Jean Nantais Reference Lenco Mk2 vs Mk3


Friends,
I am contemplating buying an Idler drive turntable to my system. I already have a good belt drive (Verdier) and this is for a change of taste. I listened to a Garrard and it was doing definitely something that I havent heard any belt drive TTs do. It wasnt as nuanced as my Verdier though. I have been exchanging emails with Jean Nantais. He said he could build me either a Garrard or a Lenco. Since his Lenco recipe has been very popular I decided to go with his Reference Lenco. However, there are two versions that I have to choose from, Mk2 and Mk3. The price difference is close to $2500. Will appreciate some advice on choosing between the two. If anyone has heard these versions it will be really helpful to get an opinion on their sonic signature.
pani
How do you know what you heard is because of the drive mechanism, and not something else?
To add to Zd542's remark, keep in mind that the Lenco L75 and Garrard 301, while they are both top quality idlers, do sound at least a little different and are very different from one another in terms of design and topology of the drive system. Personally, I prefer the Lenco, but many others prefer the Garrard. Both will give you that idler liveliness, but in different ways. Even with Garrard alone, there are grease bearing and oil bearing types between which to choose. You may want to audition a Lenco, if possible, before assuming that the Lenco will give you whatever it was that captured your fancy when you heard the Garrard. (Again, I do think you would like the Lenco at least as much as the Garrard, but that's only my opinion.)

Beyond that, it is probably not a good idea to decide between the Mk2 and Mk3 versions of JN's current plinths by asking a bunch of strangers for their opinions. I guess the one that costs more is supposed to sound better. I'm sure you've figured that out.
Lenco site forum may be better for you...
Sure, will post this thread on Lenco Heaven
Lenco heaven is for diy, and I don't think there are people who know the Nantais mkII or mk III. I personally build mine after reading the famous review by Salvatore on highendaudio.
I think J Nantais has such an experience now (the finish of the first one was not really very good) that it may be hard to build the equivalent of Nantais last ones.
The best way I think is to ask on lencoheaven if someone lives in his area to listen to a lenco with dedicated plinth.
Pani - The MKIII changes are described on Jean's website.

couple points taken from there.

But, my new chassis is indeed now separated into two parts: the business end of the chassis (bottom where the main bearing, idler-wheel and motor are fixed) is a self-contained single unit, completely separate from the aesthetic part of the chassis which sits above it.

I furthermore had the top decorative/speed part machined from solid, so eliminating the need to pour glass-epoxy into the voids of the original [very good sounding] chassis to further reduce resonances, while improving on it again. The exterior part is made from non-magnetic aluminium, another improvement on the original ferrous/magnetic chassis in terms of safety for the very magnetic phono cartridges.

As far as impressions I do own a JN table (a unique one) See my system page. If you would like more info feel free to pm or contact me there.

Cheers
Actually, there is some information missing even on my own website, as the process to make changes to it is very cumbersome (I have lessons scheduled with my website designer to make my own changes soon).

The Reference Lenco MKIII revision of the original Reference Lenco also includes a new "Ultimate" main bearing, meant for the "Ultimate" Lenco I am working on (to receive a different name when it's ready). In order to accurately assess the contribution of each factor of the "Ultimate" Lenco, I designed each element to fit the existing "control" which was the Reference Lenco MKII plinth and chassis.

So, the two-part chassis is an imitation of the original chassis in terms of dimensions, and the "Ultimate" main bearing was ultimately tested in it. While the two-part chassis was clearly an improvement on the Reference Lenco MKII chassis (tested with the Reference Lenco MKII main bearing and parts in order to isolate the sonic contribution of the chassis), and the "Ultimate" main bearing was clearly an improvement on the Reference main bearing in the Reference Lenco MKII chassis, the two together - two-part chassis and "Ultimate" main bearing - proved to be greater than the sum of their parts, and all the calculations made and the design repeatable, I made the Reference Lenco MKIII official.

While I have sold quite a few Reference Lenco MKIIIs, only a few had their Reference Lenco MKIIs upgraded to it. Salvatore wrote a review of it comparing the MKII with the MKIII. Further letters/reviews will be forthcoming on my website, along with a revised and correct description and photos, at www.idler-wheel-drive.com

If anyone wants further information, please contact me via my website.

Jean Nantais
I recommend looking at PTP Audio's website as another option for a pre-built modified Lenco. Peter Reinders has been custom designing top plates and bearings and rebuilding Lencos for a good number of years. His custom Lenco utilizes his PTP 5, and custom bearing, and a Corain plinth.

Many of the members of Lenco Heaven use his Top Plates. I use his PTP5 coupled with a Mirko platter and bearing. If you would like to hear how it sounds, I can give you access to a drop box for a hi-definition file. I have shared this with 3 others on Audio Asylum. Just send me a PM.
With regards to the specific question of this post, let's remember that the main ingredient of the Reference Lenco MKIII is the Reference Lenco.
The original Reference Lenco itself was deemed Upper Class A by Salvatore, equal to or superior in every way to every 'table Arthur had owned or heard, including his Forsell, Goldmund Studio with T3-F tonearm and Versa Dynamics 1 & 2, see his website for the detailed review. Mono and Stereo in Europe agrees with his findings: "Jean Nantais Reference Lenco MKII turntable finally arrived at Mono & Stereo. This is another highlight of the year and a "killer" that brought down to the knees many upper echelon turntables like TW Acustic flagship etc." The Reference Lenco MKIII includes a faithful copy of the original Lenco chassis, with improvements, new bearing, new linkages.

I went from a mk2 to mk3 last summer. This is how I would put it.
The image stretches out beyond the edge of the speakers (whereas before it was confined within); the image is now pin-point whereas before there was some diffuseness. The intelligibility (i,e. the ability to make out individual performers) took a big step up; I am hearing detail on audiophile LPs I’ve never heard before. The bass is tighter and deeper than before and the sound floor has dropped. I notice it now takes much longer for the platter to come to a stop, due to the new main bearing (increased speed stability being responsible for much of the improvements I think, along with rigidity and a simply better bearing). My experience is that each new offering from Jean elevates the information extraction and enjoyment to another level, and the MK3 is significant in that regard.

I should like to emphasize that with the MK3, we now have a substantially evolved record spinner that only retains the motor and transmission mechanisms from the original Lenco. Everything else is of his own design. The so-called Nantais plinth recipe is itself unique as he uses a special set of aged wood layers specifically chosen and combined for their clarity, accuracy and musicality. The customer's ability to choose custom veneers and stains makes his product even more striking and always visually stunning.

His website is very informative and describes the product levels; the good thing is that one can start at the MK2 level and upgrade when funds permit. Either way, you will have a world-class table that you can be proud to own. I know I am.