Building high-end 'tables cheap at Home Despot II

“For those who want the moon but can't afford it or those who can afford it but like to have fun and work with their hands, I'm willing to give out a recipe for a true high-end 'table which is easy to do, and fun to make as sky's the limit on design/creativity! The cost of materials, including 'table, is roughly $200 (depending, more or less), and add to that a Rega tonearm. The results are astonishing. I'll even tell/show you how to make chipboard look like marble and fool and impress all your friends. If there's interest I'll get on with this project, if not, I'll just continue making them in my basement. The next one I make will have a Corian top and have a zebra stripe pattern! Fun! Any takers?”

The Lead in “Da Thread” as posted by Johnnantais - 2-01-04

Let the saga continue. Sail on, oh ships of Lenco!
Though I don't use a L75 (GL55 with heavy platter mod) , my favourite combo, so far is Schick+SPU, but it's only a matter of personal taste in the end ;-)
You're not gonna believe this, Oregon, but my current favorite arm/cart on a JN-replinthed Lenco L75 had a TOTAL brand new cost of $340. It's the 12-inch cherry wood tonearm sold here on Audiogon for $200, bearing a Pickering TL-2S offered for years by a U.K. seller for $140 (unfortunately he's out of them). I'll probably go back at some point to my $3500 (MSRP) rig, nameless for now, but the el-cheapo combo is top dog. Dave
Speaking of building and testing, here are the preliminary results of the Mighty SME 30 vs Mighty Lenco Shootout!!

As you all should know by now, the Lenco in question is a standard Lenco L75/L78 (same difference), with its cavities filled in with marine-grade glass-epoxy in order to kill resonances without sacrifing dynamics (by using energy-kiling materials such as sorbothane & etc. which also indiscriminately kill off natural musical dynamics), Direct Coupled to a massive Russian birch-ply/MDF plinth for a total of 100 pounds. The Lenco itself has had none of its parts replaced, only restored by various manners. The original mat was glued in place, the main bearing is orginal with no tweaks, the motor is restored and rebalanced with no replacement of parts or power conditioners. Basically an original Lenco, restored and Direct Coupled, set on a marble/acrylic slab. The tonearm is a SME IV and is combined with a Clearaudio Concerto cartridge. Why it you ask? Well, the SME 30 is after all a $40K turntable from a very serous engineering company, and is furthermore mounted with a state of the art Graham Phantom tonearm and a Benz LP cartridge, all VERY heady stuff. The tube preamp/phono preamp was set for low-output MCs only, and so I couldn't bring in my JMW/Decca combo. The Concerto was the only available high-end MC in the shop (and I got agood deal for the SME IV ;-)), so I trusted myself to the Audio Gods and bought it: turns out the Concerto/SME combo is superb, Hallelujah!! The system consisted of top-of-the-line Atma-Shere electronics (BOY was it hot in that listening room!) matched to Sound Lab ESLs.

Good thing I went to these lengths too, as it turns out the SME 30 is after all a superb, World Class turntable (but said owner, Rick, being extremely generous of spirit, instantly deemed the Lenco World Class too), and the results were very close indeed in audiophile terms, and in fact is not yet settled on many counts: the cartridge loading was right for the Benz LP at 500 ohms, but badly off for the Clearaudio Concerto, which requires 47K into a tubed preamp according to the manual, we'll attend to that in Round Two.

The shootout was very good and favoured, musically-speaking, the Lenco, which it was admitted by the owner of the SME had superior rhythm, SLAM (punchiness), musical excitement and gestalt/music-as-an-organic-whole. But, the SME 30 was much better than I thought (it being a belt-drive and all ;-)). The bass was pretty well a toss-up for now, with the SME being superior on some recordings, and the Lenco being superior on others. Overall, the Lenco's bass was, given the right recording, more powerful and deeper with more impact and detail. But on other recordings, the Lenco was less well-defined and the SME took the lead. The Lenco was superior on all records in terms of PRaT, or Rhythm, Pace and Timing, admitted by the owner of the SME 30 as well (did I mention he is extremely genrous of spirit?). The owner, a bass player, thought the Lenco coloured in the bass and the SME neutral. I thought that this was recording-dependent, that the better the bass recording (the deeper and more natural), the better the Lenco retrieved it over the SME. Seems as well to be an issue of neutrality vs colouration: if your definition of neutral is more on the dry side, then yes, the Lenco's bass seems more tube-like. If your definition of bass is that it should be naturally "juicy", then the Lenco's bass is more natural and so neutral. It is not known how much of the Lenco's bass in the Shootout is in fact attributable to both cartridge loading, and to the natural sound of the Concerto (which is found by some to have "loose" bass, but which is not evident on all recordings, the bass on some records being superb and astounding). Same applies of course to the Graham/Benz combo.

Both 'tables were very detailed, but in the midrange the Lenco was the clear winner, resolving detail better, revealing relations both in terms of timing and raw detail/separation of instruments. Also, there was more "swing" and dynamics, and a more overall natural sound and gestalt/magic. Again, judgment came down to what was more neutral, and what was more coloured (transparency and detail-retrieval aside). Should music be as magical as it was via the Lenco, and was the SME in fact telling the truth/being more neutral? We'll get back to that, and the Shootout continues for a couple of weeks.

In the highs the SME was the clear winner, being more extended and resolving more air, but we'll hopefully address that by correcting the loading issue.

Now, both turntables were declared by all present incredible and World Class, the question being that vexing question of neutrality vs colouration. Now, the owner of the SME 30 felt the SME was more neutral, that the Lenco was coloured, but freely admitted the Lenco was superb and World Class, and both were about even overall. And here I will make a stab at some Socratic argumentation in order to effect a Paradigm Shift in his thinking. To wit: what is music's most immediate and obvious characteristic? Answer: musicality. According to this iron-bound logic then, it is the 'table which transmits less of this musicality which is the more coloured, and the table which retrieves more of this characteristic which is more neutral.

We have all undergone an incorrect Paradigm Shift in recent audio times with the rise of digital, and have equated this far more dry and matter-of-fact presentation
(and seemingly more scientific with the inclusive complex mathematics and computer/elctronics trickery) with neutrality. This is a faulty yardstick, the real yardstick should be live music, as The Absolute Sound suggests, which is NEVER dry and analytical. According to this, the Lenco, juicy and magical and entertaining as it is, is in fact more neutral, while the more matter-of-fact/cerebral SME 30 is more coloured/digital. Of course, everyone will draw their own conclusions and express/yield to their own tastes. And, furthermore, the Shootout is far from over, more conclusions, feelings and so on ahead as we next tend to the Concerto's cartridge loading and open the doors to more witnesses.

This is all very exciting, and I would like a BIG round of applause to Rick, who is extremely generous of spirit and open-minded, and who made this all possible!! Wish there more out there like him!!

Have fun all, I'm hoping the Reinderspeter top-plate Lenco will be ready in time to throw into the ring as well!! Have fun all!
Very interesting - and even handed too. Who ever said that this thread was all about hyperbole? :) I can vouch for the fact that a cartridge that needs to be loaded at 47K sounds terrible at 1K or lower - killing the air. So, in a way, the results are even more impressive.

Jean, are you considering anything special for Peter's plate - in terms of material?

I just ordered Trans-fi's Terminator - due any day now - and was thinking of making a dedicated plinth. My two arm plinth (a mix of mdf, birch ply and drywall) continues to fight me all the way - now the stain wont dry. Boo Hoo. Pics soon to come.

Hi Mike, the proof that it was never hyperbole is here!! And I always wanted to know what the Lenco as-is could do, Direct Coupling and all that leaving the machine itself untouched, more in the way of "excavating" the Mighty Lenco's capabilities, like excavating a lost city from a mound of rubbish, than modification. Once one interferes with/replaces the original machine's parts, then one loses sight of what it could do all along, of the context.

So, further developments: the owner of the SME 30 now also concedes the Lenco superiority in the bass, though there are now newer mitigating circumstances even here. In removing the loading resistors from the phono stage and so going to a 47K loading for the Concerto, he found that both machines improved vastly (as per Harry Pearson's preference for loading ALL MCs at 47K), so now we have a whole new shootout! I'll find out more tomorrow when I go in for more auditioning myself.

Peter's top-plate will be Direct Coupled to the usual Russian birch-ply/MDF recipe, so I will hear exactly what it brings to the party. THEN I will slowly replace parts with improved bearing kits and so on and climb the Idler Ladder and report in detail. As written, I hope to finish the Reinderspeter top-plate Lenco in time to match it against the SME 30 as well.

A buddy of mine who had my Electro-Voice speakers in his system can no longer live with current speakers, and is preeparing to buy a pair of Klipsch Cornwalls. Hooray for Progress ;-)!!! Have fun all.