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Why Audiophiles Are Shopping for Vintage Turntables

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watchnerd

watchnerd

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Thread Starter #741
Sooooo....

Back to vintage turntables..

What's the deal with idler drives?

I don't think I've ever heard one in my entire life.

But the advocates claim it's the ne plus ultra.

"Listening to an idler drive turntable is a very different experience than listening to a belt drive model. Idler drive turntables let the music come first. You will find yourself tapping your foot instead of focussing on sound quality. Idlers simply have incredible musicality and energy.

For many years the belt drive system was regarded as the only serious way to drive a top quality turntable. For thirty years it was almost impossible to buy anything else. There were a few direct drive models around but those were really only used by DJs.
In recent years however, there has been a renewed interest in the old idler drive models from the sixties and seventies. Models like the Garrard 301, the Thorens TD 124 or the Lenco L75. Once restored these old beasts are thought by many to outperform even the best of today’s turntables."


Superior, supposedly, to all other drive modalities.

Why?
 
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Sooooo....
Back to vintage turntables..
What's the deal with idler drives?
I had a Dual 1009 back in the 60s. Nothing special. I've seen various radio station turntables (Sparta, Gates, etc.) with idlers in the 70s. Heavy, solid machines. Super torque that will pull your fingers off if you forget to turn off the motor while backcueing. The main problem with idlers is that the rubber roller wears down eventually, or develops dents if its left engaged but idle for a long time.
 

levimax

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Sooooo....

Back to vintage turntables..

What's the deal with idler drives?

I don't think I've ever heard one in my entire life.

But the advocates claim it's the ne plus ultra.

"Listening to an idler drive turntable is a very different experience than listening to a belt drive model. Idler drive turntables let the music come first. You will find yourself tapping your foot instead of focussing on sound quality. Idlers simply have incredible musicality and energy.

For many years the belt drive system was regarded as the only serious way to drive a top quality turntable. For thirty years it was almost impossible to buy anything else. There were a few direct drive models around but those were really only used by DJs.
In recent years however, there has been a renewed interest in the old idler drive models from the sixties and seventies. Models like the Garrard 301, the Thorens TD 124 or the Lenco L75. Once restored these old beasts are thought by many to outperform even the best of today’s turntables."


Superior, supposedly, to all other drive modalities.

Why?
Same reason that original Western Electric 300B tubes sound the best.... its magic.
 

Doodski

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Sooooo....

Back to vintage turntables..

What's the deal with idler drives?

I don't think I've ever heard one in my entire life.

But the advocates claim it's the ne plus ultra.

"Listening to an idler drive turntable is a very different experience than listening to a belt drive model. Idler drive turntables let the music come first. You will find yourself tapping your foot instead of focussing on sound quality. Idlers simply have incredible musicality and energy.

For many years the belt drive system was regarded as the only serious way to drive a top quality turntable. For thirty years it was almost impossible to buy anything else. There were a few direct drive models around but those were really only used by DJs.
In recent years however, there has been a renewed interest in the old idler drive models from the sixties and seventies. Models like the Garrard 301, the Thorens TD 124 or the Lenco L75. Once restored these old beasts are thought by many to outperform even the best of today’s turntables."


Superior, supposedly, to all other drive modalities.

Why?
Anything with idlers like a cassette deck, video machine or turntable is bound to suxxors. I've seen nothing but issues with idlers and they are a leading cause of technicians making moola. :D
 
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I never got into vinyl, but I can understand some who like the ritual, visual or tactile aspects of it. Awhile back I owned a CD player that worked like a turntable. It was a Thorens TCD-2000, made in Germany and built like a little tank. Not my video but it can be seen in action here:


I had to sell it to fund other stuff, but it was fun to use, I really enjoyed it.
 

Frank Dernie

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Sooooo....

Back to vintage turntables..

What's the deal with idler drives?

I don't think I've ever heard one in my entire life.

But the advocates claim it's the ne plus ultra.

"Listening to an idler drive turntable is a very different experience than listening to a belt drive model. Idler drive turntables let the music come first. You will find yourself tapping your foot instead of focussing on sound quality. Idlers simply have incredible musicality and energy.

For many years the belt drive system was regarded as the only serious way to drive a top quality turntable. For thirty years it was almost impossible to buy anything else. There were a few direct drive models around but those were really only used by DJs.
In recent years however, there has been a renewed interest in the old idler drive models from the sixties and seventies. Models like the Garrard 301, the Thorens TD 124 or the Lenco L75. Once restored these old beasts are thought by many to outperform even the best of today’s turntables."


Superior, supposedly, to all other drive modalities.

Why?
As ever, it is about the engineering.
Well designed idlers, belts and direct drives are all good.
Badly engineered versions of all types are potentially poor.

Idlers with flats on the rubber due to skidding or being disconnected from power whilst still mechanically "on" will be awful. Most were designed to remove pressure from the idler when mechanically off so are fine if properly handled. Most of them are old and will require a good service. They are stupidly expensive today, but then so are most fashionable turntables.
It is a fashion business, the Garrard 301 is more popular than the better 401, presumably because people prefer its styling.
The TD 124 super apart from the "fast startup" drive. The Lenco L75 is good cost effective engineering and was much less expensive.
I am familiar (or very familiar) with these decks.

Personally I would never buy a belt drive with round section belt. It is poor engineering practice and a cheapening too far to be on anything but the lowest budget models. I am suspicious that any designer accepting a round belt in the design may have included other bits of less visible poor engineering practice.

Even the early direct drives we evaluated at Garrard in ~1975 were better on speed stability than other types we measured and seen by the experts there as the future. We did only have flagship studio models in for evaluation back thenthough.

OTOH the drive method probably doesn't have as big an effect on the sound of the turntable as its suspension system and where it is located in the listening room.
 

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I mentioned this before... I had a Rolling Stones MFSL LP that was amazing, sonic-wise. You could hear all sorts of things separate in the mix that was not present in the regular LP, at least in the same way. But the strange thing: it didn't sound like what I thought a Rolling Stones record should sound like. One of the trademarks of the band was their compressed and 'sloppy' raw sound. LOL
The MFSL boxed set of the first 11 English LPs was released in 1984.

Come 1986 or so the original English London albums were released for the first time on CD. Some had reference to MFSL on the rear cover and the reference sporadically was removed over later issues.
(The first English Album, The Rolling Stones, was released on English London CD in 1985. I don't know if this was MFSL based - my copies don't mention it).

s-l1600.jpg



The story is that London had the publishing rights outside of the USA and used the MFSL masters from the MFSL LP set for the production of the CDs. MFSL weren't happy it seems even though English London owned the MFSL masters. These CDs sound very good.
The CDs have minor editing of the tapes.

The ABKCO CD versions are based on masters that ABKO owned and are generally inferior.

To confuse the issue these London releases have a small abkco logo on the rear cover. I think this was because early pressings made their way to the US.
 
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Personally I would never buy a belt drive with round section belt. It is poor engineering practice and a cheapening too far to be on anything but the lowest budget models. I am suspicious that any designer accepting a round belt in the design may have included other bits of less visible poor engineering practice.
Frank, What's your opinion on the Connoisseur BD2, which has a round belt?

It was one of the easiest TTs to refurbish -- I just had to fix up the motor mount/suspension -- and since it's so basic, it's the easiest TT for me to keep in service for those rare instances where I have to play a record. Yes, I know it also has a short tonearm but for me it's a pretty good performer so was wondering what someone with your bona fides (you are the Garrard god to me! I am a big Garrard fan see my fully stripped down and restored SL95B in my profile photo).

Thanks.
 

Frank Dernie

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Frank, What's your opinion on the Connoisseur BD2, which has a round belt?
It is fine at the price, I had a BD1 in a homemade plinth as my second TT, first with an Audio Technica AT1005 arm then a SME 3009 mk2 Imp. I paid £10 for the TT, I forget the AT arm but the SME was £24 new, about 3 weeks income for me then so a massive sacrifice for my girlfriend (now my wife of 47 years) who I persuaded to buy it for me.
There can never be perfect transmission using a round section belt leading to poorer speed stability and maybe extra noise.
 

JP

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Sooooo....

Back to vintage turntables..

What's the deal with idler drives?

I don't think I've ever heard one in my entire life.

But the advocates claim it's the ne plus ultra.

"Listening to an idler drive turntable is a very different experience than listening to a belt drive model. Idler drive turntables let the music come first. You will find yourself tapping your foot instead of focussing on sound quality. Idlers simply have incredible musicality and energy.

For many years the belt drive system was regarded as the only serious way to drive a top quality turntable. For thirty years it was almost impossible to buy anything else. There were a few direct drive models around but those were really only used by DJs.
In recent years however, there has been a renewed interest in the old idler drive models from the sixties and seventies. Models like the Garrard 301, the Thorens TD 124 or the Lenco L75. Once restored these old beasts are thought by many to outperform even the best of today’s turntables."


Superior, supposedly, to all other drive modalities.

Why?
When I see something like "There were a few direct drive models around but those were really only used by DJs", it's very difficult to not summarily dismiss everything else the author says as utter nonsense.

I did the idler thing for several years. With mediocre tube amps and full range speakers it wasn't too problematic. Electronics that could do nearly DC with LX-521's made me grow out of them. Quickly.

P1000809.JPG
 

MakeMineVinyl

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I would imagine that a thick rubber belt would also be susceptible to deformation if the turntable isn't used for awhile, and this could cause a once-every-revolution glitch in W&F. A round belt would probably be worse. In practice, the belts I see usually are relatively thin which would be less likely to take on a semi-permanent deformation. I've never seen this problem on my Thorens TD125 MKII, but then again I use fresh belts every couple years.
 
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watchnerd

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Thread Starter #752
I would imagine that a thick rubber belt would also be susceptible to deformation if the turntable isn't used for awhile, and this could cause a once-every-revolution glitch in W&F. A round belt would probably be worse. In practice, the belts I see usually are relatively thin which would be less likely to take on a semi-permanent deformation. I've never seen this problem on my Thorens TD125 MKII, but then again I use fresh belts every couple years.
While the theory is sound, I haven't seen current production flat belt TT's universally demonstrating markedly different / better W&F or speed stability measurements than more common round belts.
 
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watchnerd

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Thread Starter #753
Michael Fremer's test results for the budget-priced, flat belt Fluance FT81 shows pretty bad performance from an absolute POV (it's way too fast) and from a speed stability POV compared to its round-belt peers from Pro-Ject with SB feature:



So implementation and execution probably over-ride belt shape, which isn't too surprising.
 
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Frank Dernie

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I would imagine that a thick rubber belt would also be susceptible to deformation if the turntable isn't used for awhile, and this could cause a once-every-revolution glitch in W&F. A round belt would probably be worse. In practice, the belts I see usually are relatively thin which would be less likely to take on a semi-permanent deformation. I've never seen this problem on my Thorens TD125 MKII, but then again I use fresh belts every couple years.
All the well engineered belt drive TTs I have seen have a thin flat belt, usually very similar in cross section following normal engineering practice, Thorens, AR, Linn, Goldmund and so on are all good sensible engineering.
 

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While the theory is sound, I haven't seen current production flat belt TT's universally demonstrating markedly different / better W&F or speed stability measurements than more common round belts.
I'm mostly basing this on my experience with tape machines which use a variety of round and flat capstan drive belts. While the speed of rotation of the capstan of a tape machine is quite a bit faster, I've measured negative impact on W&F measurements with older, deformed belts. I acknowledge the effect would likely be significantly less in a turntable (or not at all realistically), but since some reviews are splitting gnats-asses in their measurements, deformation would be a logical thing to consider as a potential problem. As far as round belts go, it would obviously matter what the diameter of the belt is.
 

Frank Dernie

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While the theory is sound, I haven't seen current production flat belt TT's universally demonstrating markedly different / better W&F or speed stability measurements than more common round belts.
I saw a comparison of a well known TT with a flat belt update compared to its standard round belt and the W&F was a lot better.
Loads of makers get away with a round belt, it is poor engineering practice though and I dislike it in principle.
 
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watchnerd

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I saw a comparison of a well known TT with a flat belt update compared to its standard round belt and the W&F was a lot better.
Loads of makers get away with a round belt, it is poor engineering practice though and I dislike it in principle.
Sure.

But if you look at the Fluance test results above, I also think it demonstrates that it's overly-simplistic to say "buy flat, it's better".... flat belts can be badly implemented, too.
 
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watchnerd

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I'm mostly basing this on my experience with tape machines which use a variety of round and flat capstan drive belts. While the speed of rotation of the capstan of a tape machine is quite a bit faster, I've measured negative impact on W&F measurements with older, deformed belts. I acknowledge the effect would likely be significantly less in a turntable (or not at all realistically), but since some reviews are splitting gnats-asses in their measurements, deformation would be a logical thing to consider as a potential problem. As far as round belts go, it would obviously matter what the diameter of the belt is.
I'll let the Fluance data above speak for itself on theory vs what can happen in practice.
 

mhardy6647

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Sooooo....

Back to vintage turntables..

What's the deal with idler drives?

I don't think I've ever heard one in my entire life.

But the advocates claim it's the ne plus ultra.

"Listening to an idler drive turntable is a very different experience than listening to a belt drive model. Idler drive turntables let the music come first. You will find yourself tapping your foot instead of focussing on sound quality. Idlers simply have incredible musicality and energy.

For many years the belt drive system was regarded as the only serious way to drive a top quality turntable. For thirty years it was almost impossible to buy anything else. There were a few direct drive models around but those were really only used by DJs.
In recent years however, there has been a renewed interest in the old idler drive models from the sixties and seventies. Models like the Garrard 301, the Thorens TD 124 or the Lenco L75. Once restored these old beasts are thought by many to outperform even the best of today’s turntables."


Superior, supposedly, to all other drive modalities.

Why?
They're not a priori.
The (sort of) aforementioned Fairchild 750 is belt drive -- and engineered & built to a level of precision that was probably never duplicated in any other piece of transcription equipment.

DSC_4372 (3r).JPG


The good idler drivers are -- good -- in terms of speed stability, but it takes great pains to get them quiet.
PS Don't discount the Garrard 401 either. Not as old-world charming as the 301, but quite fine.
 

MakeMineVinyl

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I'll let the Fluance data above speak for itself on theory vs what can happen in practice.
I don't doubt the data - its undoubtedly accurate. There are myriad variables in drive design to consider such as diameter of the drive shaft and driven flywheel, weight of the parts, RPM of the drive parts, weight of the turntable platter, drive frequency of the motor and resultant tendency for cogging, whether the motor is AC or DC driven, the performance of any servo system if applicable, length of belt and belt dimensions and durometer of the rubber. I've seen lots of variation of good/bad engineering practice, at least in tape machine drives. I've been going through quite the hassle in working on the drive of my Ampex 602 machine, which is a 1950s mechanical nightmare (although a relatively high quality professional nightmare). Like I mentioned previously, I doubt that all this is a significant thing in slow moving turntable drives - I'm just pointing out some of what can have an impact.
 

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