Science & Art

As with so many things in life, successful record player design is a mixture of science and art.  This is true of belt-drives as well as idler-wheel drives, which accounts for the great diversity of sounds even from varying three-point suspended subchassis record decks, which each have particular sonic flavours and strengths and weaknesses.

This was also true of vintage idler-wheel drives, and the sonic differences between the various makes is very large, though they all share in certain basic sonic traits vis-a-vis belt-drives: increased timing, coherence, overall dynamics and bass.

Let’s take the matter of bass: even belt-drivers were willing to grant the strength of idler-wheel drives in the bass over belt-drives, yet it apparently did not occur to either belt-drivers or idler-wheel aficionados to ask why this should be so.  To Garrard owners this was simply a Garrard trait, it being their favoured (for this reason as well as coherence, dynamics and timing) ‘table; and to belt-drivers this was just a Garrard trait (they dismissed the Garrard’s superiority in timing, coherence and dynamics as a colouration imposed by the four-pole motor).  No one paid attention to other idler-wheel drives, EMTs being extremely pricey and rare and so beyond the financial reach, and ear, of most audiophiles,  and other idler-wheel drives being either compromised by belts or, not yet recognized in all the Garrard-fever, like the Lenco when I started, simply ignored since, after all, it wasn’t a drive system issue.

Had everyone paid attention, including Garrard users and admirers, they would have noticed that ALL true idler-wheel drives share in the common traits of timing, coherence, dynamics and bass.  And had everyone paid attention they would then have asked the question: Why are idler-wheel drives superior to belt-drives in the bass (since bass is the most immediate and obvious/simple sonic trait recognized, the others being up for argument as to whether or not they exist ;-) )?  The immediate conclusion is that this is an area wherein belt-drives are weak.  Though certainly some, in defense of the belt-drive, would have argued that the bass of idler-wheel drives is coloured,  they then would have to include digital bass under the heading “coloured.”

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