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A few days ago I pulled the VPI Scout/JMW9/Grado Sonata out of my system. I have played the cart pretty much to death and am about to make an upgrade to the Sumiko Blackbird.
Scout Out, Creek In
With the Scout out of the system I reached into the attic and pulled out my CD player, a nice Creek CD53, which has been out of the system for about a year. These days, if I play a CD at all it’s usually on the computer. Anyway, I put the Creek up on three MapleShade brass cones and mounted it on my MapleShade platform, the one that the Scout usually sits on. It was odd listening to CDs in my system after not hearing a CD for a year or so. At first it was novel, but the fun soon wore off. I gained a new appreciation for the expression "listener fatigue." Some transfers of old recordings, like Duke Ellington’s Far East Suite and Hendrix’ Electric Ladyland actually sounded pretty good, but newer stuff literally gave me a headache. Too in your face, too much detail, too bright. Even at very low volume it sounded too loud. Not my scene, man.
Creek Out, Technics In
So tonight I pulled the Creek out and put in … my old Technics SL-QD22. I bought this TT in 1987 for probably $129.99 at the Wiz, after a Garrard was damaged moving from one apartment to another. The Technics came with cartridge and was the epitome of "plug and play." And it served me faithfully for many years, believe it or not, up until I bought the Scout and upgraded my whole system.
It was fun just to look at the QD22 again. All things considered, it’s a pretty nifty TT. On the front it has the word "Quartz" in large letters, an obvious selling point, and then "Direct Drive Automatic Turntable System." I’m guessing "QD" stands for "Quartz Drive," whatever the hell that is. It has a plinth made of plastic, but the knuckle test reveals that it is well damped and doesn’t sound hollow. It’s automatic; auto arm lift, auto return, push button speed select (33 & 45, adapter included) and the platter starts to spin when you move the arm out of the cradle. I could not see a name on the cartridge but, after removing the stylus, I saw the words "Matsushita P533," if that means anything to anyone. It must be a MM, output 5mV, and as I mentioned, the stylus is removable. The platter is some type of metal and gives a loud "ping" when tweaked. The stock mat is a thick rubber number, about the thickness of a 180 gram LP. With the mat in place, the platter is well damped enough not to ping. I removed the hinged dust cover.
I wired it up with a set of old Monster cables and lifted it up off its spring & rubber feet with cones, spiked to the isolation platform. VTA is not adjustable, though VTF is. It had tracked fine previously, though I had never done an exact measurement. I used my Shure gauge and measured VTF at ~1.20 grams. Interesting. Spring loaded, I’m guessing; a little text printed on the armboard tells me anti skate is not adjustable and has been factory set. I plugged its cheesy power cord into my PS Audio Ultimate Outlet and fired it up. I used the KAB speed strobe and disk and measured the speed at 33.3. It was dead on. I was surprised.
With the volume at normal listening level, I wrapped on the plinth and could hear nothing through my Epos M12 speakers. Again, well damped. I played through six or so LPs and was actually quite impressed with how well this cheap little ‘table did through electronics that now cost as much as 20 times what it had cost when I bought it, almost 20 years ago.
With some LP, soundstaging just a bit wider than speaker placement was achieved and, after laying my VPI steel & delrin clamp on the label of a few LPs, I heard real depth and height. I did not hear any rumble or motor noise and the background was sufficiently black, if not profoundly so. I did hear a bit more surface noise, pops and whatnot, than I am used to getting with the Scout.
On acoustic and slower paced LPs the sound was very good. Surprisingly good. With louder rock or faster paced music the ‘table was obviously out of its depth; lots of low level details got lost and high end extension suffered quite a bit. Everything was muddy, unresolved, compared to what I’m used to with the Scout. But really, it’s an absurd comparison.
As the reviewers often say, at the end of the day mostly what I heard was the simple beauty of analog playback. It's a cliché on this board, but this $130 TT was much more fun to listen to than an $1800 CD player with a $300 pair of cables connected.
It’s Really Not That Bad
I guess the point I’m trying to make with all this is the same one I made in a post a week or two ago. The difference between one of these cheap ‘tables, like you can probably find on eBay or at Goodwill for $20, and an MMF5 or MMF7 is probably not that great. Take heart beginners and folks with very limited budgets. With a basic pair of cables and some simple isolation, maybe some investigation into a better cart (or not,) I could easily live with this ‘table in a weekend home, office or bedroom system.
I friend of mine had a technics SL-QD33, and i didn't expect alot at all ( usually use a Heybrook TT2 with OL1 arm and OL DC motor and super om30 cart ). But a was pleasently suprised. They are not half bad at all...so a bought one to play with second hand of ebay for not alot of money, stuck an ortofon super OM30 P mount in it ( had the om 30 stylus laying around ) put a decent mains lead on it and decent IC. And it's pretty good. I've not had chance to play around with it yet, but i'll let you know.....
I bought a Technics SL-3200 on ebay so I could spin vinyl in my home theater room too. Though it was 1/20th the price of my primary TT, with a few tweaks such as dampening the platter and plinth, heat shrink on the tonearm and a cheap Grado Black cartridge, the music sounds wonderful! Is the sound only 1/20th as good as my other TT? In reality, the Technics is only a step or two beneath my current primary.
You mentioned one of the tweaks you made was putting "heat shrink on the tonearm." I've heard this tweak mentioned a few times on the board.
What is it?
The tonearm on my Technics SL-3200 is made of thin metal, (I believe it is aluminum,) and to eliminate or at least decrease tonearm resonance, I put a piece of heat shrink over the arm from the headshell screw to the pivot and hit it lightly with a torch. The wrap dampens the arm vibrations. I've seen people do the same with black plastic electrician's tape, but I think the heat shrink looks better.
Thanks for the info.
Did you have to change your VTF setting after this tweak? Did it make setting VTF more difficult? On my Technics, there is not as much flexibility for VTF adjustments as there is with higher end 'tables.
Also, with a tweak that would seem irreversible, were you worried that it might deaden the sound too much, then you'd be stuck with it?
I reset the VTF with a Shure scale after adding the heat shrink. I had no problem hitting the target VTF. If you are having trouble with VTF adjustments, make sure that the bearing adjustment screws on the pivot are tightened just enough to prevent free play, but not so much that they restrict movement and true VTF readings. (I made this mistake once.)
If you don't like the sound after the heat shrink is placed, you can carefully cut it off with a razor blade/utility blade. It does not bind to the arm and will just peel away.
Many people are far to quick to dissmiss most of these older TTs on the grounds that they look flimsey and plasticy. The reality is that they suffer from 3 problems: the IC is usually very poor quality, the isolation is usually poor, but mainly people do not take the time to set them up correctly. You obviously have done all three and are reaping the rewards.
All this begs the question:
How good would it sound with the new Sumiko Blackbird, or the even the old Sonata?
Remember, the SL-QD22 was designed not merely as a record player, but as a system , it’s component parts carefully matched for synergy and optimized for cosmological harmony. ;-)
It depends on where you got your SL-QD22 from. In many places, the SL-QD22 and SL-QD33 were sold without a cartridge. My particular SL-QD33 didn't come with a cartridge when I got it brand-new back in 1989, so I had to purchase an aftermarket P-mount cartridge for it.
mosin, the SL-QD22 is a P-mount turntable. That means that it will accept only P-mount cartridges. The two brands with the largest current selection of P-mount cartridges are Audio Technica and Grado - Grado's P-mount cartridge selection (all of which are in the lower Prestige line) runs from the budget Black ($40) to the pretty nice Gold ($180).
The real gem to try would be the Shure VST V (I think that was the number). It was a P mount version of the V15V. Very rare these days.
That TT is the “semi-auto” (auto-return) version of my old SL-QD33 (fully automatic). I will still keep the SL-QD33 - but I will put a conical-stylus Audio Technica AT300P cartridge on it (for playing tough-to-play-properly styrene 45s).
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