The second most important change to my ears concerns the bass. The Dynamo MkII's deeper bass shifts the sonic center of gravity away from the dense midrange emphasis of the MkI towards a wider bandwidth nearly solid-state in character. There's clarity to complex music one wouldn't normally expect from an 8wpc single ended pentode amplifier. There seems to be no congestion even with darker speakers never accused of being speed demons like my Harbeth Compact 7 ES-3s. With well-recorded electric bass, this amp has no trouble coaxing dry, gripping notes from my Compact 7s. I noticed this with Chris Squire's electric bass on "Roundabout" and Tony Levin's chapman stick on King Crimson's later works. I did find however, that sometimes there was too much of a good thing. With Randy Meisner and Paul McCartney's bass, there was obvious bloat. It's present in the original recording and other amps in my stable will reveal it but somehow with the Dynamo MkII, it seemed slightly accentuated as though the amp was trying for a missing sixth gear.


Having said that, most people will probably prefer this MkII because most people just want one good all-rounder amplifier. To my ears the MkII achieves this because it is generally superior to the MkI with demanding classical and rock music and more accurate with Jazz. The MkII has more transparency, more resolving power, more low-end grunt and more high-frequency detail retrieval. It's a 20x loupe versus a 10x loupe. There's certainly more of it. The MkII is less obviously euphonic and remarkably more solid-state sounding. Where the MkI was warm, rich and dense and sometimes stout, the MkII is a pale ale with a bit of bite. The effect is similar to using KT88 in an EL34 circuit capable of handling both. There's more snap and bite, more clarity, less romance. As with the original Dynamo, the MkII has an auto-bias circuit. I asked if I could use 6L6s but Israel Blume did not recommend it. You're stuck with EL34.


There are worse output tubes to be stuck with. Behold this embarrassment of riches, one part my personal stash, one part on loan from thetubestore.com for a tube review on another website. The Dynamo sounds good with all current production EL34 including, to my surprise, inexpensive JJ and Svetlana. They commit no obvious errors. If you want to add a bit more warmth to the Dynamo MkII and pull it back towards its little brother's sonic signature, go with new production Mullard or the wonderful Tung-Sol EL34B, a tube that easily earns my vote for the best-value EL34 in production today. If you want the crispest possible bass, go with the Shuguang black bottles. If you are a guitar-toting tone freak, the SED Winged C (now out of production) is for you. If you want the tube that does it all, with majestic soaring highs and window-rattling lows, search no further than the Gold Lion KT-77. The hype surrounding it is well deserved. It seems like the perfect tube for the Dynamo. It is fast and capable of turning on a dime but is also super quiet—quieter than the coated Shuguang black bottles that rattle for several minutes upon start up—and therefore it shocks with its ability to sort out the highest highs and lowest lows in the blink of an eye.


‘My life is full of romance.' Well, perhaps not, but it was precisely at the moment Rick Davies' words from "Lover Boy" floated past me that the Dynamo revealed its secret sauce. I saw the light. And quite literally for the tune was suddenly lit up like a flash of radiant clarity, with a sudden shift from the soaring highs of Davies' keyboard to the piercing lows of Dougie Thomson's bass. Yes, I had turned to that old chestnut LP of Prog Rock, "Even in the Quietest Moments," originally to see how the Dynamo would deal with Roger Hodgson‘s bright acoustic guitar at the opening of "Give a Little Bit." And the answer was just as I had expected. I'd had the amp in house for a few weeks, long enough to know that it is lit up and revealing but rarely grating. This is the magic of this little amp: its ability to juggle soaring highs and rumbling lows simultaneously and without congestion at reasonably loud levels. Normally you'd need a couple dozen more Benjamin Franklins or c-notes to achieve this effect. Howard Keel sang to Betty Hutton, 'any note you can hold I can hold longer.' The MkII certainly does this with a greater sense of ambience and air than the MkI, capturing the dying gasps of Steinway decays. The original Dynamo was no slouch where layering and instrument separation are concerned but the MkII sorts out all the lines of a tune with more ease. On Sad Café there's Glenn Frey's synthesizer on stage left, Timothy B. Schmit's bass nearby, in the back there's Henley's routine time keeping punctuated by noticeably more palpable cymbal strikes and off to the right there's a duo of Felder and Walsh playing off one another. On Kylie Minogue's "On the Dancefloor", the normally faint synth line is with lesser amps drowned out by the driving bass beat but now, with the MkII, eureka there it is.  Again, objectively speaking, if detail retrieval is your thing, there's no doubt the MkII is a better amp than the MkI.


So why might I prefer the MkI? It's all about context. With a stable of class A and D solid-state power amps plus a huge 845 integrated amp, a tiny Tripath amp and three SEP amps, I have the luxury of mating amps to musical genres. If I were in the market for just one amplifier for an affordable main system or a nice second system including headphone output, undoubtedly I'd choose the MkII. With its lower noise floor, greater PRaT and deeper bass, the MkII is superior. Since I have the luxury of owning several amps, I want to keep the MkI for guitars and voices. I am hooked on the touch of coloration and moistness the MkI adds to simple acoustic music. The MkII is a more honest, drier, straightforward amplifier.