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Idler vs belt drive

Rajiv

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Hi,

Below is a nice post about idler TT's from Audio Karma.

Regards
Rajiv


Recovery of ambient detail with an idler-drive TT can be outstanding. (Such things are also dependent on tonearm and cartridge, of course, but let's assume those are equal, and just talk about the TTs themselves.)

It's easy to criticise idler TTs if you leave them stock. It was no accident that people switched heavily to belt-drive TTs years ago. Of course, belt drive TTs are easier to manufacture at lower cost, so the manufacturers were promoting them with whatever virtues they could emphasize, and denigrating the idler-drives in whatever ways they could... but it was EASY to denigrate the old idler-drive TTs, when they were mounted in the typical hollow-box plinths of the period, with limited motor-noise isolation, and sometimes even on springs...those just didn't sound all that good!

The reason for the resurgence in interest in idler-drive TTs, and the "conversion" of many such as Mr. Salvatore, is that somewhere along the way, some people (Mr. Shindo with his Garrards and Jean Nantais with his Lencos come to mind) discovered and showed the rest of us that the faults of the old idler-drive tables can be remedied. The manufacturers years ago had a lot of the "right" ideas in their basic TT designs, but didn't realize the importance of the plinth and a few other tweaks, to getting the most from their designs. It was almost like they had Ferrari engines and drive trains dropped into stage coach frames... badly wasted or mis-used potential!

PROPERLY re-mounted into a massive plinth, with some attention paid to controlling motor vibration and other tweaking, an idler-drive TT has an incredibly good sound. It will NOT have rumble, even with speakers that go very low, if sufficient attention is paid to the motor itself, its mounting and isolation, and vibration control in general.

You describe the drive system as "inherently noisier." Well, you're probably right, in terms of the physics involved, but the noise level can be brought down well below the audible threshhold, to where it is not an issue. It's just about as easy to do that, as it is to try to control the inherently less-stable rotational speed and torque of a belt-drive TT. An idler-drive needs a massive plinth; a belt-drive needs a massive platter. (NOTE: this is why a suspended-chassis belt drive like the LP12 cannot be made to deliver "prat" as well as a properly-mounted idler drive; the suspension prohibits one from using a heavy enough platter to overcome the limitations of the belt drive!)

Each design approach has strengths and weaknesses, and the details of execution determine how well the strengths are emphasized and the weaknesses minimized.

When I started out in this hobby, I thought that belt drives were best. Now all my favorite tables (and 90 percent of my "keeper" tables) are either massive direct drives (eg, the GT-2000) or idler-drives (eg, the Lenco heavy-platters). I think it is the combination of superior torque plus vibration minimized to a level where it is virtually non-existent (hard to hear even through a stethoscope) --and without the inherent wow/flutter and loss of detail from a belt drive-- that achieves this. Detail? As you should expect from the basic physics involved, you can get MORE detail retrieval from either of these approaches (properly executed) than you can from a belt drive, not less!

Any of the approaches can be made to sound very, very good, but I'm not at all surprised that Mr. Salvatore has ended up with a Lenco in the number one spot on his list of best reference turntables. I'd expect a Rockport Sirius III --and perhaps a Continuum Caliburn(?), which Mr. Salvatore hasn't heard yet, either (he mentions it on his website)-- might well beat the Reference Lenco, but not much else.

The cool thing about all this? A Lenco L75 can still be bought for a very reasonable price, and if you're willing to put in the study and time to re-build it, superior sound can be had by almost anyone, on a relatively modest cash budget. HIS particular "Reference" model is a fairly extreme example, and wouldn't be all that cheap to reproduce, even if you figure out how it was done, but you can get somewhat close on the diminishing-returns curve, for much less than the cost of an LP12, say... and get significantly better sound quality! I think it is only the work involved in properly upgrading them that prevents a whole lot more people from switching to Lencos!
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jls001

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Hi Rajiv,

It would be interesting to read your own and Joshua's views on the topic. Particularly regarding Lenco turntables.

Regards.
My Lenco is safely warming up the bench while it awaits a new plinth which I am going to rebuild (this is turning out to be a long drawn-out project:eek: - I already got A3 prints for cutouts for the 5 layers, bought all the tools, etc BUT need to overcome the inertia to visit a neighbourhood plywoodwala), and a new arm (still see-sawing on what to buy but most likely will end up with a cheaper Rega for starters). In stock condition with stock plinth, stock arm and a Shure M44-7 cart that it came with (had replaced stylus with a spare new one), it has very good dynamics and remarkable lows (perhaps the cart contributes here). Already better sounding than my (stock) Thorens TD 160 B Mark II beltie. The potential is waiting to be tapped.
 

Rajiv

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Hi Rajiv,

It would be interesting to read your own and Joshua's views on the topic. Particularly regarding Lenco turntables

Hi,

My Lenco is as Joshua put it is warming the bench.

Apart from the initial checks to see if all is OK I have not got around to using it.It might be a while till I actually get around to work on the Lenco.

The noise floor of the Lenco seems to be lower than the Garrard and Thorens.No fancy test ,just the basic ear to the motor/drive system.

Between the Garrard 301 and the TD124, I lean towards the slightly laid back presentation of the Thorens. It could be because of my system/speaker configuration (the Altecs and Tannoys are certainly not laidback) or the fact that I am a long term Linne.

Regards
Rajiv
 

stevieboy

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I have a feeling too that Idlers can retrieve ambient detail. I'm hearing more with the Garrard than with the Project RPM9. Then again, how much of this is down to tonearm difference and cable difference I wouldn't know...
 

reubensm

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very enlightening, my order of preference would be:
1) direct drive
2) idler drive
3) belt drive
 
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kuruvilajacob

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Jul 11, 2011
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I've listened to a few idler wheel models like Lenco L69,Dual 1229 and Garrard 301. The high torque generated by Idler wheels make the timing better. I'v listened to several other Idler wheel models but they are not worth mentioning here because of the rumble noise.The outstanding models I'd choose from my experience are Thorens TD-124,Garrard 301 and Dual 1229. I have not come across a Lenco L-75 yet
 
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