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!
I say again, it would be interesting to try to make the comparison more "scientific" by using at least the same cartridge on the two turntables, granting that swapping tonearms is just too much of a pain in the arse to ask of Rick. (I know I wouldn't want to do it, were I the owner of the SME30.) Or, you could possibly swap cartridges and listen to see whether the differences you hear and ascribe to the respective turntables are indeed due to properties of the turntables or the cartrdidges. Having said all that, the differences you and Rick describe do pretty well fit with reviews of the SME30 (neutral, analytical, maybe a bit dry compared to some others) and the Lenco of my direct experience and as described by others, too.
Hi Lew, everyone seems to agree with you, including me! We'll see how curious Rick gets in the end, already this is a fabulous experience on all sorts of fronts, from straightforward audiophile experiments through philosophy to exposing the different ways people perceive and experience sound!! I couldn't give a damn about "neutrality" (beyond retreiving as much of the information as I can from the grooves with all its natural energy and timing intact, and actually proper tonal balance too which DOES contribute to the musical experience) as I focus on enjoyment/my definition of musicality which I consider paramount (I want that "frisson"); while Rick's Holy Grail is precisely the reverse in his main system, with a focus on revealing what is actually on the pressing and nothing else (we disagree on what is actually in the groove, as I believe these "colourations" are supposed to be there...once the high frequencies are attended to). Not that he doesn't intensely appreciate the "magic" of the Lenco as I witnessed, and so, as I understand it, is now toying with the idea of a specialized UN-neutral vintage system for this very reason, he just doesn't want it in his Reference System.

There's another area here too, as this high-frequency rolloff in Rick's system is quite pronounced, he reports measuring only 10K. Though the Concerto does roll off at 14K (and so highlights this loss), I also have a hard time believing this leads to the loss of air and high-frequency minutiae which I do indeed retrieve in my own two systems, but which disappears on Rick's. Where'd the missing 4K go? I have heard Lencos in almost-countless ribbon and electrostatic systems, in high-end dynamic driver systems, NOT vintage, all of which are said to extend well beyond 20K, and never a high-frequency rolloff reported or heard (in fact improvement), as those who have heard Lencos before or currently know VERY well. Lencos and Garrards in the same plinths have replaced all sorts of current high-end belt-drives, from the "usual" Linn LP12s and others at this size/price-point, also NOT considered rolled off in the high frequencies, through several VPI TNTs and, Platine Verdiers and various Nottinghams up through the top Dais (I think top), the top Der Plattenspeiler - also considered one of the most neutral belt-drives ever made - and throw in a SME 10. Are we to assume these are set up in frequency-limited systems which don't reveal the Lenco's limitations? No, since Lencos are set up in identical systems to Rick's, even with some improvements/upgrades. So, is this due to the Cardas cable I was forced to rely on as well? A cable burn-in issue? There's some mystery here, I'll need to do some research. I may in fact make balanced cables from scratch this weekend using my fave ultra-thin solid core, which is not rolled off, at least in comparison with Cardas, and burn it in in advance.

Evidently Rick's system is ultra-high resolution, enough so to make cable issues ultra-obvious. I went in, evidently overconfident, and didn't think any obvious bottleneck like crappy cables (but I did spend real money on the best I could get, hence the Cardas) would impede the Lenco's inexorable advance ;-). But, as written before the SME is a VERY serious Contender, as one would expect from a real engineering company's Statement on record player design, and one cannot be cavalier on ANY issue (and I Thank God I took it seriously enough to buy the Concerto, otherwise it really would have been a slaughter).

On the Lenco Front, I took care of the faulty slider mechanism (replaced it with another) and now it is solid, and the resulting sound is incredible (it was before, but now with CONTROL) via my Electro-Voice system: ultra precise and fast, with incredibly focused dynamics (meaning it is concentrated and controlled in bursts of intense energy). The highs are there, air in abundance, and high-frequency minutia obvious and precise, using my usual Petra/Music Boy interconnects (the VPI JMW has RCA's on the back). It's possible that the wobbly wheel smeared and exaggerated certain effects leading to Rick's current judgment, and of course switching to the fab VPI tonearm makes significant changes too, from the bass, which now sounds very precise and controlled, through to the highs, which sound extended, airy and delicate, in MY system. Let's hope this translates to Rick's. More and more I see no choice but to make new Neutrik balanced cables, home-made style, and burn them in using a tuner, in order to remove this possibility.

O, and Mario, sorry I forgot about your question: you have the process exactly right, I simply use a caulking gun (acrylic/fast-dry) to make dikes around the needed mechanisms, which I simply leave in place after the glue has hardened. I don't fill up to the rim as the threaded inserts for the bolts go only about half-way up, so I fill up to the rim of these inserts, after levelling (this is important). It takes about 12 hours for it to harden, 24 to cure completely, and I use the quicker dry (but given the amount, it takes much longer to harden). It's the marine-grade stuff which sells in litre bottles or bigger, not cheap.

Anyway, for all the nay-sayers out there, those who damn with faint praise, those who accused me for years of hyperbole, the Lenco has now duked out two rounds with the SME 30 for a draw so far overall (and this with a seriously faulty speed issue/mechanism I wasn't aware of until the Shootout), I defy you to throw in the ring your Well Tempereds, your VPI TNTs, your $2K-$20k belt-drives from whichever company, against the SME 30 and get even close to the same results. As reported, in terms of actual information-retrieval, the two were SO close it took days and days of back-and-forth A-B-ing in order to get a more precise idea of what was actually going on (even with a 10K rolloff), and led to a comparison with Master Tape in order to settle the issue (which in fact is not settled yet). I'm REALLY curious to see if Master Tape does indeed convey the PRaT and gestalt/magic I love so much (or is it an artefact of the Lenco/Idlers and possibly the vinyl itself), I have no doubt as to the results reported in terms of high-frequencies and their effects on the overall sound of the Lenco in Round Two, but I do have questions as to these particular aspects of musicality, which are my stock in trade ;-).

As always, I am SO grateful to Rick for enthusiastically signing up for this Great Experiment, more later on how the two drives systems impact information-retrieval: in a nutshell I had claimed that the Idler was quite simply the superior system, and here we have a mass-manufactured 15-pound Lenco with a minute so-so main bearing and 8-pound platter Direct Coupled to an 85-pound chunk of wood outperforming the SME (about 120 pounds of precision-machined and balanced metal by one of the premier engineering companies of analogue, with I think an 18 kg platter) in terms of what Rick considers colourations (dynamics, attack, transients, bass reach) and about equaling it overall in terms of detail (better in the midrange according to my ears and others', lesser in the high frequencies for now, a toss-up in the bass). Stylus Force Drag is an MUCH more serious problem than audiophiles assume, and it takes real torque of the sort offered by idler-wheel drives to overcome this; belt-drives in comparison loose the ball precisely at the moment of greatest groove excursion/transients/dynamic swings, regardless of platter mass (this is not the same as active torque), which is why Idlers, as this experiment shows so far, do a better job of transients and dynamics (though Rick believes this is due to the Lenco's top-plate resonances). Even if the final judgment goes to the SME, and given the improvements we'll see about that, I think I have already proven my point. And to give Rick even more credit, he is VERY interested in seeing what he perceives as this resonance problem taken care of via Reinderspeter's top-plate (and actually this is precisely what the top-plate will do), and sees himself as a help in the development of the Lenco, as indeed he is!

Now, to the soldering station :-)!!
Dear Jean, It sounds like your opinions are fixed and your mind is made up. I see little point in continuing this experiment.

That is unfortunate.

Both tables have virtues but seeking an ultimate should not be what this hobby is about.

We will have to agree to disagree, although I for one, did not intend for this to be some sort of absolute comparison between two fine tables.

Dear Rick, it's really too bad we couldn't continue the experiment so we could actually hear the Lenco fully adjusted/dialed-in with its problems removed, Murphy's Law strikes again that the one chance for this sort of thing is marred by problems I didn't know existed, thanks anyway for your immense generosity and helpfulness. This has been a REAL learning experience, which will lead to many new ideas and a MUCH better undertanding of all the issues, and I can't thank you enough for the opportunity.

To those watching, I didn't see this as a battle of 'tables, but instead a battle of drive systems: what is arguably the best of one type vs what is arguably the best of another (though the Lenco is built to relatively crappy standards, it is likely the most evolved design of yesteryear). As always, I see the Lenco as only a tool in the furtherance of placing the Idler-Wheel System in its rightful place amongst the pantheon of drive systems. The experiment certainly highlighted various issues MUCH more starkly than I had ever experienced before! And my Gigantic Lenco sounds much better now than it ever has before, thanks to the experience with Rick, which paid unexpected dividends in learning more about Lenco mechanisms, and the success of various tonearm/cartridge combos in differing systems (i.e. don't assume that what works in one system will work in another), a great learning experience!

And to those who may be traveling in the area, I invite you all to come hear for yourself the best I can currently do with Lencos (and Sony's and Garrards) in a special vintage Super-System I have assembled, thanks to those wonderful Electro-Voice speakers from the legendary Patrician line! Exposure to Rick's system will help immeasurably in adjusting/balancing this system for maximum neutrality/effectiveness, changes have already begun!
Kudos to Rick also for having the good taste to choose Sound Lab speakers and Atma-sphere electronics, the very same gear that I use myself. Rick, if you want some ideas on DIY upgrades to either the speakers or the electronics, let me know. Especially the speakers can be easily tweaked, if you are using a completely stock drive circuit (in the backplate at the base of each speaker).