Listening started with the dps arm carrying a van den Hul Condor cartridge and a comparison between the single-phase and three-phase supplies, the larger, more expensive box delivering greater resolution of acoustic space, more subtlety and higher levels of detail alongside a calmness that allowed higher volumes without discomfort. But as the listening progressed other qualities became apparent, not least phenomenal dynamic range thanks to an incredibly low noise floor. The acoustic signature of the Pointer Sisters’ backing vocals on Taj Mahal’s Sweet Home Chicago is so utterly different to that on the lead vocal that one wonders whether the same studio was used on this 1972 recording (Recycling The Blues & Other Related Stuff). On Richard Thompson’s more up to date but not entirely dissimilar Old Kit Bag the higher recording quality has a visceral solidity and presence that is so real it could be in the room. But there is also a hint of hardness to the sound which I disc decided to counter with a plastic bodied van den Hul Colibri cartridge. This went a long way to providing a better balanced result, the sound being less incisive but more relaxed, tonally richer and even more enjoyable.
Bringing the SME V and matching plinth components into play not only improved the appearance of the dps but also took the bass in particular into another league. Whether it was over £1,500 of extra league depends on the resolution of the accompanying system but in the context of a Trichord Delphini phono stage, Russ Andrews HP-1 pre-amplifier and ATC SCM150A active speakers it seemed a fair price for the increase in analysis offered. That said, the dps RB250 is remarkably good and if budget limits you to the choice between a dps2/SME V and a dps3/dps RB250, the latter would be my choice. Having said that I do love the way that the Series V produces such richness of detail and solidity of sound, especially in the all important nether regions, an underpinning which affects everything you play. Take Newport Rebels on Candid from the early sixties. There’s no real, deep bass on this superb recording but there is a heck of a lot of life and energy coming from instruments that have grittily real timbre.
I also listened to the dps 3 in the more neutral environs of an Audio Zone Pre-T1, Gamut D200 power amp and B&W 802D speaker system. This set-up suggested that any hardness encountered previously was not coming from the turntable and perhaps that the RA pre-amp is not as well matched to the ATCs as I’d hoped. It also revealed more of the space that the dps 3 finds around acoustic instruments on virtually any recording. So much so that Tom Waits’ Troubles Braids expanded every which way and delivered dynamics that were surprising in their vivacity, the double bass and percussion being unusually unfettered for a commercial recording.