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.

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