This is a little odd as far as reviews go, because it’s a review of an upgrade of products, rather than the products themselves. However, as we’ve already given a lot of column inches over to the Magnum Dynalab tuners upgraded by these circuit boards, it’s perhaps not so odd as it first seems.
In fact, this is not a new thing for Magnum Dynalab. From the outset, Magnum Dynalab has offered multiple upgrade options to owners of its products. It has always been possible to modify Magnum Dynalab’s tuners (from the early FT‑101 onwards), bringing older designs as close as possible to the current specification and performance of later variants of the model in question. That upgrade path doesn’t change. However, this is slightly different: instead of reinvigorating an older tuner with newer ‘innards’, this Signature project allows users of current tuners to raise their performance.
In May this year, Magnum Dynalab released ‘Signature’ versions of its analogue (MD108T and MD109) and Internet media (MD809T) tuners. However, it didn’t leave existing customers out in the cold, as there are upgrade packages for standard versions of these popular high-end tuners. Theoretically, you could buy a standard version of one of these tuners today and upgrade to ‘Signature’ status at a later date, but economically speaking, this doesn’t make a lot of sense: the Signature upgrade costs £1,990, while ordering a Signature version of the MD108T, MD109, and MD809T adds £1,500 to the respective prices of the standard models, which will continue to be available.
The Signature upgrade kit replaces two-thirds of the tuner internals, including completely new designs of the multiple power supply circuits and the crucial analogue output audio boards. In fact, all that remains from the non-Signature product is the chassis, mains transformers and the FM front-end module for signal reception; or, in the case of the MD809T, the streaming and Internet tuner module. All the rest of the tuner is completely new.
Actually ‘new’ isn’t necessarily the right term, because each ‘Signature’ tuner uses a set of rare and newly discovered, specially selected, NOS (new old stock) Telefunken E88CC valves, which have been cryogenically treated, which should deliver better performance and reliability from already highly rated classic valves. Nothing in the modern hollow-state world comes close to these classic valves. Everything else in the ‘Signature’ upgrade is brand new.
In essence, the Signature upgrades are wholly new analogue audio and power supply boards. Zdenko Zivkovic, Magnum Dynalab’s in-house designer, has completely redesigned and in the process improved both stages. In the analogue audio boards, this involved implementing a new valve biasing solution within the proprietary TRACC MkII module, as well as sourcing significantly better passive and active components (such as Mundorf Supreme and Teflon by-pass capacitors) in the audio signal path. Meanwhile, the power supplies for the FM front end, analogue audio, and ancillary circuits have been redesigned from scratch, with solutions that give much lower noise levels and cleaner frequencies within the voltage and current required for the active segments of each tuner. Again, with the exception of the two mains transformers (one for the audio circuits and other for the rest), virtually every component on the power supply motherboard has been improved relative to the standard version.