Hi all, the other night I once again heard vinyl sounding like Master Tape, on a vintage system which still sounds better than any other I've heard, backing up those Fab Electro-Voice speakers (simply the best I've ever heard, period, The End) now residing in an overstuffed listening room.
By Master Tape I don't mean simple detail (though that was there) or imaging and so on (which was all there), but the utter absence of the sound of a mechanical system: no stylus dragging on vinyl, no sound of any sort of friction, no intrusion of any sort, which only becomes audible when it has disappeared (and then your ears perk up and you say WHAT?!?). Mounted on the traditional Giant Direct Coupled Glass-Reinforced Lenco was a rewired Rega, and mounted on THAT was the latest-edition Dynavector 20X-H (which was, in audiophile terms, slaughtered by my Dynavector Karat), with new Micro-ridge diamond. I sat there stunned as I recognized that sound: the sound I heard back on Cyprus when the Ultra-Giant Lenco (100 pounds) duked it out with the EMT 930 and won. I remember being struck there when I first that sound (of Master Tape...or better, as the owners of the EMT, who made master tapes of various ensembles playing in various spaces, said) coming from the EMT/RS-A1/Shure V15V, a then from the Lenco (but with even superior fluidity and power and resolution than the EMT). The Shure as well had a Micro-ridge diamond, and I'm now wondering if this utter lack of a mechanical sound (of friction or "working") is due not only to the Lenco - which continues to be THE most fluid-sounding, and yet powerful, turntable I've ever heard - but also to the Micro-ridge cartridge? Now I don't think I've got any Micro-ridge cartridges (maybe the Karat Ruby), but I will definitely be looking into this new wrinkle. I've heard the E-V system several times, and yet not until I mounted the Dynavector to the Lenco did I hear that particular Master-Tape-like quality, to the extent that it HIT me.
The rest of the components were my own CJ PV-7 (itself very fluid, silky and musical, and with the E-Vs a Master of Bass) and the humble ASL Wave 20 monoblocks. Doesn't sound like much, but thanks to those E-Vs (and the sound-room which eliminates their brightness), simply the best I've ever heard, and that by FAR. The E-Vs retrieve detail from the electronics out of all proportion to what one would normally expect from those same electronics. God only knows what would happen if high-resolution electronics were hooked up to those E-Vs. Might not be a good idea. I still don't know exactly which particular E-Vs these are, except that they belong to the era of the famed Patricians (which had 30" woofers, the largest ever made!!!).
In building this particular Lenco, I took the normal care in putting it all together/modding it/adjusting it, and noticed as well, as always, that until everything was put together just so - in addition to the usual motor and main bearing rebuilding/balancing/etc. - and by this I mean the Direct Coupling screws tightened just so, the bolts tightened just so, and so on, the Full Lenco Magic was there, but not in full strength. Once it was dialed-in, it was OBVIOUS....sounding spectacularly Lenco-like (and those who have heard modded Lencos know what I mean), with its full measure of limitless power with an utterly fluid sound...like the Amazon in Full Flood. But once that Micro-ridge cartridge was set up and heard in that E-V system....Master Tape. So, don't be sloppy or cavalier!!
Anyway, having pursued the Kundalini Effect (timing SO potent it raises the hairs on the body and causes **frissons**...which I still pursue) which so far only a good idler-wheel drive can deliver, I will now pursue this Master-Tape-like sound (also idler-wheel-related, Analog speed stability which depends on torque-aided inertia, in my experience so far), and see if indeed it does come down, at least partly, to the Micro-Ridge cartridge. But also, in both cases, spectacularly good speakers were being used: in the one case the E-Vs, and in the other Quad ESL-57s. Oh, and tubes too in both cases.
Oh, and on the budget front, I've written it before and I'll write it again: the tonearm cable (5-pin DIN type) which comes with the vintage Audio Technica tonearms (which usually run about $200) is SO good it's worth it to buy one of these tonearms and ignore it and use the cable, or keep the cable and sell on the A-T. I've compared it to several pricey tonearm cables on such luminaries as Graham tonearms (vs a Hovland cable) and such-like, and I just tested it on my newly-acquired SME V, which came with the Van den Hul M. C. D501 Hybrid Halogen-free cable which comes standard with SME Vs and...the A-T slaughters it. More detail, more bass, more depth (MUCH more), better and more extended highs, better timing (music just ROCKS more with this cable) and so on. So, if you already have an Audio Technica tonearm with the silvery/gold/metallic sheath, then hang on to it! The rest of you, look for A-T tonearms with the original cable, if you have a 5-pin DIN connector.
More Lenco Adventures on the horizon, as well as other idlers, DDs, and so on (maybe even a belt-drive!!). Have fun all!!