrong way round" for the home market, presumably because they sell far more in the USA. Unless I am concentrating on it I end up switching them off instead of on.
 

Frank Dernie

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#12
The dial on the right allows independent loading for MM and MC cartridges. Oddly, changing this or any other setting causes a one second or so mute. I say odd because I am assuming such controls would be analog and take effect instantly. Otherwise it implies a microprocessor in there and electronic control which would not be needed in such a device.
My guess is a simple muting circuit. Switching input loading on an item with such high gain can cause destructive switching spikes. Most phono stages have such adjustments as they have (it varies a lot) on the back or inside so the changes are done powered down, having the control on the front means it may be adjusted powered on and muting is probably vital.
 

Frank Dernie

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#13
When levels increased I was surprised how quickly the groove noise became inaudible.
Typically one only hears this noise between tracks on LPs. A record needs to be pretty damaged for it to be heard when music is playing, or on classical music which often has 50 dB of dynamic range. Nowhere near that is needed when the music is playing with pop music IME.
Mind you I very rarely listen to LPs nowadays but did daily for 30 years or so.
 

maty

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#14

anmpr1

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#15
The best vinyls are made from old analogue masters.
IMO and from a long experience, the best sounding records were recorded direct to disc. Problem with those, mostly, was the program material was often second rate. So you had great sonics, but you didn't want to listen for very long. Sort of the reverse of the old restaurant joke: the food here is terrible, and the portions are so small.
 

Frank Dernie

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#16
IMO and from a long experience, the best sounding records were recorded direct to disc. Problem with those, mostly, was the program material was often second rate. So you had great sonics, but you didn't want to listen for very long. Sort of the reverse of the old restaurant joke: the food here is terrible, and the portions are so small.
Often the problem!
There was a time when the best musicians were being well recorded IMO but nowadays the people paying great attention to recording sound quality don't have access to the best performers.
 

Burning Sounds

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#17
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Musical Fidelity MX-VYNYL phono stage/preamplifier. It is on kind loan from a member. The MX-VYNYL costs US $999.

The overall look and feel of the unit is a step above DIY/mass market products:


Starting from the left, there is an on/off switch but oddly off is up, on is down. Hmmm. Kind of backwards.
That's normal in the UK - down for on, up for off - same for light switches etc. But I know the feeling - when I moved to the US in '74 I was surprised to find that switches were backwards - very odd. ;) :D
 
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#18
The Music Hall mmf-2.2 turntable is only 430 USD on amazon. Is its quality good enough for a listening test? I am not sure.
Nowadays you can buy a great headphone amplifier for 100 USD, but the turntables are a pricey hobby.
 

amirm

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#19
You must listen to bad vinyl recordings I suspect.
I don't "listen" to any Vinyl. :) This recording was not great in either format. What was key about it is that it seemed to be identically mastered for both (sans what they had to do for LP as a format). I do NOT want an LP which is a different master than digital because then I have no reference for comparison.

I have bought a few more LPs which I have the digital version for so I will continue to test.
 

amirm

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#20
Hi,

I have this phono pre-amp at home, which name is "MX-VYNL" without an "I".
Well, they spelled it wrong so I fixed it for them. :D I corrected the text. Will try to do the same for graphs later.
 
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