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It’s About Speed

Race CarOur recent announcement of a revision to our 2014 controller got me to thinking about how people think about speed stability. 

Based on initial responses to our Spring, 2018 upgrade offering, I suspect that we have many happy customers who think that the 2014 update is as good as it gets.  

It’s not … the 2018 revision takes speed stability it to the next level and it’s virtues are not necessarily what you’d expect.

When we think of speed stability, we typically think in terms of wow and flutter (pitch stability).  Clearly, a turntable that cannot reproduce stable, sustained tones from (for example) a piano, is in dire need of improvement.

Our 2014 upgrade to the legacy controllers was a major step forward in perceived pitch stability, but it took things a bit further into the next level as well.

When discussing this “next level” with customers, I point them to a review of the Rockport Sirius III turntable (click this link – archived on the wayback machine).  If you haven’t read this review, the first page is a worthwhile read and gives you a good introduction to the subject.

A quick snip from that review: 

If FM distortion is present in very large amounts, and with certain slow modulating rates, it might be heard predominantly as pitch variations, or wow and flutter. But FM distortion in much lesser amounts can still create sidebands, distortion byproducts, around each musical note. These unwanted sidebands could make the music sound fuzzy, defocused, smeared, dirty, grundgy, frazzled, etc., while degrading transparency, stereo imaging, clean purity, etc.

With each successive drive system modification, we’ve been addressing these finer levels of granularity – beginning with string drive, moving on to narrow recording tape, wider recording tape, Mylar belts, Kapton belts, the 2014 upgrade, and most recently, the updates made to the controller in the Spring of 2018.

The challenge audiophiles face with their analog setups is one of misdiagnosing problems.  The Rockport review discusses this, and I hinted at that in my previous post (“It’s Not Always What You Think …”)

We’ll critique a cartridge as being edgy or difficult to set up, when in fact we’re shooting the messenger in many cases, with the real problem being a phono stage with a slow slew rate, or a turntable with less than perfect speed stability (no turntable is perfect – no matter what the price).

I performed the 2018 revision at a local customer’s house two days ago, and this is what he had to say about the circuit update.  This was before plugging in the Teddy Pardo power which he has on order:

Hi Thom,

Thanks for doing the new upgrade on my motor controller.  At first listen I immediately noticed an increase in liquidity and an ease to the music. 

As I listened to more music it became more evident how significant this upgrade is.  There is an aggressive edge to the music that has disappeared.  All instruments and vocals have a more natural and relaxed sound.  Especially noticeable with instruments that have more of an attack such as guitar, piano, harp etc. 

Overall I now find listening less fatiguing and just keep wanting to pull another album out.  It will be interesting to hear how the Teddy Pardo power supply may compare with my Astron but regardless of how that turns out this motor controller update is well worth it.