Townshend Elite Rock Re-Build

snap, crackle and pop
ChrisfromRI
senior member
senior member
United States of America
Posts: 431
Joined: 13 May 2004 04:17
Location: New England

Townshend Elite Rock Re-Build

Post by ChrisfromRI » 09 Dec 2018 05:33

This was a fun re-build project on a really interesting and very unique British turntable! I had heard of and even seen a couple of these many years ago, and was fortunate to find one in good shape and also locate an appropriate British tonearm in good shape as well.

The Townshend Elite Rock turntable has a Gypsum (rock) filled plinth and platter, with a vinyl platter surface and a well designed record hold-down clamp to flatten out warps and keep the record in intimate contact with the vinyl surface of the platter. The plinth and platter are both metal cavities, into which the Gypsum was cast (when they were upside down). This one had been upgraded with an Airpax DC Motor with an Origin Live DC Motor Regulator/Controller. The platter bearing is an outstanding design as well. What makes this turntable really unique is that it uses a tonearm headshell mounted paddle that rides in a damping trough that is filled with 10,000 cst Silicon damping fluid (a pretty heavy weight damping fluid).

I cut a 5mm thick Carbon Fiber armboard for the Alphason tonearm which looks and works nicely. The only glitch was that the nice toroidal transformer in the Origin Live DC Motor Regulator/Controller only had one 230 VAC primary but was clearly labelled that it had a 6 VAC secondary wired to the controller circuitry. I accordingly swapped it out for a 117 VAC primary toroidal transformer with a 6 VAC secondary (for use in the US). As it's a DC motor and regulator there were no worries about 50 Hertz versus 60 Hertz nor struggles to find/machine the correct pulley. What was really nice was that that the motor regulator/controller used two potentiometers for setting speed, with a switch to select between them for 33/45 rpm. No need to move the belt on the pulley!

The Denon DL-103R phono cartridge I chose is quite low compliance so a perfect candidate for headshell-end damping. This was a DL-103R that I had previously re-bodied in a Rosewood body after cutting it out of its original plastic body. An Aluminum body might have been even better in retrospect, but it really sounds quite good. Plus I had epoxied it into the Rosewood body.

So once it was all sorted out I carefully set the speeds with the KAB strobe disc and timing light. I played it first with no damping fluid in the trough, and then after with the damping fluid in the trough which improved the sound in every way! The bass is excellent and the decay of the notes is very natural. This is a nice sounding turntable! The trough moves easily out of the way to change the record and easily back into place over the record, so it is straightforward to operate and not at all a hassle as I had previously heard.

43260

Tonybro
long player
long player
Great Britain
Posts: 2011
Joined: 01 May 2014 16:44
Location: Lancashire

Re: Townshend Elite Rock Re-Build

Post by Tonybro » 09 Dec 2018 09:44

Very nice.

I remember these, they were very good.

You've done a great thing to bring it back to life...

medwaybeat
member
member
Posts: 135
Joined: 17 Mar 2016 15:06

Re: Townshend Elite Rock Re-Build

Post by medwaybeat » 11 Dec 2018 14:20

That looks lovely. Seen a couple for sale here in the UK and prices are not rude either.
There was a plinth and dust cover available for them too.

nemsys
junior member
junior member
Great Britain
Posts: 7
Joined: 18 Oct 2018 10:24
Location: Otley

Re: Townshend Elite Rock Re-Build

Post by nemsys » 13 Dec 2018 10:24

It does look good. I have one of the originals from c.1983 with a serial no. in the 200s. I bought the plinth and cover at the same time and it is still going strong. I have the fitted Excalibur arm and I'm considering rewiring it but Jonnie at Audio Origami reckoned that it was one of the more difficult rewires he has done over the years. Part of the reason that I was contemplating rewiring is that the cartridge tags all broke off when I removed my old AT-F5 cartridge to return to Audio Technica as a trade in for the AT-33Sa which has yet to arrive. I managed to resolder the tags but they are now rather a tight stretch and I can't pull any more cable through as it is one continuous loom to the RCA plugs. There is no connector at the base of the pillar.


If anyone out there knows this arm and has rewired one I'd love to talk to you as I'm very reluctant to tackle it without the wealth of guidance that you can get on, say a Rega 200.

ChrisfromRI
senior member
senior member
United States of America
Posts: 431
Joined: 13 May 2004 04:17
Location: New England

Re: Townshend Elite Rock Re-Build

Post by ChrisfromRI » 21 Dec 2018 05:56

Mine has an Alphason arm with a bunch of wires coming out near the pillar, but thankfully they are all intact. The Denon DL-103R is a good match.

Beefed up the metal shelf with a layer of maple. Has a nice custom dustcover that's a lift-off, set-on.

43387

ChrisfromRI
senior member
senior member
United States of America
Posts: 431
Joined: 13 May 2004 04:17
Location: New England

Re: Townshend Elite Rock Re-Build

Post by ChrisfromRI » 16 Jan 2019 23:46

In case anyone hasn't seen one of these turntables in action I made this little video to show how you flip the record over - and how it isn't very difficult to swing the damping fluid trough in and out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuWuI5bB2-M

Sinsonido
member
member
United States of America
Posts: 38
Joined: 06 Jan 2019 20:48

Re: Townshend Elite Rock Re-Build

Post by Sinsonido » 27 Jan 2019 15:55

Always nice to see the Rock in action. If there was a book called Townshend Rock for Dummies I would probably buy it. Most people would think it had something to do with The Who though.

Fremer once admitted that "the most effective and sensible place to provide cartridge damping is at the headshell". But he then remarked about the Townshend trough: "Having a load of goo directly above precious vinyl didn't sit well with many audiophiles, and the arm (based on a Rega) never became popular".

Turns out of all the things that might go wrong with the Rock, the damping trough is probably the least of our worries. It takes me a bit longer to clamp the record down than it does to swing the trough out of the way. There's reconditioning the bearing, possibly having to wrestle a punctured inner-tube from the Rock III, lifespan of the motor, etc.--those are the things I'm a bit worried about.

You've done an amazing job with your Elite though.

tlscapital
long player
long player
Belgium
Posts: 1878
Joined: 27 Sep 2015 14:27
Location: Brussels, Belgium

Re: Townshend Elite Rock Re-Build

Post by tlscapital » 27 Jan 2019 17:43

Sinsonido wrote:
27 Jan 2019 15:55
...Fremer once admitted that "the most effective and sensible place to provide cartridge damping is at the headshell". But he then remarked about the Townshend trough: "Having a load of goo directly above precious vinyl didn't sit well with many audiophiles, and the arm (based on a Rega) never became popular"...
Not trying to jump on this thread or drift it apart, even if I must admit that such turntable are not for me since I play my vintage 45's on my one and only turntable and cue them by hand (no more cue lift mechanism even). Still the odd, innovative and peculiar smart design in turntables and/or phono gear old and new always fascinate me.

And since there seems to be people on here with objective understanding, here I shoot; through my tweak journey in conversion of my SME3009 'Improved' S II into detachable headshell and heavier, then heavy and finally very heavy effective mass, I always kept an eye open for any mod/tweak suggestion that might benefit me.

The 'fluid tonearm dampener' was never something seemingly "practical" for my peculiar use for swift 7" records changes. And since I reached the "ideal" inertia to complete my DL-102 cartridge low compliance, I saw no need for such device. Yet it's through reading that I got to understand such device interest. STILL NO GOO ON MY RECORDS !

What I understood better only lately is that such 'fluid dampener' aims at light effective mass tonearms for optimal result. Mediums to a lesser extent as well. But as seen here, effectively to be match with a lower compliant cartridges accordingly. Like plugging in a medium compliant cartridge on a light effective mass tonearm...

Am I correct in my understanding or not ? Implying that for a high compliant cartridge, any 'fluid dampener' device will be unwelcome no matter the tonearm effective mass. And so the 'fluid dampener' is not necessary a "universal" upgrade/mod for light or medium effective mass tonearms regardless of the cartridge compliance :P ?

abs1
senior member
senior member
United States of America
Posts: 520
Joined: 08 Oct 2012 18:17
Location: Western Colorado

Re: Townshend Elite Rock Re-Build

Post by abs1 » 27 Jan 2019 18:16

In my experience a fluid dampener really works wonders if used with a medium to high mass tonearm while trying to employ a very high compliance cartridge.

Cheers,
Al

tlscapital
long player
long player
Belgium
Posts: 1878
Joined: 27 Sep 2015 14:27
Location: Brussels, Belgium

Re: Townshend Elite Rock Re-Build

Post by tlscapital » 28 Jan 2019 15:58

abs1 wrote:
27 Jan 2019 18:16
In my experience a fluid dampener really works wonders if used with a medium to high mass tonearm while trying to employ a very high compliance cartridge.

Cheers,
Al
Hi Al, I hear what you are saying. Like maybe it is an "exception" to the rule. They truly exists in the physics of the phono world I know. But this goes against the principle of such "fluid dampener" in application. As it acts to add inertia on the cartridge. Just as 'Sinsonido' post here quoting Fremer's remark toward this Townshend 'fluid dampener' logically placed on the cartridge side, but that in regard with the users worries of fluid drops would not prove "attractive".

And even if the SMEs and KABs are to be fitted on the base of the tonearm (light effective mass)... it's not so much on the tonearm that they are intend to act, but more on the cartridge vertical (not lateral ??? Mmmh !) compliance without adding effective mass and not changing the 'cartridge to tonearm resonance ratio'. So how could a high compliant cartridge benefit from extra inertia (like adding effective mass to the tonearm) where they need only little lateral inertia ?

From the KAB page;

In summary fluid damping does the following:
1. Attenuates peak amplitude at resonance.
2. Actually reduces the stress the cantiliver sees riding up and down a warp.
3. Eliminates que skipping at the beginning of the disc.
4. Reduces the senstivity of the tonearm to external vibration.
5. Subjectively increases detail retrieval.


On that KAB page they add that high compliant cartridges would only benefit from points 2. & 5 if ever. Those with warped records should maybe benefit from it. And the 'detail retrieval' of the groove could be subjectively improved if ever. So unless they seriously improve the cart tracking on seriously warped records, I find it a bit of a "gadget" to be a significant "universal" upgrade device for those who have 'low compliant' cartridges. Maybe I should trial one to fit on my SME3009 converted into ultra heavy mass with my low-low compliant cartridge to judge and comment. Experiment is the best Judge. Cheers, Tim

ChrisfromRI
senior member
senior member
United States of America
Posts: 431
Joined: 13 May 2004 04:17
Location: New England

Re: Townshend Elite Rock Re-Build

Post by ChrisfromRI » 28 Jan 2019 23:45

The fluid damping at the headshell end of the tonearm also works very well for very low compliance cartridges that put a lot of energy into the tonearm, by sinking much of that energy closer to its source and keeping it from traveling down the tonearm tube to the tonearm bearings which may not be up to the task of passing the energy to the greater mass of the armboard, etc. as an energy sink. If the tonearm bearings are really tight then they pass that energy pretty well without much chatter and reflection back towards the cartridge, but there is more friction when they are really tight - less friction when they are not so tight. Bearing tightness is a tradeoff. In any case, putting the damping fluid closer to the source of the energy makes a lot more sense than all the way on the other side of the tonearm bearings as KAB, SME, and others do. In this particular case I am using a Denon DL-103R (in a Rosewood body) which is a very low compliance cartridge and sounds much better all around with 10,000 cst damping fluid in the trough than with the trough empty - which I initially tried with a very dynamic record as a baseline test before adding the damping fluid.

I do notice it working really well with mitigating the effect of record warps, although this clamp is also quite effective at flattening most records.

I have never had the silicone fluid get on a record (yet), but if it did my VPI wet-vac record cleaner would easily remove it - and that would be my next and immediate stop. You would never want to return any contaminated record to the sleeve as it would spread the contamination. I personally think people made a bigger deal out of the "hassle" of the fluid trough, and the "dangers" than exists in real life.

This video shows a little more on how to handle the trough and the fluid on the paddle. Understand also that this is very thick damping fluid. 1000 cst is about equal to the viscosity of 90 weight gear lube that would go in some automotive manual transmissions and differentials. 10,000 cst is 10 times as thick/viscous so there is no splashing and even in this video completely out of the trough and over the plinth there is no dripping due to my correct handling.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POZH192P_QE

tlscapital
long player
long player
Belgium
Posts: 1878
Joined: 27 Sep 2015 14:27
Location: Brussels, Belgium

Re: Townshend Elite Rock Re-Build

Post by tlscapital » 31 Jan 2019 22:49

Low compliant cartridges put a lot of energy back into the tube/wand of the heavy effective mass tonearms. True and all the way through the bearings, the pillar right onto the tonearm base and back.The dampening I added in my SME3009 tonearm tube/wand during my conversion into heavy-heavier mass, in order to prevent "ringing" issues, was necessary. The rest of the transmitted resonant energy do participate to dish out the playback sound that I seek and kept.

Since I got to hear effectively how the SME knife edge bearings truly dig and show at their best through heavier effective mass (hence the new Jilco's 850-950 switch from gimbal to knife edge bearing) where the transient energy is used to benefit the sound "build up" instead of being "sinked in". The SME fluid dampening device aimed at their light-er effective mass tonearms where the knife edge bearings show but truly not to their advantage. Acting like a correction device.

The same can be said for the KAB dampening fluid device on the SL-1200 tonearms that are also of light effective mass kind. In both cases the dampening fluid acts as a "sinker" of their bearing/friction/resonant "flaws". The fluid dampening counters that and so hopefully "correct" that. The tweakers, designers and engineers quest to eliminate that cartridge suspension resonance "feedback" in the light-er effective mass tonearms is a long and seemingly never ending one.

And indeed such fluid dampening device will perform most logically closer to it's source; the "headshell". In the case where this is an issue. In my long journey of tweaking in and on my tonearm and turntable I have come to learn what high frequencies bring to the sound. Against my previous beliefs where they where responsible for distortion, brightness and listening discomfort, I got to understand that they actually allow dynamics and clarity in sound when not saturated .

The fact that you've had a result that pleased you with the DL-103 is due to the fact that it does increase the cartridge inertia which is what heavy effective mass tonearm do as well. Originally this device aimed at lighter effective mass tonearms and their higher compliant cartridges. But on a heavier effective mass tonearm like mine it would probably add too much inertia and I need my "broad" sound stage that I achieved to gain without putting too much dampening anywhere.

On my tonearm, I use that energy that truly benefits the cartridge signal in sound traduction. During my long tweaks journey, I read of improvements brought by wood and alloy arm boards. My original acrylic was to be challenged. And so, I went on to trial different solid dense wood arm boards. Wood totally "muffled" down the sound. An original vintage cast alloy one made my sound "over bright". Ending up with my initial acrylic to get my clear, dynamic and big sound back.

ChrisfromRI
senior member
senior member
United States of America
Posts: 431
Joined: 13 May 2004 04:17
Location: New England

Re: Townshend Elite Rock Re-Build

Post by ChrisfromRI » 01 Feb 2019 04:01

Interesting observations about armboards. I have built two out of Carbon Fiber stock which was the best solution overall for my heavy stacked Baltic Birch plywood replinthed Lenco L75 (I tried several different materials with a Jelco 12" arm). I now have a source for CF so I used it on my Townshend Elite Rock, as a go-to material. I think it might be somewhere between Acrylic and Metal but of course depends upon the turntable and arm. I have used Acrylic armboards on both of my Thorens, as upgrades from the OEM wood. My Oracle originally had and Acrylic armboard and as I was implementing upgrades Jacques urged me to try their Aluminum armboard, and it was indeed better sounding with three different arms I tried on that rig.

I am pondering the process of experimenting some more with my LP12 now that the Keel has met with so much approval from the Linnies (which I am not, I just own one). They finally agree that the original three little loose screws into wood composite was an information filter. For the past ten years I thru-bolted mine and just that was an improvement in detail, and I also ditched the felt mat for cork. I am thinking of adding a top layer of Carbon Fiber to the OEM armboard just short of the LP12 writing which I like the look of and which the aftermarket armboards don't have.

afs97cjh
member
member
Posts: 45
Joined: 17 May 2008 23:41
Location: England

Re: Townshend Elite Rock Re-Build

Post by afs97cjh » 01 Feb 2019 15:19

I bought an Elite Rock second hand in the late 80s and used it with a Rega RB300 and the outrigger (and a DV17D2). It very much benefitted from the outrigger and trough. At one point it had to go back to Max for the bearing to be reset in the plaster and I put an innertube seismic sink under it. This had the habit of going off level as over a couple of months as it deflated, with my system at the time this wasn't particularly audible and I'd check it every so often. After about 20 years and a couple of cartridge renewals I finally added a decent CD player, which highlighted a certain greyness to the vinyl replay. At the time I hadn't heard of the earthing mod to Regas that is meant to cure this so I went looking for another arm that would liven thing up a bit and landed on a Naim Aro, 1 year old for half the new price. I fitted it in place with the paddle attached at first and by chance the pivot, stylus and paddle all lined up. The unlevel sinking of the seismic sink however became more of a factor but Max was now doing a conversion to his bellows feet for the Rock 2 so another trip up to Molesey was in order. Max doesn't approve of unipivots by the way. The bellows feet were a substantial improvement to over the sorbothane even with a level seismic sink and once I'd got used to that it was time to try the arm without the paddle and trough, this revealed that the Aro didn't need that crutch and in fact it was holding it back, it also showed what a good deck the Rock 2 is in it's basic design it's not just about the front end damping (the execution of the bellows feet wasn't great but a bit of Loctight cured that).
On arm boards I'd long used a 10mm thick acrylic one but 8mm polycarbonate gave a nice reduction in noise floor and didn't seem to cause any detriment.
The Aro is a bitch to set up but worth the effort, for the arm rest I blu-taked a small piece of wood on top of the deck to mount it on, I couldn't hear any difference with or without.
I'm now experimenting with a Decca on the Aro/Rock and it's very promising but needs a new armboard move it 2-3mm back to reach the null points, I really ought to get round to modding the Rega and trying the Decca in that, with the trough. This is no longer my primary deck as of 2 years ago but I don't think I'll ever get rid of it.

ChrisfromRI
senior member
senior member
United States of America
Posts: 431
Joined: 13 May 2004 04:17
Location: New England

Re: Townshend Elite Rock Re-Build

Post by ChrisfromRI » 02 Feb 2019 03:50

Interesting on the suspension changes you made to your Rock 2. I had years ago tried the Townshend version of a clamshell metal box with an inner tube inside and found it less effective from an isolation perspective than ones I made myself 40 years ago out of plywood and Spalding air-injected rubber balls cut in half. My inner tube used to go flat over time too, and the Spalding balls never did. The Sorbothane feet on my Elite Rock seem to work well, though mine is placed on a wall shelf and unaffected by the floor footfalls or subwoofer bass. Mine also has a plinth filled with gypsum/plaster. It's basically a cooking pan plinth filled with plaster. My tonearm is an Alphason and seems rather good with the DL-103R on this turntable.

Post Reply