Idler wheel drive vs Belt

I noticed in the last day a frenzied bidding on an EMT 930 (plus arm/cartridge, etc) that went for $6.5Gs. Lots of money for a vintage kit. I also read some laudatory comments on the venerable Garrard 301 with boutique plinths. Anybody out there have experience with such, and can comment on whether I should abandon my purchase of a Teres and go for a 'transcription' turntable like Garrard 501 (with Schroeder DPM). Those vintage designs have lots of torque as they were used in radio stations, but don't seem to have close tolerance bearings or heavy platters. Yet some have thrown some serious positive comments on these vintage solutions. Is the magic real, and what contributes to it?
(I am not going to blow $6G on an EMT930 any day soon).
I agree with Viridian. I have an SP-10MKIII in a very heavy well built cabinet.
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Oh Marty, the cotton candy is mandatory!
I could never decide between the pink and the blue, so I always got both.
In a word, the sound is "magical", and because, in two words: "speed stability". I will here plagiarize my own text under my "system": "The idler-wheel-drive Garrard 301 grease-bearing was the 'table used by Sugano in the design of his Koetsus, and the Lencos are far easier to repair and restore, and may in fact sound better (more refined while preserving the traditional idler-wheel strengths of unparalleled attack and bass speed and power), for a variety of reasons. Idler wheel drives in general were originally designed to overcome stylus drag, as in their day cartridges tracked at 10 grams. As tracking forces diminished, idler-wheel drives became more refined, but retained their resistance to stylus drag. As time went on and VTF dropped to below 2 grams, it was thought stylus drag could be combatted by the simple use of mass, and not the brute force of rumbly idler-wheel drives, which were discredited, even though their rumble figures were in fact better than those of the then-rising Linn LP12. If you remember your history, you will remember that CD as well was touted by the majority of the press and the industry as superior to the previous technology, vinyl. The Lencos do not rumble, and they prove that in fact it does take a certain amount of (refined) brute force to counteract the all-too-audible problem of stylus drag, which belt-drives are ill-equipped to combat, their Achilles Heel being their belts and weak motors. This is clearly audible in the attack of a Lenco (or large Garrard), the tremendous bass reach (bottomless) and bass detail of a Lenco (which affects both air and imaging), and of course its perfect timing and speed stability under real-world conditions (actually playing a record)."

Now I do not tout the Lenco and the idler-wheel technology it represents merely because I own one, I also own or have owned both high-end belt-drives (Maplenoll Ariadne, Audiomeca) and direct-drives (Technics SP10 MKII, Sony 2250) and a host of others, and so I have actually bought and owned the various drive systems available out there, at very high levels of performance: and the Lenco beats tem al by a wide margin, which you should pause to think about, given the Law of Diminishing Returns (should high-end 'tables be so easily and completely and without sonic price beaten?). I am being very scientific, enlisting the world in a global empirical experiment, to decide the issue of which drive system is in fact better. Now while it is politically correct and nicey-nicey to go around saying there is no superior system and it is a matter of taste because there are always compromises and so forth, I say that's all very well, but is it true? Is no system in fact superior? Participants from around the world have declared the Lenco superior to a host of current high-end belt-drives which they in fact owned, and so like me had no reason to declare inferior. The experiment continues. It's cheap to participate and have fun with it! Cost of entry is minimal, give it a try!

Some comments from participants:

"One of the tables pictured here (Lenco in marbled plinth) is mine, and I can honestly say that it's the best turntable I ever owned , which covers a whole spectrum of decks --Empire, Sota, Well Tempered, Thorens TD 160, VPI HW19 III, etc. -- including my current early-model VPI TNT. Like most others, I considered idler-wheel technology as something that time had passed by, but the Lenco has totally changed that view. A fabulous machine."

"I´ve been listening to the L78/Decca/Stanton 681EEE in the original plinth on a very humble system, 1980s Yamaha amp, little Mission 2 way monitors, cheap cables. Even in this humble system the bass is incredible as well as the speed and dynamics."

"I have the gut feeling this old Swiss monster can take big dollar tonearms and cartridges and not limit them in any way. I´m not going to repeat my previous post entirely but the sense of being in the studio with the musicians is uncanny, Muddy Waters is shouting the blues right in front of me with Johnny Winter playing his Firebird right next to him! I have already ordered another Lenco, an L75 this time."

"This is scary! I've been a lurker here for several years and this is my first post. To make a long story short its goodby well tempered hello lenco l-75. Recently built a solid plinth from 5 layers of MDF and plywood added a decca international tonearm strapped on a audio technica ml 150 and could,nt believe my ears. All the adjectives apply especially bass and dynamics compared to the well tempered clasic. I,ve loved this turntable for 12 years and never thought I'd part with it but now I'm thinking I might. I use altec lansing A-7 vott speakers and a SVS sub tri-amped with a 6db active crossover. This lenco is as quiet as the well tempered. Even through these very efficient speakers I cannot hear any rumble."

"Mozart has left the building.Just had a wonderful listening experience with the lenco decca ortofon vsm 20e combo this easter morning. My first listen to classical with this setup. What took me so long. All the things this turntable arm combo does is perfect for classical. Its all about minute gradations of loud and soft. Dynamics is what draws me into classical. Alfred Brendel playing a Mozart piano concerto, can anyhing be more perfect on Easter sunday. The piano never sounded better, rock solid pitch and whenever a french horn was played you could hear it back in the far corner of the soundstage. From there it was on to a Prokofiev violin concerto. Just as good. His music goes from atmospheric to intense with everything in between. The problem for me is it can be boring if the sound is too smooth. Well it was'nt boring this morning. Classical is about dynamics and boy can this combo do it."

"And sounds fantastic, blows my STD305D away, quieter background, enormous controlled bass, incredible detail, just altogether jaw droppingly good...and it don't look bad either!"

"The whole shebang came tegether here last Friday, so this is very much an interim report, but damn if it doesn't beat the TNT rig pretty handily -- more alive, more punch, more PRaT, more "there." And quiet as a tomb, whether or not I have the subwoofers switched in. I find all this REALLY hard to believe, but there it is. Lots more experimentation ahead, especially with carts."

"This evening is the first chance I have had to play with the beastie. I found (it took me a little while) the Origin Live modified Rega 250 that I bought two years ago intending to mount on an Empire 208 if I ever found one. I didn't.
I also found my little used Denon 103D. An hour later we were ready to go. No plinth. I precariously balanced the Goldring on two lead shot filled plwood boxes that I made ages ago to set a pair of Carver Amazing speakers on. The speakers are long gone, but the heavy little boxes thankfully remain. Albert I don't know what TT you had before the Goldring, but my expectations were certainly not high since I have a heavily modified Linn LP 12 with an Ittok arm and Koetsu Black cartridge. I have to say that the Goldring with the lesser cartridge (the Denon 103D at $225, while a very impressive cartridge is no match for the $1,500 Koetsu), unravelled the music and separated instruments better than the Linn with the Koetsu. At first I thought that was hearing over-simplification of passages, but when I started hearing things in the foreground that were either distant on the Linn or very subdued, I knew this was not the case. Separation of lead and backing vocals and clear enunciation of words seemed better on the Goldring. I think I have to switch the Ittok and Koetsu to the Goldring to be completely fair. But then I think that there would be an even greater bias towards the Goldring."

"OK, we gotta quote Mr. T on this one. "PITY THE FOOL" who doesn't give this project a shot. Fittingly, my son and I made our first real music today, on Father's Day. We are still waiting for our Shure cartridge to come in but couldn't wait that long. So, we mounted a twenty-something year old Ortofon FF15XE MkII on our Loth-X modified PT-6 and gave it a whirl. Frankly, I am speechless. This thing is SO much better sounding than I thought, even with the modest Ortofon, that I am going to have to collect my thoughts before I can give a coherent review. For now - UTTERLY AMAZING! Here are some pics of the finished product!"

"I continue to be impressed by this TT - even without a plinth - which I know will improve everything. It's subtle for the most part and reveals everything with a very light touch, never screaming "look at all this detail". But when there are massive dynamic swings it is scary. For the ultimate test of just how scary, play "No Pasaran" from Joe Jackson's 1987 LP "Will Power". It will make you leap out of your pants. Also even in it's plinthless state it sails through those classic 'test' tracks like "Sad Old Red" by Simply Red and "Ride Across The River" by Dire Straits - both tough tests of the ability of a system to reproduce bass that stops and starts on a dime with no overhang."

"Sorry Rick but I can't agree with you, My Lenco's are certainly better than the STD305D/Rega I had which was as good or better than the LP12/Rega I had which was as good as the 401/AT1100 I had. Plenty of detail and detailed bass - especially using my Spendor BC1s."

"As the owner of a TNT Mk.II with JMW 10.5 arm and SDS, and one of the prettiest Empire 298/398s you'll ever see, AND one of Jean's Lenco L78s, with an SME IIIS arm, I'm in a pretty good position to compare. The Empire is out of the running in this trio, although I do think that with a really solid plinth and a new arm it might be a contender. The Lenco setup is marginally but definitely better sounding than the TNT setup, and this is with the same cartridges -- Shure V15VxMR and Dynavector 10x5. I think that if and when I move the JMW arm to the Lenco, it will substantially widen the gap between the Lenco and the TNT."

"Impressions. If we had to pick one word to describe the Lenco it would have to be “TENACIOUS”. It does especially well on recordings where the music gets complex and is characterized by a wide variation of frequencies. It seems to sort through things really well, indeed. If I had to pick two words of description, it would be “kick-bass” (well maybe a hyphenated word!) Rare is the opportunity to distinguish between the attack of the hammer hitting the skins and the resonant tone produced. Nice! We, like several others, find the Lenco to be a real “boogie” table with tons of slam, definitely a rock-n-roller which is well suited to the genre, especially where tons of complex action occurs (particularly noted on something like, Yes: “Fragile” – Chris Squire’s bass in contrast with Howe’s licks and Wakeman’s runs raised hairs on my neck and that is RARE). The bass lines in stuff like Joe Walsh and War were extremely tight and focussed. ANYTHING that had a up-beat tempo really had our toes tapping. We also enjoyed the good deal of bluegrass, jazz, and classical we sent its way – though we gave up little in the way of detail on some of those recordings. Further, we noticed a slightly compressed soundstage on most all recordings with respect to width, but the depth was fine. We are not sure, however, if this is a function of the table, the arm/cartridge, or both. Bluegrass, with its mandolin/guitar/banjo pickin’ and fiddle bowin’ fared very well. Again, the Lenco treated the up-beat tempo very well and these recording had a very musical, “live-setting”, type of feel. VERY pleasing. Female vocals, classical, and some jazz we found better on the ‘Not/Graham/Benz with respect to the “air” surrounding individual voices and/or instruments. While the vocals themselves did not suffer from smearing (in fact they were very clear), they did not “hang in suspension” the way we are used to normally. During quiet passages in classical, we did NOT hear any evidence of rumble, whatsoever. Mr. Dagwood Bumstead must be doing his job well."

"As a follow-up to my post above, a friend and I did some really serious listening over the past 3-4 hours comparing the Lenco/SME III/Dyna 10X5 to the TNT/JMW setup, currently sporting an AT OC-9. I think the 10X5 has finally broken in, because there was no question about which table setup was better this time. We mostly played "Kind of Blue" and several Charlie Mingus and Kenny Burrell albums at very realistic levels, and the Lenco setup was WAY ahead for openness, dynamics, PRaT, and the "good" kind of detail (i.e, not an "analytical" presentation, which makes my ears bleed). There was nothing at all wrong about the way the TNT sounded, just that the Lenco was substantially more musical and involving by comparison."

"I am a long time Linnie. I have own LP 12's for 28 years. My current Linn has an Origin Live DC motor and a Cetech carbon fibre subchassis. On a whim I bought a GL 75 and put an Origin Live modded Rega 250 and my beloved Koetsu Black on it. Holy shit, better bass, much better leading-edge dynamics and pretty remarkable imaging. This is all without a plinth. I'm just resting this beast on two lead-filled boxes. I am about to make a decent plinth and see where it goes."

"I have nothing new to add to this thread except my excitement. My Lenco / Decca / Shure V15 rig running into a EAR 834 P is not only great, it is stunning! As this continues to break in, I become more in love with it. This afternoon I played "The Streets," Original Pirate Material ('02), and I swear there are some things it does better than my Walker / Koetsu / Aesthetix rig. Sure the more expensive rig has finer graduations of detail, is more transparent and refined, but the Lenco provides a solid base, timing and contrast to the music that is addictive. The fact one could purchase 50 of these Lenco rigs for what my reference TT costs, no doubt clouds my judgement."

"I STILL haven't built a plinth for my GL 75, OL Rega, Koetsu Black. But I'm playing it all the time. And I get more impressed with every LP. I should mention that I went from thin, model train oil to Mobil 1 grease and then a combination of the last two. My last choice seems to be the best. When I eventually get around to building the plinth it will be on this site. Just listened to Dire Straits' "Brothers In Arms" and Little Feat "The Last Record Album". I'm hearing things that were not there AT ALL on the Linn. Buggeration. Is that possible ?"

"Well, as I indicated previously, we have installed a Graham 2.2/IC-70 cable on our latest creation, an L75. At the advice of Jean, we went whole-hog and mounted my Benz Micro Reference2 Copper, a cartridge custom built by Mr. Lukaschek himself. We have now spun about 15 LP’s with this combination. Anyone who knows me personally, or has read more than a few of my posts knows that I am one who is rarely at a loss for words. Now is the time. All I can say is that there is a new sheriff in town, and his name AIN’T Reggie Hammond. My apologies to those who are not familiar with this Beverly Hills Cop reference, but my point will become evident. This is, with doubt, the best combo I’ve ever had in my system and one of the best I’ve ever heard in any system with remotely comparable components. Of course, the slam and pacing of the Lenco is there in spades. I was not, however, prepared for the expansive soundstage which goes well beyond my speakers and into the side yard. There is a ton of detail without being anything close to analytical. The midrange is very sweet and female vocals are just a gas! From those who have used the Graham with other tables, the one very minor complaint of some is a hair bit of lightness in the bass. Not in this front end. I have heard the Graham 2.2 now on about 8 different tables and I’ve never heard it sound better. A real winner in every respect. A spoiler, actually."

It goes on and on...and if it looks like we're having fun, we are! Join in, jump in the pool and find out for yourself, in your own system! We're still trying to find its upper limits.
The EMT930ST is a whole different experience. I can safely said that it was an excellent plug and play setup.
It was a very solid and extremely smooth table.
I never own TNT Vs but the Oracle, VPI and SP 10 IIs are no match for this beast.
Just remember one of the most important part, you're limited by cartridge selection.
That was the only reason I traded 5 yrs ago.
I really wanted to have VDH top of line cartridge.
The EMT cartridge is great overall but not as refine as the $5K cartridge.
All the EMT cartridge were re-tip by VDH ( according to the guy in Austria who sold me the table )