High mass vs Low Mass Turntables - Sound difference?
As I am recently back playing with analog gear after some 15 years away, I thought I would ask the long time experts here about the two major camps of record players -- high vs low mass-loaded-type tables...
For example, an equivalently priced VPI table (say a Classic, Aries or Prime) versus a Rega RP8/10 or equivalent Funk Firm table... the design philosophies are so different ... one built like a tank, the other like a lightweight sports car...
Just wondering if the folks here have had direct experience with such or similar tables, and what have been your experiences and sense of strengths and weaknesses of these two different types of tables.
You don't understand the design philosophies of what Rega and other low mass companies are trying to do.
There are really two major philosophies
High mass with the thinking that the additional mass is harder to get to resonate, however, the energy is slowly released adding coloration.
Low mass wth the concept that the lighter weight materials will flex to absorb energy or bounce the enegy off of the table by virtue of the materials propensity not to be vibrated by certain frequencies, and disapate that energy faster leading to a faster less colored more nimble sound.
Personaly the best table I have ever heard did battle with a $40k high mass table and sounded nearly identical for 1/5 the money.
That table used a plinth of rubber laminates to absorb all energy presented to the table and turn it into heat rather than trying to deflect it low mass or absorb it or not be excited high mass designs, best table I have ever heard $7k beats most $25k tables.
Over the last 40 years I have worked with Sota, Linn, Vpi, Kronos, Rega, Linn, Thorns, SME, and many others.
anyone here able to do direct, head on comparisons?
Either approach can yield outstanding sound. I'd put Oracle and Linn at the top of the low-mass designs - I had an Oracle Delphi for years and it was superb. I've long since returned to a high mass VPI and that's my preference.
High mass designs are easier to setup and tune, in part because the pickup arm mass is relatively insignificant compared to that of the plinth. Higher mass designs are also easier to operate; you can rest your hand on the plinth without bottoming out any springs.
I sold my Oracle to a friend who still uses it. It still sounds great. There are really many good examples of each design approach.
Well, I have to correct "The Audio Doctor" because I am an engineer and it pains me to read some of the stuff on audio forums. First of all, it should not be about different philosophies, it should be about scientific fact. Saying that something more massive will store more energy and release it more slowly compared to something lighter is just plain WRONG.
rotarius Well, I have to correct "The Audio Doctor" because I am an engineer and it pains me to read some of the stuff on audio forums. First of all, it should not be about different philosophies, it should be about scientific fact. Saying that something more massive will store more energy and release it more slowly compared to something lighter is just plain WRONG.
its not so simple but it pains me to say I think the statement is actually CORRECT. There are other factors to consider, however, such as inertia and stiffness. Not to mention rotational moments which would obviously be much higher for heavy platters.
Manufacturers came up with cheaper plastic turntables in the 70’s and since then all manner of BS to justify saving money with a cheaper design. You only have to walk across the room to hear how badly lightweight designs perform. You can't beat physics - more mass equals greater stability.
What kind of stability are you talking about? Are you talking about foot falls feedback or other?
The reality of it is quite simple to understand, mass and rigidity = enegy being redirected but to where?
Low mass = flexture and dissipation.
Take a light weight pan and strike it with a fork two things will occur, the tines of the fork will vibrate and the pan will vibrate and then the energy will be gone.
Take the same pan and hit it with a block of wood, you still will get a sound from the pan, and from the block of wood, however, you will feel the energy couple back into your hand as the density of the wood will absorb some energy while bounciing energy off and some of that deflected energy goes into your hand your hand being soft and complient will take the energy and absorb it.
Neither of this is good. High Mass tables reflect energy which still has to go somewhere.
Light weight tables use combinations of mass, rigidity and damping to disapate that incomming energy and internally generated energy from the motor and main bearing.
If you were 100% correct, then all the lighter weight tables, Linn, Rega, Roksan would be considered to sound aweful and these tables have been lauded over the years as excellent sounding tables.
Many years ago we compared a heavy Basis table with an acrylic and brass damped plater, with a heavy acrylic bass and an oil damped suspension to a Roksan which was considerably lighter with a lightweight wooden plinth and frame, the entire table was much lighter in weight and the Basis sounded slow, dead, and dreadfully out of tune compared to the Roksan.
"Many years ago we compared a heavy Basis table with an acrylic and brass damped plater, with a heavy acrylic bass and an oil damped suspension to a Roksan which was considerably lighter with a lightweight wooden plinth and frame, the entire table was much lighter in weight and the Basis sounded slow, dead, and dreadfully out of tune compared to the Roksan."
While that's interesting it doesn't actually win the argument of high mass vs low mass turntables because there are any number of other reasons you got the results you did. Mass is only one variable. One should not jump to conclusions based on one test.
Without getting into the relative merits of the two types of tables, one additional factor to take into account is isolating the high mass table. My Kuzma XL is approximately 168 lbs, and the HRS base for the various turntable parts to sit on is easily another 50-60 lbs. The HRS alone is not enough to isolate the table with springy wooden floors. Hanging this monstrosity from a wall is not so easy either. The cost of those high grade isolation bases - like a Minus K or whatever-- adds an additional cost. Though I prefer the sound of the XL to the smaller Kuzma Reference I owned previously, that table --which was no lightweight itself- had a suspension and was pretty much set up and go, right out of the box. Something to keep in mind for those without concrete slabs.
That’s a really interesting point since isolating an object on a mass-spring system actually reduces the mass of the object by a significant amount. Kind of your own private anti gravity machine. Also, one would have to analyze air bearing/high mass platter turntable like Verdier and Maplenoll and Walker to figure out just how they fit into the whole high mass vs low mass spectrum. I had an air bearing everything Maplenoll with special 50 lb platter isolated on a special version of a Nimbus sub Hertz platform. That turntable set up did NOT suffer slowness or any other malady one might ascribe to high mass turntables.
I’ve owned over a hundred tables just cause I like to play with them . Most expensive was a Linn 3k job . I tried to figure out what was best but I got so tied up in music I forget to take notes . All I know was Sansui 929 was the most beautiful one and the one I wish I still had and for that reason .
Heavy platter turntables virtually always produce lower w&f and drift. The tend to produce what I would call an "elegant" or graceful sound. They also tend to have a lower noise floor. You know it when you hear it. It is a myth that they sound slow and it has absolutely nothing to do with energy storage. The bearing is the usual culprit in "slow" sounding systems. Did any of you stop by at Axpona? Regards, Bruce Anvil Turntables
@10timps - I had one of the original Well-Tempered turntables many years ago. It had been upgraded and tweaked considerably and was a terrific table for the money. The design, these many years later, is still quite ingenious. The difference I have experienced between that table and other higher mass tables that eventually replaced it was less of the sense of a turntable going around--I refer to it as a "halo" that is simply absent now. And bass performance is considerably better, even though I am using a linear arm, which is not the last word in deep bass delivery. There are, of course, trade-offs to the high mass approach, isolation being one of them, but such trade-offs exist with pretty much everything.
I like suspended tables which are placed on butcher block shelving mounted in an alcove in the wall using lots of space frame structure to prevent bass energy induced room vibrations from perturbing them. This seems to work well. I am using a SOTA Sapphire and a VPI HW-19 Mk. IV and they both work very well with this set-up. They both weigh about 50 lb.s and the wall-mounted shelving weighs another 100 lb.s. Not sure if this qualifies as light or heavy weight....I'm sure there are much heavier turntables than these.
WRT light weight suspensionless turntables, I've never heard one that could reproduce deep bass well or resist structural vibrations. I include the Regas and VPI Scouts in this category. I've owned them both and couldn't wait to get back to the good 'ole HW-19, the most consistent (and underrated) turntable on the planet. By the way, the quickest way to judge turntable bass performance is to get a CD of the same recording as your favorite vinyl and compare. CD's have their problems, but true bass is not one of them. If your turntables bass does not sound like the CD, your turntable has an issue.
+1 My experience exactly. Geoffkait doesn’t seem to know what "plastic" is and that Vinyl and acrylic are forms of plastic. He clearly thinks that the majority of light weight turntables are made from something other than plastics. The amount of "hooey" on audiogon seems be directly proportional to Geoffkait activity.
I couldn't help myself. You're such an easy target, geoff. Very defensive after popping off.Let me give you a "hooey" plug. . Machina Dynamica Morphic Message Labels sheet of 80 labels For any and all barcodes on CDs Quick, everyone, cover your barcodes and make cds sound better! HOOEY
Either design can sound good as evidenced by Regas and the numerous mass loaded designs. All turntables color the sound to some degree. It really comes down to build quality and personal preference. I personally have a psychological aversion to spending $3k on anything as light as a Rega. However, I'm sure many of them sound great.
I have had modest benefits using various sorbothane footers with turntables. I suspect they are more effective at blocking transmission of sound from whatever the turntable is sitting on than in reducing mechanical vibrations in the turntable, from the motor or platter. However I have found far better results applying small ( no dimension in excess of 1 inch) pieces of sorbothane to the body of the turntable. These need to be glued using the 3M self-stick which some sheets come with. I use a Lord industrial adhesive when I cannot get self-stick. This is however expensive and hard to find. I recommend thicker sorb, 1/4 to 1/2 inch and denser 70 duro. Sorb's claim to fame is converting mechanical energy to heat, so it really seems to be getting rid of it.
Viscoelastic materials like Sorbothane convert vibration to heat ONLY if they are constrained. That’s why they call it contained layer damping. Sometimes there is a thin layer of aluminum On top of the viscoelastic material that constrains it. The vibration in the one direction, e.g., vertical direction, produces shear forces in the orthogonal (e.g., horizontal) direction in the soft constrained layer. So it would not actually make sense to attach Sorbothane to anything without constraining it, since the shear forces are due to the fact that the Sorbothane is being constrained. It does make some sense that Sorbothane used as footers (or as insoles of running shoes) since the component or speaker or person’s mass will act as the constraining mechanism. I gave up on Sorbothane myself a long time ago. As I opined recently there are much better materials to use as the constrained layer. But more power to anyone who gets good results with it.
Good comparison but why limit your choice to either A or B? These two approaches have taken their turntables to their scientific limit. "audiotroy" is on to it. Enter George Merrill/Robert Williams and the Merrill-Williams R.E.A.L. 101.2 Turntable. http://www.realturntable.com/product-overview.html Easily eclipses most anything at any price. The science involved in this system approach addresses all forms of energy management and speed control. Mr. Merrill has made turntables since the late 70's and he currently makes 2 budget turntables. The "PolyTable" turntable starts at $1595 http://hifigem.com/polytable.html The second is the "PolyTable SUPER 12" at $2995 both with tonearms http://hifigem.com/PolyTableSUPER12.html This table easily competes with the likes of the $10,000 crowd! Just the facts here and I have no financial interest in any of these products... Happy listening!
No one is suggesting there has to be a choice between high mass and low mass designs. Those are just design concepts. There are obviously a lot of variables and parameters involved. Mass is only one of them. You got your spring and unstrung designs. Belt drive vs direct drive. Tangential vs radial tracking. Vacuum hold down. What have you. And there are a great many successful turntables including magnetic levitation and air bearing everything that tend to actually eliminate the whole variable of MASS. The best way to solve for a set of simultaneous equations in many unknowns is start eliminating the unknowns. Obviously also, not matter what design concept is employed in a turntable the performance of that turntable can be easily and reliably improved by vibration isolation. I don't think any list of great turntables would be complete with Linn, Walker, Maplenoll, Verdier, AC Raven, Caliburn Continuum, VPI, SOTA, Basis, and a bunch more I probably forgot.
Sorbothane is an excellent damping plastic material (another type of plastic polymer). I would agree that a heavy turntable with constrained layer damping or with sorbothane plastic footers will be an improvement on just a heavy turntable alone.
Note I never said that damping is not good with turntables. I only said that high mass turntables perform better than low mass turntables in my experience. I suspect that very light weight plastic-based material turntables are just cheap products that are inexpensive to make and low cost to ship. A heavy weight turntable requires commensurate shipping materials and even a crate.
I maintain that light weight turntables are of greatest benefit to the manufacturer and retailer rather than the end user - cheap to make and a light weight plater can run on a cheaper smaller motor, cheaper to package and ship too.
"Sorbothane exhibits many of the properties of rubber, silicone, and other elastic polymers. It is considered to be a good vibration damping material, an acoustic insulator, and highly durable. An unusually high amount of the energy from an object dropped onto Sorbothane is absorbed. The feel and damping qualities of Sorbothane have been likened to those of meat."
The last sentence caught my eye. Has anyone thought about using meat under components or speakers? One suspects Spam might be the cost benefit champion. Span in a can already has a constrained layer constrained - the can. But there probably isn’t a real substitute for Filet Mignon. Why use a synthetic when you can use the real McCoy? It’s in the meat!
Yes, meat. Highly underrated, lol. I think at some point value becomes the determining factor for many. Spending 3-5k on chipboard, plastic and glass seems a stretch when compared to mass design approaches.
My experience suggests that the pragmatic intelligence used in the implementation of Any design paradigm is far more important than the paradigm itself.
Further, I have learned that only the results matter when it comes to listening. And that there is more than one way to improve the perceived performance of one's listening system, for which it is possible to substitute 'turntable' for this discussion thread.
Having said that, I presently use a moderately high mass (22 lbs, 10 kilos) platter (whose mass is augmented by a platter mat far heavier than the manufacturer's rubber unit), making the platter heavier still.
Along with the heavy revolving mass of the platter, I selected a Low mass, long format (12") tonearm.
To hold these in relation to each other, I chose a high mass, constrained layer damping plinth which provides no suspension for the table or tonearm.
Underneath both I placed a mass-loaded isolation device, and between the plinth and the isolation platform I am experimenting with a variety of isolation or vibration damping materials.
What matters is the impression of music these components are able to produce as they are combined (and recombined) to reveal what is in the grooves.
What's of equal importance, is that I have heard turntables with other approaches that sound outstanding.
I am convinced there is more than one approach to drawing fine, satisfying, engaging and musical results from a turntable. I believe there to be numerous approaches --at many price points-- that can, with attentive implementation, come very close to this aim.
And then there is the matter of personal preference to consider....
I have compared my Michell gyro with Rega tonearm with my Maplenoll Ariadne Reference and my Maplenoll Apollo using the same cartridge (ZXY Airy 3s) before i gave the gyro to my daughter. please note, lots of differences besides the "mass" but the biggest impact i saw was the bass response is just better(deeper, cleaner) with the Maplenoll tables. I am sure there are other differences in sound quality that i could spout out like background darker/quieter or soundstage, but moving from my original Dual 701, Denon, and Michell gyro, to the heavier mass Maplenoll line, the bass is what stands out the most when using the same cartridge.
10timps, For decades I have listened to the oft repeated claims of Well Tempered philes to the effect that the tonearm has "no bearing". To this claim, I put the question, "Does the arm pivot?" The answer is yes it does. Therefore it must have a bearing, by definition. If you like the WT, that's fine, you have a lot of company. But grammatically speaking, it does not have no bearing. It's a very low friction bearing, but the trade-off is a lack of precision.
As to the high mass/low mass paradigm, I think it's hard to argue from this perspective alone, because most low mass turntables also have some sort of built-in suspension, whereas most high mass turntables tend to be of the unsuspended type. So the debate is 3-way, sort of. I don't care for any of the suspended tables I have owned in comparison to any of the higher mass, unsuspended tables I have owned.
13blm, I like to find consensus, but maybe in fact we don't agree. All that goo provides dampening mainly, and probably some friction too, but I think the WT claim for very low friction (but not no friction) may be accurate. My point was that in order to achieve low friction, the bearing is relatively imprecise in the rigidity with which it anchors the pivot point in space. But yes, I also suppose there are tonearms with lower friction, especially true unipivots, which unfortunately bring to the table their own set of problems. No free lunches in audio, and no pivoted tonearms with no bearings, either.
Well Tempered designer Bill Firebaugh states that at music frequencies, the silicone fluid in the cup provides a high degree of rigidity, but at very low frequencies (where LP warps live) a desirable amount of freedom of movement. Townshend Rock turntable designer Max Townshend claims the same for the similar fluid in his tables damping trough. Friction from the silicone? Not much I'd wager, especially in comparison with ball bearing-on-ball bearing in captured-bearing arms.
The research whose findings ended up being incorporated into the Rock turntable was done at the Cranfield Institute of Technology in England. Max Townshend licensed the rights to the design and ran with it, incorporating his own ideas into the different versions of his Townshend Rock. Max has done far more than just market the Rock! He has also designed and manufactured a passive pre-amp, loudspeakers and an add-on super-tweeter, inter-connects and speaker cables, and various versions of his brilliant Seismic isolation products. A very clever fellow!
personally my no. 1 design criteria for selecting a (belt drive) turntable is that the drive system uses the outer rim of the platter as the driven pulley. i will not purchase a turntable with a sub-platter as the driven pulley. there are too many engineering advantages to a motor pulley / platter rim pulley system such as speed stability, resistance to stylus drag, motor life, bearing life and belt life. all things being equal if a platter is 3X the diameter of a sub platter (for example), the above attributes are 3X better.