TD124 project: Early Listening
After making immediate repairs and maintenance to the problem areas of the turntable I wanted to get a listening impression before taking it to the next level.
The turntable came with a new but 'blank' armboard. Just looking at the thing it is apparent that whoever made this piece wasn't too fussy about quality. Nonetheless I drilled and countersunk the three machine screw holes and then mounted the board to the motor-unit. Using a trammel, I layed-out the position of the hole for the base of the RB250 to fit through. Then trepanned it. I set the mounting distance for 219.5mm to achieve a Baerwald alignment. Everything fits.
The tonearm is from Express Machining and contains all of their "structural modifications" to the Rega RB250 plus it has a "Cardas Cross" wiring harness. A very decent budget tonearm.
Curious to see if I could get away with using an MC cartridge over the iron platter of the Thorens, I mounted the Denon DL103-R phono cartridge to the RB tonearm. Overhang and zenith were set using the Clearaudio protractor. VTF was set in the center of the Denon's recommended range to 2.5 grams using the Shure SFG-2 scale. Good news! The cartridge does not display any tendency toward pulling itself into the cast iron platter beneath the heavy rubber mat and aluminum shell of the outside platter.
The Wright WPP100C phono preamp, with Sowter step-up trannies, was put to use.
The turntable takes its time coming up to speed. Perhaps, after listening to an entire Lp side, does the speed become pitch stable. Then it seems to take a lock and pretty much keep it. From time to time I check the strobe and make a very slight tweak. A tiny bit of drift is noticed after a few Lp sides.
The clutch is fun to operate. There are two positions; drop and park. Park to change a record. Drop to allow the outer platter to fall onto the always spinning cast iron platter below. Nice operation. I like that.
Listening to pop rock/ folk rock music Lps from the sixties and seventies. The first thing that strikes me is the visceral impact of dynamic passages. The transition from soft to loud. This can really grip you. Very good bass slam. The human voice seems intimate and real. Details of timbre and texture in the low frequencies are quite nice. There is sparkle and life to the entire presentation. The music moves you. Nothing analytical or detached about it. This sound is involving. That's the main thing I was looking for.
listening to classical music: Also very involving. Acoustic instruments seem real. Piano notes are solid and steady...and real.
The Denon DL103-R phono cartridge, fitted to the same tonearm, did not sound anywhere near this "alive" when setup on the Teres. Apparently it comes into its own on this turntable.
I didn't find myself listening for inner details. Nor to the attack, sustain and trail of notes. Nor did I check to hear if the highs are slightly rolled off. I didn't seem to care about soundstage dimensions nor the placement of sonic imagery. Although all of this is there. But, essentially, the music is just involving and that is all that matters.
The problems of minor speed pitch drift went away when I changed the lube in the main platter bearing from gear oil to "Marvel Air Tool Oil". This oil resembles automatic transmission lube in color (red) and viscosity (runny). After this change speed pitch locks in after warming up for about 30 minutes and stays that way until the motor is switched off at the end of the day. Ok. I chose the wrong viscosity to start with. Now I know.
Having listened to this table for the past few weeks I find its sound to be very addicting. What it does well lies in the domain of timing. There is rhythmic drive that moves your feet for you. Dynamics reach out with a sudden intensity that I just have not noticed in any of my belt drive turntables.
Rumble? I haven't noticed any unless you count the un-modulated vinyl between tracks. If I get next to my speakers while at normal listening levels, and only on some Lps, I can --just-- detect a slight hint of low frequency noise. Definitely not audible under any realistic conditions.
Soundstage and imaging. Yeah it's got those. The cool thing is that the soundstage can change its size during a dynamic musical peak. It can throw out an image and then pull it back. I swear I'm not on drugs!
Yeah. Good berries.