Face-off: Belt versus Direct Drive

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TheChairGuy

Face-off: Belt versus Direct Drive
« on: 26 Nov 2007, 08:14 pm »
I posted this on another forum yesterday...so I thought I'd copy it over for the benefit of those here at Audio Circle's Vinyl Circle....also, it's been kinda' quiet around here and we need something vinyl-related to chew on  :wink:

Part 1: Preamble
I'm 44, had the hi-fi bug for about 30 years now. First table was a JVC (belt drive) JL-A20...shorn with various MM cartridges, and filled with 15 lbs of mortite inside and out...it made good music back then. It died in a freak fire at my dealers shop...who was showing it off to customers (bass was amazing - no feedback with all that mortite on it).

I replaced it with a Thorens TD-316...with Grace F-9e...for $500...but, it never made music like my old JVC with all the mortite on it  :(

I replaced it with a Townshend Rock / Helius Orion / modded Grado and was in heaven. I had to sell it for rent money about a year after buying it Sad I loved that combo...years later I realize it may be as much the natural. powerful Grado that I liked as much as the TT/arm combo. Now, I was back to my backup, the Thorens.

1992 rolls around and my wife buys me a nice Rotel RCD-965BX CD player. It's good...better than the Thorens...so I mostly play CD's. And, am miserable when playing tunes  :nono:

Late in '93, I embark on what is now my 3rd business venture. Knowing how obsessed Shocked I can get with audio...I box up and store all my gear. It was not until early 2000, when my 2nd venture was successful enough and I had gotten the hang of 'marriage' did I break them out of their boxes.

The Thorens, now shorn with a Shure V15 (the last one made) and the Rotel CDP carrying most tunes the tunes. Again, I listened to the CD mostly, the Thorens doesn't make convincing music to me, and am miserable with the tunes, overall.

In 2003, I dig deep in my wallet and spring for a $4500 digital front end. And, I'm still miserable with the music. More miserable as I eventually sell this system in 2006 for $1300  :(

A year later in 2004, hearing the hub-bub about direct drive...I buy a junker JVC QL-A2 DD deck off ebay for $60. I ram 12 lbs of Plast-i-Clay in her (softer then mortite rope caulk to work with), set up on some isolation and all...and am gobsmacked with musical happiness.

I sell my Thorens on Audiogon, with Shure, for what I can get for it.

Late 2005, I buy a used VPI HW-19 Mk. III on ebay...the Rega 250 tonearm was badly wired and the motor is on it's last legs. So, I really don't get a good sense of it's capabilities with lousy wired arm (I changed the motor out to a newer / old one and it no linger has the shakes)

I buy another direct drive, another JVC, the QL-F6 in early 2006. Larger platter, heavier, better tonearm construction and internally (adjustable) oil damped in both horizontal and vertical planes. All for $100...with minty ADC XLM Mk. III Improved. I pound 11 lbs of Plast-i-Clay in her, set her up nicely isolated with as assortment of cartridges and just love music again at a whole new level of enjoyment.

A week ago, I finally decide to re-wire the Rega with Incognito..it already has the Expressimo stub, dropped counterweight and VTA adjustment. So, the VPI HW-19 MK. III is ready to face-off with the JVC QL-F6. Once, and for all, I hope to decide for myself (for sane money) which I prefer - direct drive or belt tables.

Odds strongly favor the direct drive for me....once you take care of the platter ringing and set it up on good isolation..it makes great music. The HW-19 is 48 lbs of well-executed belt drive, suspended and with the great modded tonearm on it now.

I'm completely agnostic actually...I honestly don't care which one sounds better as long as one clearly and convincingly does.

The stage is set for a showdown on a lazy Sunday where we do little but Holiday decorations, a little TV, some chit-chat on the phone.....and for me, vinyl playback  :guitar:

TheChairGuy

Re: Face-off: Belt versus Direct Drive
« Reply #1 on: 26 Nov 2007, 08:17 pm »
Part II / Face-off - for those of you with attention deficit disorder  :lol:

The Tale of the Tape...

VPI HW-19 Mk. IIIwith Rega 250 and extras (circa 1996) $1200.00 list
$850.00 - paid on ebay
$60 - used motor
$310 - Incognito
$200 - Ortofon X5-MC (list $329.00)
$2 - 6" high 'Swim Noodle' supports for DIY SAMA effort (recommended by Mike at VPI
Total - USD$1422.00

JVC QL-F6 (circa 1979) $350 list price
$100.00 - paid on ebay
$40.00 - 10 lbs of Plast-i-Clay
$60.00 - Grado Green
$69.00 - Grado G1+ (stylus moved to the Green)
$100.00 - AudioQuest sorbothane mat (sub-mat)
$60.00 - Herbie's Way Excellent Mat (top mat)
$8.00 - DupliColor UC103 sound deadening spray (platter underside)
Total - USD$437.00

Tables supported on 3.5" thick block of maple, 4 pointy toes pointed downward.....all records scrupulously cleaned by a Nitty Gritty RCM.

Game over in 5 notes this fine day...but I played all day hoping it changed and to allow further break in of the Incognito wire (seems like no break in needed as it sounded the same the first minute and the 10th hour to me)

The cheapie JVC was my preference - 100% - on jazz, classical, pop, avante garde (techno-pop), reggae, country and rock. It didn't matter - it had the speed control of CD, with the innate 'rightness' that vinyl alone among formats allows. Bass was tight, no wobble to voices or instruments, the midrange more exact...only in the treble did I find parity of sound.

Perhaps precise speed regulation mostly effects the lower 2/3 of the musical spectrum? The VPI was quieter - sounds came from an inky silence, overall ...but whether that was due to the belt drive, the cartridge (lower inductance Ortofon vs. Grado), or the effect of the shielded outer Incognito wire (the JVC has cheap fixed leads)....the JVC triumphed, conclusively for me.

It was all about pitch and or speed regulation. I know another $700-$1000 would buy a VPI SDS speed control...but it's a lot of money for what can be found, new or used, in a direct drive deck today' ya' know  :roll:

Quartz Lock, Servo Controlled DC can be had on various models from Technics, JVC and others licensed by Matsushita for ultra-precise speed regulation for a few hundred dollars new or used.

I am completely agnostic to the results - I care only that Direct Drive won out - and it was a decisive one, for me / for sure.

Those of you buying into the conventional audiophile wisdom of belt drive superiority, should have a listen to a properly sorted (ringing platter issue dealt with, most notably) Direct Drive front end. It's really quite a revelation  :o

Please don't anybody jump over me for this post - it is done only to serve as an example, or guide. It just seems to me that a more cost effective means of achieving great vinyl fidelity can be had with direct drive. That's all that it is meant to achieve. If you prefer not believe my conclusion - you may - and good luck to you on your vinyl odyssey.

I may not be sophisticated enough to hear something inherent in the VPI today...but I cannot deny what I did hear.

Please be nice fella's - it's all just my opinion and my findings - and not any foolproof results  :)

John

Wind Chaser

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Re: Face-off: Belt versus Direct Drive
« Reply #2 on: 26 Nov 2007, 08:21 pm »
Unless all things are equal, the same arm, cartridge, phono stage etc - how objective can this really be?

John

PS: I think it's great when someone finds something that works exceptionally well that undoes their expectations in the face of more costly gear.

ricmon

Re: Face-off: Belt versus Direct Drive
« Reply #3 on: 26 Nov 2007, 08:54 pm »
Unless all things are equal, the same arm, cartridge, phono stage etc - how objective can this really be?

John

PS: I think it's great when someone finds something that works exceptionally well that undoes their expectations in the face of more costly gear.

Ditto.  I would think that a less expensive belt drive TT with speed control would give different results.  I have speed control box on my TT and it's just as you noted that pitch is directly related to rotation stability.  However what a fun project.  So what do you plan to do with the belt drive TT?

TheChairGuy

Re: Face-off: Belt versus Direct Drive
« Reply #4 on: 26 Nov 2007, 08:58 pm »
John,

The JVC has no ability to have the same arm on it as the VPI...so having the exact same downstream components and the exact same base isolation will have to do in this particular case  :wink:

The differences were consistent throughout the day...and I have used both cartridges on a variety of cartridges and arms now, so their respective strengths and weakness' are pretty well known to me.

btw, I changed to a new belt this morning and the speed issue improved, but not dramatically.

Interestingly, as my PC is now on in the room, the VPI is demonstrably worse sounding today.  When my PC is on in the room and the JVC is playing, it doesn't sound dramatically worse.  I think the tighter controlled Quartz Lock, DC Servo drive does a better job of keeping speed with inclement line conditions. I don't use power conditioning currently. 

The VPI almost begs for a dedicated conditioner or SDS supply unit...but at $700-$100 more for it. That's a lot of clamola's  :roll:

TheChairGuy

Re: Face-off: Belt versus Direct Drive
« Reply #5 on: 26 Nov 2007, 09:05 pm »

Ditto.  I would think that a less expensive belt drive TT with speed control would give different results.  I have speed control box on my TT and it's just as you noted that pitch is directly related to rotation stability.  However what a fun project.  So what do you plan to do with the belt drive TT?

ricmon, hi, u may just be right.  All that 48 lb mass seems to be mostly wasted with the VPI without speed regulation..... a better test for similar $1400 spent on belt drive might be a Rega P2 or P3, upgraded arm and a Heed or Rega outboard speed control. I think Rega might have the equation right...cheap plinth, great arm, outboard speed control for most satisfactory value-oriented results for belt driven vinylphelia.

Oh, well...I learned a lot with this all.  The VPI is staying for a while as I need it as my belt drive test mule for further devil-ish experimentation  :evil:

I'm thinking of other (direct drive) decks that I could use the uber-modded Rega 250 tonearm on....as I could then assess how what portion of the VPI's presentation is arm related and what portion is deck related? 

The Ortofon X5-MC NEVER had such plentiful bass before...so I know the arm a major part of this equation.

John

JoshK

Re: Face-off: Belt versus Direct Drive
« Reply #6 on: 26 Nov 2007, 10:09 pm »
FWIW, the buzz from RMAF was that when the DD was compared to the belt drive in the Teres Audio room, feedback was universally in favor of the DD.  This is with the same table and setup.   Apparently it wasn't that subtle like a cable change, it was rather obvious. 

TheChairGuy

Re: Face-off: Belt versus Direct Drive
« Reply #7 on: 26 Nov 2007, 10:18 pm »
Yup - and in this topic a few months ago, too:

http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=40160.0

Hank

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Re: Face-off: Belt versus Direct Drive
« Reply #8 on: 27 Nov 2007, 01:43 am »
Well...I'm the guy who bought the Rega Planar 3 off eBay and has just about decided that with the tweaks it will take to get it to audiophile "snuff", I might want to look at a new TT with a warranty.  the Marantz/Clearaudio unit (yes, it's belt-drive) with the Clearaudo wood cart is VERY tempting.  This vinyl forum with it's strong leaning toward the DD Technics is interesting.

TheChairGuy

Re: Face-off: Belt versus Direct Drive
« Reply #9 on: 27 Nov 2007, 02:30 am »
Hey Hank....yes, there is a lot of direct drive enthusiasts here...but I hope it doesn't scare away all others involved.  It's a small enough group, us vinylphiles, so we cannot lose a one of 'em  :wink:

mgalusha

Re: Face-off: Belt versus Direct Drive
« Reply #10 on: 27 Nov 2007, 03:25 am »
FWIW, the buzz from RMAF was that when the DD was compared to the belt drive in the Teres Audio room, feedback was universally in favor of the DD.  This is with the same table and setup.   Apparently it wasn't that subtle like a cable change, it was rather obvious. 

Yep. Actually his new rim drive setup compared to the belt drive was pretty drastically different and IMO much better. The DD was superior but I could live with my current TT with the rim drive upgrade. Part of me wants to lay hands on a DD Technics and play tho. :)

GregC

Re: Face-off: Belt versus Direct Drive
« Reply #11 on: 27 Nov 2007, 06:58 am »
I know VPI makes quality products, but I have heard the Mk-III and the Scout in other people's systems and I felt they emphasized the lower registers more than I care for and did not have the same dynamics of other belt drive turntables I have heard.

My first turntable I owned (as a teenager 28 years ago) was a Sony PS-2 DD turntable with a servo lock, a stock tone arm, and a high-end vintage Shure cartridge.   I enjoyed it until I left for college, and then I would listen to it during the summers when I returned home from school.  I eventually stopped listening to vinyl after I graduated. 

Several years ago I decided to get back into vinyl so I could listen to my hundreds of records I still owned but had not heard.  I tried the Sony turntable and it did not sound nearly as good as I remembered.  I bought a Project RM4 belt drive turntable with a Blue Point cartridge (an investment of $350 used) to try a belt drive TT and it sounded considerably better than the Sony.  The RM4 beat several other turntables in a $1000 or less shootout and was noted for having very good speed control, and after owning it I would have to agree.

After the Project RM4, I moved to a Nottingham Interspace with an extra heavy platter, an Origin Live OL1 arm, and a Dynavector DV-20XH cartridge and it was very quiet and was a further improvement over the Project RM4. 

The next turntable on my upgrade path was an Origin Live Kit TT (where I eventually got the upgraded motor and transformer), an Origin Live Silver Reference arm (with the TWL tweak), and a Shelter 901 cartridge.  Now we are talking!  This had the dynamic slam I wanted, with excellent pitch control that did not waver, and the analog rightness that makes vinyl my preferred listening medium.  It was so good that when I finally was able to move on to my current reference system I used this in my secondary system.

My current reference is an Origin Live Resolution turntable with an Illustrious Arm and a ZYX copper 0.24mv cartridge.  This represents sonic nirvana for me and I have not heard a system yet I would trade for it.  From my progression of TT's I have found that I like a suspended, belt drive system, and Origin Live has executed this better than any other turntables I have been able to hear.

The folks here all seem to be fans of the Technics SL-1200 turntables and I would like to hear one some day.  If I had not owned the Origin Live turntables and personally measured with a 1000 Hz test signal that my turntable played at 1000 Hz and did not waver, I would probably opt for a DD because I agree that speed and pitch control are paramount in quality vinyl playback.
« Last Edit: 28 Nov 2007, 02:38 am by GregC »

TheChairGuy

Re: Face-off: Belt versus Direct Drive
« Reply #12 on: 27 Nov 2007, 02:51 pm »
Hey Greg - great (informative) post!  :thumb:

John

JoshK

Re: Face-off: Belt versus Direct Drive
« Reply #13 on: 27 Nov 2007, 03:13 pm »
FWIW, I was recently speaking with Jonathan Weiss (of Oswald's Mill Audio) about some other stuff, and we got on the topic of belt-drive vs. DD.  Jonathan is a big DD fan, but he made the comment that big heavy platters like my Teres and Walker, etc are basically flywheels.  When you think about it, its obvious.  The weight creates rotational inertia which is what the flywheel replicates.  So the different technologies both strive to use the same physics to accomplish their goals.

PeteG

Re: Face-off: Belt versus Direct Drive
« Reply #14 on: 27 Nov 2007, 04:09 pm »
Hey Greg - great (informative) post!  :thumb:

John
I agree and a nice analog system.

TheChairGuy

Re: Face-off: Belt versus Direct Drive
« Reply #15 on: 27 Nov 2007, 04:55 pm »
FWIW, I was recently speaking with Jonathan Weiss (of Oswald's Mill Audio) about some other stuff, and we got on the topic of belt-drive vs. DD.  Jonathan is a big DD fan, but he made the comment that big heavy platters like my Teres and Walker, etc are basically flywheels.  When you think about it, its obvious.  The weight creates rotational inertia which is what the flywheel replicates.  So the different technologies both strive to use the same physics to accomplish their goals.

I'd agree with that, Josh....but, the VPI has a fairly substantial 13 lb cork and lead affair and it still has speed regulation issues vis-a-vis the JVC....with a Quartz Lock, DC Servo and a 6 lb platter (including mats).  Seems to me a more cost effective implementation for highly regulated speed control would be a direct drive motor and DC servo.

Denon used AC Servo - maybe that's as good - don't know, never tried it (oh no, I feel an urge coming  :icon_lol:)

Further, with AC line interference (dimmers, TV's, monitors, appliances, PC's, etc on in the house) causes further degradation of the speed accuracy a belt drive deck with a synchronous AC motor, even with a goodly sized flywheel / platter, can achieve. 

I could move to the VPI next-up platter (27 lbs) to see if that's enough to gain further flywheel advantage...but it's some $400 (I think) to do so.  An outboard SDS controller, which locks in a 60hz sinewave to completely lock in speed regulation for the VPI - is $700 (used) to $1000 (new).  All this spent and all we might get for it is 98% of the speed control of a properly sorted direct drive deck....for 4+ times the money spent...without a stretchy belt eventually mucking up the speed regulation yet once again down the line.

Seems to me, after my head to head face off the other day, that the Japanese figured out this cost-effective equation best in 1979...then moved on to CD and DVD's for their next challenge  :)

John

JoshK

Re: Face-off: Belt versus Direct Drive
« Reply #16 on: 27 Nov 2007, 04:59 pm »
Not all designed are created equal.  To tell the truth, I have no idea on which is best, just sharing things I heard or read.  I have a Teres belt-drive fwiw, but I don't think it has to be the best because I own it.  I am open-minded, or try to be.

P.S. the economist in me (what little there is) wants to argue that it is hard to beat economies of scale.  Just because the mass producers' goods cost less doesn't mean it will underperform.  That is what I'd keep in the back of my mind. 

hurdy_gurdyman

Re: Face-off: Belt versus Direct Drive
« Reply #17 on: 27 Nov 2007, 06:01 pm »

Denon used AC Servo - maybe that's as good - don't know, never tried it (oh no, I feel an urge coming  :icon_lol:)


I have a Denon DP-75. This has terrific speed stability. Its my #2 turntable. Using a stethoscope, it is obviously quieter than my R-O-K idler. Its on an after-market plinth with a layered floating sub-chassis made from layers of a lead alloy and Masonite. I mounted an old VM professional arm on it that was a lot of work to make fit (it was originally an integrated arm not made to be taken off). Very nice deck.



Sorry for the faded pic. I need to retake this sometime.

Dave :)

lazydays

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Re: Face-off: Belt versus Direct Drive
« Reply #18 on: 27 Nov 2007, 06:35 pm »
Well...I'm the guy who bought the Rega Planar 3 off eBay and has just about decided that with the tweaks it will take to get it to audiophile "snuff", I might want to look at a new TT with a warranty.  the Marantz/Clearaudio unit (yes, it's belt-drive) with the Clearaudo wood cart is VERY tempting.  This vinyl forum with it's strong leaning toward the DD Technics is interesting.

when you look at the complete package the Marantz is a great buy. A whole lot of it depends on whatkind of budgit your operating on. I bought a Consance Opera 2.0 for $1700 delivered to my front door new in the box. Came with two sets of tonearm mounts
(Rega & SME), and with one more spacer I could mount two tonearms on it. How does it sound? About 90% of what my Final Tool sounds like (a really unfair comparison as the Final Tool used a lesser tonearm). But by the time you got it playing music you'd have about $2500 in it (D103 cartridge & Rega tonearm). The VPI Scouts are another good buy, but the Scoutmaster is by far the better table. You can buy factory referbished Sotas directly from Sota, and they are a great table.
gary

PeteG

Re: Face-off: Belt versus Direct Drive
« Reply #19 on: 27 Nov 2007, 08:32 pm »
VPI has a new “drive Wheel” as they call it. It should be out next year as a upgrade but like
some have said with the SDS controller the price gets a little too high for what you get back.


http://www.musicdirect.com/product/72076