Pro-ject Tube DS2 (£699) Review

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Introduction

The little phono stage arrived well packaged and immediately appealed to me. Its straight-forward design has well labelled controls making the use of a manual almost superfluous. Design follows function.

Two ECC83 valves chad from the back of the small neat chassis. The front of the box is dominated by the central rotary control allowing the selection of any impedance between fifty and one thousand ohms, when the loading is set to variable. Alternatively, the Moving Magnet setting of forty seven thousand ohms can be set.

This is a phono stage which is easy to like, and like it I did. I made small tour with the box, t-shirt available, and it made itself a welcome guest in the systems in which it was tested.

Technology

The Pro-ject Tube DS2 specifications can be found HERE.

Pro-ject is an Austrian audio company who use a number of designs by Dr. Bohumil Sýkora, a Czech electronics engineer specialized in audio circuits. He is credited with the design of the Tube DS2; one which allows the hosting of two turntables.

My settings:

For Linn Troika low output I settled on:

  • TT Input = 1;
  • TT Output = 1;
  • Impedance = 560 ohms;
  • Loading = 100pF;
  • Gain = 60dB.

With the Linn Troika there was a higher level of hiss than I would have ideally liked. This did not proportionally vary with different gain settings.

Test Tracks

The albums included:

  • Songs from the Big Chair, Tears for Fears;
  • Hounds of Love, Kate Bush;
  • Chinatown, Thin Lizzy;
  • Rumours, Fleetwood Mac;
  • Babylon, Bob Marley;
  • Legend of…, Dave, Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich;
  • Touch, Eurythmics;
  • Pleasure Dome, Frankie Goes to Hollywood;
  • and others.

Main System

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The Pro-ject Tube DS2 slotted into my system easily allowing quick and easy dialling in for my Linn Troika cartridge. This is a low output MC cartridge and there was a level of residual hiss that was evident when nothing was being played. However, when the needle hit the record nothing was apparent, apart from music.

The chief impression that the phono stage made was that of being musical. It was not highly resolving, but it did portray dynamics well and its vocal verisimilitude was good. In terms of sound staging this was good left to right and somewhat muted in terms of depth.

This is a musical phono stage that I enjoyed listening to for many hours. It is, unsurprisingly, not at the cutting edge of what can be achieved with analogue replay, however it is excellent value for money.

Hounds of Love, Running up that Hill, Kate Bush

One of my favourite Bush albums, sans cymbals. This track has a driving beat and the Pro-ject Tube DS2 delivered this with good handling of the dynamic contrasts. The multi-tracked Bush singing with her backing, her main vocal, which was well delivered. This is an excellent album and I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation of the Tube DS2.

The Lexicon of Love, 4 Ever 2 Gether, ABC

ABC’s The Lexicon of Love was released in 1982. I bought an interesting copy from The Virgin Megastore in Oxford Street in that year. I always suspected its provenance and yet it has always improved as I have upgraded my front end. This whole album just bounces, and the Pro-ject portrays this abundantly, great fun. This album can move towards edgy, but not with this phono stage. Musically engaging.

Songs From the Big Chair, Shout, Tears for Fears

A perennial favourite. The sheer verve and dynamic beats were well conveyed. This little unit’s ability to present vocals was on show once again with Orzabel and Smith’s vocals playing off each other. What was perhaps not so evident was the sound staging and instrument differentiation, where some instruments were absorbed into a general impression; and that impression was inviting and musical.

Legend of …., The Legend of Xanadu, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick And Tich (1969)

A part of my childhood. I remember watching these guys performing this on a small black and white TV with a (I presume) pretend whip. This is a detailed recording with a twelve string guitar left and another acoustic guitar left. As I have written above the Pro-ject Tube DS2 delivers a musically engaging picture without delivering all that is available in terms of sound staging or detail.

Having listened to the Pro-ject Tube DS2 though my system I took it to George47 and used his system:

  • Voyd Reference 0.5 Turntable, SME V arm, Audionote IO II cartridge, Audio Note step-up transformer;
  • Bryston BP17-3 pre & 4B-3 power; and
  • Avalon PM1 speakers.

The phono stage was set to MM 47k impedance. This removed the hiss that was evident through my system. The music was very satisfyingly portrayed and a very enjoyable listening session ensued.

Conclusion

In my musical descriptions I have highlighted my impressions of this small phono stage, however I feel that I need to emphasis the modest price of the unit. This is my favourite phono stage in the sub-one thousand pound market. So what would paying more gain you?

When I plugged my Tron 7 GT Phono Stage back in the music escaped the speakers and presented a holographic picture in three dimensions with a wealth of extra detail. But, this is a spectacular phono stage that cost in excess of ten thousand pounds over a decade ago.

How does the Pro-ject Tube DS2 compare to phono stages around the fifteen hundred pound mark? I can think of two stages that I think do present a definite step up within my system. That said, had I bought the Pro-ject Tube DS2 I would be tempted to save my shekels and leap frog up to the two to three thousand pound bracket.

The Pro-ject Tube DS2 is excellent value for money and performs beyond its price bracket. It is worth stretching to and will give you a musically satisfying analogue system, until you can afford that super system you have been dreaming of.

This is a well made, flexible and satisfyingly musical performer. Well worth including on your audition list.

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