Sunday, 11 May 2014

The Story of The Spin Doctor - Revival of Lenco L78

Ever since I got back into spinning the black disc in 2011, I have always been intrigued by the engineering underneath a TT. However, as nearly half the day, my life is already pre-occupied with engineering, I always choose not to indulge too much of engineering in my musical and hifi passion.

When I joined an online group called 'PEMINAT PIRING HITAM MALAYSIA & SINGAPURA' (translated as VINYL FANS OF MALAYSIA & SINGAPORE) and LENCO*ORIIGINAL*CLASSIC, I was introduced to some of the most beautiful vintage turntables. Brings back beautiful memory of late father whom was a hifi enthusiast himself.

The urge to listen to how a Lenco unit sounds like was very strong that I started to find a way on how to order a unit from overseas as there is no Lenco distributor here in Malaysia. Started to ask around in the group and a few Lenco owners but generally was advised not to purchase the modern Lenco units and I should go for the old vintage ones. However, the vintage Lencos I have seen are all privately owned, so there is no way to get one. Until one fine day..............

..... I received a message from Spin Doctor.... asking for what exactly I was looking for... I actually have no clue....But he was very accommodating explaining the different Lenco models. The Doctor then suggest to listen to a L78 unit that he will be refurbishing soon....However, he is based in Singapore.... But nevertheless, he comes up to KL frequent enough that he can bring a unit for me to demo.... 

I did a little bit more googling about Lenco L78....and I started to fall in love with its beauty and claimed engineering accuracy.....and when I received this picture of the fully refurbished L78 from the Doc.... I knew that this is meant to be...


I have put in a special request though.... which is to have an RCA terminal instead of built in RCA interconnect from tonearm as I wanted to use my own interconnect.... and the wish was fulfilled. 

A date was set....and on a wet Saturday evening 3rd of May... at about 430 pm..... this gem was unveiled before my eyes.... The Spin Doctor came by with another Lenco enthusiast to set up this unit...his technical partner in KL...Khalizul

First Thumbs Up

The unit came in pieces.... ready to be assembled in front of me. It was a journey indeed because both Pak Mastan and Bro Khalizul will explain step by step the parts and the significant of such design... specifically this unit uses and idler wheel and 4 pole motor mechanism. I was informed that all the parts in this unit was fully serviced and refurbished with its original parts with the exception of the plinth. Pak Mastan have spent more than 12 years doing research and experimenting different type of wood for the plinth. He truly believes that this Australian Pinewood is the best material to give the biggest impact onto the performance of the Lenco L78.

The L78 also have a auto shut off function. When set to Auto, the tonearm will be automatically lifted up and the motor will also be stopped once you have listen to the last track on one side of the LP. Very useful indeed for those late night listening at which you may fall asleep.





After about 30 mins.... these parts were fully assembled ...


 The cartridge alignment sheet is a very handy tool to ensure the cartridge aligned properly.


There is a list of MM cartridges that can be fitted onto this unit. For my unit, a Shure M25C was installed.

The platter and base itself is supported by spring suspension onto the plinth makes it 'pushable' into the plinth. 

Second Thumbs Up

It was not just an assembled and leave service they provided but it also includes setting up the unit properly to integrate into your system.



Third Thumbs Up: The Performance

There were so many options of LP for me to choose from for the first test. But of course, Andrea Bocelli's Passione album was my first choice. A top quality LP under the ORG pressing.


First track was Era Gia Tusto Previsto..... a song made popular by Ricardo Cocciante...

My first impression was such a big impact that I gave myself big smack onto my forehead.....in disbelief... How was this 40 years old unit....could still be running.... and giving me a different perspective towards a music presentation. It has opened up soooo many questions in my head...

1. How an MM cart sounded so much more open compared to an MC cart that I have on my Clearaudio TT?

2. Where did that extra bass spectrum I heard came from? Never knew that my ProAc can deliver more bass than what I usually listen to.

3. How does the suspension mechanism make a different compared to the solid and rigid mass dampener on the Clearaudio?

4. What is missing on my Clearaudio Concept that I never really enjoyed playing any 45 rpm LPs?
  
The most evident trait is the amount of low end spectrum. The bass that I have been enjoying all these while on my ProAc D18 was reproduced but with a more extension and airiness. I have not heard my D18s singing like that before. The bass was so luscious and warm. That track just gave me goosebumps throughout. Andrea's vocals was so melodic and warm that it reminded me the day that I went for his concert last year.

I then put on Stan Getz/Gilberto album...another top notch recording under Analogue Productions pressing. The Girl from Ipanema was delivered flawlessly. The separation between the musical instruments was very evident and the vocals was also very airy and full of life. The wind instrument was also very energised.

I then put on my reference LP from the 70s, the Black Dog Bone. Now, this was even more surprising. The sound form this old LP was presented with such a melodious signature that it immediately brought back memories of my late father. The Lenco L78 presented a musical experience that provides the raw but lively recording of one of the most decorated local band. I have not heard or experience such a upfront, detail and at the same time warm bass coming from this LP.

So far, the L78 can take up any 'lighter' music and give a big sound to it.

The next step is to hear what it can do with 45 RPM LPs. First in was Nirvana's 2014 remix of In Utero album. I purchased this albumin early 2014 and was not very please with its performance on the Clearaudio Concept. But with this Lenco L78, it can easily deliver a different performance with my 45 rpm LPs. Kurt's vocals was full of angst and I got that sensation from the session. His raw guitars sounded heavy that when I played it on my Clearaudio.

And the Lenco L78 was further tested with ACDC Shook Me All Night Long....Again, even heavy rock music.... this L78 unit can easily pick up the details of the groove and deliver it through my system. Such a big and bold overall presentation and it gave me this sensation feeling on how ACDC frontman performs in his typical school uniform.

The session  lasted for about 3 hours....and over coffee, curry puffs and cream puffs, we chatted more on the history of Lenco...and Pak Mastan. Pak Mastan grew up in Singapore with a big exposure to music and movies. Having to be assigned by his father to ensure that an LP is played in the cinema before the movie started, he succumbed to the interest of LP. Having to refurbished quite a number of Lenco L75 and L78, he knows every single part of the TT by hard.


Conclusions

40 years old vintage Lenco L78 VS 3 years old modern Clearaudio Concept TT...... which one sounds better? Both actually have its own trait, its own musical signature. I get more warmth, airiness, liveliness and also low end spectrum from the Lenco L78. It showed me of what my D18s can deliver more. It can also show me how good 45 RPM LPs can sound like.

The Clearaudio Concept delivers a different presentation with a very honest sound, no frills signature.  It may be due to how the TT was set up, but I never really enjoyed playing my 45 RPM LPs on the Clearaudio. Clarity was another trait that the Clearaudio carries.

The different is that, Lenco 40 years old technology can easily compete with more modern TTs. And with the proper setting up by Pak Mastan and Khalizul and also Pak Mastan's personal touch in refurbishing Lenco units, it can easily blends in either a vintage set up or any modern set up. It can also easily match any new modern TTs with regards to sound quality, looks and robustness.

In fact, I would happily suggest to any newbie that is planning to get into playing LPs, go for this classic Lenco unit. It can give you a perfect introduction to LP and TT world.

If anyone interested to purchase one of these gem, you can find Pak Mastan the Spin Doctor and Khalizul on Facebook. You will not be disappointed in the unit nor the service provided by them.


Pak Mastan (left) and Khalizul (right)
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