Idler wheel drive vs Belt

I noticed in the last day a frenzied bidding on an EMT 930 (plus arm/cartridge, etc) that went for $6.5Gs. Lots of money for a vintage kit. I also read some laudatory comments on the venerable Garrard 301 with boutique plinths. Anybody out there have experience with such, and can comment on whether I should abandon my purchase of a Teres and go for a 'transcription' turntable like Garrard 501 (with Schroeder DPM). Those vintage designs have lots of torque as they were used in radio stations, but don't seem to have close tolerance bearings or heavy platters. Yet some have thrown some serious positive comments on these vintage solutions. Is the magic real, and what contributes to it?
(I am not going to blow $6G on an EMT930 any day soon).
Once you hear a Denon DP-6000 or Technics SP-10 in a properly designed base, you may decide to add direct-drive decks to your list. They have some interesting strengths, and weaknesses. Try this link:

May your quest be a enlightening one.

I don't know if you have read the Lenco thread, but you can find a ton of info on this topic there. I have a Teres and love it, but still plan to build the Lenco some time in the future. I just can't resist the bang for the buck factor of the Lenco.

Either way will give you great results.

Bah! All of that is nonsense. I'm working on a Ferris wheel drive. They used to use these back in the 60's at amusement parks. Between that and the melodious strains of the calliope, I was in heaven.

I'm going with large gear and chain drive, driven by a high-torque 60 horsepower gas engine. Grease lubricated ball bearings, of course. And enough power to run the compressor for the calliope.

I can hear the wind-driven pipes now, with the beauteous notes of a polka enveloping my senses, and overlooking the whole amusement park from the dizzying heights of my Ferris wheel!


Umm, returning to earth for a minute, how about just buying what you like the sound of? Too mundane, I suppose.
I agree with Viridian. I have an SP-10MKIII in a very heavy well built cabinet.
In the end, it is all a matter of what YOU find most pleasing. There will be arguments on all sides - belt, idler, direct, etc. that are all very convincing in their own way. Of course, the only real way for YOU to know is to listen. Any and all of the approaches can work exceedingly well, IF well executed. If it is a design philosophy that most interests you, pick the one with which you agree most and find the table that executes it best. You will then most likely be well pleased. I have heard idler wheel, direct, and belt drives in my system - with widely varying budgets - one or more of each type with which I'd be happy to own forever. You can find what pleases you - just don't absolutely equate price to satisfaction.
Tom, count me in as a beta tester. Can I eat cotton candy while listening, or will that make the sound too "fluffy"?
Oh Marty, the cotton candy is mandatory!
I could never decide between the pink and the blue, so I always got both.
In a word, the sound is "magical", and because, in two words: "speed stability". I will here plagiarize my own text under my "system": "The idler-wheel-drive Garrard 301 grease-bearing was the 'table used by Sugano in the design of his Koetsus, and the Lencos are far easier to repair and restore, and may in fact sound better (more refined while preserving the traditional idler-wheel strengths of unparalleled attack and bass speed and power), for a variety of reasons. Idler wheel drives in general were originally designed to overcome stylus drag, as in their day cartridges tracked at 10 grams. As tracking forces diminished, idler-wheel drives became more refined, but retained their resistance to stylus drag. As time went on and VTF dropped to below 2 grams, it was thought stylus drag could be combatted by the simple use of mass, and not the brute force of rumbly idler-wheel drives, which were discredited, even though their rumble figures were in fact better than those of the then-rising Linn LP12. If you remember your history, you will remember that CD as well was touted by the majority of the press and the industry as superior to the previous technology, vinyl. The Lencos do not rumble, and they prove that in fact it does take a certain amount of (refined) brute force to counteract the all-too-audible problem of stylus drag, which belt-drives are ill-equipped to combat, their Achilles Heel being their belts and weak motors. This is clearly audible in the attack of a Lenco (or large Garrard), the tremendous bass reach (bottomless) and bass detail of a Lenco (which affects both air and imaging), and of course its perfect timing and speed stability under real-world conditions (actually playing a record)."

Now I do not tout the Lenco and the idler-wheel technology it represents merely because I own one, I also own or have owned both high-end belt-drives (Maplenoll Ariadne, Audiomeca) and direct-drives (Technics SP10 MKII, Sony 2250) and a host of others, and so I have actually bought and owned the various drive systems available out there, at very high levels of performance: and the Lenco beats tem al by a wide margin, which you should pause to think about, given the Law of Diminishing Returns (should high-end 'tables be so easily and completely and without sonic price beaten?). I am being very scientific, enlisting the world in a global empirical experiment, to decide the issue of which drive system is in fact better. Now while it is politically correct and nicey-nicey to go around saying there is no superior system and it is a matter of taste because there are always compromises and so forth, I say that's all very well, but is it true? Is no system in fact superior? Participants from around the world have declared the Lenco superior to a host of current high-end belt-drives which they in fact owned, and so like me had no reason to declare inferior. The experiment continues. It's cheap to participate and have fun with it! Cost of entry is minimal, give it a try!

Some comments from participants:

"One of the tables pictured here (Lenco in marbled plinth) is mine, and I can honestly say that it's the best turntable I ever owned , which covers a whole spectrum of decks --Empire, Sota, Well Tempered, Thorens TD 160, VPI HW19 III, etc. -- including my current early-model VPI TNT. Like most others, I considered idler-wheel technology as something that time had passed by, but the Lenco has totally changed that view. A fabulous machine."

"I´ve been listening to the L78/Decca/Stanton 681EEE in the original plinth on a very humble system, 1980s Yamaha amp, little Mission 2 way monitors, cheap cables. Even in this humble system the bass is incredible as well as the speed and dynamics."

"I have the gut feeling this old Swiss monster can take big dollar tonearms and cartridges and not limit them in any way. I´m not going to repeat my previous post entirely but the sense of being in the studio with the musicians is uncanny, Muddy Waters is shouting the blues right in front of me with Johnny Winter playing his Firebird right next to him! I have already ordered another Lenco, an L75 this time."

"This is scary! I've been a lurker here for several years and this is my first post. To make a long story short its goodby well tempered hello lenco l-75. Recently built a solid plinth from 5 layers of MDF and plywood added a decca international tonearm strapped on a audio technica ml 150 and could,nt believe my ears. All the adjectives apply especially bass and dynamics compared to the well tempered clasic. I,ve loved this turntable for 12 years and never thought I'd part with it but now I'm thinking I might. I use altec lansing A-7 vott speakers and a SVS sub tri-amped with a 6db active crossover. This lenco is as quiet as the well tempered. Even through these very efficient speakers I cannot hear any rumble."

"Mozart has left the building.Just had a wonderful listening experience with the lenco decca ortofon vsm 20e combo this easter morning. My first listen to classical with this setup. What took me so long. All the things this turntable arm combo does is perfect for classical. Its all about minute gradations of loud and soft. Dynamics is what draws me into classical. Alfred Brendel playing a Mozart piano concerto, can anyhing be more perfect on Easter sunday. The piano never sounded better, rock solid pitch and whenever a french horn was played you could hear it back in the far corner of the soundstage. From there it was on to a Prokofiev violin concerto. Just as good. His music goes from atmospheric to intense with everything in between. The problem for me is it can be boring if the sound is too smooth. Well it was'nt boring this morning. Classical is about dynamics and boy can this combo do it."

"And sounds fantastic, blows my STD305D away, quieter background, enormous controlled bass, incredible detail, just altogether jaw droppingly good...and it don't look bad either!"

"The whole shebang came tegether here last Friday, so this is very much an interim report, but damn if it doesn't beat the TNT rig pretty handily -- more alive, more punch, more PRaT, more "there." And quiet as a tomb, whether or not I have the subwoofers switched in. I find all this REALLY hard to believe, but there it is. Lots more experimentation ahead, especially with carts."

"This evening is the first chance I have had to play with the beastie. I found (it took me a little while) the Origin Live modified Rega 250 that I bought two years ago intending to mount on an Empire 208 if I ever found one. I didn't.
I also found my little used Denon 103D. An hour later we were ready to go. No plinth. I precariously balanced the Goldring on two lead shot filled plwood boxes that I made ages ago to set a pair of Carver Amazing speakers on. The speakers are long gone, but the heavy little boxes thankfully remain. Albert I don't know what TT you had before the Goldring, but my expectations were certainly not high since I have a heavily modified Linn LP 12 with an Ittok arm and Koetsu Black cartridge. I have to say that the Goldring with the lesser cartridge (the Denon 103D at $225, while a very impressive cartridge is no match for the $1,500 Koetsu), unravelled the music and separated instruments better than the Linn with the Koetsu. At first I thought that was hearing over-simplification of passages, but when I started hearing things in the foreground that were either distant on the Linn or very subdued, I knew this was not the case. Separation of lead and backing vocals and clear enunciation of words seemed better on the Goldring. I think I have to switch the Ittok and Koetsu to the Goldring to be completely fair. But then I think that there would be an even greater bias towards the Goldring."

"OK, we gotta quote Mr. T on this one. "PITY THE FOOL" who doesn't give this project a shot. Fittingly, my son and I made our first real music today, on Father's Day. We are still waiting for our Shure cartridge to come in but couldn't wait that long. So, we mounted a twenty-something year old Ortofon FF15XE MkII on our Loth-X modified PT-6 and gave it a whirl. Frankly, I am speechless. This thing is SO much better sounding than I thought, even with the modest Ortofon, that I am going to have to collect my thoughts before I can give a coherent review. For now - UTTERLY AMAZING! Here are some pics of the finished product!"

"I continue to be impressed by this TT - even without a plinth - which I know will improve everything. It's subtle for the most part and reveals everything with a very light touch, never screaming "look at all this detail". But when there are massive dynamic swings it is scary. For the ultimate test of just how scary, play "No Pasaran" from Joe Jackson's 1987 LP "Will Power". It will make you leap out of your pants. Also even in it's plinthless state it sails through those classic 'test' tracks like "Sad Old Red" by Simply Red and "Ride Across The River" by Dire Straits - both tough tests of the ability of a system to reproduce bass that stops and starts on a dime with no overhang."

"Sorry Rick but I can't agree with you, My Lenco's are certainly better than the STD305D/Rega I had which was as good or better than the LP12/Rega I had which was as good as the 401/AT1100 I had. Plenty of detail and detailed bass - especially using my Spendor BC1s."

"As the owner of a TNT Mk.II with JMW 10.5 arm and SDS, and one of the prettiest Empire 298/398s you'll ever see, AND one of Jean's Lenco L78s, with an SME IIIS arm, I'm in a pretty good position to compare. The Empire is out of the running in this trio, although I do think that with a really solid plinth and a new arm it might be a contender. The Lenco setup is marginally but definitely better sounding than the TNT setup, and this is with the same cartridges -- Shure V15VxMR and Dynavector 10x5. I think that if and when I move the JMW arm to the Lenco, it will substantially widen the gap between the Lenco and the TNT."

"Impressions. If we had to pick one word to describe the Lenco it would have to be “TENACIOUS”. It does especially well on recordings where the music gets complex and is characterized by a wide variation of frequencies. It seems to sort through things really well, indeed. If I had to pick two words of description, it would be “kick-bass” (well maybe a hyphenated word!) Rare is the opportunity to distinguish between the attack of the hammer hitting the skins and the resonant tone produced. Nice! We, like several others, find the Lenco to be a real “boogie” table with tons of slam, definitely a rock-n-roller which is well suited to the genre, especially where tons of complex action occurs (particularly noted on something like, Yes: “Fragile” – Chris Squire’s bass in contrast with Howe’s licks and Wakeman’s runs raised hairs on my neck and that is RARE). The bass lines in stuff like Joe Walsh and War were extremely tight and focussed. ANYTHING that had a up-beat tempo really had our toes tapping. We also enjoyed the good deal of bluegrass, jazz, and classical we sent its way – though we gave up little in the way of detail on some of those recordings. Further, we noticed a slightly compressed soundstage on most all recordings with respect to width, but the depth was fine. We are not sure, however, if this is a function of the table, the arm/cartridge, or both. Bluegrass, with its mandolin/guitar/banjo pickin’ and fiddle bowin’ fared very well. Again, the Lenco treated the up-beat tempo very well and these recording had a very musical, “live-setting”, type of feel. VERY pleasing. Female vocals, classical, and some jazz we found better on the ‘Not/Graham/Benz with respect to the “air” surrounding individual voices and/or instruments. While the vocals themselves did not suffer from smearing (in fact they were very clear), they did not “hang in suspension” the way we are used to normally. During quiet passages in classical, we did NOT hear any evidence of rumble, whatsoever. Mr. Dagwood Bumstead must be doing his job well."

"As a follow-up to my post above, a friend and I did some really serious listening over the past 3-4 hours comparing the Lenco/SME III/Dyna 10X5 to the TNT/JMW setup, currently sporting an AT OC-9. I think the 10X5 has finally broken in, because there was no question about which table setup was better this time. We mostly played "Kind of Blue" and several Charlie Mingus and Kenny Burrell albums at very realistic levels, and the Lenco setup was WAY ahead for openness, dynamics, PRaT, and the "good" kind of detail (i.e, not an "analytical" presentation, which makes my ears bleed). There was nothing at all wrong about the way the TNT sounded, just that the Lenco was substantially more musical and involving by comparison."

"I am a long time Linnie. I have own LP 12's for 28 years. My current Linn has an Origin Live DC motor and a Cetech carbon fibre subchassis. On a whim I bought a GL 75 and put an Origin Live modded Rega 250 and my beloved Koetsu Black on it. Holy shit, better bass, much better leading-edge dynamics and pretty remarkable imaging. This is all without a plinth. I'm just resting this beast on two lead-filled boxes. I am about to make a decent plinth and see where it goes."

"I have nothing new to add to this thread except my excitement. My Lenco / Decca / Shure V15 rig running into a EAR 834 P is not only great, it is stunning! As this continues to break in, I become more in love with it. This afternoon I played "The Streets," Original Pirate Material ('02), and I swear there are some things it does better than my Walker / Koetsu / Aesthetix rig. Sure the more expensive rig has finer graduations of detail, is more transparent and refined, but the Lenco provides a solid base, timing and contrast to the music that is addictive. The fact one could purchase 50 of these Lenco rigs for what my reference TT costs, no doubt clouds my judgement."

"I STILL haven't built a plinth for my GL 75, OL Rega, Koetsu Black. But I'm playing it all the time. And I get more impressed with every LP. I should mention that I went from thin, model train oil to Mobil 1 grease and then a combination of the last two. My last choice seems to be the best. When I eventually get around to building the plinth it will be on this site. Just listened to Dire Straits' "Brothers In Arms" and Little Feat "The Last Record Album". I'm hearing things that were not there AT ALL on the Linn. Buggeration. Is that possible ?"

"Well, as I indicated previously, we have installed a Graham 2.2/IC-70 cable on our latest creation, an L75. At the advice of Jean, we went whole-hog and mounted my Benz Micro Reference2 Copper, a cartridge custom built by Mr. Lukaschek himself. We have now spun about 15 LP’s with this combination. Anyone who knows me personally, or has read more than a few of my posts knows that I am one who is rarely at a loss for words. Now is the time. All I can say is that there is a new sheriff in town, and his name AIN’T Reggie Hammond. My apologies to those who are not familiar with this Beverly Hills Cop reference, but my point will become evident. This is, with doubt, the best combo I’ve ever had in my system and one of the best I’ve ever heard in any system with remotely comparable components. Of course, the slam and pacing of the Lenco is there in spades. I was not, however, prepared for the expansive soundstage which goes well beyond my speakers and into the side yard. There is a ton of detail without being anything close to analytical. The midrange is very sweet and female vocals are just a gas! From those who have used the Graham with other tables, the one very minor complaint of some is a hair bit of lightness in the bass. Not in this front end. I have heard the Graham 2.2 now on about 8 different tables and I’ve never heard it sound better. A real winner in every respect. A spoiler, actually."

It goes on and on...and if it looks like we're having fun, we are! Join in, jump in the pool and find out for yourself, in your own system! We're still trying to find its upper limits.
The EMT930ST is a whole different experience. I can safely said that it was an excellent plug and play setup.
It was a very solid and extremely smooth table.
I never own TNT Vs but the Oracle, VPI and SP 10 IIs are no match for this beast.
Just remember one of the most important part, you're limited by cartridge selection.
That was the only reason I traded 5 yrs ago.
I really wanted to have VDH top of line cartridge.
The EMT cartridge is great overall but not as refine as the $5K cartridge.
All the EMT cartridge were re-tip by VDH ( according to the guy in Austria who sold me the table )
Dear Jean: I know that you are very happy with this thread.

+++++" "The idler-wheel-drive Garrard 301 grease-bearing was the 'table used by Sugano in the design of his Koetsus.." +++++

Maybe this is the reason why the Koetsu's are so tonally unbalanced. I don't know for sure.

++++ "I have nothing new to add to this thread except my excitement. My Lenco / Decca / Shure V15 rig running into a EAR 834 P is not only great, it is stunning! As this continues to break in, I become more in love with it. This afternoon I played "The Streets," Original Pirate Material ('02), and I swear there are some things it does better than my Walker / Koetsu / Aesthetix rig. Sure the more expensive rig has finer graduations of detail, is more transparent and refined, but the Lenco provides a solid base, timing and contrast to the music that is addictive. The fact one could purchase 50 of these Lenco rigs for what my reference TT costs, no doubt clouds my judgement. " +++++

Here, there is a comparison of apples against oranges. Everything were different: TT/tonearm/cartridge/phono stage.

Now, I don't know the audio system capability resolution of each one of those testers.

Jean, I have to try that Lenco/Garrad: " when the river is so noisy is that carry water ".

Regards and enjoy the music.
Hi Raul, you're right, seeing this thrread is like a starving man stumbling out of the desert and discovering a buffet! As to the system capablities/resolution of each of those testers, a better source should sound better regardless of the system, be it NAD or Audio Research: remember "garbage in garbage out", source first? And don't make the classic mistake of dismissing those who attempt the experiment as not serious because idler-wheels and the Lencos have not been stamped with the Audiophile Stamp of Approval, participants range from the extreme high-end to lower high-end, all are evidently audiophiles with at the very least decent systems, or they would not even be interested. But to allay your fears, the very first e-mail I received on the Lenco project in the beginning was a fellow asking me if he should put his Triplanar tonearm on in in his Jadis/Wilson Audio system. As to the quote you featured, since the Walker Proscenium Gold Signature is, or should be, at the very top of the heap in every respect bar none, then the fact the Lenco brought delight and surprise speaks volumes.

I know you respect and like the Acoustic Signature Final Tool, and so I will quote from a letter sent me from a fellow who mounted a Decca International re-wired and mounted with a Grado Platinum: "I have been listening contently to the Lenco. Sweet. I am hearing things in the grooves that I never heard before. No joke. And the things I`m hearing, that I could only hear before with the Ruby 2 and the Signature Final Tool turntable, SME 309 arm is much more musical. Not as dry, and uninvolving as the $6000.00 setup was. You have read all this stuff before on the threads I`m sure. I will be adding my two cents worth when I get a chance to sit still for a bit....Well, that PRaT is starting to click in my brain. I was out of tune listening to music that was out of PRaT. Yea, now it is making sense. I don`t know how it can sound much better using a heavier plinth, but it will be interesting to find out. I used to have the MC cartridge Micro Benz Ruby 2. For the money it should sound better then the Grado, but it does not. It may have had more detail, or whatever, but I was not enjoying the music as much as I do now. It was dry, bland, compressed, and homogenized. I don`t know if I want to try the Denon 103 for fear I will lose something that I have now in the MM. I just listened to a great recording in Jazz and one in Classical, and they of course sound even more enjoyable then before Lenco was discovered...But how can an old turntable using an old tonearm using a $300.00 cartridge, compete with the big boys. I did listen though and was not closed minded, I thought maybe this Jean is really on to something, and did not pooh pooh you like some may do. There loss and our gain. Well of course now I hear it with my ears. You don`t need to spend bunches of money to have great sound from vinyl. Or for that matter spend more and have less...I want to discover something new in the music that was hidden in the grooves of those records" and so on. Whatever the system, you'll agree that if he was running a Final Tool/SME 309/Ruby 2 it must have been up mthere in Audiophile Cred Land. A fellow switched his Moerch/Allaerts from his Teres/Cocobolo 245/lead in his system and reported the following: "Lenco, unequivocally. listening to mine for the first time tonight, with only a rough setup. have owned an LP-12 and a Teres, and a restored/modified with heavy plinth Lenco L75 leaves them in the dust! soooooooo much more money for LPs. wade into the jean nantais thread and have at it--you won't regret it for a second once you hear what it can do. makes the belt vs. direct drive argument moot." This takes care of the diference-in-equipment thing.

I'm honestly trying to expose the truth of this matter, and the more people participate, the more solid and incontrovertible the evidence will be. As I wrote, the people who spent their hard-earned cash on the various high-end 'tables listed had every reason to dismiss the Lenco out of hand and protect the reputation of the 'tables they sank their money/egos into, but instead reported, to a man, the superiority of the Lenco, except in the case where the Lenco was used solely with budget equipment in a state-of-the-art system, and even he was surprised. And you're right, the neutral Koetsu being designed on an idler-wheel drive explains the colourations, which are entirely due to the coloured belt-drives they are then played on ;-)! Not sure what you're saying means, but feel free to join in the fun, as you always say, actual hands-on experience is the ONLY arbiter in the end, theory and hearsay has no place in this discussion, this is the heart of empirical science, and the foundation of Western civilization. And don't worry raul, I always enjoy the music...because I use a Lenco! I'll eventually be taveling down Mexico-way to explore the various Aztec and Maya remains, as I do a fair bit of research on this subject for a project of mine researching the role/effect of assumption and prejudice in Western scholarship and science (which explains a lot, eh?). I will be then enjoying that fabulous Mexican music live!
This was taken from the Dirct Drive site.

A huge advantage of a direct-drive record-player is the fact, that the whole mechanical system consists of just one moveable part (the combined motor-shaft/platter-bearing) which turns quite slow and has a big mass (the platter) attached to it - almost a mechanical ideal for quiet rotation. The resonance of the combined motor/bearing assembly lies in the range of 0,5 Hz due to its slow speed compared with the 50/60Hz resonance of the motor of a typical belt-driven turntable. All belt - or idler-driven record-players incorporate a lot of mechanical parts for adapting the fast speed of the motor to the comparably slow speed of the platter. Each of this parts implies an own sonic footprint by inducing resonances and suffering from bearing-tolerances in this more or less complex mechanical system. Another advantage of good direct-drive decks is speed-stability.
The german magazine "Audio" once measured the frequency of a 3kHz burst played through a belt-driven state of the art turntable system. There were 4Hz missing! To compensate for the effect of slowing the platter during heavy modulations you need a fast and precise regulation and rigid coupling between the motor and the platter. Compare this to your typical belt-drive deck... Some might argue that a very heavy platter won't slow down because of its sheer mass - this is not the case. Even worse - when the motor regulation tries to speed up this platter will react much slower than a light one. It's like driving a mountaineous way with a truck - I would prefer a Porsche. Coupling the motor to a heavy platter with a string is questionable, too. Whoever changed the tension of the string of a Platine Verdier (platter weight around 50pds.) knows what I mean. Some enthusiasts take even tape instead of a belt to improve coupling the motor to the platter. Now speed stability may improve but there is no filtering of motor resonances any more...
Negative effects of the needle slowing the platter during heavy modulations are best avoided by incorporating a fast and precise speed-regulation, a not too heavy platter rigidly coupled to a strong motor (best the platter is bolted to the motor like with the Technics SP-10Mk2). With such a deck speed-fluctuations during playing a Wagner opera will eventually become neglectable.
Ok, if I am forced to comment on these drive systems, I'll just say that the application is the key to how well any of them will perform.

It has been clearly shown that all of the drive systems mentioned have been capable of excellent performance, in certain turntables.

It is up to the buyer to determine which turntables have the proper application of their respective designs.
There's no question that you can get great sound from any of the drive systems. For great music, I'll go with the Lenco. And did. Dave
Dear Jean: As I already told you, I have to try it. When somebody impulse any project with the excitement and emotion that you have it's time to " heard " it not to argue.

Go a head !.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Hey, I have a Micro Seiki 1500FVG and Linn LP-12 and a Teac TN-400 and a Thorens 125 and a few others. Hell, they all sound good to me.
Any of the various drive systems..belt, direct drive, and idler can work well is designed correctly and executed correctly with excellent isolation and resonance control. Main reason belt drive tables have proved so popular with high end is, in my thoughts, that the cost of entry to the belt drive high end market is much less than the cost of entry into the high end direct drive or idler wheel market.

Imagine how much money Panasonic (owned Technics Radio and Broadcasting Division which produced such gems as the sp10, epa100/500, and a few other very neat things) put into R/D and and then plant and equipment to produce such a fine machine; ditto for the Kenwood L07D or the top Denon professional units. Pioneer also made some cost no object direct drives, too.

Now, I like my Scheu Premier and the Acoustic Signature was an alternate and I went with the Scheu for the dual arm plinth for a modest uplift. I am under no illusion that this is simply a well designed table made out of acrylic. The bearing is fairly straightforward to manufacture once the design is finalized; that does not take millions of bucks to devlop...same with the acrylic platter and plinth and armboards. The motor is sourced from Maxxon and some electronics work is done by Scheu. This is not terribly complicated from an engineering and manufacturing perspective.

Now try to envision the plant and equipment and start up costs for the old SP10 and the SL1200 and its legion of variants. Who can afford to do that anymore with such a small market?

That is the reason we no longer have high quality direct drive and idler wheel turntables; manufacturing costs do not support production to such a small market.

Belt drive is the least expensive way to get good performance and the inherent limitations of belt drive are tackled by other solutions. Some use mass; some like DPS use other techniques to arrive at the same destination.
Well-said all! The real reason, following up on C123666, idler-wheel was dropped was because belt-drive simply made more economic sense even back then: larger profits. Anyone who has handled even the cheaper Garrard SP25s has to stand in awe of all the machinery and development necessary to produce it. The search for profits led to increasingly poor record players and increasingly poor pressings (those who were living in the vinyl world at that time must remember the increasingly poor pressings, skipping, warps as the '70s drew to a close), and then the industry offered to save us from the "inferior" format with Compact Disc (Perfect Sound Forever). I remember being a reporter at that time, being forced - in spite of owning a Rega Planar 3 - to go out and report on the "amazing new format". I had suggested at the time we investigate the claim of "Perfect Sound" more closely in a feature, and the feature editor, who had just bought a compact disc player, put the kibbosh on it, and put great energy into publishing free publicity for the untested claims of the very corporations who disseminated these claims and profited from them! Just another instance of how Western science is being subsumed and corrupted by market (and other) forces. As one writer put it: "Shall Science become a mere tool of the marketplace? Where was truth? Where was insight? Where was knowledge?" Anyway, great to read an open and intelligent discussion of the merits of other systems than simple belt-drives, a good sign! And Raul, so that's what your saying meant! If I put so much energy into my project, it's because of being treated like a leper on the subject of the Lenco for more than 10 years by people who knew and understood much less than I did on the subject of vinyl-spinning: one day last year, I decided "Enough", and put it out there to the test. I find it amazing that so many did and are giving it a chance! There are, after all, positive aspects of the internet, my faith in my fellow man is being restored! Vive la Empirical Science and Logical Thought!
I have a question for Jean.

Now that we've come to the situation where various sytems of drive have been used and accomplished significant performance levels, what do you think is the best one?

We now have a market which will bear any amount of engineering and production cost, because of the market for very expensive turntables. There is no need to worry about how much it costs now, for the high end units.

An idler wheel system of excellent construction and engineering could easily now be made without regard to expense. Direct drives and belt drives of very high retail price are being sold to audiophiles. In fact, as regards idler wheel tables, I think Shindo Labs and Lorricraft are even re-making the old Garrard designs.

In the "ultimate" expression of these drive systems, with all "the bugs" ironed out of most of them, what do you think will be the best performing turntable? At the highest levels, will the idler wheel compete with the best direct drive(Rockport) and the best belt drives(Walker, et al)? With all things considered.

What are your technical reasons for your answer?

This is an important question, and I'd be very interested in the answer from someone with much idler wheel experience.

Please bear in mind that these top level turntables have gone to an extreme extent themselves to ensure total speed stability, with no expense spared, and the designers are well aware of stylus drag effects. They are not affected by the usual things that may apply to cheap belt-drive or cheap direct-drive applications.
Thank you to those who responded meaningfully.
Johnnantais: any experience of comparative listening of the Lenco vs say a Teres or equivalent well executed belt drive? I do not have the possibility of hearing all comers, so I want to some comparative data if it exists.
Like TWL, I am also interested in the comparative merits of each in a cost-no-object scenario.
I am very tempted to try the vintage route, as the recycling of old to provide engaging sound quality at a fraction of the modern solution is most compelling.
Having had the Dual, the Garrard 301, the Technics SP10, various Linn LP12s, the Forsell, the Walker, the Loricraft/Garrard 501 with the Schroeder, and once again a Garrard 301, I will say there is nothing like a rim drive. I say this although I happily gave up on my first Garrard 301 long ago. There is a magic to the dynamics of such tables.
I'm drowing in contracts right now, but in the meantime I'll post this brief explanation of why I think idler-wheel drive is the superior system, given equivalent amounts of effort: "We know things now they didn't know when they were manufacturing idler-wheel 'tables. We can now realize their potential. 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-plattter, platter-motor) and speed variations brought on by groove modulations don't stand a chance in this rig, and it is clearly audible. The trick is that big, solid plinth you build at Home Depot." I think belt-drives, be they thread, tape or othrwise, suffer various speed stability problems regardless of mass, as the braking action of stylus force drag is not eliminated, but simply lowered in frequency (reaction time is slower). Plus the motors used in these 'tables simply cannot match the motors used in the big idler-wheel 'tables, which were developed with the secific task of spinning a platter and overcoming stylus-force drag. Direct drives sound dry and "sat-on" and dynamically-constricted (in comparison to a Lenco) to my ear: I think the quartz-locking is audible, I, anyway, prefer the sound of servo-controlled DDs better (these at a state-of-the-art level might compete wth a good idler-wheel drive in my estimaton) more on this later. Essentially, it's a torque war, and the idlers win hands-down. Hi Divo, all I have are those few pithy words from an ex-Teres owner, no more details than this, since I did not do the comparison myself: one reason I decided to enlist the entire world in my experiment is I can't possibly do it all myself, and anyway, even if I could, who would have believed me? More tomorrow!
I agree, but additionally I think the mounting plinth is quite important. I have heard the Shindo Labs 301 versus other Garrard 301s. There is little to say, other than the Shindo sounds far superior. I grant that there are many other improvements in the Shindo, but I suspect the plinth is central to its sound.
The fundamental issue with belt drives is perhaps that they are just that.A stretchy belt that "wows and "flutters" with a change in the weather,always doing that no matter how fine your motor and bearings are.In a way the Lenco idler enclosed drive system already accounts for what you are trying to do with direct-drive and so the obvious flaw of inconsistency in speed is being minimised in being tackled head-on and not left hanging by a thread(belt?)or "cogging" issues.If the same investment was made into developing modern idler technology as it is with belt why could'nt it(idler) be the best way.
Check the price on a complete Shindo Lab completed 301 with the Ortofon arm. It is extremely expensive and in a completely different price category than such beasts as Teres, Scheu, VPI, Transrotor; same thing for the Loricraft. I think the "new" 501 offered starts at 7000 plus. This does not really address the issue of developing a "new" direct drive or idler wheel table. Loricraft simply takes the old Garrard design and copies and improves it.

If idler wheel and direct drive technology were economically viable then new units would exist. The upfront investment in such a thing makes it uneconomic. Hell, shure is even discontinuing its one good high end cartridge. I fully expect quality belt drives to continue to rule the roost.

A place called Stirling Electronics sells refurbished Technics SP10 Mk II direct drive motors and the prices are not bad, actually. This company also can provide a custom plinth for the SP10 as well as SME and Audio Note rewired rega arms.

Loricraft also sells refurbished 301 and 401 tables and also sells a moderately priced "skeletal" plinth which they say works well. A more comprehensive plinth can be built or bought; all you need is dough.

The Shindo Lab and the Loricraft 501 are simply way too expensive for me to consider. A complete updated Lenco with a correct plinth, tonearm, and high quality isolation base is probably the best bet. Take care when looking at those 301 garrards with plinth and arm for under a grand on EBAY; they almost certainly will require total servicing and parts under the hood. Check out the prices at Loricraft for a complete restoration on a 301; not cheap. Makes more sense to buy a refurbished one from Loricraft with a warranty and be done with it. a mint Lenco L78 and build your own.
Divo and C---, see the 6Moons project on the Garrard 301 refurbishing.
I'd love to hear from Lloyd Walker and Andy Payor on this thread.
Direct drive or die.
Maybe at $73,000 but even then I doubt it.
Idle speculation, or should I say idler speculation, the soul of Audiogon.
You can have a refurbished Technics sp10 Mk II with warranty, a high end plinth, and a tonearm (sme or audio note arm 2; ie, rb300 with seamless run of audio note silver wire to RCA termination) for about 2000 US (I think; not positive if Euro or dollars) from Stirling Electronics. Damn good deal, actually. I seem to have misplaced the email from Stirling for prices. In any event if the plinth is good this is a high end rig and should suffice for most.

The url is:

Stirling even has a brand new in the box sp10 Mk III for some ungodly price of 4500.....not sure if pounds, euro, or us dollars....
It makes a great difference if it is Euros, Pounds, or dollars. Pounds would be about twice as much for US buyers, and Euros about 40 percent more.

These mods would have to have a very substantial effect to have the SP10 competitive with the top tables.
Of course it makes a big difference; check out the link, ask for quotes, and be sure to check the money quoted. Euro is at 1.3 to the dollar right now.

This would be a table that will run with most anything IF sited on a quality stand (think billy bags) or good isolation platform. I would ask what Stirling could sell a SME IV or V for as that would seal the table as truly high end.
I checked SP10 MkII prices with Stirling recently (March 2nd). A reconditioned deck is GBP498, with 6 month warranty. They produce a corian plinth for GBP398 plus GBP28 for either Rega or SME cut out.

They have one new deck available with 12 months warranty at GBP2248.

Stirling offer either the ex-BBC tonearms which, by repute, are not good enough for serious home use or the Rega/Audionote silver wired arm for GBP298.


Sounds like a great deal for a warrantied sp 10 mk ii with plinth and a decent arm. Pity the plinth will not accept a 12" arm and only 9" arms.
I have a MK-III and it is an entirely different beast than the MK-II. It has a 22lb bronze platter that is part of the motor. It requires lifting handles to remove it. The outboard power supply has a digital readout and speed control and a start switch. Mine has an SME 3012 but I have a 312 on order that I will probably try on it. But it sounds so good now that the 312 will probably go on my Micro.
I cannot imagine that there is this enamorment with the SP10. When I had one, the Linn LP12 killed it. It was pretty and big.
Well, I have a Linn LP-12 sitting in a corner.
This suggests that there have been some major improvements. Do you know what they are?
tbg....did your sp10 have the technics base/plinth or did you have it in a higher quality plinth and isolated correctly?
C123666, It had a polished volcanic rock plinth. I did not know they came any other way. This was nearly 30 years ago.
I just found a picture of it. It was obsidian. I recall it being bigger than the unit shown, but maybe that was because it was so long ago. I think I had the 205 arm not the 100 shown at
I have had a Linn for about 20 years (serviced and brought up to latest spec every 2 years) and remember being blown away by Linn/Naim demonstrations at hifi shows in the late 70's.

Recently, I've upgraded my cd player and it blows the Linn away. I have a few tracks on vinyl that I know really well that I use as a kind of reference. There's one, "Death May Be Your Santa Claus" by Mott The Hoople, that is a real test of timing, dynamics, PRaT, and holding a tune. On my Linn it really drags, it's like the band are playing without hearing each other.

I'm convinced that the Linn suffers in terms of speed stability. I've now bought a Technics Sl50 and a Lenco L75 and I'm going to play with both.

IMHO, both the Technics and the Lenco have more upside potential because they were launched in an era when acoustic isolation was not well understood. The Linn is kind of okay at everything, but it's not an example of great engineering is it? Cheap motor, pressed steel sub-chassis, etc.

There's a theory that current belt drive tables struggle when fitted with low compliance moving coil cartridges because the motor/belt lacks sufficient torque to overcome stylus drag. I'm going to put the theory to the test and make my own mind up.

I'm quite certin that a SP10 MkII in a good CLD plinth, mounted on a state of the art isolation table, fitted with a Schroeder arm and Zyz Airy would smoke the equivalent LP12 set up. What's more I'd love the chance to put this hypothesis to the test!


Flyingred, you guys have brought the SP10 out of my memories of 30 years ago. I don't know why I am even interested, given that I have the Shindo Labs 301. I would love to hear the SP10 set up as you would have it.
Well I found a nice 301 off eBay.
Tbg: can you tell me how much is a Shindo plinth, and which arm you are using?
Shindo will take Garrard 301 and do mods on it. Checkout for information. I bought the entire package which includes the totally modified 301, a modified Ortofon 12" tonearm, and a modified Ortofon SPU cartridge, which I have yet to get. There may be provisions for other arms, but I don't know anything about this. Even using a headshell with another cartridge would mean greater error in tracking angle. All of this is unimportant once you have heard it.

Originally, I intended to do just what you have done, namely to get a nice Garrard 301 and enjoy it.