Now that finding a competent technician to mount a tonearm, or to restore/repair a turntable, is getting more difficult by the day, I am offering a mail-order service for the brave. Is packing up and shipping your turntable an easy job? Not at all. But if you have the basic skills to set up a phono cartridge, this might be the best possible option for those living in the hinterlands, or where the available technicians are either too far behind, too expensive, or reluctant to install tonearms they do not sell.
Whether installing something I sell, or something you purchased (or I purchased as your agent), the process isn’t so difficult that we cannot get the job done in a timely manner, and under budget. Please contact me if you have a project in mind.
Services include the following:
- Tonearm Installation
- Electronics Rebuild
- Motor Rebuild
- Complete Projects (plinth, motor, electronics and mechanicals)
I am not a plinth builder, but there are a number of well-known builders with the skills to make anything you desire.
Sota Star Sapphire with Sorane SA1.2 Tonearm
If you are having strange speed stability issues with this turntable, be sure to clean the “reeds” for the speed selector switches.
New Capacitors and Shielding Direct Drive Turntables
The biggest sonic issue with direct drives is lack of shielding. Even good turntables, with new capacitors, in a heavy plinth, will spew out prodigious amounts of EMF and RFI from the electronics. With a low output cartridge, or unshielded tonearm cables (and the wooden arms that abound), you will definitely pick up and amplify the signals coming from the electronics and motor. Besides replacing all the electrolytic capacitors, I ground the transformer case, that emanates 60Hz noise, and shield the case and motor with a combination of Zinc-It, Total Ground, copper shielding tape, then drain the noise to ground via the new shielded power cord. You don’t want to send that noise to your phono stage, through your tonearm ground wire! We are talking about a significant amount of AC voltage being redirected to ground, and it needs to go through the power cord, just like a preamp or power amp.
What is most surprising with some of these turntables is how poorly executed the “ground scheme” is. I guess it costs money and takes more time to do it right. Case in point are the power transformers. They are made properly, with bell ends, but for some reason, most are not grounded. With the Denon tables I have serviced, I have eliminated a significant amount of 60Hz noise by simply grounding the transformer case. With the DP80, I can hear “birdies” when the motor starts. It’s the electronics sending a surge of power to quickly start the high torque motor. This can be picked up by low output MC cartridges.
I also dampen the chassis as best I can. I’ve used bedliner, mastic, mass loading, products for speaker enclosures, etc.. It really depends on the real estate, and whether or not you are completely disassembling the unit. There are decent motors and electronics that are housed in flimsy plastic bodies. Shield, damp and strengthen the plastic, and the turntable actually sounds good.
A main cause of direct drive instability are capacitors with excessively high ESR or poor dissipation factor (DF). In the case of a recent Denon DP80, the machine was still working, somehow, even with electrolyte oozing from the caps. With the SP10, the platter spins the wrong direction! There are a number of symptoms, from vibration, to incorrect speed, to overshoot/undershoot, but the cause can usually be traced to the capacitors. I don’t use “audiophile” capacitors for power supplies. If I can find them, I replace the smaller microfarad electrolytics with compact film capacitors (all modern film capacitors will beat electrolytics). Where I must use electrolytics, I choose the lowest ESR, long-life capacitor, usually from Nichicon. These are made for demanding power supply applications with significant ripple and noise are issues. I test each component, carefully prepare the leads, desolder the old capacitor with a Pace vacuum desoldering station, and replace the old capacitor with one having several orders of magnitude better performance.
You’d be shocked at the improvements. Don’t put a zombie into a nice plinth. Get it serviced! Prices start at $250 for a basic DD tuneup where the capacitors are replaced. $450 for capacitors, shielding, damping and a shielded hard-wired three-prong power cord. When proper service manuals are available, I can adjust the electronics using an oscilloscope.
- Better speed stability;
- Less, or no, overshoot/undershoot;
- Less vibration;
- Less ringing;
- Hum usually eliminated;
- “Birdies” usually eliminated;
- Much lower background noise for better dynamics and imaging;
- Years of future use;
- Happy customer!