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View Full Version : Can an idler-wheel TT beat my Roksan Xerxes? is a Garrard or a Lenco up to it?



pankon
13-04-2017, 17:36
OK, apologies for the rather provocative title of this thread. I admit I wanted to attract the attention of idler-wheel TT owners. :)

I have a restored (original) Roksan Xerxes with an Audiomods Series 5 tonearm and Music Maker III cartridge. The amps are Croft with NOS valves and the speakers are Snell EII. Quite satisfied with the overall sound quality.

I have been reading some interesting reviews about idler-wheel TTs. And I understand that there are a few flavors of idler-wheel TTs, Lenco75 and Garrard 301/401 being the ones I have stumbled upon most times in the various posts and reviews.

I have to admit that I am intrigued and I will probably make the jump to an idler. I just hope it sounds better than my trusted Roksan Xerxes. For the time being, I just wonder whether the difference will be significant or marginal and barely noticeable...

But then again, which direction should I take? Lenco or Garrard? Although I would really like to get my hands dirty, I unfortunately do not have the time, the knowledge or the tools to dive into a DIY adventure. So, I will have to go for a ready-made solution.

Any suggestions for this idler-novice, asking for guidance?

Thanks in advance to anyone kind enough to share their experience. Much appreciated!

Panos

farflungstar
13-04-2017, 17:43
Garrard no competition if you're determined to go idler drive and value your sanity and money.

walpurgis
13-04-2017, 17:46
I wouldn't take it for granted that a Garrard or Lenco is necessarily better than a good Xerxes. They are each good and the Xerxes can sound very fine.

Firebottle
13-04-2017, 17:49
..... and value your sanity and money.

Don't quite get this?
I've a standard Lenco, stock arm fitted with either a DL-103 or Linn Asak, with excellent results.

pankon
13-04-2017, 17:54
I wouldn't take it for granted that a Garrard or Lenco is necessarily better than a good Xerxes. They are each good and the Xerxes can sound very fine.

Geoff, then why all this fuss about idler TTs? Why are they supposed to sound better than belt-drive TTs? I cannot take a position either for or against that claim, as I have no personal experience. My question is really sincere. There seems to be an idler cult...(?), and I wonder what's so special about them. I have read about the high-torque motor, etc, but is it really that much better than low-torque motors (either DC or AC) for belt-drive TTs?

farflungstar
13-04-2017, 17:57
Don't quite get this?
I've a standard Lenco, stock arm fitted with either a DL-103 or Linn Asak, with excellent results.
I think it depends what you want out if it. If you're happy in stock form then OK but once you start modding there's no end - and personally I don't like my deck running with a rubber band or an uneven platter (of which I have 4). The Garrard is in a different class production wise. The OP asked if he would hear an improvement - the Roksan is a superb belt drive - but an idler or top notch DD will add better definition to leading edge transients due to better pitch stability, IME. Whether this equates to a more musically satisfying experience is subjective considering the quality of the Roksan - which if the OP decides to pass on I'd like first dibs please.
Adey

Ali Tait
13-04-2017, 18:03
What sound are you looking for, and more to the point, what do you feel is missing with the Roksan?

pankon
13-04-2017, 18:12
What sound are you looking for, and more to the point, what do you feel is missing with the Roksan?

To be honest, I am not necessarily looking to replace my Xerxes. It's just that I have a second hi-fi system, which does not have TT yet. And I am wondering whether I should go for an idler for that system, instead of a belt-drive. My Roksan is just my personal benchmark. I do not know in what direction the Roksan could be improved. I will know as soon as I come across a better TT (and there must be quite a few, I am sure -)).

walpurgis
13-04-2017, 18:33
The Xerxes does not sound like many belt drive turntables. It has a vibrant, defined and clear character. Somewhat like a direct drive unit. It's a turntable I like a lot.

REXTON
13-04-2017, 18:47
Lenco all the way if your looking for value for money. I've done a complete resto on both decks which is very documented on this forum. I well serviced lenco in a decent plinth will give you 90% of a Garrard.

Ali Tait
13-04-2017, 19:30
Not heard the Roksan, but have both a 401 and a 75. If I was to make a bit of a generalisation, idlers are generally more bass driven than belt drives. Slightly smaller sound stage, but make up for it with a musular, more "driven" sort of sound, whereas belt drives can sound a little airy fairy by comparison. Better sound staging though..

Kind of like the difference between SE and PP valve amps I guess.

Whichever you choose, unless you are buying a finished project which will cost a lot more, you'll be needing to do a bit of DIY. If you can though, both these decks offer pretty much unrivalled VFM.

Barry
13-04-2017, 20:07
They all (idler-drive, belt-drive and direct-drive) have their pros and cons, strengths and weaknesses. It all depends on what you want (rhythmic pace and momentum, low noise, good timing, excellent speed stability, simplicity of maintenance etc.) but I wouldn't get too partisan about it.

I have had hands-on experience of five idler-drive designs (Collaro 2020, Garrard 301, Goldring G99, EMT930 and Thorens 124/II) and two belt-drive designs (Thorens 150/160 and Linn LP12). However all the types that I have owned have been idler-drive.

At the moment I have three Thorens 124/II decks and an EMT930st, a situation that is unlikely to change.

Ali Tait
13-04-2017, 20:27
Indeed, an EMT is a nice thing to have.

pankon
14-04-2017, 05:49
Not heard the Roksan, but have both a 401 and a 75. If I was to make a bit of a generalisation, idlers are generally more bass driven than belt drives. Slightly smaller sound stage, but make up for it with a musular, more "driven" sort of sound, whereas belt drives can sound a little airy fairy by comparison. Better sound staging though..

Kind of like the difference between SE and PP valve amps I guess.

Whichever you choose, unless you are buying a finished project which will cost a lot more, you'll be needing to do a bit of DIY. If you can though, both these decks offer pretty much unrivalled VFM.

I see where you are coming from with respect to the comparison of SET with PP valve amps. The latter are usually more punchy but lack the finesse and detail of the former. What one chooses is a matter of preference, although the ideal would be the combination of the two in one package.

Going back to the TTs, I would be interested in doing a bit of DIY, but I suppose it is important to start from a solid foundation. So, if I supposedly go for a Garrard, where can I find a good 401 and what would be its cost? How can I be sure that it will be worth the asking price, since I am inexperienced on that field?

Cheers.

alphaGT
14-04-2017, 06:23
You've got nothing to loose, buy both, when you've reached your conclusions you sell the rest and you are all the better for it.

I recall the VPI 'tables of 10 years ago, their top end HRX had an idler upgrade. A big heavy flywheel driven by the motor that ran a tire against the side of the platter, reviews were mixed.


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anubisgrau
14-04-2017, 07:00
i'm wondering how many of you heard lenco and garrard neck to neck? very different sounding decks, difficult to compare, addressing different preferences. restored lenco much finer sounding, more details and refinement, garrard more dynamic and punchy. both more exciting to listen than DDs, but certainly less neutral.

pankon
14-04-2017, 07:09
i'm wondering how many of you heard lenco and garrard neck to neck? very different sounding decks, difficult to compare, addressing different preferences. restored lenco much finer sounding, more details and refinement, garrard more dynamic and punchy. both more exciting to listen than DDs, but certainly less neutral.

That's an interesting comparison, Gordan. How would you also position/describe belt-drive turntables in the above context?

Thanks.

Panos

337alant
14-04-2017, 07:44
I used to own at the same time:-

Linn LP12 Belt
Michell Gyro with ORBe upgrades Belt
Rega P3 Belt
Garrard 401 Idler
Technichs 1200 DD
Pioneer PLC 590 DD
Lenco 75 Idler

I decided to downsize and just keep the decks I liked the sound of so I sold the LP12, Gyro & RP3 I do prefer the pace and timing of DD or Idler and I don't think they miss out in any other area with the right Arm Cart combination

Alan

farflungstar
14-04-2017, 08:12
Whichever route you decide to go divvy but from eBay - put out a wanted ad here. There was a superb 401 going for around 500 on here - 2k on eBay.

Cycleallday
14-04-2017, 08:24
I used to own at the same time:-

Linn LP12 Belt
Michell Gyro with ORBe upgrades Belt
Rega P3 Belt
Garrard 401 Idler
Technichs 1200 DD
Pioneer PLC 590 DD
Lenco 75 Idler

I decided to downsize and just keep the decks I liked the sound of so I sold the LP12, Gyro & RP3 I do prefer the pace and timing of DD or Idler and I don't think they miss out in any other area with the right Arm Cart combination

Alan

We all like different aspects in our hifi which is why there are so many offerings to choose from.

I had the first 5 in your list up until a few weeks ago but now reduced to the Michell, Rega and Techie and prefer them in that order.

I've stopped sitting on the edge of my chair listening to bass, cymbals and speed and now just lay back and relax while enjoying the music. I find belt drives a little more airy and musical but idlers and dd's are fun to mod and play with.

Mel

farflungstar
14-04-2017, 08:27
+1

petrat
14-04-2017, 08:29
I had a grease-bearing 301, which Martin Bastin said was one of the quietest he'd ever worked on. However, I preferred a later 401, which had less rumble and a more detailed, incisive sound. Personally, I think that a well-sorted Thorens TD124 has the beating of both, and in your positon, Panos, that's where I'd be looking for a decent upgrade (which actually isn't going to be easy from your current deck).

paulf-2007
14-04-2017, 08:33
I've owned transrotor belt drive, 401, Colaro 2010 and Lenco ptp, all sounded very much the same, I've never heard a standard lenco but from what I've read the lenco needs a lot of money thrown at it to equal a 401, I threw a lot of money at my lenco right off and it was as good as the 401. Collaro was very good but speed change was dodgy.
Now I have Denon DP80 and its better than the idlers, has the same bass, rhythm and pace and also wonderful detail retrieval. The DP80 is a different animal to other Denon dd that look the same but the DP80 has a three phase motor.

farflungstar
14-04-2017, 08:57
There's a mystique about the idler drives that draws people to them - but there's a reason the BBC replaced their Garrards with Technics SP10 - zero rumble, absolute pitch stability and sound. I can understand the draw towards idler but I wouldn't go back to one as a main deck after living with the SP10.

ianlenco
14-04-2017, 09:47
There may be a mystique about idler drives but I think there are more practical reasons why people are drawn to them. Sure, the Garrards are a nightmare of mechanical parts under the top plate but Lencos are fairly simple beasts and as a result are easy and cheap to fettle and that is the key to their success. Service the moving parts (motor, bearing and idler wheel) and you have a very decent deck in stock form but go a bit further and give it a decent, solid plinth supporting the top plate and you really start to get a giant killer. That's why so many people have dumped expensive belt drive decks - just look at the price of "upgrades" for a Linn etc. If you enjoy a bit of HiFi DIY then a Lenco is a great place to start. It can be upgraded relatively easily and cheaply but if you want to spend money then there are plenty of people offering improved bearings, idlers and even motors most of which are not actually necessary :) If on the other hand you want a plug and play solution then get a top notch direct drive like the Denon DP80 which Paul mentions. I've got a similar flying saucer type from JVC and it's a joy to use although this also benefited from a better plinth. Wth my Lencos I do sometimes worry if everything is running as smoothly as it should but the JVC just does its thing, every time. Problem is of course that these old DD's have fairly complex electronics with a lot of the IC's now unobtainable so if they blow up they are possibly irreparable. Not so the Lenco where parts are still cheap and available with plenty of on-line information to help keep them running.
So, to sum up, if you want to play, get a Lenco but if you want to plug and play then stick with your Roksan or get a top end DD but these are not cheap!

DiveDeepDog
14-04-2017, 09:53
Get a standard Lenco, see if you like it is the simplest solution.

It won't give you the ultimate sound, but if you like the bass driven sound (don't mix this up with quantity, rather quality) there'll be no going back.

In my beginning, I had Manticore Mantra, a friends idea led me towards L75 and ever since I've only ever been happy with an idler. I've had lots of belters including 30kg German heavyweight and LP12, but still prefer the sound of an idler.

If you can diy, ply plinth, service and reasonable arm is as far as most need to go. The souped up Lenco vs Garrard will go on forever, I prefer Garrard's but have made some very decent Lenco's

REXTON
14-04-2017, 11:05
why not just buy both and have done with it?

pankon
14-04-2017, 11:24
why not just buy both and have done with it?

I also have a Denon DP45F, which has not been used for quite some time. Would it be worth changing the stock tonearm to something better (say an Audiomods) and also the cartridge, and giving it a spin? Or should I not bother at all?

anubisgrau
14-04-2017, 15:53
That's an interesting comparison, Gordan. How would you also position/describe belt-drive turntables in the above context?

Thanks.

Panos

i guess it's highly personal. i think the variations of belt drives are sooo huge. probably the best deck i've heard was belt driven (platine verdier) but on the other hand i'm not a fan of SME just as i dislike anything thorens based. FWIW i really love the deck you own, my friends happily live with it for long time.

paulf-2007
14-04-2017, 17:48
One more important thing about my Denon DP80 is its bang on speed within milliseconds. My kit is in a purpose built room in the garden and only heated when I am there, the lenco took half an hour to get up to speed, the 401 less so but needed adjusting several times before it settled. But the Denon runs right on speed regardless of anything that might try to to hold it back.

paulf-2007
14-04-2017, 17:54
There's a mystique about the idler drives that draws people to them - but there's a reason the BBC replaced their Garrards with Technics SP10 - zero rumble, absolute pitch stability and sound. I can understand the draw towards idler but I wouldn't go back to one as a main deck after living with the SP10.
The SP10 is no doubt a very good machine but no more than the best Denons. They were used more for broadcasting because they were built before the Denons and JVC's and the broadcasters used them for this very reason.

pankon
14-04-2017, 18:10
The SP10 is no doubt a very good machine but no more than the best Denons. They were used more for broadcasting because they were built before the Denons and JVC's and the broadcasters used them for this very reason.

That's quite interesting, Paul. Do you think that the DP80 is Denon's top TT? Is it possible to further improve it and if yes, how?

Cheers,
Panos

alphaGT
14-04-2017, 22:01
I wouldn't worry too much about the Denon DP45F, yes it's a phase lock loop DD, so it has perfect speed stability, but the one I had suffered rumble and later timing issues with the arm, sell it for as much as you can get and buy what you want. It's probably worth more if you don't change it.


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paulf-2007
14-04-2017, 22:42
That's quite interesting, Paul. Do you think that the DP80 is Denon's top TT? Is it possible to further improve it and if yes, how?

Cheers,
Panoswell the DP100 was the flag ship as far as I know but rarely seen outside Japan so no experience of that one.

paulf-2007
14-04-2017, 22:46
There is a thread on diy audio, something like " monsterizing a DP80, the guy totally rebuilt it in an aluminum and stainless plinth with the electrics put in a separate box. Beautiful looking tt but only his word on how good it is and how much better than before, no idea.

paulf-2007
14-04-2017, 22:47
Anyhoo, this thread is about idlers and I've only had good experiences with all the ones I've owned.

struth
15-04-2017, 00:01
been enjoying this. keep it up

337alant
15-04-2017, 01:42
Ive never heard any rumble from my Garrard 401 ?

Alan

pankon
15-04-2017, 06:57
I wouldn't worry too much about the Denon DP45F, yes it's a phase lock loop DD, so it has perfect speed stability, but the one I had suffered rumble and later timing issues with the arm, sell it for as much as you can get and buy what you want. It's probably worth more if you don't change it.


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Russell,
thanks for your advice, which I am taking seriously. I still wonder, though, whether it would be possible to mod the DP45F, in order to remove/improve its deficiencies, e.g. the rumble that you mentioned. Any ideas?

Infinitely Baffled
15-04-2017, 07:03
I think that a lot of the time the reason we decide we prefer a particular turntable over another is because we are responding to the overall aesthetic of the chosen unit. By "aesthetic" I mean not just its looks, but the whole identity it projects: cool and space-agey, restrained and minimalist, slightly old-fashioned and nerdy etc, etc. Plus that usually comes with all sorts of differences in the appearance and feel of the controls and user interface (sorry, couldn't think of a better way of describing it). So, does it appeal to you to start your records playing by spinning the platter up from standstill by hand, or do you like a procedure more akin to starting a Sopwith Camel (energise booster coils, wave arm in air, chocks away etc). All these things feed strong signals back to the user which please the senses (or not), flatter our feeling of discernment and achievement and re-inforce our sense of personal identity (audio-wise, at least). That's why we tend to band together into "camps" that sing the extravagant praises of one piece of kit or another - we are really singing about ourselves!

Whether the respective turntables actually sound much different is another matter - they just turn a piece of vinyl round and round after all. OK yes, obviously there is a difference, but I think it is pretty small and probably no longer noticed after the first week of ownership. We're probably much more preoccupied with the notion that "Ooh, I'm listening to MY Platine Verdier" or "How cool is my heavily-modded Lenco" or whatever. Let me stress - there is nothing wrong with that, nothing at all. That's human nature and it's nice to be able to get pleasure from all that stuff. But I'm just saying, there is a lot more going-on in our heads when we use our hi-fi.s than just listening to music. Take a good example of any of these different sub-types of turntable and, depending on the record you are playing, you are going to enjoy it - lots. Put another way, for the turntable to be actually diminishing your enjoyment of the music, it would pretty much need to be in such poor condition it is in need of repair, or so badly designed in the first place that it should never have reached the market.

Sorry, long and rambling post, but the message is this: we all think we are chasing after sound quality, but in reality we are not. We are looking for an overall "music-related experience" that chimes with our sense of what we like and who we are.
IB

pankon
15-04-2017, 07:25
I think that a lot of the time the reason we decide we prefer a particular turntable over another is because we are responding to the overall aesthetic of the chosen unit. By "aesthetic" I mean not just its looks, but the whole identity it projects: cool and space-agey, restrained and minimalist, slightly old-fashioned and nerdy etc, etc. Plus that usually comes with all sorts of differences in the appearance and feel of the controls and user interface (sorry, couldn't think of a better way of describing it). So, does it appeal to you to start your records playing by spinning the platter up from standstill by hand, or do you like a procedure more akin to starting a Sopwith Camel (energise booster coils, wave arm in air, chocks away etc). All these things feed strong signals back to the user which please the senses (or not), flatter our feeling of discernment and achievement and re-inforce our sense of personal identity (audio-wise, at least). That's why we tend to band together into "camps" that sing the extravagant praises of one piece of kit or another - we are really singing about ourselves!

Whether the respective turntables actually sound much different is another matter - they just turn a piece of vinyl round and round after all. OK yes, obviously there is a difference, but I think it is pretty small and probably no longer noticed after the first week of ownership. We're probably much more preoccupied with the notion that "Ooh, I'm listening to MY Platine Verdier" or "How cool is my heavily-modded Lenco" or whatever. Let me stress - there is nothing wrong with that, nothing at all. That's human nature and it's nice to be able to get pleasure from all that stuff. But I'm just saying, there is a lot more going-on in our heads when we use our hi-fi.s than just listening to music. Take a good example of any of these different sub-types of turntable and, depending on the record you are playing, you are going to enjoy it - lots. Put another way, for the turntable to be actually diminishing your enjoyment of the music, it would pretty much need to be in such poor condition it is in need of repair, or so badly designed in the first place that it should never have reached the market.

Sorry, long and rambling post, but the message is this: we all think we are chasing after sound quality, but in reality we are not. We are looking for an overall "music-related experience" that chimes with our sense of what we like and who we are.
IB

I very much agree with your post. It's not only about sound quality, it's a mind game.

Then again, it's always a quite rewarding feeling to make a small (or big) change and hear some clear improvement in sound. It's a small accomplishment, it's a small victory. And this can be exhilarating.

Let's keep on enjoying the music (and the journey)!

alphaGT
15-04-2017, 08:06
Russell,
thanks for your advice, which I am taking seriously. I still wonder, though, whether it would be possible to mod the DP45F, in order to remove/improve its deficiencies, e.g. the rumble that you mentioned. Any ideas?

Honest I wouldn't think so, that rumble is built into the motor, main bearing setup that the whole table is built around. I loved my DP until I replaced it, then I was let in on just how noisy it was. I'll relay my experience.

I was spinning some records for an intoxicated young lady, we both had a snoot full. So I start a record and excuse myself to the restroom. As soon as I left the room, she attempts to arm wrestle with it. She doesn't want that record, so she is pushing against the auto start of the tonearm trying to place the needle on the record. And it never worked after that. Every time I tried to play a record, the speed was way slow. And it would pick the needle up in the middle of the record, and put it almost back on the perch. I inquired about a repair. And they said it needed a whole new circuit board. And to reset the timing of the arm, I inquired as to if I could just disconnect the auto arm stuff and just spin the record, and drop the needle by hand, and they said it was not possible. It's still in a box out in the garage some place. I should have paid to fix it, and got what money I could, but I doubt I could get the parts anymore. And bottom line was, a simple Pro-Ject Debut blew its socks off sonically! So I saw no need to invest any money into it.


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alphaGT
15-04-2017, 08:23
I think that a lot of the time the reason we decide we prefer a particular turntable over another is because we are responding to the overall aesthetic of the chosen unit. By "aesthetic" I mean not just its looks, but the whole identity it projects: cool and space-agey, restrained and minimalist, slightly old-fashioned and nerdy etc, etc. Plus that usually comes with all sorts of differences in the appearance and feel of the controls and user interface (sorry, couldn't think of a better way of describing it). So, does it appeal to you to start your records playing by spinning the platter up from standstill by hand, or do you like a procedure more akin to starting a Sopwith Camel (energise booster coils, wave arm in air, chocks away etc). All these things feed strong signals back to the user which please the senses (or not), flatter our feeling of discernment and achievement and re-inforce our sense of personal identity (audio-wise, at least). That's why we tend to band together into "camps" that sing the extravagant praises of one piece of kit or another - we are really singing about ourselves!

Whether the respective turntables actually sound much different is another matter - they just turn a piece of vinyl round and round after all. OK yes, obviously there is a difference, but I think it is pretty small and probably no longer noticed after the first week of ownership. We're probably much more preoccupied with the notion that "Ooh, I'm listening to MY Platine Verdier" or "How cool is my heavily-modded Lenco" or whatever. Let me stress - there is nothing wrong with that, nothing at all. That's human nature and it's nice to be able to get pleasure from all that stuff. But I'm just saying, there is a lot more going-on in our heads when we use our hi-fi.s than just listening to music. Take a good example of any of these different sub-types of turntable and, depending on the record you are playing, you are going to enjoy it - lots. Put another way, for the turntable to be actually diminishing your enjoyment of the music, it would pretty much need to be in such poor condition it is in need of repair, or so badly designed in the first place that it should never have reached the market.

Sorry, long and rambling post, but the message is this: we all think we are chasing after sound quality, but in reality we are not. We are looking for an overall "music-related experience" that chimes with our sense of what we like and who we are.
IB

+1


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Dr Henry Jones
15-04-2017, 18:45
There is a good solution for getting an all round result from an idler, yes they do major in bass and timing but you can get air and more sound staging from one by using a unipivot arm . That is to say that's what my ears tell me , the unipivot is very strong in the mid and treble and. ...okay in the bass. The idlers are very strong in the bass and timing....and good in the mid and ok the treble. Put them together and it's a very pleasant outcome. Ihave a haddock on my 301 and an audiocraft ac 30 on my heavily modded lenco. Both sound extremely good. ....High end good, and my 124 has a origin live ol1 that does the same thing only in reverse. All three are very good to my ears. Cheers steve

drSM
29-04-2017, 03:39
There is a good solution for getting an all round result from an idler, yes they do major in bass and timing but you can get air and more sound staging from one by using a unipivot arm . That is to say that's what my ears tell me , the unipivot is very strong in the mid and treble and. ...okay in the bass. The idlers are very strong in the bass and timing....and good in the mid and ok the treble. Put them together and it's a very pleasant outcome. Ihave a haddock on my 301 and an audiocraft ac 30 on my heavily modded lenco. Both sound extremely good. ....High end good, and my 124 has a origin live ol1 that does the same thing only in reverse. All three are very good to my ears. Cheers steve

interesting that. i use the graham 1.5(unipivot) in a td124 and it carries V15III with a SAS stylus
Ive read that the 1.5 may lack bass in a test done.
Well my combination works v well , i dont feel its bass shy at all.