ELP Laser Turntable & Trickle Down

ELP LASER TURNTABLE as most vinyl fans know is a turntable that uses a laser instead of a more conventional stylus. I read reviews on the audio critic site and out of the two reviewers the one who had a very high end table and arm combo,chose the ELP laser table this conventional combo. I am wondering why this technology has not trickled down the way Cd has with companies paving the way for cheaper machines and improving over time while becoming cheaper as the technology matures?
Trickle down requires production scale benefits (scale which inspires
competition, usually). I don't think we have come near that scale. I can count on
very few hands the number of times I have seen units for sale. As for the
number of people I know personally who have bought one, that I can count on
no fingers (though that's probably just sample issues).
I've only read one article about these in a hi-fi mag awhile back so I'm not so sure they are as well known as you claim. At about $10k, I don't see them catching mass appeal anytime soon. They were supposed to be the replacement for conventional turntables in the 80's but the CD came along and swept them into obscurity. However, with the resurgence of the vinyl market, there may be hope yet.
I really have been thinking about selling mine...frankly, I don't use it much at all now that the new has worn off (had it about two years). I just hesitate in today's economy, even though I don't expect to get full price out of it.
there is something nostalgic in regard to a conventional turntable. watching a record spin...watching tubes glowing, and watching drivers moving has an incredible effect on people. even a top loading cd player has a nostagia factor. the greatest technology often surrenders to the 'i just like it' factor.
I've used my Technics more than my ELP...for the kind of music I listen to, it's just more transparent. My ELP - and it's been back to Japan to be serviced once - distorts on hot-cut cymbal crashes, vocal sibilants, etc., and the company suggested that that's probably the way the records are cut and the ELP just shows them for what they are (which makes sense to me). However, as somebody who listens to a lot of old pop, rock and R&B, closely-miked things that often are cut pretty loud, in this case the conventional table is clearly the choice. I would suspect that for somebody who was into classical or such it might be revelatory.
Several CESs ago, I heard a demonstration of the Elp versus master tapes and another quality tt. They had bought a quality tape and made a record of it and had several copies. We compared the master tape, the record on the Elp and on another tt. The Elp was clearly superior to the other table, which unfortunately I cannot name. Interestingly many thought the Elp was superior to the master tape.

About that time there were several reviews of the laser table which were curious, most were impressed but reserved. I explored buying one and found several for sale. In conversations with those selling, they too liked the table but were reserved.

Frankly I cannot decide what is going on. Does the Laser show the limitations of vinyl by being too accurate? Is there something about it that grows tiring? When I heard the first prototype probably 25 years ago when CES was still in Chicago, I was shocked by it- until it hit some dirt in the grooves. I thought if they could solve this problem, there would be no other tt sold. They seem to have largely solved this problem by thorough cleaning, but still it has not taken over. Perhaps it is just too accurate.

Vanmeter suggests that music preferences and the nature of how these records are done might make accuracy a liability. I wonder if anyone into classical music has an Elp.
I'm curious; what style/genre of music did they use?
Vanmeter, I assume you are talking about the demo at CES. It was classical.
Interestingly, it was the promise of this TT that got me back "into" audio. After college, I usually had some good sounding consumer gear, Kenwood seperates, Rotel reciever, Phillips, garrard, Dual TT, and the like.) Around 1985, I picked up a copy of Stereophile or Absolute Sounds at this newstand on W8th St in NY (or thereabouts) and read about this new laser TT technology. I was so fascinated that I started to read Sphile and AS semi-regularly to get updates about the "soon-come" availability of this cool device. Of course, I didnt realize at the time it would cost $10K - but by the time I did, I was re-hooked on other aspects of Hi-Fi-dom. Namely, vinyl and single ended.

This stroll down memory lane brought to you by:

Mike :)
I guess I just don't get it... of course, I've never heard one so I may just be an idiot with an unfounded opinion.

Is record wear really that big of a concern anymore? I know I don't concern myself with it. Advances in stylus geometry have come a long way in the last 20 years. With a properly aligned micro-ridge stylus like the one on my Dynavector 20XL, I don't think about it a bit!

Another part of me, perhaps naively, sees this as too much a part of the digital realm... it's certainly not "pure analog" the ELP is pulling. If I want high-rez digital, there are other, cheaper options.

For $10k I can put together one hell of a proper traditional analog rig.
Vinyladdict, The ELP is not digital. It is analog. The issue is not record where, although you can read lower in the groove to avoid damage previously caused by styli. The issue is the laser having no mass and tracing the groove accurately.

Also, you must not have priced turntables, arms, and cartridges lately.
I stand corrected after some research - it is, indeed analog. I still don't get it though... and while I admit you CAN spend $10k+ on analog gear (hell, I could spend $100k... well, I couldn't, but you get my point) I still stand my original statement that $10k will by one hell of an analog rig.
Vinyladdict, I think this is an entirely different issue. Of course, you can get a great tt, arm, and cartridge for $10K but the ELP is not outrageously expensive. I do have a Shindo Labs vinyl system that costs a good deal more and have had the chance to buy an ELP at a very good price but still couldn't pull the trigger. I know too many who have had them in their systems and still listen to other tts.

Actually, I wonder if ELP were redesigned to be digital, would it perform better. I doubt if we will ever find out.
Vinyladdict wrote:
Is record wear really that big of a concern anymore? I know I don't concern myself with it.
Record wear is always a consideration. The laser turntable never got off the ground because it was necessary to keep your records scrupulously clean and its sound quality could have been better. Additionally, the ELP unit is complex.

A key to reduced record wear, outside of cleaning your records, is ensuring correct azimuth adjustment (VTA, tracking force, etc. also are important) to maximize contact area, rewarding the listener with greater channel separation and reduced phase error, noise, and distortion.
Of course, Essentialaudio - that was exactly my point! If you've got a PROPERLY aligned modern stylus I don't see why anyone would be concerned a bit with worries of record-wear.

The complexity point you make is right on target and why I just don't understand why anyone would want to run one. Perhaps if I heard one in action I would "get it" - but as I stand if I were spending $10k on an analog setup, it would not be on my list.
There's quite a bit of "information" if you will (almost entirely anecdotal) at Arthur Salvatore's website, including the big blowup with the then current distributor, Smart Devices, who nixed their relationship with the line and issued warnings about the nature of the dealings of the ELP's parent company. Also, servicing requires shipment back to Japan.

I also vaguely remember a couple of comments made about the table by Pearson and someone else at AS. In a nutshell, they said that the table sounded extremely rolled off in the treble. In fact, I don't recall a full review ever appearing.

On the other hand, I have a friend in the industry who bought one about a year ago and was all fired up about it at the time. I need to call him and see what he thinks about it now that he's had the time to settle in with it.

I don't know who the new US distributor ended up being.
I ran my CBS Labs STR130 test record through my ELP and checked it in Sound Forge, which admittedly involved the preamp and the sound card, but doing that it was pretty much flat out to 20k. Within a db or 2 at most.
I must say Acresverde, that I have never heard any rolled off treble with the ELP. I must say, however, that I know the circumstances surrounding the concerns of SMART. I suspect that the waters are now so tainted that no one will be the US distributor. The company now seems happy to sell directly.
I owned an ELP for a couple years and corresponded much with Mr. Chiba, President of ELP. The laser turntable is a very complicated device with 5 lasers, optical read heads, and high speed servos. He told me there are only a couple companies on the planet who can make these items.

Donald North
I spoke to the friend yesterday who owns the ELP I have alluded to earlier and asked him for his evaluation thus far. He said, and this is almost verbatim, that the table is a "...god hifi table but does not compare to a high quality audiophile conventional unit...". He believes the table lacks refinment in both the input and output stages and that he is currently involved in designing an upgraded output stage and is in continual contact with the power(s) that be at ELP Japan and it is being done with their full knowledge and blessing with an eye for incorporating it into production models at a future date. He also said that there is an East coast distributor and West coast distributor, that he couldn't recall the names but that the West coast guy is a brick and mortar store in San Rafael, Ca. He further mentioned that stateside service is eminent through the West coast distributor...good news, indeed.

Finally, let me clarify that the gentleman I'm alluding to is a household name to anyone well versed in the audio game and has been selling a line of products at least nationally, for years now, that are known to help "purify" the audio signal. His US distributor is Laufertek, I believe.
Regarding my last post, scratch "eminent" and substitute "imminent".