idler wheel vs direct drive technics impressions

I just purchased on Audiogon from a great 'goner in San Jose, Kurt, the lenco l-75 idler driven turntable which had been heavily modified by Jean Natais with a beautiful cherry plinth. The tt is set with a rega rb-700 tonerarm and a shelter 501mk2 low output mc cartridge.

I can only give a very preliminary comparison of the lenco l-75 versus my other turntable the technics sl-12105mg.

I thoroughly enjoyed the technics directdrive turntable driven by a well regarded benz micro ace low output cartridge. I think in many ways its the perfect low budget table. It provides accurate speed, ample bass, easy to use, inexpensive, and provides for numerous upgrades. I upgraded mine with a tonearm dampen kit and a better turntable mat.

The lenco l-75 is using a new shelter 501 mk2 cartridge which is a highly regarded under $1,000 cartridge. Since the cartridge is still breaking in my observations are merely preliminary. The tonerarm and cartridge have only been set tentatively until the cartridge is fully broken in. At that point I will have it professionally set with proper vta and stuff like that since I am not an expert in these matters and want it done optimally.

Even at the outset one can readily tell that the Lenco is a superb sounding tt with a wonderful sense of rhythm, ease of use, with wonderful imaging and soundstaging.

Many people seem to think that you must go with belt drive or direct drive but the idler seems to me to be the perfect combination of the two. It does not have the speed issues that belts sometimes do (nor need belt replacements) but has better separation of the platter from the plinth than most budget direct drive units. The original lenco l-75 did not have the heavy plinth necessary to optimize the sound but the custom modified ones that you can buy from people like jean natais or make yourself avoids the pitfalls of the original units. The Lenco like the Garrard tt's are a less expensive logical evolution from the technics without spending a lot of bucks. Its nice to know you don't need to spend $10,000 on a tt and tonerarm to get even more analog glory than the tecnics. I would reiterate that I think the Technics is a no brainer purchase in the $1,500 and below category. I think the Technics was better than my previous $6,000 Marantz reference sa-7s1 cd player (albeit not nearly as good as my current playback designs cd player which is better than even the exalted emm labs equipment I used to own)

I can almost guarantee a "professional" will not take the time to set up your table correctly. Tuning a turntable also requires one to listen carefully how it interacts with the cables, the preamp, and really..the whole system. My suggestion is that you do it will be a good learning experience, and you will feel better about yourself and your turntable
I had a small evolution from Rega belt drive to Thorens idler then to a Technics DD. I think the Thorens had more drive and impact than the Technics. The weak link in the idler is linkage and Lenco having more linkage than the other idlers wold fall last on the list.

In any case the lost of flutter, the wavering of sustained notes on piano and strings, is a major "go there."

Maybe the best belt drives do not suffer from flutter but I only have a certain limited budget. The idlers within my financial reach are primary and the Technics being a solid second.
Agree wholeheartedly w/ Stringreen - set up your own TT! It's not rocket science; it's just a slow and methodical process...and room for preference. Only you know what you prefer!

Jump in...good luck!
Gadfly, not sure I understand the linkage comment

Stringreen, I set my speakers and then my dealer came and set it up for good once the speakers had broken in and it sounds much better. I have great equipment with the darteel and a dedicated listening room and at least want to use a professional setup the tt and then I can tweak it from there for personal taste but at least then I have a baseline....if I knew someone who was in LA who was not a pro but was a grizzled analog vet to help me would love that but last time I tried to buddy up a local angeleno 'goner to maybe help he ignored me (even after I true to bribe him with free lunch at local restaurant
Congrats on a fine turntable! I have several Lencos and I must admit, I sometimes feel frustrated trying to explain why the Lenco is so darn good. As you state so well-superb, locked in speed, which translates to fantastic pace and rhythm.
I'm baffled by the " Lenco having more linkage than the other idlers" comment. The Lenco has minimal parts (linkage), it is simple, well executed Swiss engineering powered by an extremely powerful motor. As you say, a good heavy plinth is essential to absorb any vibration.
I've rebuilt many Lencos. They are works of beauty. I've seen other idlers- Garrards and Thorens- it is a mindboggling site of gears, belts, wheels, everything but the kitchen sink.
Like most Lenco converts, I'm certain you will fall in love with your LP collection all over again.
Enjoy and thanks for the post.
Here is the linkage under my Thorens TD111:

Here is the linkage under a Lenco:

It appears to have more vibrating parts.
I own both a Lenco in a "giant direct-coupled" plinth and a Garrard 301 chassis. I've not yet auditioned the Garrard 301, since it has no plinth. In comparing the Lenco to the Garrard and Thorens TD124 on paper, it seems to me that each is different from the other in important ways. The Lenco idler drives the platter in the vertical plane, so there's no eccentric pressure on the outer rim and hence the bearing. But on the other hand, there is the potential for a scrubbing effect where the circumference of the idler contacts the underside of the platter. The only potential vibrating parts are the idler arm and perhaps the mechanical brake, which many people remove. Jean Nantais recently remarked on the beneficial effects of firmly anchoring the idler arm to minimize its tendency to waver. The Garrard idler drives the rim in the horizontal plane and does have a lot of metal parts in its chassis, which however seem very robust. Mark Kelly has advised an adjustment to the eddy current brake that reduces its ability to be a source of noise. The Thorens uses a belt to drive an idler wheel, as I understand it. In my brief listening experiences with the TD124, I did not think it provided a very lively sound, but otherwise, I know little about it. I am soon going to have the opportunity to compare my Lenco to a Technics SP10 MkII, using the same tonearm and cartridge on each table. I look forward to the experience.
Have it professionally set up BUT only if you are sure that the person knows exactly what they are doing. I use to be an audio dealer and set up a lot of them. But I don't see as well now and would have mine set up if I knew someone good. But be warned, there are "experts" who couldn't set up a folding chair. I well remember the customer who proudly brought in his table and told me a dealer had set it up with a distortion analyzer. I was suspicious and checked it with a cartaline [alignment protractor]. It was about as far out of alignment as it was possible to get. Nevertheless, the customer forbade me to touch it on the grounds that I didn't have a distortion analyzer. It was customers like this that who drove me to declare that if I ever opened another audio business I would call it PBS audio, from the Biblical Injunction, Cast , etc. If you want to do it yourself make sure you have the proper tools. With the protractors I use I find it helpful to use masking tape to fasten the platter in one place so you can't jog it while lowering the stylus onto the protractor, but more modern ones may not require this.
Ps The new VPI drive system is the ultimate extension to the idler principal in that it drives the OUTSIDE of the platter instead of the inside and can therefore use a much larger drive wheel. I am again becoming an audio dealer and intend to try one of them eventually. As to VTA, in the old days what was considered the most important thing was stylus rake angle [SRA] the best results were usually achieved with the arm slightly lower on the pivot side than the stylus side. But all tracking angles are a compromise. It will vary between records. The best thing about arms like the Lustre 801 or the top VPI arms is that they can be easily adjusted while the record is playing. My SME iv will do this too, but not as well.
I've had two of Jean's Lencos (the newer one accommodates two tonearms including 12-inchers) and continue to be astonished by how great they sound. My old VPI TNT Mk II couldn't hold a candle to either of them. I doubt that adding an external drive wheel would make that much difference. The Lenco idler drive system is not only elegant and robust but offers easy and precise speed changes from 16 to 78 rpm and beyond. Dave
Dopogue...Regarding the VPI rim is a very significant upgrade. Your doubts will be put to rest if you give it a listen
Thanks, Stringreen, but since the Lenco cost a fraction of what the VPI rim drive does, I think I'll remain in blissful ignorance. Emphasis on blissful :-)
I think this is really horses for courses Both the 1210 and lenco you can upgrade a lot and turn them both into something special.
I heard a 401 and a lenco both on slatedeck with same arm and cart and I thought the 401 was better but both created great music so as I said it a case of horses for courses
I think both the verus and rim drive make excellent use of a old idea in a more modern context Using this apprach you can use a table with a better bearing and platter further increasing performance
Audiohifila: congrats on your new acquisition! I was actually interested in buying that table also but you snagged it just before I did. Anyways, glad it went to a good home and that you're enjoying it. After missing out on it I spent the weekend reading a copious amount of posts on Lencos and am very intrigued by the technology. I hate to buy something without actually hearing it and its hard to find one to audition but the vast majority of the posts are favourable so it may be worth a shot.
Audiohifila, reasons to learn set up for yourself (siding with Stringreen, etc.):

1. "Professional" set up is a meaningless term. Certainly a few dealers (such as Brook Berdan in LA area) have long experience and real knowledge, but how will you know you've selected a good one?

2. Vinyl playback demands more dedication than digital. It will help you in optimizing your system if you understand the basics of the interrelationships of stylus to arm to platter to record.

3. Few systems are static. What if you need to move your turntable, of it gets accidentally bumped, or we get a good So. Cal. seismic shaker? Wouldn't you like to be able to check things out without calling your "professional" again?

4. What happens every time you want to try something different? A new cartridge? A different mat?

5. Perhaps most important of all, what about the feeling that once you learn the proper procedure, you can always have the confidence in it has been done correctly?

Now you mentioned finding an analog vet to learn from, and that is certainly a possibility. But I'll venture to say most of us "grizzled vets" learned on our own. And today that is easier than 20+ years ago when we did it. There are lots of guides available on the internet with only a little searching. Fremer has his "how to" video, something I've not seen but it has received strong recommendations. Several audio books include full instructions, such as those by Laura Dearborn or Robert Harley. And remember a little "trial and error" can be a great educational tool -- you'll learn about the differences specific changes bring about.
I did not mean merely hire a professional but one that is an analog expert

The dealer I previously used elliot midwood is involved in the los angeles audio club and has hosted events and is not some crass retailer or analog neophyte....

I would not give a ferrari a tuneup but would rely on Ferrari expert. I will have elliot help me learn but want it setup neutrally and properly and then I can always tweak over time
I got one of Oregon's Lenco tables. I recently put a Graham phantom on it and a Denon 103r cartridge. Last night I lost sleep, because I could not pull myself away from it. The combination, and I've not used the Graham or the Denon on another table, was retrieving information that I've never heard before on albums (Wish You Were Here and Allman Brothers Live at Fillmore) that I've been listening to for years. My Lenco is in one of those big plinths and I hear no motor rumble or feedback or footfalls at all. YMMV. IMHO. ETC.

Supporting gear was a K and K phono stage, homemade Discovery wire phono cables unshielded, Berning microzotl headphone amp and AKG 701 headphones.

Audiohifila, I happen to know Elliot and agree he is knowledgeable so should do a good job. That information eliminates #1 from my list. Personally, I believe the other reasons remain valid for learning it yourself.

You obviously have a passion for finding/hearing the music you love. Hopefully with Elliot's guidance you will learn the procedure for yourself. While cartridge set up is not a casual task, I would hardly compare it to tuning the 12 little ponies (or even 8) of a Ferrari!

Good luck to you.
So are you guys saying the lenco has better speed stability than the technics?
To get the best out of either system requires a certain amount of time and effort both need a different approach to fully achive there potential and both are capable of sounding awesome
Interested in hearing how the Lenco is sounding
You got a great tt from a great owner

Reply when you get a chance

Wally from wally tools was at a local la audio club meeting giving a wonderful lecture on analog and had invited me to bring the lenco and he helped set the tt.

The table now that the shelter mk 2 is somewhat broken in sounds very musical with great imaging soundstage and bass

Of course the dartzeel preamp and amp plays a vital role but the lenco is certainly provides more of the analog yumminess than the technics

The technics with the Benz ace was like a ford mustang gt and the modified lenco with the shelter on a rega arm is like a porsche carrera in my setup
Have you tried the shelter on the technics?
yes shelter is playing on the lenco and sounds great....

Reviews of this cartridge in audiophile publications were accurate it's a winner
K, love the string except the analogy with the modified Mustang GT. My last car was an 06 Porche Carrara 4s, after having to have it in the shop all the time, and getting blown away by supped up Mustangs, I sold the Porche, bought a Cadillac CTS to drive every day and a convertible Mustang GT to play with.

After about $17k in mods my Mustang will blow the doors off my old 4s, not even close really, especially the massive torque available through a twin screw intercooled supercharger. It's won't beat a twin turbo Porche, at about 4 times the price, but it's pretty damn fast, and fun, and easy to maintain, and cheap, cheap, cheap. I'm keeping it, love pulling up to a stock Porche Carrera on the open freeway......
Mustangs are great cars!!! I used to own one.

I would say dollar for dollar it's the best sports car out there...corvette a pretty good deal too