TOWNSHEND ELITE ROCK MARK 2 UPGRADES
I am writing this post in part about upgrades, and in part as an update on what I have.
Just to recap I bought a Townshend Elite Rock Mark 2 with a Pickering XSV4000 cartridge and a Mission/Jelco arm.
I always had a soft spot for the Townshend since I was a teenager, and when the chance came up to buy one I snapped it up. I did a short review elsewhere in Audiogon.
I could not find a Townshend Rock Reference for sale they are very rare and the owners have the good sense to hold onto theirs.
I have the good fortune of having a Townshend Seismic Stand (the air pump type). This meant that installing the 'bellows' suspension from the Reference was not going to make a huge difference.
What I found to be holding the deck back was the drive unit. It uses an airpax/premotec motor running from an on off mains switch. Townshend make a merlin power supply, but there were a couple of problems that I perceived:
1. an original one wasn't available
2. it is an AC regenerator that is simply a single phase design
3. there is no pitch control
Now, I tried to use the drive unit from my amazon model one, this is battery powered and 'off-board'. I hooked it up and the belt kept falling off because the platter on the Townshend is angled.
Now my memory when auditioning decks was that the DPS 2 had superb timing and a solidity to the sound belying its' size. This was largely attributable to the Berger Lahrs motor that it uses.
Earlier this year someone had for sale an original DPS2 motor and power supply for sale. He was getting the three phase DPS power supply and motor upgrade. I snapped it up for a decent price.
Now the identity of the berger lahrs motor was known to me, and Schneider sent me a copy of the specs. It is much more torquey than the premotec, but is also higher RPM at 50hz. I must say that the single phase power supply still cogged a fair bit. The DPS has a unique 'resistive' bearing whicch I couldn't emulate with the Elite, so I bought some very thick grease from Lucas Oil. Quick digression but i have an amusing tale about the grease purchase. I was at my local copy shop getting a cartridge refill when I mentioned to the guy that I had to shoot off on a 20 mile trip before a motor parts shop stocking the said oil was about to shut. Lo and behold the copyshop owner went to the back of the store and returned with a new pot of Lucas Extra Heavy (the thing I wanted to buy). He said it was mis-delivered to him and sold me the tub for £5.00 (retail is over £15.00.
Anyway, back on track. My next 'upgrade' was not so much an upgrade as a necessity. This is the platter. As I said earlier the Townshend Elite has an angled platter, and the DPS runs a belt around the circumference. So after a series of google searches, and emails I got Tizo Acetyl to make a platter to my spes. The platter now being acrylic.
The belt. It's a real pain in the neck to get a peripheral belt. I ordered one that was the wrong size (too long) and then when I asked for an exchange or discount for a further belt the answer was a disappointing 'no'. Please don't make my silly mistake.
Anyway I tried the belt, and the platter was running fast. Not only that but there was palpable cogging. I am sure the DPS bearings rids the problem.
So this got me thinking and researching again. I considered the Heed Orbit amongst other AC power supplies, along with the VPI, and Linn Armageddon. I eventually chanced upon a power supply from a really nice German chap called Dr Berhard Fuss. He was able to custom make a power supply, that had switchable speed and also had accurate pitch control.
Bringing it all together this last week was a realisation of a mini dream for me.
The original deck had the inherent flaw of anything using the phillips/airpax/premotec motor. first of all the buzz in the motor imparts a mini haze into the overall sound. Yes it's musical, but it lacks detail (like a slightly out of focus picture). Not only that but image stability is wayward - probably due to the lack of torque leading to the collapse of image and slurring on busy passages. I know many say that Linns are famous for 'timing' but I am not sure if this is due to over enthusiasitic revving like a small car revving as opposed a real toquey V8 brute to power through.
So what were the results?
I think that my approach has fulfilled everything I set out to achieve, and possibly a bit more.
I have to say that the sound is both more digital and musical at the same time.
To my ears the most noticeable thing was that things just locked into place in the way a camera snaps things into focus. The noise floor dropped as well. This led to much better dynamic contrasts from quiet to loud passages. It was a bit shy of my Amazon Model One in this regard which has an exceptionally low noise floor by virtue of it's DC Motor and battery power supply. When this happens the images also become more stable and solid. Rather interestingly the images seemed smaller at first. On closer listening i realised this was because the better defined delineation meant that there was less splashing and creep into other elements in the soundstage. Bass was going deeper than before, but was tighter as well.
The best thing about the sound was that things projected more, and everything fealt more live than before. I always thought, and took the view that when things became more accurate in timing, there will be tendancy to say things are more CD like. In simplistic terms this may be true. But the projection meant there was a more connected 'live' feeling that made things so much more musical and organic. One often expects that where a turntable goes more CD like it becomes: colder, more grey, more clinical. In this case nothing could be further from the truth. The sytem was more musical in the way I was more engaged in the sound produced.
The other parts in my vinyl set-up are as follows:
- Vendetta SCP2a (recapped with new IC's by Brett Hunnisett)
- Lavardin IT amp
- Lavardin interconnect
- Nordost Heimdall loudspeaker cable
- Yamaha Ns1000m speakers
I have other upgrades to try out, such as:
Nordost Tyr tonearm cable
Moerch DP6 Arm
Transfiguration Temper V
Helius Omega tonearm
I also need to try out some polycarbonate arm boards, possibly others as well...
First and foremost a single element of improvement won't do the trick alone. In my case a change of motor meant new pulleys, a new belt. new power supply and even a new platter.
Secondly don't be scared to put your theories into practice - trust your ears.
Third - it ain't gonna be cheap - don't skimp. that said the mods will be worth it.
Fourth - I do not think the mods are too deck specific - give them a try as well.