Thanks for that, Musicfile, just continuing what I started back at the beginning of 2004, can't turn my back on that since I got you guys into this mess ;-), though eventually I'm going to live in a cave overlooking the sea on a Greek island, like Caliban, getting tired of shoveling snow :-).
Hi Michael, by "just so" I mean screw down the Direct Coupling screws so the contact is firm, but not so much you deform the top-plate surface; ditto the four bolts, which should be tightened only so much as is required for the edge of the top-plate to be seated firmly against the plinth surface, as over-torqueing can also deform the top-plate at those four points. Deformations of the top-plate is stress, and stresses can be heard as a hardening of the sound/upper midrange and also affects PRaT/timing. The whole idea in traditional CLD plinth-building is also to avoid stresses and make contact/gluieing as perfect and firm as possible, so take care in clamping. The more perfect the clamp, with the least amount of stress (forcing each layer to "behave" via clamps to the point there is warping is a sonic no-no, and makes further clamping difficult) is also heard. Eliminate stresses and make as perfect and firm and even a clamp as possible, which means the CLD mass is a single non-resonant and neutral mass (the varying maerials do cancel each other out, something the birch-ply/MDF combination does very well, the utter tonal accuracy can be heard, as well as the dynamics across the frequency spectrum which are not emphasized or depressed at any frequency) and this is heard too. Like any recipe, the more perfect the execution, the more perfect the result. Once the plinth one firm mass with no stresses, and the bolts and screws screwed down just so, it can be heard, and leads to the Master-Tape-like sound, and very definitely to the Amazon in Full Flood sound the Lenco does so well, when compared to ANY record player out there, including the famed EMTs. This is because, while the Lenco does not approach many classics out there (Garrards, Thorens TD-124s, EMTs, etc.) for build quality, its design is highly evolved, and there may be an element of chance here too: I mean, while the Denon DL-103 after 40 years continues to astound, did the Denon engineers know what they were making when they made it?!?
It is evident from listening to a Lenco in any condition (original plinth or not, though replinthing brings out these qualities more) that it is intensely, EXTREMELY fluid-sounding, more so than any other record player I have ever heard, and I have heard very many high-end spinners, up to the $50K level (more than this has so far escaped me). This is because of the combination of vertical idler-wheel (which does not stress the bearing rotation like a rim-drive by pushing outwards) with platter with much of its mass concentrated on the rim (more so than any other turntable to my knowledge, though the rim-drive EMTs may match it here) which is hidden beneath the surface of the top-plate (giving it that elegant, modern look) and finally, that designed-for-playing-records-motor, high mass high speed and so self-regulating 1800-rpm motor (its own momentum - a combination of speed and mass) serves to smooth out its own speed imperfections. Put it all together, and one gets what I have written back since the winter of 2004:
"Due to the high rotational speed of these motors, great relative mass and so high torque, no expensive solutions need be made to address the weak motors now used in high-end decks. The platters on the Lencos weigh about 8-10 pounds, with much of the mass concentrated on the periphery: the old boys understood flywheel effect to ensure stable speed. The Lenco platter is a single cast piece, of a zinc alloy of some sort, very inert for a metal, and then machined and hand-balanced in a lab. No ringing two-piece platter problems to overcome. Even the motor is hand-balanced in a lab, and weighs something like 3-4 pounds, and runs silently on its lubricated bearings. Think of it: a high-torque motor spinning at well over 1500 RPMs (compared to a belt-drive motor's average 150-300) which pretty well wipes out speed variations by itself. The idler wheel contacts the motor spindle directly, while contacting the platter directly on its other side, thus transmitting most/all of that torque without any belt stretching. Many high-end decks offer thread belts which don't stretch, thus giving an improvement in sound. The Lenco does the same with its wheel. But the platter is also a flywheel, and so evens out whatever speed variations there may be in the motor. It's a closed system (motor-platter, platter-motor) and speed variations brought on by groove modulations don't stand a chance in this rig, and it is clearly audible."
So it comes down to preserving speed stability in the face of stylus force drag - and considering the various mega-buck record players we know just how serious this effect truly is, from multiple motors through to extremely high-mass platters, which in spite of ridiculous price tags, DO show just how much more information can be retrieved when one proceeds on the assumption stylus force drag is VERY serious....along with motor speed imperfections, which must be countered by high mass and multiple motors and expensive electronics aids - and the ways we use to achieve it. Each method of achieving true speed stability - as opposed to the bogus speed stability claimed by many belt-drives in which, like the clever accounting methods used to make various businesses, including banks, use averaging methods to achieve much better figures than they would under older calculating methods - leaves its sonic signature, as THERE IS NO PERFECT SYSTEM ON EARTH. Sorry folks, but that's the way it is. While spending quite a lot of time on the island of Bali, I noticed that the cats all had crooked/broken tails. This is because the Balinese believe perfection is not allowed on Earth, and cats being perfect creatures (according to the Balinese, they are incredibly graceful and beautiful and balanced, like the sonic signature of a Lenco ;-)), the Balinese break their tails when they are young. Before the e-mails start pouring in, I do not condone this or support it, just presenting a philosophical/physical reality: THERE IS NO PERFECTION ON EARTH, and, as the Balinese believe, this is SO true it is not even allowed.
So, what about the Lenco/Idler way of doing things vis-a-vis the other two systems? Well, as you all know, I believe the belt-drive is barely worth talking about, it is, in engeneering terms, a disaster. This doesn't mean it doesn't give pleasing results, it does, and I have enjoyed many pleasurable hours listening to my vinyl on various lower-end and high-end machines, from the Rega Planar 3 (my first serious machine) through a variety up to the Maplenoll Athena (with 40-pound graphite platter). BUT, the motors are not designed for playing records (off-the-shelf from other applications), they are weak, the belts introduce unacceptable variables...it is, in short, a disastrous idea. It is only the very badly set-up idler-wheel drives of the time (set up to maximize rumble and diminish its sonic potential as idlers were designed and manufactured originally during Mono times, and in Mono there is no rumble) which made the belt-drive solution seem so good. I've written it before and I'll write it again: if it takes from $40K to $150K to realize the potential of an elastic/thread driving a platter via a cheap motor, then the system is literally bankrupt. Engineering is about manufacturing to a price point, and if we built our bridges according to the principles enshrined by belt-drives, then they would cost $100 Billion dollars each, on average.
Then DD. This is a better solution than BD, in terms of getting the job done. But what is presented as a technological tour-de-force (WOWZIE!!) - the extensive computerization - is, in point of fact, a weakness. Remember the Balinese and their cats. There is no perfect system on Earth. The faster a motor spins, the more its own momentum will work to eliminate departures from absolute speed stability. The slower it runs, the more its speed stability imperfections will be audible. DD runs at 33 1/3 rpm, necessarily, for a 33 1/3 speed. Given the extreme slowness of rotation, it requires the extensive computerization/circuitry to control it and hold it to accurate speed: this isn't a plus thrown in, but a bandaid which is required by the slow rotation and exposure of this world's imperfections. Not that it doesn't work once the kinks are worked out, but complex circuitry and computerization isn't an elegant solution (as multiple motors, belts, drive-belt-driven flywheels, electronic aids and montrous platters are not), necessary yes, elegant no, elegance being simple and not complex. In DDs with lots of torque (like the SP10s), this means the computerization is audible, given the slow speed of the motor, and the insufficiency of mass needed to overcome the motor control circuitry/computerization, which becomes audible as all SP10 MKIIs sound (haven't tested the MKIs, which are servo-controlled and not referenced to a quartz crystal's pulsing, and MKIIIs): somewhat digital in their delivery, dry (which some laud as "accurate" when "analytical" is the better word), dynamically constrained (which some might describe as "controlled"). Which is not to say that quartz-locking is inherently a-musical, as my rebuild of an SP-25 demonstrated, which ended up sounding very fluid and musical. This is because the SP-25s torque is MUCH less than that of the SP10, which means in turn that the platter has sufficient mass to overcome the imperfect motor's sound signature, AND, the SP-25 can easily be Direct Coupled, and Direct Coupling helps keep a 'table stable, and also eliminates many audible problems, including various types of noise/vibration/energies. Many quartz-locking DDs sound clinical, dry, and dynamically constrained, but the SP-25 experiment, AND the Sony 2250 experiment, shows that DDs CAN be very fluid. Many belt-drives easily beat many quartz-locked DDs in the fluidity sweepstakes, because their gross speed instabilities are **analogue**, meaning that they fluidly and from pure momentum go from too fast to too slow, with no quartz pulsing imposing its sonic signature onto the works. Which shows that to many, it is easier to live with flawed but fluid sound than with accurate but start-stop/"digital" sound. Unfortunately, the wow is much more audible than with either DDs (quartz-locking or otherwise), and so on sustained notes and so forth, even belt-drives into the stratosphere show their spots on such sustained notes as piano decays and so on. Still, that fluidity counts for a lot, and so many prefer the less accurate but more fluid sound of a BD over a more accurate but "digital-sounding" quartz-locked DD.
Finally (you knew it was coming) we have the venerable Idler-Wheel Drive, which combines the torque of the bigger DDs with the fluidity of a musical BD (and some BDs have managed to impose a digital sound signature, took a lot of work to achieve this ;-)). This is because Idler-Wheel Drives DO have a lot of torque, which is why all record changers up into the '70s were idler-wheel drive. Don't believe all that impressive complicated mathematics which concludes that belt-drives have more torque than idlers: simply use the finger test, try to stop an idler with a finger, try to stop a belt-drive with a finger. End of complicated mathematics, which like the statistics which support the superiority of belt-drive in speed stability and current Big Business accounting practices, is a fiction. The Idler-Wheel Drive uses the platter as a flywheel to control the very powerful motor, the motor's own speed acts as a flywheel itself to smooth out speed instabilities, and the coupling between flywheel/platter and motor is much more effective via the wheel than the similar relationship between belt-drive motor and platter: good grip (unlike tape and thread), no stretching and contracting as with rubber belt. Of these, the most successful combination of flywheel/platter to motor is the Lenco, which signs itself in EVERY system by its INTENSELY FLUID and powerful/irresistible sound signature (perhaps another imperfection, but a supremely musical, powerful and beguiling one), instantly recognizable by any who have heard Lencos.
So, don't be fooled by bogus "accuracy", which is in fact a gross colouration: music does not come out of a lab, it is supposed to come from the heart and, if we are lucky, the recording engineers capture this, and for those lucky enough to have one, the Lenco captures this in all its glory. There are also various means to emphasize detail, but emphasis is not creation: the Lenco (Direct Coupled to high mass) preserves/recaptures, ALL of the information, but it is presented naturally, without emphasis, across the frequency range. Read reviews of the megabuck vinyl spinners, and see how rare an attribute this is: what separates the Men from the Boys is not EMPHASIS, but natural and unhyped presentation of information, with all its soul intact. Amen :-).
So, phew, I'm pooped and Christmas is on the way, so Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, don;t know how much time I'll have to spare between now and the holidays. Vive la Lenco, Vuive la Idler Wheel!!!