December 2011 Issue - page 5

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December 2011 Issue
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I read with interest Noel's column where he was  beginning to explore the mechanical properties of direct drive turntables and the flutter signatures that they generate. Would it be possible to expand this investigation so that it covers the different types of direct drive turntable, because they are not all the same! For example, the Technics that you measured uses a motor with lots of windings on a laminated core but some have a simpler structure with a magnetic disc and fewer coils (for example, the Sony BSL type) and some, like a few of the bigger Bang & Olufsen models, use a linear motor wrapped into a circle. I imagine that these three methods would give rise to noticeably different behaviour under measurement. Do you think that it is possible that presence of quartz lock makes a measurable difference to anything other than drift?

I cannot help wondering if direct drive turntables got a rough ride in the very protective British hi-fi press during the LP’s heyday because the British hi-fi industry lacked the necessary engineering and manufacturing skills to produce them in any meaningful way. After all, the British direct drive decks from the likes of Garrard, Monitor Audio and others simply rehoused a Japanese motor inside their plinths. Somehow I can’t imagine that the likes of Technics, JVC, Sony, Yamaha et al would have gone to all that trouble and development expense if a basic Philips AC motor and a rubber band really was a better solution!

Jacob Lewis





Technics used their own Linear motor within the SL-1200 turntable, with rotor magnets in the platter, seen here. TimeStep upgrade its performance with improved servo control circuits.


Yes, I tend to agree that the issue was muddied by a xenophobic UK press, but quite where sound quality differences lie in a turntable remains obscure to me. I never like single issue explanations: the sound of a turntable, like many other hi-fi items, is a complex mix of sonic influences from many active areas. Even if we could identify every input of influence, we still could not work out how they would interact. Best not too worry too much about it and listen instead! NK


I grew up reading the UK hi-fi magazines in the nineteen seventies and eighties, and by the time I’d got to my twenty first birthday I was under the impression that all direct drives were utter worthless garbage, despite not really ever having heard one properly! I moved to Japan, bought a Pioneer PL600 for pennies from a junk shop, set it up properly with a Goldring 1042 and was totally gobsmacked by its sound. I just could not understand why it sounded so powerful, vital, energetic and full of life compared to my expensive Linn LP12 belt drive set-up, back home. Of course the Linn was better in some other ways, but this hands on experience absolutely befuddled me, as it went against all my teachings from the UK hi-fi press. Subsequent purchases have lead me to believe that direct drive, done properly, is easily the equal of belt drive, and often better, but of course as Noel says you can’t get too reductive about it; it’s the turntable as a whole you’re listening to. I feel that direct drive has a distinct sound, just as does idler and belt – and it’s a case of choosing the one that suits. Personally speaking, there are only a handful of belt drive turntables I could now live with, and I love these (such as the Michells) for the things they do that the direct drives I’ve heard cannot (tonally accuracy, soundstaging). As ever in hi-fi, it’s different strokes for different folks, but I agree that the late seventies anti-direct drive propaganda of the UK hi-fi press was not its finest hour! DP



My son was flicking through your July issue and noticed my name on your letter of the month. May I say thanks to David and Noel for taking the time to answer the ramblings of a mad man. Does this mean I have won the KEF loudspeakers? Both my sons have already claimed them as theirs!

Since my letter I have done some more research and am still very confused. In David’s first paragraph he states that through his system ALAC is inferior. What is David’s system? I only ask as I have tried ALAC with iTunes on my PC and I get the same results but on my Mac it is a very different story. I have made the assumption that the Mac deals with iTunes or ALAC or both in a different way to a PC.

In paragraph 2 you ask why not WAV? I would agree that storage is not an issue but data tagging/album info is. ALAC also works better in iTtunes and sounds the same as AIFF (in my opinion and in my system).

In paragraph 3 - I cannot disagree with but would only comment on how likely it is to happen.

Paragraph 4 - the Mac Mini has an optical output and I have tried it: it does not sound as good as the USB with the Benchmark.

You also mention asynchronous. I believe the Benchmark’s USB input is asynchronous, this could be why it sounds good using this input. It would be interesting to see what results you would get using the same equipment as me.

To summarise – I believe there are a lot of factors at play here and it must come down to the individual engineering of each system, from computer hardware/software/file type compatibility and onto the DACs. I think this is a subject that will develop and shape as it becomes a popular option with hI-fI enthusiasts. It’s strange that something as simple as a file type can cause so many different opinions. It may not be as simple as lossless means lossless after all.

Thanks once again for a brilliant publication. Apologies for my spelling and grammar, my son was not impressed.

Alex Cohen




The latest Mac Mini, now optimised for OS-X Lion – but it has no disc drive. Digital audio connection is via S/PDIF TOSLINK.

(picture courtesy of Apple Computer)

Hi Alex - yep, you’re absolutely right; there are so many variables and computer audiophiles are on a steep learning curve. It’s a case of suck it and see, and then write in with your findings. We’ll share them in the letters pages, and of course run periodic reviews and features to enlighten (confuse?) further! DP


You are obviously having fun there Alex. I hope your sons at least allow you to keep the headphones. NK


I was most interested in Noel Keywood’s review of the new Creek Destiny 2 in the March issue with his reference to upper mid glare or spitch that many transistor amplifiers seem to suffer from. My particular interest in this aspect is that over a period of time now I have been experiencing exactly that problem with my own ageing John Shear Phase 6 preamp and two Phase 3 Reference power amps bi-wired to a pair of Audiovector M3 Signature speakers via Cardas Quadlink speaker cables. I thought the problem may lay with my Eikos CD player so I have packed it off to Tom Evans for his full spec. upgrade.

Your review of the Creek has made me wonder whether my amps may also be contributing to the problem, but in any event I feel my amplification is ready for change and I have to say the Destiny 2 sounded it may well be what I am seeking, but your expert advice and guidance would be appreciated. I can go up to £3,000 to make the change and would be happy to consider integrated or another pre-power, but with a built in MM phono board. My musical tastes are very varied, mainstream rock/pop/country/classical.

John Langley





Creek Destiny 2 - one of Noel’s fave integrated amplifier raves!




The Creek Destiny 2 I would put in a field of its own sonically. It is enormously powerful sounding but ultimately smooth and spitch free. The nearest alternative comes from Naim, although they are not the same. You should not balance fundamental sound quality against the presence of a phono board. Instead get what will appeal to you sonically and last the course, then get an additional external phono preamp; the world is awash with them at present. NK


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