Thinking about getting a linear tracking turntable

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apastuszak
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Thinking about getting a linear tracking turntable

Post by apastuszak » 14 Dec 2019 21:18

With the amount of hell my eyesight gives me when I try to align a cartridge, and because I need an excuse to try one out, I'm thinking of getting a linear tracking turntable. My list of requirements are:

1. P-Mount tone arm
2. Clear lid, so I can actually see the record spin
3. Manual record placement, no tray that goes in and out
4. Direct Drive (though belt drive it not out of the question)
5. I would prefer it not to auto-sense anything. That's just more stuff that can break.

Looking at "best bang for your buck" deals, I see a lot of good things written about the Realistic LAB2000 and LAB2100. I see them routinely on auction sites for under $100.

Any other player recommendations that might meet these requirements?

Vinylfreak86
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Re: Thinking about getting a linear tracking turntable

Post by Vinylfreak86 » 14 Dec 2019 22:16

My experience with more complex electronic operated turntables is bad, becuause too much things could spoil and at the end they do. If they would still produce linear tracking turntables, I bought it. But more than 35 years old unit, which was designed to be used for decade, means a general overhaul have to be made. The best are more simple direct-drives. And if linear tracker, then one of Technics models. Others were too much plasticky.

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Re: Thinking about getting a linear tracking turntable

Post by Mr Pig » 14 Dec 2019 23:14

If linear tracking turntables were a good idea they'd still make them. Well, they still do but either cheap toys or mega expensive which I'm guessing isn't what you're looking for?

What about a small spotlight next to your turntable to help you see it?

apastuszak
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Re: Thinking about getting a linear tracking turntable

Post by apastuszak » 15 Dec 2019 02:30

Mr Pig wrote:
14 Dec 2019 23:14
If linear tracking turntables were a good idea they'd still make them. Well, they still do but either cheap toys or mega expensive which I'm guessing isn't what you're looking for?

What about a small spotlight next to your turntable to help you see it?
From the little bit of research I did, linear tracking turntables were looked down upon in their day, because they solved a lot of problems people had with turntables. P-mount cartridges never needed alignment. No tracking force to set. No anti-skate. No VTA/SRA. They were very plug and play. And if something is easy, in general, audiophiles think it's not for them.

I have no problem seeing the turntable and playing records. My pain involves cartridge alignment. I bought a SuperOM cartridge and an OM10 stylus for my LAB 440, and I spent somewhere around 2 hours aligning it, and I'm pretty sure it's still not aligned perfectly. There's a whole thread on here somewhere about it. I'd like to put a Realistic R1000 EDT cartridge on it and see what this thing sounds like with the default cartridge, but the idea of spending an insane amount of time aligning it does not appeal to me.

I think the reason you don't see linear tracking turntables these days is price. Heck, no one, these days, makes a fully automatic turntable. A fully manual turntable is a very simple beast. A motor, a tone arm, a few switches and some wires. Those can be smacked together in a factory and easily and sold to the masses.

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Re: Thinking about getting a linear tracking turntable

Post by kingRidiculous » 15 Dec 2019 03:18

I never owned a record player, I was a cassette guy until CDs came along. I bought some LPs along the way and with the vinyl resurgence, I thought now would be a good time to pick up a record player. When I investigated, I leaned toward vintage and came across TTs that were more like CD players: put the disk in, close the lid and press play. That was for me!

So I picked up a Technics SL-J33 direct-drive linear-tracker. I think it's great for someone that just wants to listen to music with a lot less hassle. I will say, I did need to replace the belt that drives the linear tracking arm and clean and replace some of the lube on the mechanism, but it wasn't too hard.

You can still get some good sounding P-Mount carts, and they truly are plug-n-play.

For recommendations, I would lean toward the Technics, it seems they had the most models with linear tracking. I would think the off-brands would just be inferior knock-offs or white-label versions of the real thing.

apastuszak
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Re: Thinking about getting a linear tracking turntable

Post by apastuszak » 15 Dec 2019 04:17

Part of the whole appeal of vinyl is watching the record spin. Those linear tracking turntables with the tray that opens and closes reminds me of a CD player too much. I LOVE CDs. I have 10 times more CDs than I do records. I'm looking for a "less CD" feel when I play a record.

But if your appeal is the larger format and 12" album cover, I can totally see the appeal of a linear tracking turntable with a tray.

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Re: Thinking about getting a linear tracking turntable

Post by vanakaru » 15 Dec 2019 07:29

I have(and had) over 20 turntables. I always like tweaking things, repair, clean up old gear. So out of curiosity I have had few linear trackers as well. I had Technics(don't remember the model) and still have Sharp RP113. I like it because on the small size and it sounds decent enough. I wish it had Audio Technica cart instead of STY128 on it but the replacement styli are cheap and not bad at all.
Then there are some fully automatic turntables with tonearm that are plug and play as well. My favourite one is B&O Beogram 2000 with SP12 cartridge that I use daily. Also Dual's(that are very good TT's) have easy mount carts made for them by Shure, Ortofon, AT - just click these on and you are ready to go. So it does not have to be Linear Tracker with complicated electronics.

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Re: Thinking about getting a linear tracking turntable

Post by Tonybro » 15 Dec 2019 08:43

Most, not all, linear trackers have the arm mechanism in the lid, so seeing the record spin is not that easy.

If the main criteria is cartridge alignment why not get a traditional TT with a P-Mount arm or see if there is an adaptor for P-mount carts for you current arm (I've never looked).

When I sold Technics in mid-late 80s they had a few DD TTs with P-Mount. Something like an SL-QD35... Worth a look!

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Re: Thinking about getting a linear tracking turntable

Post by Mr Pig » 15 Dec 2019 09:40

apastuszak wrote:
15 Dec 2019 02:30
From the little bit of research I did, linear tracking turntables were looked down upon in their day, because they solved a lot of problems people had with turntables.
My reply will be a little long, sorry about that, but I hope it will be helpful.

Linear tracking turntables solve one problem, but can introduce a lot of others on the process. Unless you want to throw huge amounts of money at them. The claimed benefit of the design is that the stylus is always correctly aligned in the grove as it moves across the record in the same way as the cutter. This is true, but the devil is in the detail. For this cunning plan to work in practice requires some heavy duty engineering as it's very difficult to build a low-friction, high performance linear tracking arm cheaply. I'd say it is impossible.

The arms found on mass market linear tracking turntables are pretty universally poor and their complexity meant that they were hammered on sound quality by the conventional decks around them, which were cheaper to build, more reliable and more flexible.

Not all linear tracking arms use P-mount carts but many cheap ones did. This was not because they were better though, it was to make an already complex deck easier to build. You do not need to include mechanisms to adjust arm height, tracking weight etc if you restrict cartridge choice to, in many cases....one! Not all P-mount carts weigh the same or use the same tracking force so, unless you want zero choice in cartridges you need an arm with tracking force adjustment.

Even then, if you buy any P-mount deck your choice of cartridges is still severely limited. As you've no doubt noticed, the architecture has been completely abandoned by the entire turntable world with the exception of a few cheap, usually DJ orientated, decks. If you genuinely want to experiment with different turntables, do not buy a P-mount arm.

Conventional arms give better sound quality for a given amount of money, are much simpler, more reliable and are able to accommodate a massively wider choice of cartridges. That is why linear tracking was quite rightly abandoned.

It's a similar story for automatic turntables. The manufacturer has to invest time and money in designing features which make the turntable sound worse! Cost more and sound worse to provide features it turned out the market didn't really want anyway? If people wanted automatics, manufacturers would build them but the vast majority of the deck bought today are manual, and nobody is complaining about it.

I think you'd be better off trying to improve your cartridge mounting issues. A set of Sound Smith quick nuts, or whatever they are called, would do away with the fiddling with tiny nuts. If the carts sit straight in the headshell when correctly aligned, you can make up a cardboard guide to let you set the overhang quickly as that's all you need to do. Apart from bias and tracking force.

What are your thoughts on that?

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Re: Thinking about getting a linear tracking turntable

Post by chgc » 15 Dec 2019 15:21

I have some experience with the Technics SL-10. I like it. It’s not my only turntable, but I think it sounds fine. It is small and convenient, and I like the design. It isn’t a tray loader, but the spinning disc is somewhat obscured by a tinted plastic window.

Any available today will almost certainly require some service, but this is true for most 40 year old turntables. It is fully automatic, with optical sensors for record size, so there is more to go wrong, but I have found these decks to be very robust. Still, don’t get one and expect it to be plug and play unless it’s been competently serviced.

Options for new cartridges these day are very limited, but plenty of decent old carts are available as well as replacement styli. Many replacement styli are a millimeter or two longer than T4P spec, which may or may not be a serious problem. Cartridge weight can also vary from spec. VTF can be adjusted, but the range is small, however it is possible to add weight directly to the cartridge. Screwing and unscrewing the small mounting screw can also be a challenge. I generally don’t use the screw if I plan to be switching carts frequently.

These turntables are definitely not for everyone, but I think they’re cool.

apastuszak
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Re: Thinking about getting a linear tracking turntable

Post by apastuszak » 15 Dec 2019 15:42

Good thoughts, but a few points and questions:
  • How can an automatic mechanism decrease sound quality any way? That makes no sense whatsoever. The automatic mechanism is very simple and not part of the sonics of the turntable. It's a convenience feature. Though I can deal without auto-start on a turntable, not having auto-stop is a deal breaker for me. Semi-automatic is the minimum I am willing to step down to. There will never be an SL-1200 in my future.
  • Putting a p-mount adapter on my current headshell does not solve the alignment issue. I still need to align the adapter by hand.
  • In the 80s there were a LOT of different linear tracking turntables made. I would think, considering the expense, it would have been abandoned a lot sooner by turntable makers if the units didn't sell. They were definitely plug and play, which was probably preferred by a lot of consumers.
I have a Dual 1257 with a Dual ULM tone arm. That was designed to be plug and play. If you use the Dual stylus (made by Orotfon), you never need to align the cartridge. I like that, but the cartridge choices are limited to one cartridge now, the Dual DN-155.

So, here's quick summary of my eyesight issue. For the most part I see OK. I use glasses when driving. But at home, I don't wear them. But, when I look at something very close, i get a lazy eye that kicks in and everything goes blurry. This is somewhat correctible with reading glasses. But the glasses distort things, depending on the angle I am looking at something. So, when I put an alignment protractor down, when I look at it, at one angle it looks like it's on the crosshair, and from another angle, it does not.

I spent way too much time aligning the cartridge on my LAB 440, using flashlights and magnifying glasses and eventually dragging my 18-year-old son downstairs to help me. As far as I could tell, I had it aligned. My son went back on the Xbox and I dropped my first record. Sounded good. Then I heard inner groove distortion, so I started the process all over again, leading to more talking like a sailor.

I also have a Technics SL-D2 and I was considering a Concorde for that, but the price is more than I willing to spend on a cartridge.

I really am surprised that cartridge alignent isn't a thing of the past yet. You'd think this problem could easily be solved, but most of the solutions available today are for Technics S-shaped tone arms. The Otofon Concorde is nice, but expensive. And the pnp MK II also looks interesting.

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Re: Thinking about getting a linear tracking turntable

Post by JoeE SP9 » 15 Dec 2019 16:32

You should be aware that inner groove distortion quite often comes from the LP. It's not always the cartridge.

Have you tried bifocals? Perhaps another poster that lives close to you will align your cartridge. It takes most of us less than 10 minutes.

As long as there are tonearms with varying lengths and geometry there will never be cartridges that don't require alignment. IIRC the Ortofon Concorde was originally made for the Technics SL12xx series. For which it is automatically aligned.

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Re: Thinking about getting a linear tracking turntable

Post by Mr Pig » 15 Dec 2019 16:42

apastuszak wrote:
15 Dec 2019 15:42
How can an automatic mechanism decrease sound quality any way?
In two ways, possibly three. Firstly, it costs money. The money spent on designing and building the automatic mechanism is not money that is being spent on the bits that make the thing sound better, like bearings or motor for instance. So for a given price, the manual deck has had more money spent on sound quality.

The mechanism hurts the sound just by being there. Turntables have to deal with complex resonance and vibration issues. Good turntables go to great lengths in this regard and having lots of metal bars, springs etc inside the plinth is counterproductive. This has become well understood today and you will notice that very few good turntable manufacturers include such features now. If you want to sell the best sounding turntable at any given price point you can forget making it automatic.

In the 80s there were a LOT of different linear tracking turntables made. I would think, considering the expense, it would have been abandoned a lot sooner by turntable makers if the units didn't sell.
They were. The only people building automatics were the Japanese, and a few others like Dual and B&O, but by the late eighties virtually all of the companies still building turntable in any volume were not making automatics. Virtually all of the leading turntable manufacturers of today have never made one. They were almost exclusively lower end, mass market products in a time when the market was big enough to support them.
I really am surprised that cartridge alignment isn't a thing of the past yet.
That's a fair point. Although the distance between the mounting holes is now standard, nothing else is. I guess it simply isn't a problem for most people so there is no incentive to move towards standard cartridge height etc. Even the pin position and pin diameter is not standard and they could sort that out fairly easily.

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Re: Thinking about getting a linear tracking turntable

Post by chgc » 15 Dec 2019 17:09

I suspect those automatic linear trackers with p mount carts were largely a reaction to compact discs (and perhaps cassette tapes). With the advent of the cd, all people had to do was hook up a compact player, pop in a disc and push “Play.” I’m no hifi historian, but I’m guessing that manufacturers felt pressured to make record players that sounded good, were smaller, easier to set up and easier to use. Relatively inexpensive linear trackers were the result.

Nowadays, “vinyl” is a niche market where aficionados enjoy the “ritual” of playing records. The complexity is part of the attraction, to many people.

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Re: Thinking about getting a linear tracking turntable

Post by Mr Pig » 15 Dec 2019 18:38

chgc wrote:
15 Dec 2019 17:09
I suspect those automatic linear trackers with p mount carts were largely a reaction to compact discs...
Interesting thought, sounds reasonable to me. I seem to remember linear trackers in the seventies to though but the general principle seems the same. Linear tracking, automatic turntables seem hi-tec to the uninitiated so might have seemed a good way to try and get attention in a crowded showroom.

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