Do you yearn for the good old days, when turntables were fully automatic? Paul Rigby says it might be time to invest your money in the MTR-75, a budget buy that’s automatic for the people
Automatic turntable with built-in phono stage
A two-speed, Chinese-made design, complete with dust cover, the MTR-75 from German manufacturer Dual is notable because it provides fully automatic operation. Hence, pressing the Start button on the front of the plinth will lift the arm off its cradle, swing it to the beginning of the record and lower it onto the grooves. As you might expect, pressing the adjacent Stop button reverses the process.
To ensure the arm doesn’t miss the record, there’s a switch on top of the plinth for 7″ and 12″ selection – although, curiously, these figures are printed in centimetres! Hence, the unlikely figures of 17cm (7″) and 30cm (12″). Hardly romantic…
A metal platter holds a rubberised mat, while a phono amplifier is included at the rear, along with a USB port. A packaged CD contains the music software Audacity, for digital recording and editing.
An SME-type bayonet headshell holds the basic Audio-Technica AT3600 moving-magnet cartridge with conical stylus. This cartridge can run at a downforce of 2.5g, although Dual would prefer that you run it at a vinyl-ploughing 3-3.5g. Don’t… that’s my advice. Stick with 2.5g instead.
The MTR-75 feels a little light, weighing in at just 4kg, with a lower-quality feel than more expensive decks. That includes the phono amplifier and all of that automatic drive gear – compare that to the manual, stripped-down Rega RP1, which weighs in at a solid 5.5kg.
For sound testing, I played a Vinyl 180 reissue of Gary Numan’s Me! I Disconnect From You from Tubeway Army’s Replicas LP. On the negative side, the overall sound quality offered very little discipline in terms of both the upper and lower frequencies. Treble and midrange both tended to smear over the soundstage. The lack of precision in this area allowed Numan’s vocals to wander all over the place, invading the space of much of the synth-based instrument backing. The bass had similar issues.
Listened to in isolation, though, without a reference turntable, the Dual actually sounds fun. The bass has an organic feel to it, and it’s the same thing with the vocals – Numan sounded like he was having a whale of a time, genuinely enjoying himself.
Onto vocal jazz and Earl Coleman’s Love Songs featuring Billy Taylor’s band, and this 1968 Atlantic pressing suffered less from bass bloom, because, well, there was less bass. Hence, less detail was masked, more subtlety was audible and a great amount of emotion was present in the vocal performance. That said, the same midrange smearing occurred. The lack of focus also meant that the piano was rather bland and lacking in guile, and the brass section was veiled.
I’ve been taking pot shots at the MTR-75 throughout this review, so you’d assume I hate it. Yet that isn’t the case. In fact, I admire Dual for trying to pack so much into this turntable for such a low price. Think about it: you’ve got a fully automatic turntable here, with a built-in phono amplifier and USB, arm and cartridge, plus dust cover, for under £200. On the face of it, this is a real bargain.
Okay, the sound quality might not measure up against the Regas and Pro-Jects of this world, but that only matters if you’re a hi-fi journalist performing A-B testing between them all. Listening to the Dual in isolation, without a competitor to worry it, the Dual sounds marvellously engaging and musical as an analogue source. On balance, the Dual MTR-75 is an attractive budget proposition. If you buy one, upgrade the cartridge and save up for a basic external phono amplifier as soon as you can. The Dual will thank you for it.