Micro Seiki BL-111, how good is it ?


Hi,
I have been looking to try out a belt drive TT. I was suggested to look at Micro Seiki options, especially RX-1500 and RX-5000. I have not yet been able to locate a reasonably priced ones. But I have an option of buying a well maintained BL-111 for a good price. How good is the 111 ?

P.S: I am not very enchanted with the modern TT offerings. 
pani
I have a RX1500 along with the outboard motor and vacuum options.   I am very pleased with it and see no need to replace it with a newer unit.  Personally, I think it is good enough to run with the newer big buck units.  

Keep in mind that this is old school engineering, so low noise, low torque, was king of engineering.   Today we have motors and drive electronics that simply didn't exist 30 years ago.   I am looking at designing a new motor control board with a new BLDC motor assembly, to bring the design current with modern thinking.   However, as it stands, it is a very good unit and generally easy to service.  

To answer your question though, I don't have any personal experience with the BL-111 unit.   It is made by MS, so I suspect it is a pretty good unit right off.   Check out the torque by using a dry record brush and see how it slows down.   Listen to it with an LP which has sustained piano solos, those are usually pretty tough to get right on TT's.  Listen for rumble, feedback, and other anomalies.   If the unit passes to your satisfaction, grab it!  
If it’s as good as the BL-91, it’s exceptional. If, as the higher number suggests, it’s even better, I can’t imagine how. If it has the 505 tonearm, I’m not a big fan. It’s very good, don’t get me wrong, with a great feature I’ve never seen elsewhere: VTF on the fly. But to hear the 111’s maximum potential, I might consider other arms. The 505’s resale value is high, so a change would be at least partially self-financing.
That’s a beauty! Unfortunately I never heard it, but I expect the BL-111 to be a good deal better than the BL-91. Why? Well, for one thing the BL-111 has a 10 kg gunmetal plateau as standard. The basic version of the BL-91 (and the RX-1500 for that matter) have aluminium plateaus, called the RT-2000A.

The Micro belt (or string) drive turntables start to get really interesting with the models equipped with the high mass gunmetal plateaus. For the BL-91 and RX-1500 (who share the same bearing) there is an upgrade possibility to a gunmetal version of its plateau, called the RT-2000G. I own both the BL-91 and RX-1500 and in both cases replaced the standard aluminium plateaus. Original gunmetal plateaus are impossible to find as separate items, but thankfully exact replica’s in either brass or stainless steel are available. I can assure you that the performance jump in both cases was not subtle. The BL-111 is already at this level as standard, no upgrades required!

Compared to the BL-91 the BL-111 also has a far more substantial chassis (23kg for BL-91G versus 36kg for the BL-111!), including a heavy one piece metal part connecting the arm base with the bearing house providing more structural rigidity. It also seems to have more substantial footers than the BL-91 ones  (which I replaced as they are rather crappy).

Based on these features I would guess the performance of the BL-111 will be somewhere between the BL-91G and the RX-1500G versions. In my experience that would be about the best you can get this side of $10k. So if your sample is in good condition, go for it and install the best arm you can afford.

One final advise: the Micro gunmetal plateaus have a bell like ringing which needs to be dampened. This issue has been discussed extensively in previous threads. In my experience Micro’s own CU-180 copper mat is ideally suited as it effectively kills the ringing without killing the table’s liveliness and dynamics. To be honest I think Micro did itself and its customers a disservice to sell the CU-180 as an optional item. It should have been included as a mandatory part of the gunmetal plateau equipped tables.

PS before my acquaintance with these Micro’s I had several of these modern TT offerings, the last one firmly on the wrong side of $10k. I haven’t regretted my ’backward’ step for one moment.



@edgewear — Have you used the SAEC SS-300? I’d like to know your impressions.
@bimasta,
I have no experience with the SS-300, but several members here speak highly of it. I think they mostly use it with high torque DD's like Technics SP-10 and Victor TT-81.

I did try the CU-180 with the BL-91's standard aluminium plateau and it was a serious improvement over the regular rubber mat. The SS-300 will likely have a similar effect.
I listened to the BL-111 at one of the stores here. Great resolution and dynamics. Very quiet background. But it didnt have the get up and go immediacy. It had a laidback attitude althroughout. Overall flow was somewhat mechanical. I dont know what could be the issue. The phonostage was a ARC Ref 2se. Tonearm was FR64fx.
What cartridge? And what mat if any? A laidback attitude or 'mechanical' flow are not characteristics that I associate with the gunmetal Micro’s I’m familiar with, nor with the FR-64fx......
No mat. Cartridge was Denon 301
That would explain your ’issue’. Frankly, putting a Denon 301 (mkII I assume?) at the front end of an analog set up like this makes no sense to me at all. I don’t know the rest of the system they used for the demo, but the BL-111 / FR-64fx combo and the ARC Ref 2se phono amp clearly deserve something MUCH better than the Denon.

The 301 is sometimes described as the low output version of the DL-160. Both are high compliance carts originating from the 80’s requiring a low mass arm. Contrary to what it says on its VTF dail, the FR-64fx is NOT a low mass arm. So it looks like you have been ’served’ by a technical mismatch as well as a quality mismatch. It’s clear to me you didn’t get to hear what this table and arm are capable of. What a shame.