You said "last night"? Not to discredit your impressions, but perhaps you should give it some time and do some more critical listening before coming to a definite conclusion?
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Actusreus. Indeed: this sounds premature. But it was a long night of listening...
And the process was repeated the next night - with exactly the same set of results and impressions. And the same head-scratching. At this point I'm going to be in danger of sleep-deprivation!
The salient differences were again a holographic presentation of music, regardless of genre (anything from 14th century plainsong to rock) and the strongest suspicion that the noise-floor was much lowered. Inner details better articulated, image height improved, and out-of-phase information greatly enhanced, all contributing to a sound that was immediately highly involving - none of this being particularly subtle.
The only observations I can make are these. The "arm" on the turntable is a thin wafer of aluminum. I don't recall the actual weight of the unit but it is only a few grams. Not much longer than the cartridge it rides on a jeweled pivot. I suppose, like all unipivot-type arms the setup is a critical matter. The design of the arm actually makes this rather easier than some I've used. As well, the "cables" from the cartridge (which are truly micro-fine) have to be very carefully dressed as any improper placement would probably cause a degree of drag.
What is left is a Shure V15 III with the most minimal mounting imaginable. It is somewhat difficult to envisage a more vestigial setup.
I believe this is the only matter of any importance, and that the lack of mass renders the lack of record support unimportant.
I have done a little reading on this system: the writings are very scant, and some of the reports are as one might expect) quite damning. These led me to expect a lackluster result - hence my surprise.
I actually hesitated more than once before committing anything to print; my suspicion was that I would be accused of infatuation or worse! But, the truth is simply what I hear. Unfortunately there has been next to no discussion of this turntable on the Net, and I'm beginning to think this is a real shame.
The idea of 'massless' arms and linear tracking has been well explored (I used an Eminent Technology air-bearing arm with much pleasure for quite some time) and I believe the concept has much merit.
Mr Gammon, the designer of the Transcriber, has not been always kindly dealt with by the audio press, and again I am beginning to think that this is a shame. If I recall, he was an early pioneer of close to zero-mass arms, and I believe he was on the right track.
Perhaps this execution was simply too much of a departure; and perhaps the 'arm' setup was daunting. I have no idea what would happen if I set the arm up incorrectly (and don't have much of a desire to do so) but perhaps the sound would be greatly impaired if I did so.
There. I've got my observations off my chest! I fear there won't be too much discussion on this and that's regrettable. I, for one, think that this turntable might just have been a minor masterpiece.
Being confused, I had to google this to find a picture. Now I remember seeing one in a HiFi store in the 70's. Not set up, just in the window for wow appeal. Very cool, we thought. 57's, I'm still confused, how does the "arm" travel? And those pucks and rods just support the record on a spinning platter?
Hifiharv. The arm does not travel - only the platter! This is the madness/cleverness of the design. By breaking the rule of moving-arm transduction the whole idea of necessary platter mass is also thrown into question.
The concept is not only utterly iconoclastic, but utterly attractive: logic would dictate that one would make the platter massive and damped, this partially to reduce the effects of the stylus in the groove - resonances and suchlike. But the assumption made is that one needs an arm in the first place! Remove the assumption and this turntable is what can happen.
And yes, the record is suspended, as it were, via those little pucks and rubber nipples. Disastrous if there was a large arm supporting the cartridge, but not so in this case!
I believe that some long time ago a well-respected audio guru awarded this turntable a "Disaster of the Millenium" award or some such term. I now wonder if he judged its audio qualities based on its looks?
Elizabeth. Maybe you are right - but I would hope it was just as much good management as luck :-)
Actually, for those, like me, who have suffered at the hands of conventional unipivot designs, this is a relatively easy setup, with a very simple and elegant design. The unipivot for those who hate unipivots? Maybe.
And I agree: I think the detractors may not have heard the table properly set up. It certainly requires a certain 'clean sheet' way of thinking.
I hate uni-pivots . . . . and love them too. It's a love/hate thing. But properly set up, my uni-pivot sounds great. Just listened to Chuck Dutoit conducting the Orchestre symphonique de Montreal, Stravinsky's The Firebird (London Digital 1986 414 409-1) on my VPI Classic. The kettle drums brought down the ceiling, then my wife with a pot of water, threatening to dump the water on my stereo if I didn't turn the da*n thing off. There you have it: the love and hate thing.
The idea of a static tone arm that provides a rigid platform for stylus movement would seem to make sense and have advantages over a free moving tone arm, so I think that is/was an innovative idea that could have a significant advantage, all other aspects of design aside.
I have no doubt that table would have to be in good operating condition and set up just right (like most all good tables) to sound good, only doing it would be somewhat different, right?
Once accomplished, if all the other aspects of design and operation are functioning properly, I would expect some fantastic results, but I could see where that might be a big if, maybe a big enough even to have helped assure that this unique design never took off in a big way despite certain potential advantages.
ANy gear that takes a novel approach to doing things that is firmly based on good scientific principles is worth a listen I would say. You never know what might be accomplished by thinking out of the box. Lincoln Walsh and the speaker drivers he conceived that apply the principles he learned as a radar engineer/technician during war time are good examples of an "out of the box" design paying dividends.
Hifiharv. The platter moves in very small increments: the increments are determined by a sensor attached to the back of the "tonearm". In other words, when the sensor reads that the tonearm is out of alignment by a tenth of a degree the motor will move the platter to nullify this. The platter and motor are playing a perpetual "catch-up" game, albeit to a tiny degree.
On the one hand it's a very bad idea to have the stylus continually in-and-out of perfect alignment, but on the other hand the cartridge is not being guided and driven by the stylus and cantilever (as would be the case with a conventional parallel tracking arm). Obviously, the Transcriptors system approaches this issue with a high degree of lateral thinking, but it works outstandingly well!
So after watching the youtube clip, I'm wondering how this turntable handles records of different thickness and warped records. Does the platter have another sensor that adjusts the vertical position of the record to account for a different thickness? And what about warps? Does the tonearm allow some movement of the cartridge, like on a linear tonearm? If the cartridge is completely fixed, it seems one warped record would probably destroy the cantilever and suspension by jamming it with each rotation.
The worst case scenario would be eccentric records - I cant see that the feedback loop would be quick enough to prevent the cantilever from being continually loaded up adversely.
The other question is what condition would your records be in after a few years of being played by a stylus that is being loaded up out of time with the record playback requirements. I suspect you could get long term record damage in the high frequencies.
Yes, these questions occur to me as well.
Watching the arm negotiate a warp is a non-event; given the lack of mass, allied to ultra-high compliance there is simply no drama.
Bear in mind that this arm was reputed to track perfectly at 1/10 gram (!) and the warp point seems not to be relevant. I wouldn't dream of challenging my vinyl with a tenth of a gram, and instead use a more conventional tracking force - with superlative results.
Regarding the 1/10 degree mis-alignment with the groove: with a pivoting arm the alignment will I think always be worse. Yes, it may well be perfect at one or even two points, but geometry is just that, and the rest of the record will suffer becoause of it. To what degree might be an interesting debate...
And, unless we are uber-anal, I would think that most of us vinylites will use a tracking height that fits the majority of the records out there. I have read of people that will re-calibrate the tonearm height to account for the thickness of the record; I'm a dedicated listener, and I love my vinyl, but this would be too much for the likes of me. So, another either non-issue, or just one that I conveniently ignore :-)
Thanks to Swampwalker - you beat me to it!
I just happened to come across this thread. I have a Transcriber, have had it for more than 30 years. I purchased it new, had it stored for many years, unpacked it last year and have been using it again. I have not read this entire thread, but I have been, and always be amazed at how well it plays. I have it running through a Carver 6250 receiver and the pair of DCM TimeWindows that I also have owned for more than 30 years. Simply put, a sound stage and presence that are just amazing. I can post some detailed pictures if there is interest.