Is idler drive better than belt drive or direct drive?


I’m sure this subject has been hashed out many times.
I am the proud owner of a Woodsong Garrard 301. Have owned belt drives and, long ago, a direct drive.
Just judging from the physicality of the idler drive and the result, I feel the idler drive gives more impact and drive to the music. This is very appealing. Believe belt drives significantly came into fashion since they are cheaper to make. I know there are several measurements which are less desirable, but the overall sound is most important and desired.
mglik
Dear @mglik : Next time could help you make your " work ":

https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/direct-drive-vs-idler-drive-vs-belt-drive


Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
R.
I own, and have owned, many turntables of all different drive technologies. I can't say that any one of them is better than the other, assuming that the technology is executed properly.

All turntable drive technologies have fans and detractors. All technologies have specific strengths and weaknesses. At the end of the day, how does it sound? My TD-124 sounds great. So does my Luxman PD-441 and Pear Audio Kid Howard. They also all sound different but after hundreds or thousands of hours I can't say which one sounds best. They all do.

IMO, the drive technology employed is less important than the symmetry between turntable, tonearm, cartridge, phono cable and phono stage. If it sounds great to you it sounds great. Period.

The most succinct answer to your question is: Rock, paper, scissors.
LOL. MC.. Crack me up...I'll take ROCK...

 I like direct drive, when it's party time...YUP. 

I like rim, idler with belt, and belt drive when I'm getting serious with the ol vinyl.. Not as often as it should be...RUSSCO.. Garrard KILLERS
Check them out. LOL they have a gear shift.. I love them..

I like hand made too.. fun to mess with..

I own them ALL, 401 (better unit) 301 better looking, TD124s, are a work of art... Russco/Sparta/GRK. 750 Fairchild (my personal favorite) got stolen.
24/7/365, for 30 years, then 200.00 USD worth of parts, another 30.

Regards
Here we go again. I do not know where this illusion that an idler wheel turntable has more "impact" and "drive." Music has impact and drive. Turntables do not. They just spin, hopefully at a constant and noiseless 331/3 RPM. Idler wheel drives are relatively a mechanical nightmare. They were necessary 1/2 a century ago to shift speeds and give a turntable enough torque so that a record could be slip Q -ed. Direct drive tables replaced them and radio stations never looked back. All these idler wheel tables out there were dirt cheap and great for cottage companies to mess around with the resurgence of vinyl. 
Even if an idler wheel table was quiet to begin with, with just a little wear  it won't be. Anybody with an excellent sub woofer system that operates flat to 18 Hz can not use one without turning on a rumble filter. As an idler wheel drive wears you get rumble, wow and flutter. As a belt drive wears you get just wow and flutter. Direct drive tables do not wear and they are the most accurate speed wise with just a few exceptions.
The only reason I would ever buy a vintage table is for a conversation piece. Impact and drive? Only by the power of suggestion.
There is no good or conclusive answer to this one as it all depends on system synergy and your personal preferences and obviously the tonearm, cartridge, phonostage, amp, speakers attached to it....lol.

Just too many variables to state anything conclusively.

As Mijo knows I am a big idler drive proponent owning a top flight refurbished Garrard 401 with a Micro Seiki MA505LS arm with various mc carts, Dynavector Karat ruby, Koetsu Black Goldline, Ortofon Cadenza Black etc.

Now I have recently acquired an Avid Diva 11 SP Belt drive TT that I am putting through its paces right now as a worthy challenger.

So far results are impressive but I would say it just does not have the low down drive and propulsion that the 401 does.
Now call that evidence of rumble if you will, I truly dont care as its in my system and my old ears like the sq and at the end of the day that is all you can say about it.

What I would most likely agree with here on Mijo post is that if you have an old idler drive that has worn parts then it is likely to sound worse faster than a worn belt drive table but there are MANY "cottage industry" suppliers to bring Garrard, Thorens, Dual etc more than back to life and vastly exceed original performance.

Yer pays yer money and takes yer chances!
They can all be good depending on the execution of the designer.  A well reconditioned idler at a modest price sounds wonderful to these ears.
What is important is that the turntable have a robust drive that does not slow down when the stylus lands in the groove and the like. So the motor should have a bit of torque! You'll find that the most respected machines have this quality and this is true of vintage machines like the Garrard. They usually also have a platter that is effective as a flywheel.

Its also important that the 'table have an effective plinth; effective in that it is both dead (well damped) and rigid in such a way that the bearing of the platter is very well coupled to the base of the tonearm. This insures minimum coloration on account of vibration.

mijostyn
2,419 posts
08-17-2020 6:41am
Here we go again.

18 hz, on a TT, that would be something... Most of my stuff is cut off at 35-40, just for that reason.. Heck the old 78 stuff, didn't go below 60.
There was nothing recorded below that. I have a LOT of the old stuff, sounds wonderful, but 18 hz has ZERO sound, lot of feeling though..:-)

28 hz on a TT, must sound like a train going buy all the time.. I don't push the sub bass issue with TT. I know you can I just don't. Better off with Reel to reel in the analog realm, going REAL low...

Regards
Better off with Reel to reel in the analog realm, going REAL low...
Keeping in mind of course that the LP has superior LF response when compared to reel to reel.
A very informative and interesting YouTube can be pulled up by:
“Garrard 301 vs Studer reel to reel”. Not only is this one of the best sound quality MP4s I have heard, it is a great comparison. When he changes from TT to Tape, you don’t want him to go back to TT!
Think it is about 15 minutes but well worth the time.
When he changes from TT to Tape, you don’t want him to go back to TT!
@mglik 

If the LP was not a direct to disk then this is very easy to see. Of course a lot depends on what was used for playback of the LP in the example.
I’ll tell you OP, Reel To Reel is cool, no doubt.

I had an Akai RtoR that had direct record/playback wired from the heads to a really good Summo analog differential preamp and power amp. Went completely around the preamp in the tape unit. It was a masterpiece, for playback. That was stolen with a Fairchild 750, C22, 2, MC240., oh yea, that was a bad day, night, week, month, and year. :-)

Reel-to-Reel is really good, the problem NOW, is cost, and quality of the existing tape left. Magnetic media, degrades.. No way around it... Sure sound and LOOKS good... Fun, too!

Regards
Oldhvymec, There is LOADS of low frequency "noise" on vinyl that has nothing to do with the music. I have several recently pressed records that were obviously done on a poorly maintained lathe as the records have some of the worse rumble I have ever heard. The first time this happened I though my bearing went bad. 
Many subwoofer systems start rolling off at 30-35 hz by 18 Hz they are perhaps 6 dB down and that is only one octave. My system also doubles for theater work and there is loads of bass down there. Just watch Ford vs Ferrari. 
Rumble can be very low down as are surface irregularities on the vinyl. I use a digital high pass filter that rolls off at 100 dB/oct starting at 18 Hz.
If I defeat it the woofers will start flapping from just vinyl irregularities wasting power and taking the subwoofer drivers out of the linear part of their excursion causing distortion. Remember you have a resonance frequency between 8 and 12 Hz if you set up your tonearm correctly so these frequencies are amplified. Unfortunately, Records are not perfectly flat. You will see woofer movement in any system plating vinyl usually fairly mild as most system do not do much below 30 Hz although there are plenty of threads about flapping woofers. With modern subwoofers, amplifiers that go right down to DC and room control this can become a huge problem. Most Room control units, at least the ones I am familiar with allow you to design filters which if you play vinyl is for all intents and purposes mandatory. 

A very informative and interesting YouTube can be pulled up by:
“Garrard 301 vs Studer reel to reel”. Not only is this one of the best sound quality MP4s I have heard, it is a great comparison. When he changes from TT to Tape, you don’t want him to go back to TT!

Well, I went there.
Sound quality is low fi at best, even allowing for MP4.
No low bass, mid bass so diffuse, sounded like it had a six pack of love handles.
Reel to reel was more tonally accurate, but surprisingly 301 did have some areas in the upper mid where there was more information, albeit somewhat coloured.
For the price of the system - garbage.


If the LP was not a direct to disk then this is very easy to see. Of course a lot depends on what was used for playback of the LP in the example.
Yep, no mention of cartridge.
SME arm is so so, mid fi at best. You can hear the upper mid saturation endemic in those arms if you know them.
I demoed some thirty year old MIT 330/750 Shotgun to a guy with Tellurium Q Diamond all through his system - the Tellurium Q ( over $10k ) never went back in again. The Tellurium Q Diamond was significantly down in resolution compared to the 30 yr old basic MIT.

Chord electronics - mid fi at best.

Pretty underwhelming demo really. Sad advertisement for hi end audio.

By the way - tapes have massive droppoff in high frequency over time, not to mention bleed through ( from layer to layer ). I used to import Reference recordings - talk to Keith Johnson about tape quality, there is no decent tape made any more since the 60's.
At least the vinyl is more robust in maintaining performance over a longer period of time, provided you are not ham fisted and habitually abuse your records.

And of course, if you dont like a record they make great placemats or frisbees - yep, vinyl records were into recycling long before the greenies arrived.

By the way - tapes have massive droppoff in high frequency over time, not to mention bleed through ( from layer to layer ). I used to import Reference recordings - talk to Keith Johnson about tape quality, there is no decent tape made any more since the 60's.
If tape is properly cared for the highs will hold up just fine. Regarding the tape quality thing, what Keith was talking about is tape shedding. Tapes made on acetate don't shed much and so they store better than tape made on polyester. That change happened in the late 1960s. But if polyester based tape is stored properly (low humidity) then it won't shed. By baking a polyester tape at the right temperature you can reduce shedding dramatically. But beyond that, tape made today dramatically outperforms any tape made in the 1960s or before!
That was the problem, I was having. Keeping up with good tape, having to purchase it NOW.. oh yea, it was abandoned, by me over 30 years ago just for that reason. Limited supply and a LOT of the newer stuff wasn't holding up very well, to boot. I sure like some of the features though.

Cassette, then 4 track, then 8 track, then cassette finally took off, yet all that time vinyl was still being used by most serious stereo guys. Tape was a changing format, and not for the better. Reel to Reel, new production is VERY expensive, I've only seen custom request tapes, figure the cost on those. 500-1000.00 usd

Regards
@oldhvymec  You can still get recording tape including cassettes- talk to the good folks at ATR.


If you get some Silica Gel packets and a plastic bag, throw in the packet when you store the tape in its bag in its box. It lasts a lot longer before you have to bake it!
If we modified a impact testing rig so the given edge of the moving or rotating platter could impact upon said impact gear, we could probably prove, via data obtained... that idler wheel is better than belt or direct drive.

I suspect that with only a truly massive platter in play -- does this advantage finally go away to some degree.

It’s an "instantaneous torque at any given point under a constantly varying dynamic transient load" issue.

Only the idler has it.
@teo_audio
If we modified a impact testing rig so the given edge of the moving or rotating platter could impact upon said impact gear, we could probably prove, via data obtained... that idler wheel is better than belt or direct drive.

Not necessarily, the main advantage the old idlers have is the size of their motors and that most of them are AC/hysterisis type motors which self correct if the motor starts to lag. The weakness of most belt drives is their small motors & elastic rubber belt. The problem with DC motors and direct drive is that its like digital - only a little bit out ALL of the time. DC motors have zero torque at a constant speed, only when they change speed does the torque go above zero.
Thats why DC motors need feedback/computators to maintain speed.
Furthermore if you look at the response of AC and DC motors to lag, AC motors recover sinusoidally, whereas DC motors recover trapezoidally.  In other words DC motors recovery from speed aberrations is rough compared to AC.

Here is my Final Audio Parthenon with big AC motor, silk thread belt & 26kg platter and record clamp. The motor is controlled by sine & cosine wave generators and driven by a 60wpc Onix Audio OA60 power amplifier. All cabling in the turntable motor drive is phase coherent MIT Oracle.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwugFlbCOww
Video playing Carol Kidd ( Linn Record) Dynavector Cartridge, banging the record with knuckle.

Try that with your Linn, Oracle or TW Acustic.
By the way I also have a personally rebuilt/restored Garrard 301 idler ( higher spec than your run of the Artisan Fidelity & Classic Audio 301's ), close but no cigar - cant compete with the string drive Final in speed and precision. The key here is that the silk thread does not stretch.

Oh, forgot to mention the string drive Final was built in the 70’s.


Post removed 
atmasphere8,587 posts08-21-2020 2:50pm@oldhvymec You can still get recording tape including cassettes- talk to the good folks at ATR.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>.

You know I still have a lot of tape, cassette (3m 1969). One is actually a recording of the little band we had going as kids. Trumpet, drums, lead guitar, and pans (lead singer could multi-task) I had two tapes just packed with all the local kids around that played. One held up very well one didn't.
THEN, Reel to Reel was a dream for us kids. 4-8 tracks were all the rage. For a while LP in cars. I saw a couple in Ford Thunderbirds.

I have three legal folder storage boxes, of tapes stored in anti-static bags. I'll never use them... The quality just isn't there compared to my least expensive CD/SDAC, streaming, heck even the music channel.

I admit also my playback for the tapes is not high quality, for sure..
Sony (still my personal favorites) but in real need of overhaul/service.

Regards