Vintage vs Modern Turntables

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by blair207, May 16, 2019.

  1. blair207

    blair207 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fife, Scotland
    I have been thinking of adding a turntable to my system for some time now. Obviously there are a multitude to choose from. I have been tempted by a Systemdek Transcription which someone local is selling. There are various other older tables on sale that were highly rated when released. Are modern Rega, ClearAudio, Scheu Analog, Acoustic Signature etc far superior to these older TTs?
     
    Dave112 likes this.
  2. Dubmart

    Dubmart Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bristol, UK
    Some older turntables, if properly maintained and set up, can more than hold their own with modern decks and can offer similar levels of performance at a lower price, on the other hand new decks should be performing perfectly and come complete with dealer set up which can be very useful if you don't have lots of experience, which is the right choice depends on you, your experience and which specific new and old deck you are comparing. It's also important to take into account the arm and cartridge, many arms for example have had only minor improvements over what may be a twenty or thirty year manufacturing period, so the older arm may give you 90%+ of the performance for 40% of the cost, some decks that have similar levels of longevity, such as the Michell Gyrodec and Linn LP 12 can also be brought up to current spec even if decades old so represent a very safe used buy.
     
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  3. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    Some new tables and arms are better than some old tables and arms and vice versa. There's no general rule that holds. It depends on the specific tables and arms you're comparing. The challenge with older tables that you won't have with new tables will be condition, restoration, availability of parts. Just because a a table was well designed and well built 30, 40, 50 years ago, doesn't mean that today the bearings are in good shape, the motor is in good shape, the motor run circuit parts are up to spec, the suspension, if there is one, is property tuned and functioning after 50 years of use, or 10 years of use and 40 years in someone's garage or basement or attic. All of those things will need to be checked out and you'll have to factor in the time and cost of , say, relubing a platter bearing, maybe replacing suspension springs and rebalancing a suspension on a sprung table, maybe replacing a phase splitting cap in a motor drive circuit of a table with an AC synchronous motor, maybe replacing a belt, etc. Not big deals really. But if you're the set it up and forget it type, you may be less enamored of a vintage used table, or it may represent less of a savings because you'll be sending your used table to someone who will be charging you a couple of hundred bucks for a once over.

    How much is the seller asking for the Systemdek and what does he or she have to say about its condition and how it was kept?
     
  4. RONENRAY

    RONENRAY Well-Known Member

    Location:
    antwerp belgium
    When you have turntable /tonearm from a good quality and it's in good condition , there no
    reason to think a new turntable is so much better.
     
  5. blair207

    blair207 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fife, Scotland
    The owner wants £600 for the Systemdek. It seems to be in good condition. It has a Systemdek arm from a Systemdek XII which I don't really know much about, if it's good, bad or average.
     
  6. steviebee

    steviebee Forum Resident

    Location:
    London, England
    Any chance you can audition the 'Dek?
    It's many, many years since I heard one and can't remember how it sounded (it didn't replace my Linn if that means anything. It was fairly well regarded iirc, but too long ago to remember, sorry.)
     
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  7. blair207

    blair207 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fife, Scotland
    Yes I think so. The owner is about 12 miles away, The Systemdek Transcription was regarded as Linn competition back in the day. They are quite rare with the finish in good condition. It’s a nice example if you want a Systemdek with a Systemdek tone arm. How it would compare to a £1K deck like a ClearAudio or a restored LP12 I don’t know.
     
    steviebee likes this.
  8. Netnomad

    Netnomad Forum Resident

    I take it this is the one on the bay in Dunfirmline?
    If it was my £600 I would be looking at a used Rega Planar 3 and an Exact cartridge which is easily achievable for that money, as I don't think the Systemdek tone arm is rated and a lot of owners have changed to Rega tone arms (google search).
     
  9. vinylontubes

    vinylontubes Forum Resident

    Location:
    Katy, TX
    I personally think building a superior design is hard fraught. The idea of a turntable is very simple. You consistently spin a platter than provide a very stable tonearm. Improvements from something like the Linn Sondek LP12 are only going to go so far. But Linn makes it's business not on making a turntable that you will jump to the next model. Rather, Linn's customers wait generations for improvements and when the benefits justify the costs, the deck is updated to modern standards. If you look at a company like Rega, their lower tier decks can be improved to a high degree with aftermarket components. Rega doesn't really make much of an effort to compete within this arena. You can buy a white belt, a wool mat and maybe a glass platter. Instead they make a line of decks that improve with each generation based on a philosophy that is contradictory to most designs. So Rega tends to go with the route that car maker have embraced. That strategy is raising the bar to a new tier and making the older generation seem obsolete. You have a couple of options with Rega. You can upgrade to the new improved version of your current deck or you can step up to higher tier that seems will have tech that your tier will only get in future generations.

    As a Rega owner, I upgraded from a P3-2000 to the P5. For me it was a substantial upgrade. First the P5 had the same tonearm as the P7 in the RB700. The other notable improvement was the motor. The next generation P3-24 included the new 24V motor which could be further upgraded with an external power supply that removes the tedious task of removing the platter to change rotational speed. Rega plays this game well. If you look at their designs, each generation advances their concept of Light and Rigid plinth and improved bearing with each succession of their affordable tonearms. I'm quite happy with my P5. But I can't say I wouldn't consider upgrading to the future evolution of Rega's designs. I've pretty much upgraded my P5 with aftermarket improvement and the next tier look to be a huge improvement over my model in the latest Planar 8.

    But, I also hesitate. While I think the newer designs are upgrades, I also think about the cost. We are talking about gross diminishing returns. Unlike a car which breaks down with use. This really isn't the case with a turntable. With a car, you are going to replace the car because it's so complicated that when different systems start to fail simultaneously, the cost benefit of maintaining it is outweighed by getting a new one. If you have a high end deck from the '70s, I have no doubt that that it will perform as well or better than any of the sub $1k newest models. The improvements can't be that dramatic. The goal of a turntable is to be silent and provide a consistent rotational speed. They were very quiet in the '70s. How much quieter can they have improved? Probably not a lot if we are truly taking about higher end decks from the '70s. As far as rotational speed goes, there are some improvements but, how much is really improved there. It seems like the biggest improvement you can do with modern electrical motors is generate more consistent power to activate the motor.

    Are turntables better today? Yes, without a doubt. And for the most part the prices haven't dramatically increased. The new Planar 3 is about $100 more than a Planar 3 from the '80s. The improvements are dramatic if you look at incremental changes from each of the 4 generations and completely justify the modest $100 increase in price. And if you consider inflation and devaluation of the monetary unit, the $100 increase falls way behind over the 30 years that have passed. If the product in discussion were anything but a turntable, this discussion wouldn't even be relevant. Other products wear out. But a turntable's base component is a wheel, the oldest machine used by mankind which was improved upon for thousands of years before anybody ever thought about playing recorded music. The other component is the tonearm. The tonearm is drawn slowly inward about 4 inches of travel toward the record label. There really isn't much wear and tear with even the barest of maintenance. A good turntables is just hard to break with proper use. So a Vintage high end deck is can be expected to perform within spec even 50 years later. There are only really two specifications that matter for a turntable, these are S/N and W&F. And if the design was leading edge 50 years ago, there isn't a lot that can be improved upon from today designs. Improvement is undoubted, but how much is discernibly better is doubted, at least in my mind.
     
  10. KT88

    KT88 Forum Resident

    Yep; condition is everything with any used piece of gear and can add-up to significant cost increases over and above expectation.
    -Bill
     
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  11. KT88

    KT88 Forum Resident

    £600 will buy a brand new Rega Planar 3. Then cartridge choice is up to you and can be upgraded at any time.
    -Bill
     
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  12. cre009

    cre009 Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Bristol, UK
    I have seen tatty Systemdek Transcriptions (without arm) go for less than £100 with better ones going for up to around £200. I got mine in fair condition for £75 plus postage. I have the grey finish which touched up quite well with matching paint.

    Not sure of the Systemdek Profile arms. There has been one for sale from Portugal at £400 that has not sold in months. I think I have seen them go for about half that but they don't show up a lot.

    On mine I found getting the suspension bounce correct to be very challenging but it does sound good once sorted. These decks used very compliant springs which make them very bouncy. On mine the springs appear to have tilted to the right over time so that the sub chassis is a bit off centre when floating free and the arm board is then a bit too close to the top plate. I have had to apply a correction using the arm cable to pull it back a little but this needs to be done carefully to avoid interfering with the bounce.
     
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  13. blair207

    blair207 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fife, Scotland
    I don't think the arm on this deck is the same as the one at £400. I don't know how good it will be. It comes from an inferior turntable and doesn't seem to have been all that popular when these turntables were new.
     
  14. Roger Beltmann

    Roger Beltmann Old...But not obsolete

    Location:
    helenville, wi.
    I own four turntables. Two are vintage belt drives and the other two are modern direct drives. The belt drive Garrard GT25AP1 is full auto and required a motor rebuild and a variety of belts to get the speed correct at 33.3 but the TT is built like a tank. The Sansui FR-D25 has been maintenance free other than a new belt. It has the best anti skate mechanism I've ever seen. It applies higher a/s at the beginning of the record and reduces the a/s as the record plays toward the label. It's always correct at any place on the record. My AT-LP120usb has had no problems other than the cue lever damping is gone. Last one is the Crosley C200a. I do a lot of cartridge swapping and this turntable has been extremely reliable with no complaints. The new AT-LP120Xusb is basically a clone of the Crosley with the addition of 78rpm and usb. They both use the same motor (1kg/cm). The AT-LP120 usb has a higher torque motor (1.7kg/cm). All four sound great with no W/F or speed issues. I do seem to have a preference for the Garrard as it has auto start and auto shutoff plus repeat play. My least favorite is the LP-120. The lack of cue lever damping after 6 months should not happen. Time will tell how the DD's hold up in the future. The belt drives are over forty years old and have proved themselves over the long haul.
     
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  15. cre009

    cre009 Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Bristol, UK
    According to the Vinyl Engine Library there were 3 versions of the Profile arm. The one on the Transcription you were looking at may be the Profile II (or III) while the one from Portugal may be the Profile 1 with Systemdek written along the arm tube. No idea about the relative merits of any of the versions.
     
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  16. willboy

    willboy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Wales, UK
    A very similar arm to the Profile 1 can be found on the AR EB-101 and some Rotel models including the RP-855 which I used to own. It's a decent enough arm, but imo lacks the fit and finish and is not as good soundwise as the Rega RB300 I replaced it with on my RP-855.
     
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