Idler-wheel drives


Time to start the revolution: does anyone out there own an idler-wheel drive record player they actually listen to? Or has anyone out there heard an idler-wheel (not a Garrard SP-25) in a decent system? I own several record players, some "high-end", like an Audiomeca or Maplenoll, some simply good, like the AR-XA or Ariston, and I also own several idler-wheel players I built myself, following the Garrard-rebuilds going on out there: high-mass bodies to sink the vibration. They go deeper in the bass, are faster, have more dynamics, both micro and macro, are better at focussing detail, and are pretty well indestructible. Sure, the wheel's got to be in good shape and sure, it needs a good body - but so does a belt-drive. I'm tired of reading about the superiority of belt-drive, especially as most of those writing this have not heard good examples of the alternatives. Hellooo...anyone out there share my conviction? I'm a vinylphile, resorting to CD only when music I love is not available in LP form. I do listen to my belt-drives, which I love, but the idler-wheels I built myself depressingly crush every attempt I make at tweaking more performance out of them - depressingly because I went to a lot of trouble to collect them. I use tube monoblocks, a decent solid-state preamp, have sensitive "BBC school of design" loudspeakers that go down to forty and love tube amps (true 8-ohm speakers), and a collection of cartridges: Shure V15, Grado Platinum, NOS Supex and Kiseki cartridges and others - and tonearms: modified Rega RB300, Infinity Black Widow, Mayware Formula IV, Maplenoll air-bearing and so forth...
I don't want invective or cries of heresy: just good, old-fashoned empirical observation and experience and intelligent dialogue. I've rebuilt larger Garrards (but not the 301 or 401 both of which have eluded me), Elacs and Lencos (these are terrific: the spring suspension motor mount really works and it's Swiss craftsmanship - try it with a Rega arm). For the record, I make a few bucks restoring Maplenolls, so have nothing inherently against belt-drives, except that so far they just don't measure up. Enough of assumptions (based on reviewer brainwashing - "belt-drive, belt-drive"): idler wheel motors are individually balanced by hand (even on the Garrard SP-25s), weigh a few ponds and rotate very silently on true machined bearings at roughly 1800 RPMs (as oppposed to the average belt drive at 1 lb and 300 RPM)! They have torque and are immune to "stylus drag" and "belt-reaction" (sproing sproing, which is why thread drives usually sound better than rubber belts on decks offering both)....Begin discussion...
johnnantais
I occasionally use my idler-equipped Dual 1219 turntable. I bought it new 33 years ago. The clip-in plastic headshell wore out after 15 years. This was no surprise because up until 1989 I replaced my cartridge once a year! Other than that, the Dual has never failed me. It has been professionally serviced once... in 1988 I got a tape deck. While transcribing LP's a recurrent low level thump appeared on the meters. A local shop which had once specialized in Duals polished the bearings, gave the 1219 a lube job and replaced the idler wheel. They even threw in a NOS wooden base at no charge! All this restored silent operation and the 1219 performs flawlessly to this day.

It's easy to spin the platter by hand while the wheel is disengaged. This makes record brushing a breeze. However, a word of caution: let the platter slow to near rest before engaging the idler drive or you may create a flat spot on the wheel.

Sorry I can't add more, but I've never owned any other turntable. It is nice to hear you're keeping the old Garrards going. They certainly were popular.
Rockvirgo, thanks for the reply, it's good to hear a positive story about an idler-wheel drive. I hadn't even heard of an idler-wheel record player until I stumbled on one at a flea market. Low in funds but wanting to build a cheap system in a new town, I bought a wooden-bodied Garrard SP-25 for two bucks. When I got it home, I plugged it in, but it wouldn't work. I removed the platter to see what was wrong and there the extremely complex gears, levers and springs...and the wheel...were staring me in the face, and I thought "What the hell is this?!" I traced the problem to the automatic mechanism - the motor worked fine, and I simply threw out all the pieces that did not drive the platter directly. I plugged it into my modified NAD 3020i and Boston A40 MKIIs, and my jaw hit the floor. I had friends managing high-end stores, and when they came over for visits, they'd always look behind my equipment to see what I was hiding. I thought to myself "Holy crap, this beats my $2,000 Audiomeca!" After that, I tracked down larger and larger ones, matched them up with Rega arms in high-mass plinths, and have built and sold quite a few. I've tried to tweak my expensive collection of belt-drives, but to no avail. The idler-wheel drives are simply better. I throw in the towel: soon I will build a new 'table from a Lenco, and mount my Maplenoll arm on it. Bye bye Maplenoll...
Hello, I spotted you info on a Unity 1 Rotary platform 
I have such a beast with a Grace F9E tone arm, Accu sound cartridge? 
It sounds pretty good overall  
I bought it at a used record store for .........$175, I knew it was a no brainer given the arm alone
The motor is suspended with 2 rubber pins , one of which was cracked, fixed that 
I still can not get any info on country of origin , manufacture's name etc  fins
I currently run a Sota Sapphire with a Sumiko arm and Ortofon Blue cartridge
Any other leads ?
thanks  Sixpac   
Resurrection! Jean? (John) Nantais has come a long way!
I own three Dual idler drive turntables.

I will start with the 1219. I got it off the auction site several years ago and using available guides at the time was able to restore it and run it several years. Over the Summer, I began to have all kinds of problems with the audio signal and found I had developed a short or break in one of the tone arm wires at the pc chip in the head shell. The repair soon got beyond my skill level and I sent it to Klaus Adlhoch (Dualcan) from Vinyl Engine fame. 

He made it like new! Literally. I now have a table that is absolutely dead quiet in the passages between songs. I can turn the volume up wicked high and hear nothing!

This table is outfitted with a Shure V15 series 2 cart and a Jico non SAS stylus.

My favorite is my 1229.  I got it over the Summer from a friend I met on Vinyl Engine. My father got one for Christmas back in the early 70's when I was in high school.  I came to love that model after the first authoritative click of the start switch. Dad was a market manager for Ampex then and had all their consumer stereo products including two reel to reel decks. He needed a turntable to form a complete stereo system.

When I sent the 1219 to Klaus I included several idler wheels and sleds needs repair. I installed one of these reworked idlers in the 1229 and it too is very quiet!

Last is a 1228. I got it from the auction site over ten years ago and it was the first one I worked on myself. It ran many years problem free,  I will send it to Klaus this Spring for his total restoration. This will go to my daughter who will graduate from MTSU's aerospace program in Dec. 2017.  I will put a Shure M93ed on it for her.
Hello Jean, happy to read you again. I first read you on audiogon and decided after that to tweak a lenco. It blew away my pink pt too . Congratulations for your spring tweak that I bought from you. I listen only to vinyl and would not go back to bell drive.
Did anyone notice that Jean's post dates from December, 2003?  So, did Jean himself post it or did some anonymous idler fanatic post it?  (Speaking as an idler devotee myself.)  And if it's a copy/paste from the original "da thread", why does it bear the old date?
I use a VPI Superscoutmaster rim drive.....a very large disc that turns the turntable proper.  I hear a definite cleaning of the sound with the rim drive as compared to the belt drive that I used before the modification...belts have a "give"...an elastic quality to it that is eliminated with the rim drive.