Saturday, 15 April 2017

To SLAT or Not To SLAT?


In hifi world, Lenco turntables are legendary for its idle wheel design and also among the most tweaked or custom made turntable that I have seen over the last few years. Its interesting to see how this notion created different school of thoughts on the capability of a Lenco. While I have owned 2 Lenco (GL78 and L78) with different plinths, I have only listened to a custom made Lenco in other people's system.

I first was introduced to a simple tweak of the SSS mat (Sien's Stainless Steel) which I have reviewed here. While it did provide a different sound perspective, I wanted to hear a full custom made Lenco in my system. The obliging Captain Sien (SpH) offered to loan his own personal unit to me for a week so that I can experience what the buzz is all about. My personal big thanks to Capt Sien for this opportunity.


It does look really grand and at first glance, it does not look like a Lenco at all. At least if it is compared to mine. But when you see underneath the hood, then the famous idle wheel mechanism can be recognized immediately.

THE DESIGN

There are a few parts that are completely different from my Lenco.
  • SLAT - Sien's Lenco Alternative Top Plate
  • SLAB - Sien's Lenco Alternative Bearing
  • SSS - Sien's Stainless Steel Mat
  • Golf ball Tonearm 
  • Plinth - wood base and Corian material top
  • Knob and screw in to lock speed adjuster
  • IEC socket to allow your choice of power cable
  • Denon D103 cartridge
  • The base unit is a Lenco L75 as oppose to mine an L78 unit
It is a heavily custom made unit which SpH aims at getting his preferred sound signature. The built is relatively solid and sturdy. The critically acclaimed golf ball tonearm is however is a bit of a personal concern. Mainly because I have shaky hands. I was expecting a heavier tonearm but it is not much different in weight compared to the stock Lenco tonearm. I particularly concern on the lift mechanism where you have to hold it for a few seconds at the lift position. If not, the tonearm will drop on its own slowly. I was informed that this lift mechanism design is being looked at to be improved. Even the full golf ball design is going through an enhancement towards half ball design. 








FIRST IMPRESSION

Quiet. Quieter background. Thus revealing more. Dispersed bass but goes down deep as opposed to hard hitting. On this Dire Strait So Far Away, the sound stage seems to be elevated and airier. The vocal's breadth was also quite forwarding. It is a completely different sound from my L78. It does give listeners a different perspective. As this was a 45 RPM LP, I had to use the unscrew, slide to adjust speed and re-screw knob to get the right speed. A bit cumbersome as oppose to the stock Lenco which was at a flick of the speed adjuster. I am quite fascinated by the 'big picture' of the sound reproduced from this SLAT design as it had a touch of revealing more details of the music.


So Far Away

COMPLIMENTING EQUIPMENT
  • Musical Fidelity M1 ViNL phono amp
  • Musical Fidelity M6i integrated amp as pre
  • Musical Fidelity KW550 superchargers/monoblock
  • ProAc Response D18
  • Vermouth Audio Black Pearl speaker cable

TEST TRACKS

  • Dire Straits - So Far Away
  • XPDC - Kau Bukan Milik
  • Andrea Bocelli - Era Gia Tutto Previsto
  • Diana Krall - Temptation
  • Metallica - Atlas Rise
THE SESSION

This reissue LP of XPDC is one of my favourite local LPs. On this track, the guitar sounded melodic and energetic. Wider soundstage with enough airiness to have that analogue feeling. Vocals again is very upfront with high clarity. Bass is a bit shy, hiding behind the guitar strength. Given this is a melodic rock song, the heavy presentation of guitars and vocal might just do the trick for most but I could do with a little bit more bass punch.



Kau Bukan Milikku

With the track Era Gia Tutto Previsto, the warm vibrato vocal of Andrea was brought to another level. Very forwarding and wholesome at the same time. You can sense the energy in the vocal enveloping the listening session. At certain peak, the highs can be a bit dominant but I tribute this to the cartridge rather than the SLAT itself. Another evidence here how the SLAT package reveals a bigger soundstage.


Era Gia Tutto Previsto

I really want to hear this SLAT to blow me away with some shocking vibes. So, opening of this track Temptation in which I usually experience a sensation zing when that snare is hit. On the SLAT is sounded dispersed and not energised, echoing my experience in the first 3 tracks for this review. In trying to get most of the energy to go to the vocals, it somehow miss out on some key roles on percussion. Diana's vocal of course became the spotlight. The strength can be felt to be dominant again with some genius strokes on the double bass. It is still not earth shattering but it blends in nicely for a jazz tune like this.

Temptation

Now that I have established a good reference for vocals and soundstage, I wanted to push the limit with some heavy music and see how this model holds up especially in the bass. For metal music, the SLAT definitely can rock it out as well. The bass is not what I expect but the high tonality and separation on the vocal and ferocious guitar works makes up for the lack of bass reproduction. It still managed to move my feet and follow the beat to Lars's drumming. The overall sound seems to be heavy on the highs but quite adrenalin heavy as well. It did manage to create that heavy metal sound that moves you. 
Atlas Rise

THE CONCLUSION

Its a tough one here. The design itself brings out a different sound character from Lenco. This SLAT unit should be seen on its own glorious self as it does provide its key characters - revealing details, quieter background, forward vocals and clarity and airy and bigger soundstage. The bass which is a more dispersed presentation may be preferred by non bass heads and definitely it helps in creating that live jazz feeling. I cant really pin point which part that created the bigger impact so I believe its the combination of SLAT, SLAB and golf ball tonearm. Alternatively, you can also try different cartridges.

For someone whom is looking for a Lenco Turntable, may want to demo this unit at Capt Sien's place. It may provide you with a different perspective on Lenco like what I experienced. I would still recommend for Capt Sien to look into the tonearm lift issue to ensure the built is sturdier. This SLAT unit is custom made by Capt Sien, so do contact him to demo and discuss the design that you fancy. Capt usually will require for audiophiles to bring in their own stock Lenco L75/78 for him to work on. Have fun Lenco-ing!


POST REVIEW INFO
The ball in the bearing originally was a tungsten carbide ball which was replaced by a ceramic ball in this review. The tungsten carbide ball sounded more dynamic as reported by a few customers who had theirs changed. The golf ball is now changed to a 1/2 ball-1/2 aluminum top which is easier to align and adjust.


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