"Why the need to try upgrading our existing turntables? Just upgrade to a higher or better model, isn't it easier ? " In the course of my work in tweaking turntables, many people ask me this interesting question.

Yes, I fully agree. It's much much simpler to just buy a better model which meets your need and be done with. And that's what I had been doing in the past. But the problem is what we need today might change in six months or a year and it would be difficult to keep on looking for newer or better models.

Down the analogue journey, I have actually acquired and tried out numerous turntables. Besides enjoying the warm music from the turntables, I become very interested in the "anatomy" of turntables, perhaps due to my engineering training. Tweaking turntables is indeed great fun to me! So instead of junking what I have already owned and get new higher models in pursuit of better quality or more hi-fi sound/music, I've designed components to improve the performance of my turntables.

This is an interesting ongoing project for me, very challenging and enriching experience too as I learn a lot through experimenting it myself.

"What to upgrade and how to upgrade?" you may ask.

Well, we can either upgrade or tweak what we have in hand (provided it is upgradeable, e.g. idler wheel-drive turntable Lenco L75); get a good pre-owned unit(e.g. belt-drive sprung turntables Thorens TD160/TD145 or belt-drive unsprung turntables Rega Planar 2 or Planar 3 or direct-drive turntable Technics SL1200MK II) or even buy a new budget turntable (e.g. Rega P2/P3/P5) to upgrade.

Next, what shall we focus in the upgrade?

Personally I prefer to focus on the "turntable proper"(armless) and before doing anything else...

Why? This because I consider "turntable proper"(armless) the most important contributor to good sound.

"Turntable proper" consists of sub-platter/platter, plinth/sub-plinth, main bearing in which the sub-platter/platter spins, a motor drive system with pulley and belt, spring/ rubber isolation and suspension system. Each of all these components has its effect on the sound quality depending on design of the system(mechanical/electrical ), the shape/mass, degree of isolation (mechanical and electrical) and also the nature of material used for the parts( e.g plastic/metal pulley, resin/aluminium subplatter).

Another fact: a turntable is more of a precision mechanical device even though it has an electric motor. So it's possible for us to improve the components on board.

In my earlier example of tweaking the Rega Planar 2 or P2, you would have noticed I've taken steps in the following different areas:

1. Change the resin sub-platter to aluminium sub-platter to reduce resonance.
2. Replace the glass or fiber board platter with acrylic platter to lower the centre of gravity and better moment of inertia effect.
3. Isolate the motor vibrations using the isolation base which acts a a vibration-sink as well as heat-sink.
4. Change the plastic pulley to metal pulley to steady the rubber belt rotation.

Each of the above tweaks gives some improvement and the cumulative improvement would be very substantial.

Tonearm is the second most important contributor to the overall sound effect of the turntable. By changing the stock end-stub/counterweight( of Rega Planar 2 or P2) to an all stainless steel one with under-slung counterweight has a profound effect on the sound produced.

This is a simpler task for a layman compared to meddling with the tonearm wires which is often suggested. I consider changing the tonearm wires as a specialist job and it must be handled with care or the bearing might be damaged, in turn adds more resistance to both vertical and horizontal movements of the tonearm. As a result, there would be undesirable sound degradation.

Therefore, to start with, we should focus the tweaks on the mechanical design, material used and selective isolation. By doing so, we can achieve a very big and significant improvement in the sound of a humble budget turntable without having to rob the bank.


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