Friday, 31 May 2013

The Tannoy Autograph I – A first Impression

Hello to everybody. Some month ago I had the rare chance to own a pair of Tannoy Autograph Speakers. These were located near Vienna in Austria, a good 1000 km away from here. So not a decision which will be made between the first and second coffee in the morning. For the first consideration each speaker is 152cm high, 110 cm wide and 80 cm deep, in a triangled shape to be ideally placed into the corners of a room. The Tannoy Autograph is one of really famous horn speakers of the 20th century, it is not only mentioned to be in a virtual top ten list, it is more one of the top five candidates. In this list other speakers like the JBL Paragon, or the Western Elelectric WE -type horns, diverse Klangfilm Horn constuctions or the Lowther Corner Horn will do the competion. To make it short, for a Tannoy addict the Autograph is the one of three full range horn cabinets available. Beside the Westminster the GRF Professional is the largest originally by Tannoy made cabinet for recording studios (180cmx120cmx80cm, with two dual concentric drivers in parallel), almost impossible to be used in home systems. The Westminster is a rectangular shaped box of similiar size as the Autograph (as well with rear and front loaded horn development from the mid 1980ties). These have a very "tasty" cabinet design for the "conservative hifi enthusiast wanting the very best" of the late "Prestige Series" as dedicated customer. Available in two different cabinets made from different wooden materials and equipped with modern ferrite magnet chassis or for a reasonable additional charge sold with "limited editions alcomax speakers". The West Norwood history of Tannoy with its founder Guy R. Fountain (GRF) and its engineer Ronnie H. Rackham will be topic of an own article soon.

"Luxurious Listening" (tannoy sales brochure of the 1960ties)
The Autograph has been initially designed in 1954 by Ronnie H. Rackham using the well known Paul Voigt (Lowther) as a experienced horn expert and consultant. It is a classic corner horn design and is dedicated to be used with both walls as extension of its side openings of the folded rear lf-horn. In theory this construction is superior to the Westminster and the different types of GRF's. This design will give the less limited low frequency response due to its wider openings. With a rear horn development of effectively 20 Hz to 250 Hz and a front horn development of effective 250 Hz to 12500 Hz the Autograph is one of the very rare horn type speakers which is capable to transmit the full audio frequencies with this design. 





With all this theory in mind I had to decide, if I am going to be adventurous and get these two monster sized speakers. "Who has the corners in place, where the speakers need to be placed to work properly?", "Do I really need to get two wardrobes in my livingroom?", "If you don't get these, you never will have a chance to get these again, so you never will know how good they really are?", lots of questions went through my brain. I could not decide between being serious or being adventurous. The memory was instantly awake to my GRF Rectangular in 1994. At that time I was also initially euphoric about the project, but then later very unhappy to get rid of the rather large enclosures. If you really want to have these big speakers you need to have the space, the money, you should be in the social situation to decide about. I decided I am not. So I left the rare opportunity to my friend Klaus, knowing that he would be very interested to get a pair Autographs as well. He has lots of other room taking hobbies like cars and planes, so another set of speakers for his hifi collection will not matter.
The adventure started already to find a car where these will fit in. With a ordinary estate car no way to come by, the minimum size of car would be a bus or a real transporter. A packed size front to front is 1.10x 1.10x1.50m and needs something with bigger space inside, packed side to side is 1.50mx0.80mx1.60m and might fit better?

The two enclosures taped together, so that there is no overwidth to the car, just 180 kg of weight.
Will the car survive to carry that overweight for 1000 km?

Luckily the weather was good through out the alps.
Klaus who has build up his own sport planes from plywood (Falcos) after they have been cut in handy pieces before shipped from the US over here, did not fear the transport. He just spanned the two speakers together with belts and fastened them on the roof of the car of his partner. Knowing that a overload of 120kg above the allowed 80kg at this car roof will not do any damage within 1000 km of survey?! Ok, he did it without getting any real trouble. The final problem was to get these monsters (90 kg each without speaker) into the first floor of his house, were his hifi room is located. With a little help of his friends he managed it.


First of all one of his Monitor Gold speakers needed a complete new adjustment of the hf-diaphragm with an oscillator. They did not have a smooth hf-response. Here shown wrongly mounted to the back board of the funnel. Since this mounting will amplify all the resonances initiated by the speaker.

For a back loaded horn type cabinet the hard edge coned speaker types from the Tannoy Monitor range are a must. The paper surround with the light weight cone benefit a lot in this application. This cones have a better free air resonance and work with  reduced distorsions without the typical air suspension of a closed cabinet. Here the models Monitor-Black, -Silver, -Red and -Gold are rated a lot better than the later HPD type with its foam surround and weighty stiffed up cone design. Their design has been optimized for high power applications with transistor amplified systems.

These enclosures have been built carefully by some carpenter in Munich in the late 1980ties using the original diagrams published in these days by "la maison l'audiophile". Klaus did check materials and the construction before he took them back to Germany. Only little details had been changed from original, so these cabinets were quite well made from northern coniferous plywood of the right dimension (16mm). He did know from other speaker projects that here no compromise can be accepted for a expected perfect final result. In this days a lot of vintage speaker plans got changed for more rigid materials in order to reduce any resonant distorsions. In many cases the all around coherence, which is often a clear sign of a early process of experimental design gets lost for "improved measurements".

Klaus and me arranged a first auditioning for the end of April and I was very excited to have a first hand experience with this legends. I drove the long way to his house (100 km distance) with his speakers in my mind: "will they really be that good?" It is rumored that they will completely disappear in acoustic terms when perfectly matched into a room. As well they are known to behavor than with the fastest and most deep bass response of all Tannoy cabinets, lots of other superlative attributes are as well published in the web. I am always more than sceptical about such superlatives and in particular when the rumors is from the web. Who is able to proof it or has a real first hand experience with this rare legends, not to question who knows one person owning a stereo pair?

Klaus hifi-setup uses a lot of common components I do use. He has a Platine Verdier turntable with SME 3012 and SPU Gold pick up, but he uses additionally a EMT studio turntable with EMT arm and dedicated "EMT Tondose"-pickup. His amplifying chain is completely different in character to my equipment. Were I prefer DHT triodes as well in the preamplifying stages for their exeptional linearity and fine resolution, he prefers mainly vintage professional studio components from Telefunken and Maihak because he believes into their professional engineered qualities. With a Leak TL12.1 as power horses we find our way back together to drive our Tannoy speakers. So there are differences, but the corner stones are comparable enough to justify a new speaker in his room. This room with wooden floor and ceiling has a very good shape (similiar to mine with roughly 4x6 meters), but is much better damped than mine.


When opened, it could be seen that the last owner had changed the mounting of the speakers. The baffle board is made from different material and looks very customized, so it might be be introduced later on. Originally the speakers need to get mounted at this square baffle board. This board closes the pressure chamber of the horn against the back of the speaker with a seal. It is completely damped with acoustic foam here?.

The first listening test ended completely frustrating, the speakers sounded the absolute opposite way of what I did expect. They did sound very heavy and dark, almost like driven with defective hf-units. The sound is characterized by a big boost of the lower registers, mainly the frequencies transfered by the back loaded horn. The cabinets seem to push the frequency between 100 and 200 hz to an extreme (some +6db?), the other areas of the tonal spectrum are completely dominated by this effect. I really could not believe what I did hear, these legendary speakers were so far out of a balanced range, that I could not even remember that here Tannoy speakers were installed. We did sit for three hours in front of the them listening to different records without having a clear concept to follow for improvements?

Do the cabinets need their dedicated covers as dampers for a optimized lf-performance?

Pulling them out of the corners might get good effects, but for a legendary corner speaker not a good idea. Klaus insisted that we did hear them without the dedicated covers on their openings, he was convinced that these will do a good portion of damping. A perfectly working low frequency horn has not to be damped, or am I wrong?! I did remember the day when I had my newly built GRF rectangulars on start, which ended with a big pillow in each of the openings to make them listenable...?! Today it ended with the complete set of Klaus bedclothes of his sleeping room in both speakers, to shut down the horn effect in general. Al the way driving back home I was thinking: what might have been wrong? We had checked all details of construction, but could not find any substancial problem with them? They were made very precisely orientated to the original drawings. The next day Klaus rang me up and we discussed what to do as the next step? He decided to complete the covers as first step and later he wants to change the speaker mounting back to the baffle. May be a new damping material for the compression chamber is on demand as well? Are these systems extremely room dependend because of their corner construction for their position and its physical expanse?

Read on soon for part two, Volker




For futher informations on vintage Tannoy systems visit: http://www.44bx.com/tannoy/


Saturday, 25 May 2013

Kind of Blue - Miles Davis – Vinyl Grading for Collectors

From time to time I would like to talk about other interesting aspects beside hifi. So I will try to discuss some aspects of music, its culture, as well the todays format questions and as a part of it the vinyl  record collecting. Longer than I am interested into hifi, I am interested into music. At the begining it was classical music as well some jazz, but living in Germany makes the use and the collecting of jazz records (if you are on original releases) almost impossible so I collected classical music in the first stage. Everything changed with ebay.

One of my absolute favorite jazz albums always was and still is "Miles Davis - Kind of Blue". The original recording was made by Columbia in march/april 1959. This record entered in august 1959 the market as CL1355 pressed in mono and alternativly as stereo edition CS8163, both with a wrong sequence of the takes of "All Blues" and "Flamenco Scetches" for the first 50000 (collectors!) on the label and cover. The following pressings corrected the mistake at the label but Columbia never noticed or changed the misspelling of Adderleys name on the cover before the CD release. This record is originally a true stereo recording and not the for that time typical mono record, which was later electronically enhanced for a stereo use. Since 1958 stereo was a new thing in the marketing of music, so almost every company offered than recordings in both versions, were the stereo edition always was sold more expensive.

5 times almost the same record, from left: modern aniversary reissue from 2009, 3 issues of the first stereo release CS8163 and in background one CL1355, the first mono release

"Kind of Blue" is one of the most important jazz albums from the 20th century. It is commonly known as the very first initial piece of modal music in jazz history. Whole books have been written about that record in order to classify its significance. So its not on me here to write about its dimension for the jazz music at all.
I really do like this music a lot, so once in the 1990ties I started to look for the original recording in the early ebay days. At this time I was driven by the understanding, that only the first release of a recording will capture all original qualities of its content, like dynamics, space, air and tonal richness. I did know that record companies stored the original master tapes in their archives after the first pressing. For later pressings the most of these companies used 1:1 copies of them, so I believe that the copy already is characterized by a degradation of the original dynamics. Firmly taken by that idea, it seemed to be logic to me that only first releases will garantee the best possible reproduction of the original recording available. In my collection several examples of jazz records from this time do acknowledge my theory of best quality on vinyl.
So I hunted for the mono recording of "Kind of Blue" in these days of the late 90ties at ebay.com. I always tried to get a copy for 50$ or less, but this amount was never enough to make me a winner. The auctions ended always at a minimum of 85$, sometimes far beyond the magic 100$ line. I didn't know anything about "goldmine gradings" and all the little necessary informations for collectors in these days. So I never got one of this beloved records.

The cover of the versions vary by the double arrow symbol for the stereo issue and behind without arrow for the mono version

In 2001 I was invited to teach as guest professor at a well known university in Cambridge, MA. I moved for a year over there. From the first day I realized a vinyl record shop every 300 m at any main street there, this is definitive a record collectors ground. Every shop had a very good jazz department with a good variety of vintage records, for a german a unknown "vinyl heaven". The prices ranged between 2.99$ and 20$ for quite rare first releases. And than Boston next door, were the story continued with several good shops. I only want to mention the "Loony Tunes"-shop at the opposite street side of the famous Berklee College of Music which has unfortunatly closed in the meanwhile?!.
I did buy every week 20 jazz records, mostly first relases from the time between 1950 to end of the 1960ties. In my time in Camebridge I did not see one copy of the first "Kind of Blue" in the shops, while I bought almost 1000 first releases of other jazz music.

The CL1355  "6-eye" mono version, the deep groove iindentation is clarly visible on the label

The CS 8163  "6-eye" stereo version with arrow, the deep groove indentation is clarly visible on the label

Back in Germany in 2002 I started my hunt again on ebay in order to get finally one copy. I did increase my input and got the first mono pressing CL1355 for 85$ plus shipping. I was happy to manage this old dream. Some weeks later I could hold the record in my hands and was very exited to play it on my turntable. When the stylus slipped into the first groove it was clearly noticeable, that the music was not the foremost content of this record. I could not really believe what I did hear, the record was in such a bad condition, that almost three pops per second sounded like a fireplace concert instead of the well known music. I went back to the auction and it was advertized as: "VG+, some surface noise might be audible". OK, I had understand, even if I learned in the meanwhile about the goldmine gradings. But I had to learn that ebay competition changed the interpretation of the grading. A VG graded record is meant as "only for display use", while a MINT- is some adaquat condition for use. So I looked out for the next one. This time I looked for the stereo version, which was normally more expensive in this days. A MINT- copy went for 290$ to a asian collector, puhh...?!. I got a copy of the stereo version CS8163 for 136$ plus shipping sometime later on. It was offered as VG++. A MINT copy rarely appeared at ebay, I saw one going for 450$, that was definetly out of my reach. Some weeks later the VG++ record arrived and I was very impatiend to listen to it. To be honest, it was almost the same like the first one. Cracks and pops all the time, for a record with some very calm passages a real "no go". I contacted the seller and he told me that with goldmine grading only mint or MINT+ marked records will garanty a noise free play. Ok, I decided to look for the second release version. So far I had two copies with the legendary 6-eye label, the next will be a 2-eye version. The prices for this version decrease a lot comparing the first releases. I got a MINT- copy for 32$ plus shipping. I was happy, but I did not know if the second release will be as good as the first one. Unfortunatly the record never appeared, it had got lost on its way over the atlantic. Two month later I started again my hunt. I was succesfull and got a 2-eye copy for 24$ in mint condition. This time it came out well and I received the record. It sounded good, almost without any surface noise, but I had the impression that the former releases do have a wider dynamic range than the second releases. Miles  trumpet was a lot better focused and the other instrumentation had a deeper soundstage. With the 6-eye  version you can hear the space between each musician, were the 2-eye is missing it. So after a while I started again my hunt to find a MINT- copy of the 6-eye version. I spended 180$ plus shipping and was succesfull. The record came and it was really in good condition, it sounds amazing comparing it to the later versions. I was happy to get a good copy at the end. Alltogether I had spend a good 1000$ on that record, I did buy 6 records to get one good one, only addicts will act this way ...?

In 2009 this record celebrated its 50ties anniversary. Columbia released a newly (digital?) remastered version of this recording on 180 g vinyl, with all "absolute necessary" improvements and with all  "record colllector blah-blah" and inclusive a limitation of the edition. I got weak and did buy a copy. When I played this new version, I could not believe what I do hear. A dramatical reduced dynamic range comparing it to the original first release, almost no more realistic space of the former set up and a typical tonal degradation of several instruments. "The most important record of the 20th century (Columbia) has gotten even better" sounded now exactly like the very poor cd-pressing, which was existing for years.

Cover print of the CS8163 stereo version back side with the wrong order of tracks

Imprint in dead wax at CS8163 indicating a very early matrix pressing, for the collector it is heaven: 1AA

Record collecting in the 21st century, the time of the media free music and "unnoticable compression" is showing its perspective for the years to come. Nobody soon will remember how it once sounded with "true fidelity equipment", real master recordings and their pressings, nor that somebody has the opportunity to check the former audible qualities on his own perception. Since once american companies have mixed cd's for the use in cars in the 1990ties, todays music is mixed for cell phones and its dedicated ear pluggs. Amen.

Ebay has changed a lot the collectors market and its today options to buy vintage records. When in the beginning years the most vintage records were sold in open auctions and the hot collectible records sometimes skyrocketed (prices from 450$ to 2500$ per record), todays offers at ebay are "buy-it-now-auctions" at fixed prices for the standarts. The highly collectible records have completely disapeared, since the gobal  collectors market seems to be saturated. As with vintage hifi, the generation of its initial interest is going to retire, the younger generations are aimed into other topics.

Soon I will write about a diy record cleaning machine for the real vinyl collector, which really cleans and dries without loud noises, so stay tuned, Volker

Impressum




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Thursday, 23 May 2013

SME Compability Chart of the Conversion Kit



This list contains the known conflicts and difficulties with different classic SME tonearm models:
  1. Early MK1 types have a clamp built in the front end of the stainless steel tube, so the headshell connector (diam. 8.0 mm) does not fit my tube (diam. 8.5 mm) without modification (difficult), better to be changed for a later socket with screwed fixing.
  2. First generation MKII arms have rarely a headshell connector which is pressed and not screwed, they fit in size but need little modification to be fixed in the tube (possible). The socket needs to be drilled and cut a thread into. With 1.6mm screws it can be fixed.
  3. From second generation onwards 3009/II and 3012/II can be converted with respect on the length of the wayrod. These are the most common arms and for these the kit is made.
  4. Early improved versions have a detachable headshell, here the wayrod needs to be replaced with a longer type. Later versions have a fixed headshell, to make it work you need a headshell connector socket and a longer wayrod (55mm). Some improved versions have the cueing bridge integrated into the vinyl saddle, here a cueing bridge from the S2 would be necessary.
  5. Late 3009R, 3010R, 3012R should not be converted since several parts do not match the inner tube diameter of my kit (headshell socket, extension tube holder). They cannot mount my steel saddle, otherwise the saddle has to be cut short by some 4mm to fit the extension tube holder or use the original short vinyll saddle. 

Original parts or spares which are still available through SME Ltd. (with partnumbers):

RCA socket conversion (around 100 EUR): No: 3826G Output Socket Coversion Kit
Steel saddle (around 350 EUR)  no: 2203S R0414PRO for 3012/R
Wayrods (around 50 EUR each): no: 1908 P0557 for S2; no: 2266/12 R0418/12 for 3012R
Headshell Sockets ( around 150 EUR each):

No: 1802/9    P0507   Socket inc. 2215 for S2/IMP
No: 1802/12   P0507/12   Socket inc. 2215/12 for S2/12
No:  2208/12   R0423/12   Socket inc. 2215/12 for R Type


Cartridges with a compliance higher than 12x10-6cm can not improve their low frequency response with the conversion to a heavy stainless steel tube. Here lighter arms like the original SME's with aluminium arm wand are recommended instead.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

SME 3012 MK1 Conversion Kit for Transcription Turntables


With this kit I introduce to all owners of classic SME Tonearms the opportunity to convert several models into the sonically unsurpassed 3012 MK1 version with all necessary components. I tried my best to get the widest possible range of adaptable SME models working without any substancial change with my kit (see seperate compatibility list for conversions). I offer the conversion kits to interested people on a diy-level, alternatively I will be happy to offer the doing of such conversion process on request.

A kit contains the tonearm wand with extension tube and internal silicon rubber damping, a balsa wood lining for the main tube. As well included is one main weight with end cap and the riderweight. The counterweight tube with silicon damping element and stuffing cap are part of a kit and all dedicated screws will complete it.
This conversion of SME tonearms is offered to optimize the physical conditions for the low compliance type cartridges like Ortofon SPU, EMT Tondose, Neumann DST, Denon DL103, Ikedas and Koetsus other arms don't offer. These cartridges have a very low compliance below 10x10-6cm and profit enormously from the heavy tube. Within this combinations it is absolutely necessary fit a steel saddle (original or mine) to the tube instead of the later types (vinyl type, aftermarket brass products) in order to broaden the aimed effect.

If you are interested send me a mail with inquiery about your needs.

These kits can be customized with extra components (like weights, the steel saddle or internal cabling)  on further request.

I don't sell single parts or spares of the kit alone. Spares are only available as a service for customers.



A converted 3012

The conversion kit can be customized to different needs. Available are the following components:

  1. 12'' heavy stainless steel arm tube (0.5mm material thickness), predrilled to match all original necessary connections (saddle, socket, lift support bank, etc.) of the S2 models.
  2. Two counterweights: first the shorter 160 g weight is 31 mm long x 30mm diameter or the longer 220 g is 42,5mm long x 30mm, both massive brass milled and matte chrome plated
  3. Dedicated end cap is the wayrod holder is 9,5mm long x 30mm diameter adds with 52 g to total balancing weight, it is massive brass milled and matte chrome plated
  4. Counterweight tube (55mm long) with stainless steel end cap
  5. The rider weight is 22,2 mm long x 17,5 mm diameter adds up with 48 g
  6. Inside carrier for the decoupling insulation silicon rubber piece, fixing screw, fixing ring
  7. The steel saddle (exactly like the original SME saddle)
  8. Earth wire with fixing nut
  9. Fixing screws for the saddle are lens head types and a set of allan screws for the weights (both stainless)
  10. Internal wooden damping piece

I am not able to supply wayrods, headshell sockets or RCA connection kits. For this reason you should contact your SME spare supplier. Here you might find a rough list of original spares which will complete my kit when nescessary. Have a look at the end of my compatibility chart


Here can be seen the most parts from my kit available
The finish and quality of parts

A further improvement are the inside cables. As a standard interior cables I can offer silk isolated copper litz of 0.1mm diameter. A reasonable upgrade to this type is the teflon isolated silvered copper litz 0.2mm. My recommendation is the silk isolated solid silver wire (0.1mm) I proudly can offer. This cabling brings a tremendous improvement to the arm.  No other supplier is able to offer the improvement of a solid silver wire.


inside cabling, from top no 3 teflon isolated silvered copper litz;
no 2 solid slk isolated silver wire;
 no 1 the silk isolated copper litz. 

The original SME MK1 tonearms were developed in the age of mono records and pick ups in mind tracking with 5-6 grams. A year after introduction the second version the SME 3009/12/II was introduced as a lightweight version in order to fill the needs of the new stereo cartridges with lower tracking weight. All other 12''-tonearms followed this concept and had aluminum tubes. Fidelity Research, Ikeda and the late SME R-Versions incorporated a stainless steel tubes again, but with very thin a material strength of 0.25mm. Only the early MK1 tube has the rigidity and strength to bring out the pure sonic advantage of the early steel bearing. Together with the superb cartridges of that age like SPU, Neumann DST or modern high compliance pick ups like the Koetsus and similar types, this tonearm is sonically unsurpassed. With the heavy tube I recommend the steel bearing better than the brass types, offered by after market makers.

Note: The different weights will be necessary in order to match different cartridge/headshell types. The long weight (220 g) will balance cartridge/headshell combinations heavier than 35 gramms. This was the original first weight from SME to match SPU's with build in transformers. The shorter type will be usefull for cartridge/headshell combinations around 32 gramms, like all modern SPU's (160 g). Generally the length of the wayrod makes a remarkable difference to the range of weight adjustment and the usable cartridge weight. The original MK1 wayrod had a total length of 70mm, The later 3012/II wayrod was only 55mm long, the shorter version from the 3009/II limits the range dramatically. The even shorter types from lighter and later arms (improved versions and /III) are not any usefull with the conversion kit. In this case ebay is the only source to find them.


The weights (with allen screws) seen from left: the 160g weight, the riderweight, the 220g weight and the end cap,
all made from solid brass and with matte chrome finish.


On request I am willing to preassemble your tonearm wand with a internal wiring, saddle and end stub. If you send your headshell connection socket in advance I will be able to do the delicate soldering process and therefore the tube can be completely closed for the later ease of installation. As well the complete conversion can be arranged for those who might not feel comfortable to disassemble their arm and fear the process. Make a inquiery, if you are interested.


A completed arm wand without headshell connectior ready for installtion
The new steel saddle already mounted, the stuff cap is not pressed in


My new made steel saddle to match the original SME type

If you are hunting for cheap quickn'dirty options to repair a 3009 or increase the value of a broken  3012 without respect to the scheduled improvements, you should look at ebay for a Taiwan based supplier with a different kit for the SME-R arms. These kits don't match any technical or asthetic preference of the original arms and are quite cheap to buy. 
But if you are ready to spend a reasonable amount of money into your existing arm as an uncomparable upgrade, you will get a adequat increase in value, a highly improved soundstage with this fond made kit. I will be happy to serve this option.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

The Turntable, Part II – the motor unit

At the beginning I have to mention that this article is a survey to nirwana lands about motor concepts for record players like the Platine Verdier. I am publishing now my personal experiences which I made in the late 1990ties. I have not found another source in the web about somebody else with the same experience, from this point of view mine seem to be very unique. To my knowledge nobody has gone the same way. It still sounds absolutely stupid, but I am quite convinced about these uncomparable results. The improvements against ordinary concepts justifiy the tremendous work.

Before I got the Platine Verdier turntable in 1996 I had in the first step the Garrard and similiar players which all could not make me happy. So I shifted to a simple Thorens TD 160 (first version) and a SME 3009/II as tonearm for my everyday use and looked forward to find my player one day. I did do experiments with a frequency generator feed into a Quad II tube amp as power module and through a step up transformer to boost the signal up to 100 volts. Synchronous motors like the one in the little Thorens players need as foremost feed by 50/60 hertz to run their dedicated speed. A perfectly shaped sinus signal curve is rarely available from the electricity providers, if you check yours, you will see a lot of degradation of this curve. A sinus curve without distortions will improve the the sound of this sort of motors dramatically. Linn had introduced such a unit for their LP12 in the 1980ties as one of the first commercial companies for turntables, the "Vallhalla". Later they improved the concept by using a second generator unit just for the necessary phase shifted second signal wave, it was called the "Lingo".
If you compare a record player run by a synchronous motor like the Thorens or the Linn with all three different supplies, you will notice a tremendously improved soundstage with every step. You will wonder how much influence a clean sinus wave will do to the final sound stage. It improves in almost every respect, in dynamics, in resolution of details and musical insight. As a main fortune the complete soundstage will be a lot finer, warmer or let me say with other words much more natural. The quality will be improved in really huge steps from the single phase control up to the double phase control. When I did these tests I got a bit amused about myself and my set up at these times. I had a complete chain just for generating the 50 hz signal for my turntable, two signal generator units, two Quads and two big step up transformers all sitting next to my turntable. I could certify myself to be a complete typical ignorant "hifi nut" just by looking at this setup. I did burn 500 watts of energy to turn a 20w motor unit with a pure sinus wave. This is a real "inviromental friendly exercise", in particular if you see the today music consumer at the other end without any hardware for the same reason. But this is a different story once, may be two.

The customized "Valhalla" frequency generator unit underneath my subchassis motor board with the Thorens 16 pole synchronous motor

Back to the topic. I remember the day when I did put the parts of the Verdier together and I placed it on a little table next to my ordinary set up. The player needed a lot of space and I had to arrange everything new, but was very anxious to get a first impression of this heavy monster. When I bought it, the original motor unit was burnt, so I did not have a "real" motor unit to make it work. It was sitting next to my Thorens and I decided, why not using the Thorens to turn it? I tested it and of course it did not have enough torque to start the 15 kg platter of the Verdier. But with a little help of my hands it turned up and could stay in speed. My first impression was completely overhelming and I do remember still today that I did play all my favourite records till the late night without eating anything. I was totally impressed and did already know, this is going to be a life time companion and said: "If it is that good, how good might it be with a "real" dedicated motor unit?"

As everybody knows who is experienced with this turntable, every little change is listenable. You can perfectly sort out if you use a thick or thin string, if it is made from silk, wool or plastic. You will notice if the string has two or five meters lenght. And if the motor unit is placed on the same support or if the player is set on a different one. You can notice any differences in the oil viscosity as a substancial change of the dynamics in the music. It might be clear if different supports for the 60 kg player will be heard, it is very important which motor will do the job. In 1999 the swiss hifi magazine "Hifi Scene" published almost a complete issue about motor concepts for the Platine Verdier turntable. This article was a very interesting contribution to questions about pulley motors, magnets, strings, supports, energy, physics and finally the influence of the earth magnetism to the pick up process. This article ended with a very individual conclusion about the only possible motor solution. To my experience it was a bit of a dead end street conclusion, but it showed in a amazing way how different motor concepts finally will lead to completely different record players. Motors will create a substancial difference to the inherent musical information, its overall dynamics, their speed, timing and their amount of listenable air.

The suspended subplatter with belt drive built into my own platform to fit the smallest circular enclosure in the size of the platter and the string guard in the foreground
For almost one year I did follow up different ideas and built a lot of motor concepts. Under these I built the Maxon concept (from "HiFi-Scene") and a lot of other dc-motors, ending with a three-motor-unit each with own string. As well I did slaughter a Revox A77 in order to get the famous pulley motor with its own tachymeter controlled electronics and PSU, a 15 kg set up which is used with a tape as a string (I have it still in my cellar if somebody is interested to buy). I used servo controlled step motors, as I tried steam operated piston motors to the electric alternatives. I introduced the eddy current brake to the verdier and experimented at different viscous oils with different motors…, – but I always came back to the chunky Thorens TD 160 record player as a motor unit. This set up was always a whole lot better than any other motor. I could not really believe it, but it was like that. I did not know why, but every aspect was better resolved when I switched to this system. First there was the synchronous motor itsself, completely different than any other dc unit, second with a 30 cm platter there is a big difference to a small pulley in terms of slipping for the thin string. I thought may be with the 1:1 transmission of the string has no more slip and this makes the difference to all small pulleys where slips are common. Again I said to myself: "if it is that good, how good might is be when you incorporate a lot better turntable like the Linn LP12 with motor control instead of the chunky Thorens". A friend of mine did use a Linn LP12 in advanced configuration with latest bearing, springs, etc. and the Lingo (two phase frequency generator). He brought the 6000 EUR player over to my place to test it as motor unit for my Platine Verdier! – As motor unit –. You might believe me or not, but the simple Thorens did the job better, – a lot better, I could not understand what I did hear. The Linn is basically the same construction like a Thorens, with several hundred percent better components, tolerances and materials. It uses a Phillips synchronous motor and a perfect built two phase frequency generator, – and it can not even come close to the Thorens in sound qualities when used as a motor unit. What is the secret of the Thorens?

Both record players use the same slipless pulley (platter) and the subchassis spring damping as identical mechanical base. The Phillips motor is a 32 pole synchronous type, the Thorens motor is the same with 16 poles. Both use a rubber belt to drive the sub platter, both players use casted metal platters. So far the only difference is the motor. In theory the 32 pole Philips motor has a 100% advantage above the 16 pole Thorens unit. With every turn the energy will initiate a double amount of smaller steps to the pulley, to my understanding it will be a double smooth contribution comparing the  16 poles.
I made the final test to conclude. I changed the motors against each other. I played both with perfectly  customized Valhalla boards, because the Lingo is phase optimized for the 32 pole motor (the 16 pole motor needs a different shifting capacitor in the output of the Valhalla for the other half sinus wave). Now the Linn with Thorens motor was a lot better than the Thorens with Philips motor. I did not understand why, but the 16 pole Thorens motor plays so much smoother than the Philips type, that I still cannot believe, nor do I understand why. But sometimes things have to be accepted.




For a long time I had a armless Thorens TD 160 torso with Valhalla board underneath close to my Platine Verdier as motor unit. It was ugly, but I did know it is so much better than any dc motor, so I accepted its appearance. When people visited me they asked: "For what reason do you need two turntables?" When I answered the small one is the motor for the big one, I noticed incredulous eyes and just could a little bit foresee what they might have thought about me...?

The underside shows the opening for the Valahlla board and the gas filled dampers for the spring suspension of the whole unit.

In 2004 I wanted to end this unpleasent situation and started to build a housing for my motor unit. I wanted to keep the three spring suported subchassis, the subplatter and the platter. I needed space for the motor, as well for the Valhalla board and I wanted to isolate the whole unit with suspended feet. First I thought about a 30 cm diameter plywood ring, where all will be built into. I did not like the idea of building a new wooden resonant instrument as housing for the motor unit. That brought me to the idea to make it from concrete. For this idea I needed to find a 30 cm round mold, where to cast the concrete in. It took me a while to find something adequat. I visited several household shops in order to find a perfectly shaped cover for cakes. They all are in the range of the searched size, but differ for 3 cm smaller or larger. And at least it needed to be slightly conical, so that the finished concrete cake will perfectly slide out. For the different flats inside I did cut excact negative forms from styrofoam, which have got glued together as sandwich. This block got fixed with two bars overall the top border of the mold (the later underside). I did use very special high tech industrial concrete, which is normally used for highly strained floors. This has a lot of unhealthy epoxy components in its mixture but gets harder as any other. I did the cast and waited for 24 hours for the first step. After that time I added a final layer of 2 cm of pure epoxy component on top of the cast (the later underside). The sandwich of concrete and epoxy got everted after a resting for another 24 hours and than it was looking good to get it out the mold. I pulled out all styrofoam parts and was able to see that it had air inclusions inside or outside. Now it could harden for the next 30 days on air, after that period it got a industrial floor paint in concrete gray as a final finish. Two days later I could assemble the whole unit. Everything adapted perfectly and it did look quite good.

Here you can see the inside mold still with styrofoam texture

Now I had a quite compact (it is only compact comparing the Verdier), reasonable looking motor housing, which did not need to be hided anymore. So I took the chance to visit a friend of mine and he could compare the unit to his original Verdier dc motor. Late at night when I came home I had to carry my unit up to my apartment. To protect it during this transport I had packed it in a card board box with styrofoam stuffing. When I took the box out of the trunk of my car the bottom of the box suddenly opened and the whole unit smashed on the street. The concrete housing did burst into 100 pieces and lots of dust – a complete desaster. I had no other chance than to do all the work again for a second time.


The finished complete motor unit

Today I know that I don't move the unit anymore, and if, than only perfectly packed bomb proof in a strong container.

Read on soon, Volker