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Why Audiophiles Are Shopping for Vintage Turntables

MakeMineVinyl

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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.

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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.
In the 1950s, Fairchild made a turntable which used a variable frequency oscillator to control speed, and there were a number of turntables which used gears to couple the motor to the platter. I don't know if they were equipped with that cool red "gear shift" knob though! :)
 

Frank Dernie

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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.
I didn't write that flat belts can not be badly implemented.

I wrote that round belts are poor engineering practice, which is a well known fact I learned over 50 years ago. It may be possible to get away with it but it is incorrect on a fundamental level so I wouldn't consider it on principle.

I very much fancied a Transcriptors Hydraulic Reference and did, as an impecunious student, have a Connoiseur BD1, which worked OK. I haven't had a TT with a round belt for around 45 years now.
I still own 4 TTs, 2 direct drive 2 belt drive.
 

Frank Dernie

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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.
It is more fundamental than that. (I did my apprenticeship at a transmission manufacturer)
In real engineering application a part of the contact area of a round section belt is scuffing, both in a V or semi circle drive pulley, and on a flat driven cylinder.
 

Robin L

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Most of the turntables I've owned were belt drives. AR AX 'tables went wobbly over time, the suspension had the be tuned just so. The best AR based turntable system I heard was owned and operated by a first rate lute player. Those folks spend a significant amount of their lives tuning. A properly set up AR AX is a remarkably good performer. I managed to possess about seven of those, did the surgery on two to attach Grace 707 tonearms, one of those getting all the Merrill Mods.

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My Merrill Mod of my AR XA had a Grace 707 arm [this one looks like an SME III] and I didn't replace the power switch [and probably should have] but otherwise this one looks like mine. Pretty solid performer, all the modifications made everything more solid and less resonant, the suspension was much more stable:

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I never had much luck with rim drive 'tables. I see there's some sort of cult around old manual Garrard 'tables, but over where I was living Garrards were slapped on portable or semi portable record players as automatic stacking players. If I had headphones to plug in, I'd always hear rumble. I found an old Garrard changer at a thrift store, it had a ceramic flip-over cartridge, useful for transcribing 78s.

garrard_model_30_record_changer.jpg


I was also "gifted" some PE automatic 'tables recently, couldn't get them to run properly because their complicated mechanics went out of square.

Have to say that overall, had the best luck with an old direct drive semi-automatic [the arm would lift and return at the end of a side] Technics, one of the earliest direct drive turntables.

technics-sl-d2-open.jpg


KPFA had the early Technics SP-10s with SME 3009 mk II arms in their studios, those were really fine, would start on a dime.

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But the best turntable, overall, was a Linn Sondek LP-12 with all the trimmings, bought from the aforementioned lute player. Had to sell that within a year due to impoverishment. I'm sure if I hung on to it long enough it would be way out of whack by now. I 'm just not up to the care and feeding of such a fussy beast.
 

mhardy6647

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In the 1950s, Fairchild made a turntable which used a variable frequency oscillator to control speed, and there were a number of turntables which used gears to couple the motor to the platter. I don't know if they were equipped with that cool red "gear shift" knob though! :)
The three-speed variant (750-3) has a big knob instead of the joystick :cool:

The "lesser" Fairchilds (Fairchildren? ;)) are also very nice tts, and can actually be affordable. I know some folks who've (perhaps?) used that former approach to improve the speed control (both accuracy & precsion, I presume) on their Fairchildren.*

DSC_2158.JPG
DSC_4295R.JPG


__________
* Sounds like the Japanese-market name for a 1970s Nissan product, doesn't it? ;)
 

krabapple

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Yes first/ early pressings. The word "altered" has a negative connotation to it... you could also say "optimized" for LP. In any case for these older recordings the mastering engineer did play a role in the final sound of the recording and the artists were usually involved. While not perfect the LP's were the original way this music was listened to and they have a historical and artistic context to them.

Unless the original way was a cassette....and of course there is music from the pre-LP era as well.

LP was always a compromise. The artist's 'vision' for the sound was usually found on the master tape, though sometimes elements were added during cutting. The deficiencies of LP versus the actual and recorded sound was especially irksome to 'classical' music fans and engineers, and they are the ones who drove the switchover to digital technology.
 

Sal1950

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AR AX 'tables went wobbly over time, the suspension had the be tuned just so
What was the cause of them going "wobbly". Since table balance never changes I take that it must be the suspension springs changing tension? I owned a AR-XB for many years and never noticed any serious audible issue?


But the best turntable, overall, was a Linn Sondek LP-12 with all the trimmings, bought from the aforementioned lute player. I'm sure if I hung on to it long enough it would be way out of whack by now. I 'm just not up to the care and feeding of such a fussy beast.
I never owned one but read about the constant need for tweaking on the Linn and some other suspended tables. Also read much of the same on my H-K ST8 Rabco armed, linear tracker. I've sometime wondered if these claims were only produced by some owners tendency to OCD behavior. On my ST8 the platter speed, and speed of arm advancement across the LP held stead for years at a time. Sometimes the mere act of putting a knob to twist on a toy makes the act of playing with it impossible to ignore for many? LOL
 

Robin L

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What was the cause of them going "wobbly". Since table balance never changes I take that it must be the suspension springs changing tension? I owned a AR-XB for many years and never noticed any serious audible issue?
Two things. First, it seems that spring balance in the turntable itself has to be reset when the turntable is moved [I'm talking about balancing the springs]. And I moved a lot. The other being that the XA did not have any sort of arm lift, so more opportunities to stretch out the springs. My guess is that the early AR 'tables had springs that got out of shape with regular use. Did not have the same issues with the Merrill mod version.

I never owned one but read about the constant need for tweaking on the Linn and some other suspended tables. Also read much of the same on my H-K ST8 Rabco armed, linear tracker. I've sometime wondered if these claims were only produced by some owners tendency to OCD behavior. On my ST8 the platter speed, and speed of arm advancement across the LP held stead for years at a time. Sometimes the mere act of putting a knob to twist on a toy makes the act of playing with it impossible to ignore for many? LOL
Probably. I certainly did/do suffer from OCD behaviors with my turntables. Attempting to get something to work perfectly that isn't about to can be a cause: too much tweaking is bad for a turntable's health.
 

Frank Dernie

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What was the cause of them going "wobbly". Since table balance never changes I take that it must be the suspension springs changing tension? I owned a AR-XB for many years and never noticed any serious audible issue?



I never owned one but read about the constant need for tweaking on the Linn and some other suspended tables. Also read much of the same on my H-K ST8 Rabco armed, linear tracker. I've sometime wondered if these claims were only produced by some owners tendency to OCD behavior. On my ST8 the platter speed, and speed of arm advancement across the LP held stead for years at a time. Sometimes the mere act of putting a knob to twist on a toy makes the act of playing with it impossible to ignore for many? LOL
Agree.
There is nothing about a steel spring being used within its elastic limit which could cause it to "go wobbly over time". Rubber grommets are more likely to harden than soften.
I have owned a Linn LP12 and after it was properly set up only needed checking if it was moved.
I also have had a Goldmund T3f arm for almost 30 years, very similar in concept to the Rabco and never needed any further adjustment after setup.

Perhaps the problem is that considerable skill and knowledge is required to set them up properly in the first place, they certainly aren't "out the box plug and play" and maybe a lot were badly adjusted from the get-go?
 

Sal1950

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Perhaps the problem is that considerable skill and knowledge is required to set them up properly in the first place, they certainly aren't "out the box plug and play" and maybe a lot were badly adjusted from the get-go?
I think that definitely could be a large percentage of the problems.
 

Robin L

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Agree.
There is nothing about a steel spring being used within its elastic limit which could cause it to "go wobbly over time". Rubber grommets are more likely to harden than soften.
I have owned a Linn LP12 and after it was properly set up only needed checking if it was moved.
I also have had a Goldmund T3f arm for almost 30 years, very similar in concept to the Rabco and never needed any further adjustment after setup.

Perhaps the problem is that considerable skill and knowledge is required to set them up properly in the first place, they certainly aren't "out the box plug and play" and maybe a lot were badly adjusted from the get-go?
One more thing, the AR XA had those springs dampened with 'foam rubber' which did fall apart with time. Many of the AR XA 'tables I owned were bought quite used. But yes, it does take considerable skill and knowledge to adjust those springs properly. My understanding was one wanted was a single cycle of oscillation of the platter, straight up and down.
 

Burning Sounds

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I very much fancied a Transcriptors Hydraulic Reference and did, as an impecunious student, have a Connoiseur BD1, which worked OK. I haven't had a TT with a round belt for around 45 years now.
I still own 4 TTs, 2 direct drive 2 belt drive.

I have one - well, the Michell version - better built than the Transcriptors allegedly (could be myth, who knows) - it's an export model and has the later Electronic Reference platter weights so it is a bit unusual. Excellent support from Michell for an almost 50 year old machine and the last time I measured it wasn't any worse than some modern belt drives. Nowhere near the speed stability of a friends DD Technics, though.

When it comes to my hifi it's the only thing my grown-up daughter is interested in....and she doesn't own any vinyl.
 

Snarfie

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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.
Off topic: Knowing you where/are a highly praised Formula One engineer and probably where/are quite familiar/close with your colleagues like Patric Head, Adrian Newey, drivers like James Hunt (mabey) and many others do you have any anecdotes regarding there music/gear preference in or outside a car
:facepalm:.
 
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Frank Dernie

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Off topic: Knowing you where/are a highly praised Formula One engineer and probably where/are quite familiar/close with your colleagues like Patric Head, Adrian Newey, drivers like James Hunt (mabey) and many others do you have any anecdotes regarding there music preference in or outside a car
:facepalm:.
Most of the people I know in F1 are not music lovers.
One of the Goodyear tyre guys is an accomplished rock drummer now and I got my pal Frank Williams into music when he had his accident as a way he could still enjoy his time.
It always amazes me I am not deaf but my wife, a professional musician, has lost more hearing than I.
 

Snarfie

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Most of the people I know in F1 are not music lovers.
One of the Goodyear tyre guys is an accomplished rock drummer now and I got my pal Frank Williams into music when he had his accident as a way he could still enjoy his time.
It always amazes me I am not deaf but my wife, a professional musician, has lost more hearing than I.
Ha ha their must be an (car) influence what you play during a drive. For years i owned a 1989 lotus Esprit Turbo Jamiroquai blasted those days regular out of my Alpine car stereo gear.
:facepalm:
 

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Capitol C

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A highly opinionated article, to say the least:

"Listening to records is the penultimate middle finger to the digital age; one where human beings text family and friends in the same room rather than talk to them, and where people flip through music selections on their smartphones with the same level of attention that they display when selecting a brand of cereal at the grocery store. Listening to music on a turntable requires paying attention to the process of playback, and the music itself; something that is seemingly quite difficult for most people these days."

Provocative comments aside, the rest is about the ever-pricier resto biz:

https://gearpatrol.com/2020/01/14/why-audiophiles-shop-for-vintage-turntables/




(Full disclosure: my TT happens to be a restored vintage one, but not one of the brands mentioned in this article)
I'm always amused that so many people don't know the meaning of penultimate...
 
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