Sunday, 14 August 2016

Platine Verdier

La Platine Verdier

I have "researched" much and often about how to get the most out of the LP format. (it might be said that it was an obsession and a waste of time). Among a group of individuals who have tried a variety of cost no object turntables there is a consensus that there are two decks that eventually remain. These are either the Micro Seiki 5000/8000 or a vintage "Granito" Platine Verdier. Since the Granito version is no longer made and since used examples were difficult to find I sent an email to J.C. Verdier in 2011. To my pleasant surprise he cordially replied and offered to assist me in recreating the Granito Plinth under his mentorship.

So another turntable journey of learning began...

An Italian mosaic company who are well known for their terrazzo and mosaic flooring and working with concretes and stones agreed to take on the project because it was an aesthetic undertaking although well below their normal project size. 

The first examples were proof of concept using CNC machines. Not a finished product but it verified the sonic benefit and practicality of manufacturing.

After being oiled it it looked a little better,

Battery supply is indicated for the power source of the motor regulator providing better current response.

A stainless tray was made to go with a wooden chassis that was made in New Mexico long ago. Batteries, charger, voltmeter and switches were installed.

Between the battery supply and the Granito plinth things were coming along.

Here is the underside showing the new hardware required. This was the second iteration of plinth with a lighter colour.

M. Verdier liked the progress but indicated the material was not hard enough. This provided the opportunity to specify not only the hardest material available but a also change in the concrete colour and stone mix. 


This stone collection uses larger stones from all over Italy to get the different colours. This is termed Venetian. The material was now hard enough and M. Verdier was also pleased with the aesthetics and so this became the final version.

The sonics of this turntable so equiped defy the genre of belt drive or DC motor. It has much of the grip of an idler but also the fine resolution of say the Kuzma or Galibier. As much as I like having multiple decks there was a desire to find it all in one place and so this became my huckleberry. It does not go to the extremes of performance in both camps but it does go deeply into both with arguably one of the widest ranges of performance. The high quality motor, heavy platter, low noise magnetically, supported bearing, and well tuned, high mass suspension are all facets which demonstrate an insightful and inspired design. The result is nothing short of stunning.

In memory of J.C. Verdier - with gratitude.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Countryside and Music

After years of travel and expatriate living we have come back to Europe and setup a basecamp. We are hiding in the countryside. There is lavender, rosemary and mint, deer, badgers and rabbits. There are also boxes, lots of boxes.

The sum of 348 boxes is not for the feint of heart. After several days of unloading and arranging it was finally time to unpack some gear and see what was in the boxes.

One forgets how much there is to do...

It was decided to go back to the original prototype and get a baseline for the new speaker which will be much smaller and still be a triode partner.

Well, that's enough for one day. Time for a walk...

Next day.... roughed in and ready for power.

and first listen...

The countryside ambient 35db is very different from the city noise floor of 65-75db.

Now its time to tune and hang some pictures...

More to come when things settle down.

Thank you for visiting.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Extremes - from idler to the other end.

Many years ago Thomas Scheu introduced a turntable which was available in DIY form and although its cost was low it was very high performing. Today Scheu turntables are still known for their excellence in performance and reasonable cost. Some americans were inspired by the DIY Scheu and started building their own DIY turntables. The group eventually broke up and went their own ways but kept on making turntables and today are known as Teres, Galibier and Redpoint respectively. They all originally sourced the same Maxon DC motor run well below is rated RPM range for low noise and used heavy platters and over built bearings.

Galibier Stelvio

I had one and so I thought it might be time get it out of the box and see how this concept compared to El Conquistador - the Garrard 301 idler wheel in stainless and slate, with bronze flywheel and reinforced chassis.

Thusly, the two tables were setup simultaneously and even the phono stage had two inputs with a switch between decks which can just be seen in the upper left of the photo.

Some details of the Galibier.

The base is not solid but loaded with lead shot in oil. Very Heavy. The bearing house is solid brass and grossly/wonderfully oversized.

The bearing is also oversized of course and super high precision to the point where it is difficult to insert the bearing into the house. It creates a hermetic seal trapping air in the bearing house and wants to push the bearing shaft out until after some minutes of rotation.

The platter is also lead and oil loaded and then 20mm thick inserts of brass and graphite are added as a path for the stylus vibrations.

Some assembled shots.

No stretch Mylar belt.

Arm Tower is also shot and oil loaded.

With Acos Lustre Arm

Some context...

You might like to read something about the way this turntable sounds and how it compares to the 301.

I began with the Triplanar and Accuphase Cartridge, then tried a Scheu specified Benz Cartridge, moving on to Koetsu on the Ikeda and then the Acos Lustre with a variety of cartridges Denon 103, Glider, Accuphase and some moving magnets.

It was a very different sound to the 301 - lower noise and more relaxed to be sure. There was some difficulty finding a good match and the Lustre arm helped here. Once it was settled in there was a richness and depth that the 301 did not possess however it was also as if there was something out of square. It would not put its foot down firmly. I tried the Ikeda with the Koetsu but it just got worse.

 I had noticed that tuning the speed was problematic. There was an exaggerated lag between adjustment and the speed result on the strobe compared to the other decks. No matter how much the tension of the belt was adjusted this continued.

This invited exploration. First to upset the speed with a little finger friction which caused the speed to fall off and recover. The recovery time was similar to adjustment time. The final part of which took the most time. So it would run slightly slow for an extended time. It was not much of a leap to realise that this was true for every little bit of friction the stylus found when hitting the constantly changing music signal cut in the grove. Thus it was determined that the lushness was due to a slow motion changing of pitch. This effect was exaggerated by the heavier arms and lower compliance cartridges who lost foundation and became exceedingly lush. Easy to see here how Koetsu got is reputation.

What to do?

The answer had been right in front of me.
It just so happened that the platter heights were perfect. Just wrap a longer belt around the 301 platter!

The 301 had rubber o-rings which served as a non slip pulley.

"It's better to be lucky than to be good" we say in aviation and it works in audio as well. Clearances worked out with no adjustments.

Thus was born the "Garrardier"

Driving the Galibier with the 301 was revelatory. The reason for this was that the Galibier no longer sounding like the Galibier. With all the engineering and over building the character of the 301 was transported here. I say character but there was a difference - there was greater space, purity of tone, decay and precision. Thus the engineering and over building was not wasted but rather combined with the strength of the 301. This said, it is worth noting that that it still more 301 than it was Galibier in its sonic profile and thus the motor had more to do with character than platter, plinth or bearing. Not much advertising copy is dedicated to motor type, torque, and vibration specifications. In my humble little world the Maxon motor at the Galibier operating point was simply not up to task.

This opened the door to other motors being tried

Here a Pabst which had very high torque and sounded more like tape than vinyl. However its vibration level was also very high but it indicated that most turntables did not sound like tape because the motors of different torque categories. The character again had changed noticeably. This happened with each type of motor - smaller Garrard, Lenco, and a higher torque, low inertia DC. In airplanes there is a term - "Fly the wing." Which essentially means the wing is what it is all about. I humbly put forward that in the case of the turntable this would be the motor. It is the single active component to the system after all. Providing the signal's motion across the sensor, it acts and reacts. Everything else is passive.

Overall the impression of the Galibier was one of exceptional quality in build with great care and attention to precision, materials and tuning. It also was an extreme example of the low vibration genre of turntables that has evolved which unfortunately also give up signal speed integrity in comparison to the older, stronger motored turntables.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Garrard 301 - Let's get classic.

Garrard 301 - grease bearing

Since the Lenco was so good it raised the question of the classic idler table used by Sugano, Ikeda, Kondo and many other music enthusiasts. I searched for and obtained a good example of the 301 - it had to be a grease bearing if it was to be in the representative of the examples of lore.

A very clean example.

Where to start with it?  -where the Lenco began - in a double layer rich maple plinth with large brass footers.

Ah ha! A new presentation of the music. Richer,  more energetic while at the same time, and best of all, more organic. There was some loss of ambient resolution, spacial depiction and decay but overall the increased energy made the music very enjoyable and present.

Adding mass by combining the plinths and adding brass inserts was a step in the right direction.


This was also an opportunity to tear down, clean and rebuild the motor and platter bearing. This helped lower the vibration levels. This deck was more prone to it than the Lenco and was requiring more tuning and adjustment.

Now thing were better, all of the strengths and a reduction of the weaknesses - vibration and noise. This resulted in greater resolution and space.

Again, this was a stopping point but more than with the Lenco it seemed that more mass was indicated and so...

Another slate plinth, this time in a sandwich with layers of stainless steel. The theory was to add mass and more evenly distribute vibration through the slate.

Designed so that original mounting bolts could be used.

El Conquistador. The difference of mass with the 301 was really something. It must be said this plinth is very heavy. This is probably obvious but I did not think of it until I had it all put together and tried to carry it down stairs. If memory serves well it is 50kg or so not including the 10kg bronze arm tower.

How did the mass affect the sound? It lowered the vibration considerably more and brought out fine nuances and most importantly became increasingly life like. It seemed the leading edge and follow through of notes was clearer, more dense and colourful.

A bronze bearing mount/sink was added. This served two purposes, the first of which was to add mass to the bearing house to sink vibration and give it a path to ground. The second purpose was to brace the top plate as it was not rigid nor well supported previously in stock form. This bracing from underneath prevented the top plate from flexing and allowed the bearing and platter to maintain greater stability during rotation. This improved stability was readily apparent in tone, depth and clarity.

It was getting very serious at this point and hard to beat. One thought was to make a bronze platter but first there was the flywheel to consider. It should be mentioned at this point that a motor controller was in use which could adjust the voltage and frequency of the AC going to the motor. Adjustment was easy if you could get a finger on the motor while adjusting to find the lowest vibration. Tried with and without the eddy current brake it was clear that the brake was in part responsible for the organic sound. Foucault effect I believe explains why, essentially it lessens the speed error with varying load. This brought up thoughts of inertia and damping vibration at it source - the motor.

A new flywheel was produced which would greatly increase the inertia - more than a bronze platter - and also by adding mass to the motor shaft reduce the amplitude of its vibration as well as possibly balancing some of it out.

Tuning it was a devil but it yielded. Greater speed stability as could be seen with the strobe when varying load with the finger and the sound became increasingly solid and bold. No doubt the varying drag of the needle is a great negative influence and was now lessened. The brake was lost with this heaver wheel as it allowed no clearance for it to operate. The question of if actual inertia or the inertial like effect of the brake was greater was answered by another bronze flywheel with an accommodation for the brake. (Middle)

The brake won again. Use the brake. In this case there was the best of both.

Inspired by this deck a FR-66S was obtained and became the house arm. It ran everything well included moving magnet cartridges if you can believe it.

And then the FR64S which was only a shade away form the 66S.
An Ikeda on an Ikeda is hard to beat. In this case an FR 702, a favourite.

I should say this about the Garrard 301 when playing heavy arms and low compliance cartridges. It gets so real sounding that it can spook you. After a long day of flying helicopters in the Arabian heat I was home at night listening before bedtime. The house was semi dark with candles, my child fast asleep upstairs and the house was closed for the night. Listening with my eyes closed and really getting into the music and then I heard someone in the room and my radar lit up and my eyes opened to locate the source. It was just inside the right speaker. David Crosby with singing very softly behind there. I realised it had sounded real enough for me to suddenly believe someone had got past the locked door and into the room I knew was empty except for myself. This is a very potent deck when setup with the right tuning. It does something I have not heard on another deck and it is all about music.