Dual CS 618Q review

Composed and detailed deck with bonus features Tested at £1099 / $1100 / AU$2299

Dual CS 618Q turntable from front slight top-down angle with black vinyl record
(Image: © What Hi-Fi?)

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Dual’s top turntable is easy to use and boasts good features, with a stable, strait-laced performance that needs a bit more spirit


  • +

    Detailed, composed and balanced sound

  • +

    Easy to use deck

  • +

    Auto-stop arm lift feature is a great bonus


  • -

    Built-in phono stage is merely okay

  • -

    Rivals offer greater subtlety and more engaging dynamics and rhythmic drive

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

Dual is no stranger to the turntable market. Its budget record players had their time in the spotlight in the 1980s vinyl heyday, but more recently it has seen success with its mid-price CS 418 and CS 518 decks. Their five-star performances solidified their place as viable alternatives to the current established players from the likes of Rega, Pro-Ject and Technics.

And now it’s the turn of the CS 618Q, the top-of-the-range deck in Dual’s current stable, and with the higher price point inevitably comes higher expectations. There are bonus features here that you don’t see in many competitors at this level, though, making this record player an appealing proposition. 

Build & features

Dual CS 618Q turntable from side slight top angle showing controls, tone arm and black vinyl

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The Dual CS 618Q is a direct drive design with a switchable built-in phono stage. A well-regarded Ortofon 2M Blue moving magnet cartridge comes fitted to a detachable headshell. The use of a detachable headshell makes it easy to swap out and upgrade the cartridge down the line. A switch at the back of the plinth lets you toggle between using the Dual’s internal phono stage or using an external unit if you prefer.

The CS 618Q tonearm’s twin gimbal design – harking back to Dual’s past – is made of solid aluminium and the die-cast aluminium platter is damped by a heavy rubber mat. The Q in the model's name refers to the use of a quartz-regulated processor to set the exact rotational speed of the platter, claiming to deliver greater precision. The 618Q is capable of playing 33⅓, 45 and 78 rpm records – the speed is selectable using a simple but effective control dial, which also turns on the deck’s motor in one smooth motion. 

Dual CS 618Q tech specs

Dual CS 618Q turntable

(Image credit: Dual)

Type Direct drive

Operation Semi-automatic 

Speeds 33⅓, 45, 78

Speed change Electronic

Cartridge Ortofon 2M Blue moving magnet

Phono stage? Yes

Bluetooth? No


Dimensions (hwd) 14.5 x 43.5 x 36.7cm

Weight 7 kg

Finishes x 3 (black, walnut, black gloss)

Dual calls the 618Q a fully manual deck, but it does boast a useful auto-stop function. This feature automatically lifts the tonearm after 30 seconds of inactivity after it reaches the end of a record. An optical sensor under the tonearm triggers the timer for the lift mechanism. The arm won’t return to its rest as it does in fully automatic decks; it will simply lift up from the vinyl’s groove and hover above the record. It’s a useful feature that prevents undue wear to the record or needle in case it’s left running for any length of time – if you have fallen asleep while listening to records, for instance, or simply forgot to lift the tonearm yourself.

In use, the CS 618Q works smoothly. It’s quick to start up and get a record playing, and the automatic lift mechanism works a treat. Setting up the turntable is a simple matter of fitting the counterbalance, adjusting the cartridge’s tracking force and setting the anti-skating weight, and away you go.

Dual CS 618Q turntable

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The general build quality is solid. From tonearm to plinth, it’s all made to a good standard and, if not entirely exuding a truly premium feel to go with its premium price tag, the Dual feels reassuringly sturdy and easy to use. The CS 618Q comes in three finishes: a standard black, the high gloss black of our review sample, or a walnut veneer finish. The standard finish costs £1099 / $1100, but there’s an additional £100 / $200 on top of that for the latter two finishes (costing £1199 / $1300 in total).

For a deck at this level, we wish it came with a better set of phono cables, rather than the cheap-feeling ones included in the box. We would recommend upgrading to a better set of cables to use with the CS 618Q for an instant uplift in audio quality.


Dual CS 618Q turntable showing cartridge playing pink vinyl

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

At this price point, rivals vary in design from the Award-winning Technics SL-1500C direct drive turntable (with phono stage, costing £1099 / $1300) to the iconic Rega Planar 3/Elys 2 belt-drive deck (no phono stage, costing £799 / $1395). We have both these turntables set up for comparison with the Dual during testing. 

From the start, the Dual turntable delivers a very stable and clear performance when plugged into our usual Burmester 088/911 MkIII and ATC SCM50 reference system. There is a good amount of detail retrieved from the records we play, with ample space for instruments and vocals to flourish. There’s no sense of the performance sounding cluttered or any track getting too complex for the CS 618Q to handle; it takes it all in stride, remaining composed as we spin through various genres with Four Tet’s There Is Love In You, Beethoven’s symphonies and Elliott Smith’s Either/Or album.

There’s a decent amount of solidity and weight underpinning each note, with enough top-end clarity and low-end heft to the groove-tastic songs in Michael Jackson’s Bad album. Nothing sticks out unduly – which is very commendable – and we admire how the Dual sounds balanced and clean throughout our time with it. 

Dual CS 618Q turntable pictured from back showing connections

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

It is a rather strait-laced presentation, and we wish the Dual would dig that bit deeper into the subtleties and nuances surrounding each note, and deliver more in the way of dynamics. The CS 618Q’s built-in phono stage is fine, but it is the deck’s weakest link. We recommend using an external one if you can – the Rega Fono Mini A2D Mk2 or Rega Fono MM Mk5 are good starting points – to hear a greater degree of fluidity and drive from the Dual.

Switching over to the Technics and Rega turntables, we find those five-star decks reveal punchier, tuneful basslines alongside a more agile, snappy rhythm. The dynamics are more varied and engaging through the more affordable Rega, not to mention its ability to unearth more nuance and textures to fully convey the funk and soul at the heart of The Way You Make Me Feel.

The Dual’s open soundstage, clearly defined edges and composed presentation are all perfectly fine, but it’s missing that extra ounce of subtlety and textural depth to really grab our attention and sing to our emotions.


Dual CS 618Q turntable with tone arm lifted above pink vinyl

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The Dual CS 618Q is more competent than compelling. Its unfussy nature and feature set will have wide appeal, but the clear, composed and organised performance plays it a touch too safe for our liking at this premium price level. We would like Dual to have a bit more fun, so we can have more fun listening to our records in the process.


  • Sound 4
  • Build 5
  • Features 5


Read our review of the Technics SL-1500C

Also consider the Rega Planar 3/Elys 2

Best record players: the best turntables tested and reviewed for every budget

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

Read more about how we test