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A simple one- your favorite build/style of TT ...

Discussion in 'AK Polls' started by thedelihaus, Oct 21, 2007.


Your favorite build style/approach of TT...

  1. Direct Drive

  2. Rim Drive/Idler Wheel

  3. Belt Drive/Endless TT

Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. dnewma04

    dnewma04 The Healer Staff Member Super Mod Subscriber

    Tough call. I think if I was forced to trim down my TTs to just one, it would probably be the Oracle Delphi so I guess I will go with belt drive. By everytime I use my Technics SL-120, I wonder if I shouldn't look for a SP-10mKII for my next turntable. Then again, I can't wait to get my TD-124...

    TT shootout perhaps, Oracle Delphi Vs. Technics SP-25 vs. Thorens TD-124...


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  2. Tedrick

    Tedrick Infinity-phile Subscriber

    Gainesville, FL
    I've one each belt drive (VPI HW-19) and DD (Kenwood KD500), but I prefer belt drive for the added isolation from the motor, and the ability to mount the motor separate from the TT chasis/platter/bearing assembly for even better vibration isolation.
  3. ehoove

    ehoove Old & New - Carpe Diem Staff Member Super Mod Subscriber

    Belt Drive for me, have always derived low noise floor with them.
  4. archie2

    archie2 Addicted Member

    Almost Coastal RI
    I own all three types and prefer the direct drive.
  5. Arkay

    Arkay Lunatic Member

    Hong Kong
    AT THEIR BEST, i would vote for direct drive. The idea that they have "pulsing" etc... only applied to the earlier models and cheaper models, and is something that was promoted by their competitors (mostly British labels who didn't have the resources to compete against the Japanese technology, without resorting to half-lies and propaganda!). Later, high-end brushless, coreless ones with multiple Hall controllers or better, some with air bearings, are absolutely smooth and solid, with a torque that is higher than almost anything else. In terms of statistics, very little out there even comes close, and my ears seem to agree with the stats, in most cases.

    Direct drives have been used for several decades for all commercial cutting lathes on which records are made, because they can maintain speed stability against the drag of the cutting blade... just as they can against needle drag. Only idler-wheel drives can compete, in this regard, and it audibly affects sound quality.

    To get anywhere close to the same inertia and speed stability of a well-made DD, a belt drive needs a platter that weighs perhaps 50 pounds or more, and needs several minutes to achieve even close to the inertial rotational speed stability that a good DD achieves in less than one second. The size and weight requirements limits these models to the exotic/boutique range: the mass-produced Regas, even up to the Thorens (EXCEPT the Reference and Prestige models!) just don't quite equal the best DDs. The issue of elasticity of rubber belts, or vibration transfer of stiffer materials, is real. However, the BEST belt drives --the extreme ones with massive platters, etc... are probably the functional equal of direct drives, but on a value-for-money and availability basis, the DDs still rule.

    Perhaps the most interesting ones are the idler wheel drives. They are rightfully known for their drive, pace, slam, etc... because the active "pushing" of the idler wheel overcomes the varying drag of the stylus against the vinyl, and creates a more lively and accurate sound than most belt drives are capable of. Again, only the huge-platter exotics have sufficient "flywheel momentum" not to suffer from this... and that is a major reason why decades-old tweaked-out Garrards can beat the best that VPI or Thorens can/do offer today. It's why both those brands decided to work on (re-)introducing idler-wheel models, after they had stopped making them.

    You can't completely overcome the weakness of a belt drive, short of something special, on the level of a Walker Proscenium (which IS the equal or better of even the best "mass production" direct drives... but at that level, a Rockport Sirius III probably edges it out, and it is a DD!).

    The trade-off with idler wheel drives is that it is difficult to get rid of motor noise with the motors they use, given the direct contact through the idler-wheel itself. Thorens tried a hybrid approach with an idler-wheel driven by a belt, but that just re-introduces a lot of the wow and flutter of a belt drive.

    The best DD motors create a torque that is equal to that of an idler wheel, and which adjusts its force according to the drag presented against it, giving results at least as good as an idler wheel, but using electrical force in place of the physical wheel-contact force. However, these DD motors do not offer the motor noise found in the idler-wheel motors. That's why my overall vote goes to direct drive models. At the top end of the mass-produced models, they are superior. At the top end of the boutique models, I believe they also come out on top, due mainly to the Rockport Sirius mentioned already.

    To be fair, ALL THREE types of drive can have OUTSTANDING sound, when done right/best ... and at the very top levels, it is difficult to decide between "different but equal" sounds. Some people like the slightly "warmer" sound of a belt drive: a tiny bit of distortion or "smearing" can sound comfortable, even thought it may be almost inaudibly small, and if that is what you are used to, suddenly hearing the greater detail and realism of a DD or idler-wheel can seem almost "harsh"... although much of the time, perhaps what is being heard is weaknesses either in the recording itself (mixing decisions), or in the rest of the system, normally not noticeable when the detail isn't as clear to begin with.

    From the standpoint of theoretical engineering and physics, the better DDs should be superior... and in practice, they seem to be, too, at least at the levels of cost and availability that "mortals" can aspire to.

    NOTE ONE: AT CHEAPER LEVELS, belt drives sound better, because it is much easier and cheaper to make a decent belt drive than a good direct drive. [Lots of people make great DIY belt drive TTs for themselves. When did you hear of someone making their own DIY direct drive?] If you can't find one of the better (later-era, Japan market) DDs, then a belt drive will probably sound better. If you haven't heard the best DD models, then you'll probably vote for a belt drive or idler-wheel.

    NOTE TWO: I have heard Garrard 301 and 401 models in typical plinths, Lenco and EMT players, but have yet to hear the famed Shindo TTs. Perhaps one of those would change my mind and get me to move idler wheels above DDs?

    NOTE THREE: Things like cartridges and styli, wires, and the rest of the system have an enormous impact on sound. In fact, the cartridge and tonearm, I believe, have a bigger impact on sound than the type of drive used to move the record. Also, there are issues of synergy: just as some carts and arms sound better together, so, too, do some cart-arm combinations sound better on certain turntables (or turntable types) than on others. Mats also can play a big role. All this makes it very difficult to truly say one type of TT is "better" or "best". In theory, I think the Rockport Sirius III --direct drive table with linear tracking arm, both tweaked out to the extreme extent of their technology-- is probably the closest thing ever produced to a "perfect" turntable. But if someone wants to give me a Walker Proscenium, or even a Shindo, instead, I sure won't complain! I like 'em ALL! :D

    Sorry for another long post, but this issue is so complex, I don't think it is right to simply give an answer, without some justification and some discussion of all the compromises and offsetting factors that go into choosing one answer. The truth is, each different approach to spinning an LP has its strengths and its weaknesses.
    bigx5murf likes this.
  6. theprofessor

    theprofessor Well-Known Member

    Smugtown, NY
    I believe issues like this tend to be preference more than anything. I think all three have their merits, but for ease of use and low maintenance, I'd lean towards the DD. I've owned and demoed various mid to TOTL belt drives in the past, and I was very pleased with their sound. However, when it came time to get a better table, I settled on a Technics SL-1210 MK2 purely from a maintenance perspective.

    With the right upgrades (better interconnects, Cardas wire) and a good cartridge, I have been pleased with my decision. I know that there are plenty of other turntables available, but considering my entire investment cost me less than $300, including the table, I'd say it was a good choice. Eventually, I would like to get a Rega Planar 3, or a heavily modified AR, but as of right now, I am pleased with my decision.


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  7. Hyperion

    Hyperion Roobarb & Custard Subscriber

    Hertfordshire, UK
    Thorens TD160S - absolutely superb - belt drive and manual for me, Oh - and an SME IIIS arm.
  8. Darkspeed

    Darkspeed Keepin' Signals Hot...

    St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada
    Definitely direct-drive. The classic Technics SL 1200 or better yet the Numark TT500 is amazing!!!!!!
  9. MisterManly

    MisterManly New Member

    Columbia, SC
    I'll throw down here. For me, one-touch, fully automatic direct drives are the cat's arse. YMMV.
  10. Ricktptman

    Ricktptman Great Music deserves Great Gear & vice versa. Subscriber

    SE U.S.
    Split decision
    Pioneer PL-630 (with resonance damping modifications.)
    VPI HW-19 Mk. IV (Raw performance/value per $ spent in the aftermarket.)
  11. twiiii

    twiiii Addicted Member

    west Texas
    I own a belt driven Thorens, but that said a new modern DD are really in a class by themselves. I can't wait to see Pansonic Technics new 10R turntable. It will probably cost as much as my CR-V. But all I do is want to look and listen. I'll stick with my TD 125. I was almost tempted when I saw a SME 15 A for sale at half price the other day. But I would want it with a linear arm. Direct drives have a particular clarity with percussive instrument reproduction that every thing else compromises. Understand it has to be a great DD, like a SP-10 II or III, to achieve the plateau. But once you have heard that definition and lack of intermodulation distortion you will always be searching for that level of performance again.
    It really shows up when playing direct to disc performances of piano.


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  12. sqlsavior

    sqlsavior AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Española NM
    For playback of drum-machines and auto-tuned content, I prefer a belt drive, with audible wow and flutter.

    I think...

  13. podbaydoors

    podbaydoors AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Chicago area
    Having had all three, I find certain utility to each type.
    The idler wheel units have the greatest amount of torque due to the reduction ratio between the motor shaft and the idler wheel. This allows for operating the changer mechanism.
    My fave in the category is split between the Dual 1229, the BSR 810 and the Garrard SL-95B.

    Direct drive encompasses so many different designs, but my current fave is the Mitsubishi LT-30

    My all time fave for simple belt drive is the AR-XA
    Just doesn't get any simpler than that, and the suspension is second to none.
  14. timmy.timmy

    timmy.timmy Active Member

    Having been a direct drive convinced, from the lower to mid range kind (shoot me now) à la SL-1200 (& Co.) adept for so long, I must admit that prior to have been invited (he almost had to twist my arm) to test a wobbly "vintage" belt driven one, I'd never thought to go down so low on that route. From the dampened & sturdy to the airy & wobbly.

    Yet, instantly I fell in love with it's sound. Where that belt driven Thorens suspended sub-chassis turntable had still all my apprehension, I understood that it requested my curiosity. And I still have this Thorens and SME combo to this day. Though it's been enormously tweaked, converted and improved to really meet my need, use and enjoyment.

    My dream turntable before that Thorens would have been a Garrard 301 but the money factor prevented that to happen. Now I got to love that silent silence I get from my turntable and with all the tweak works and additions to it done through the years, it is so fulfilling I just don't look at any other turntables with envy. Just with contemplation and curiosity.
  15. musichal

    musichal poet emeritus Subscriber

    Norman OK
    Never had any hands-on with idler types. Owned Thorens belt-drive after running an entry-level Technics DD (SL2) for a few years, with an upgrade to a quartz-locked model my mother still owns. When I bought a new Thorens TD-165, I found my 'table. Love 'em. It was their entry-level model for TTs, and has a smaller spindle bearing than the more desirable TD-160, and a more basic arm. I've always thought the arm better than most others think. I like the weight-on-a-string antiskate. If you find one with both size weights, then you know it's very likely that it's had the kind of owner(s) from whom you love to buy, especially if the dust cover looks fairly scratch-free and it's hinges intact. Probably a rare find in that condition nowadays.

    Now, I have used and have heard better, a SOTA, the WTT, high-end Denons among others, but its combination of economy and sound quality were very high to these tin ears. And even a non-tech like me can trouble-shoot problems due to its simple design. Two controls - one for on and speed (33 or 45, no 78) and the other to lift the arm. Even restored one, retuning the suspension, repairing dust-cover hinges, replacing the plinth, adding end-of-record lift. Owned three of the Thorens TD-165 over the years, and if I still owned and spun vinyl, then I'd still have the final one. Hmmm, it was inadvertent but those last two phrases need to be in a poem...

    [addled brain off on a tangent now]

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