Vintage Belt Verus Direct Drive

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Colin Shurety
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Vintage Belt Verus Direct Drive

Post by Colin Shurety » 05 Nov 2018 13:54

I have recently bought a Sansui SR-525 turntable to add to my existing Sansui SR-222 MkII. I have read so many articles and reviews extoling the virtues of belt drive when compared to direct drive and I wanted to see if the comments regarding musicality and tonal balance could be shown in these mid-range turntables though a mid range system.

Although these two turntables are not considered to be in the top flight they are the type of turntable that most people would be able to afford, in addition, they both have tone arms, sourced I believe from Jelco, that can support a quality cartridge.

Having become thoroughly hooked on vinyl I started to look into the used turntable market as there seemed to be some real engineering masterpieces lurking in the classified ads and the on-line auction sites. One thing I noted is that during the period before the arrival of the CD most HiFi manufacturers had a range of turntables to suit all pockets, more importantly, all had a flagship turntable.

Year on year these flagships got better and better until the arrival of the CD. Most of the Japanese turntables were direct drive and whilst being accepted in the USA, we in Europe considered the belt drive turntable to be the better option as far as musicality.

So, when I compared these Mid-Range turntables from Sansui I expected the SR-222 MkII to be tonally different to the SR-525 as all the information I had received to date suggested that direct drive sounded different to belt drive turntables.

First, let me say that the SR-222 MkII is a fine turntable in its class, although, not without its gremlins. The mechanical speed change can be tricky to set up, as the lever that moves the belt from one speed to the other can drag on the belt. However, once it is set up with a new belt it holds it speed with incredible accuracy.

The build quality of the SR-525 is superb, the quality of the switchgear is wonderful, everything moves with fluid smoothness, the way the turntable gathers speed echoes the smoothness of the controls. The speed control is astonishing, I checked this with my rev counter app on my phone and it is rock solid on both 33.3 & 45 RPM. In addition, the tonearm is visually stunning and beautifully made. It is not the simplest of arms to set up, however, once set up it performs with the same fluid smoothness as the turntable.

I have used several different cartridges, trying to determine which one suits the tonearm of the two turntables. I ought to tell you at this point what these turntables are connected to:

Amplifier: Yamaha DSP-A5
Speakers: Quentis 5.1 theatre set with active sub-woofer

The amplifier is considered by most people as “bright” but not harsh and the speakers are fairly flat. Therefore, finding the right cartridge to compliment this system has not been easy. The cartridges tried so far are as follows:

1. Sansui SC-37 with stylus SN-37 (SR-222 MkII)
2. Audio Technica AT-100e (SR-222 MkII & SR-525)
3. Goldring Elan (SR-222 MkII & SR-525)
4. Sansui SV-27a (SR-525)
5. Shure M97XE (SR-222 MkII & SR-525)

All of the cartridges performed well, although the AT-100e was a tad shrill, as I said the amp & speaker combination would be considered by most people to be bright. The Sansui was less detailed but made a pleasant, if, understated sound. The Goldring was a complete success, it bought the whole system together. It wasn’t as good on rock music as it was on classical, this was where the AT-110e was most at home, however, when it came to jazz the Goldring really came to life.

Well, as far as these two turntables both sounded equally at home with the three cartridges and produced, remarkably similar results. This is more than likely due to the system they are being played through. It is more than likely that my home theatre-based system is not transparent enough to show the subtle differences between these turntables.

That was until I strapped on the Shure M97EX. This cartridge performed well with the SR-222 MkII turntable, producing a similar sound to the Goldring Elan. However, when I slipped this onto the arm of the SR-525 my speakers started to produce sounds I had not heard before. The depth and clarity of the human voice was stunning, the bass tight and secure without becoming boomy, but the icing on the cake was the smooth treble, no more sibilance or high hats rattling around. To further check this out I played the CD of the same record and this sounded thin and constrained by comparison almost like a 128-bit MP3.

Now I am not saying that I have found the holy grail or that the Shure M97EX is a universal cure to flat sounding direct drive turntables, all I am saying is that it was difficult to register any real difference between the two turntables with my typical home theatre system on all of the cartridges with the exception of the Shure M97EX.

So, the best budget cartridge I have found, so far, for the SR-222 MkII is the Goldring Elan.
The Sansui SR 525 & Shure M97EX are a delightful partnership surprise.

To sum up, all I have discovered is that you have to have a seriously good HiFi system to tell the difference between Belt & Direct Drive and that the tonearm/cartridge combination is more important than the drive type.

lenjack
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Re: Vintage Belt Verus Direct Drive

Post by lenjack » 07 Nov 2018 01:50

I believe direct drive naysayers, for the most part, are deluding themselves. Just purchased a reworked, 38 yr old direct drive Technics, for $125, which sounds absolutely superb, meaning it has absolutely no sound at all. Comparing it to a very expensive manual, belt drive, there is no audible difference.

bernard1
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Re: Vintage Belt Verus Direct Drive

Post by bernard1 » 07 Nov 2018 02:49

I am a Thorens user since many years. Full manual belt drive. Two years ago, I found a full auto direct drive Sony PSX 600. Another world, but I love it as much as my Thorens.
The only thing I'm afraid of is the lot of electronic in the Sony. It's a 1983 table, I've changed some caps, but if there was a serious issue, I don't' know if I'll be able to fix it.
On the Thorens, there is only one resistor, two caps and one switch. Service is much much easier.

AsOriginallyRecorded
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Re: Vintage Belt Verus Direct Drive

Post by AsOriginallyRecorded » 07 Nov 2018 04:08

With 7 turntables in rotation and regular use, two of which are belt drives, the remainder direct drive, it has been my experience that the notable differences are mostly dependent on the music being played. I am a big fan of progressive rock, which tends to be quite complex and has multi-layered audio signatures. The direct drive turntables tend to Help find and extract more of this detail from albums, essentially regardless of the cartridge used. The belt drive turntables excel at playback of orchestral and more acoustic music, producing a "warmer and live" presentation. I believe it has something to do with the speed variation (though minor) of the flexible belt, which tends to blend notes together somewhat, resulting in the tonal warmth of the music played. In effect, the belt drives can provide a better "live" experience with music more likely to be listened to in a "live" setting. The direct drive turntables tend to deliver a more precise and accurate reproduction of closely miked studio music. MHO....of course. :D

Spinner45
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Re: Vintage Belt Verus Direct Drive

Post by Spinner45 » 07 Nov 2018 07:44

AsOriginallyRecorded wrote:
07 Nov 2018 04:08
With 7 turntables in rotation and regular use, two of which are belt drives, the remainder direct drive, it has been my experience that the notable differences are mostly dependent on the music being played. I am a big fan of progressive rock, which tends to be quite complex and has multi-layered audio signatures. The direct drive turntables tend to Help find and extract more of this detail from albums, essentially regardless of the cartridge used. The belt drive turntables excel at playback of orchestral and more acoustic music, producing a "warmer and live" presentation. I believe it has something to do with the speed variation (though minor) of the flexible belt, which tends to blend notes together somewhat, resulting in the tonal warmth of the music played. In effect, the belt drives can provide a better "live" experience with music more likely to be listened to in a "live" setting. The direct drive turntables tend to deliver a more precise and accurate reproduction of closely miked studio music. MHO....of course. :D
That's amazing that you can actually "hear" such things.
Me?
I'm human.

cafe latte
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Re: Vintage Belt Verus Direct Drive

Post by cafe latte » 07 Nov 2018 07:50

I think if either a decent belt or a decent direct drive sound different to the other by a large amount one or the other is faulty. I have 5 turntables one belt/ idler, two idler and two direct drives and over the years had loads of belt drives, carts make way more difference when you start comparing mid range TT's up.
Chris

Solist
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Re: Vintage Belt Verus Direct Drive

Post by Solist » 07 Nov 2018 14:29

If the designer knew what he was doing you will find little difference between the types of turntables.

The most important part of a turntable is the stylus and the cartridge. It is the very first part in a TT based system, and it is what makes or breaks a setup.

I tend to prefer idler drive turntables since I like to know that the motor is good enough to spin the platter way under 0,1% wow and flutter without any electronic speed control.

Also, the high torque motors used in idlers tends to cut through a record like butter which minimizes the groove drag being produced by the modulation of the record and the stylus. Use a strobe when playing a record with a belt and idler drive and you can see the difference.

The good thing though about DD turntables is that they dont produce any lateral force on the main shaft. If you imagine the way the power is being transfered from the motor to the platter with a belt and idler drive, it tends to force the platter into the main shaft. The only exception being the Lenco motor which is the closest thing to a DD I can think of.

lenjack
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Re: Vintage Belt Verus Direct Drive

Post by lenjack » 08 Nov 2018 00:10

I don't believe there is any groove drag with direct drag...too much torque. As said above if 2 tables sound that much different, one, or maybe both, are faulty. Also, I don't subscribe to the idea that one type favors warmth, and the other favors detail. That would be colorization. We need neutrality.

Solist
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Re: Vintage Belt Verus Direct Drive

Post by Solist » 08 Nov 2018 02:17

I remember very clearly how more solid of an image I have heard when I switched from a low torque (hybrid), to high torque idler drive.

The later was of much higher quality overall, so not really a fair comparison.

In regard to groove drag with DD turntables, it depends. If you use a high torque motor which does not produce a lot of vibrations, with a small magnetic field and you put on top of that a heavy platter then you have a good quality DD/ID/BD.

But I am not a fan when it comes to the turntable constantly checking the speed and then adjusting to that. I know that not every DD is like that, but lots of them are. Lets just say that for me a heavy platter is a more elegant solution.

When you are spinning a 3kg+ platter the small variations which are coming from the motor are going to be minimized by the moment of inertia.
I am not saying that idlers are in general better than the rest, its pure nonsense. I just pointed out why I prefer to use them. Not a lot of BD/DD seem to use a very heavy platter.

And the turntable which favors detail is the better turntable. It simply means that there is less vibration being transfered to the platter while spinning at a correct speed, regardless of groove modulation.

Vinylfreak86
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Re: Vintage Belt Verus Direct Drive

Post by Vinylfreak86 » 08 Nov 2018 22:31

If we look at older turntables, both direct and belt-drive were designed on very high level, so both types will do their job correctly. But I prefer direct-drive, I think it works more silently and precisely like belt-drive. But more electronic inside, so if something goes wrong you have to find an experienced servicer.

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