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PTP Audio SOLID9 Audiomods SERIES FIVE Turntable + Tonearm

02-05-2015 | By Wojciech Pacuła | Issue 77

PTP Audio SOLID9 Audiomods SERIES FIVE Turntable and Tonearm

There are certain inventions, technologies and design ideas that should have disappeared long ago, and yet stubbornly cling to existence. They are only preserved and cherished by people who see some kind of value in them, which seems to be lacking in newer inventions, technologies and design ideas. That is the case with full range drivers and speakers that employ them. The EVA speakers that we reviewed last month should not exist, their production in the second decade of the 21st century is a pure anachronism (see the review HERE). The same is true of vacuum tubes, the active components that should have been wiped out decades ago from the map of the audio world by transistors, or semiconductors in general. And what about the vinyl disc? It's the same story. None of that happened, though.

I think that with the start of the new millennium this trend has intensified, and old technologies and audio equipment have recently garnered something of a cult following. This applies not only to sound reproduction, but also to its recording. As we read on the album cover of Kitty, Daisy & Lewis, an English band comprising the siblings of the Durham family:

"We took a year to record and mix this album in our back room. Over a period of time we collected a lot of ribbon microphones, tape recorders and ancient sound equipment and eventually built a workable studio inspired by Sun studios in Memphis and Chess studios in Chicago along with the makeshift chaos of Joe Meek's studio in the Holloway Road in London. Our main objective was to capture the energy of our live gigs."

PTP Audio SOLID9 Audiomods SERIES FIVE Turntable and Tonearm

A single glance at their list of sound equipment, including the Ampex 300 and 350 as well as the M3 stereo and mono tape recorders, ribbon microphones from Marconi, RCA and others, is enough to understand that this is all for real, not some kind of a joke. The lacquer discs for their vinyl albums are cut in the same room and on the same old Presto 8DG cutter. But this is not everything. Sunday Best, the label run by the Durhams, uses such prepared recordings to release not only classic 33 1/3 rpm stereo LPs, but also 33 1/3 rpm mono discs (which are cut from a separately prepared master) and even 78 rpm mono discs! It is with the latter in mind that they actually started their company. Their second album is available in the form of eight 10-inch 78 rpm discs and costs a staggering 100 British pounds. The fact that it is a real album, which comes with all band members' autographs, does not make its horrendous price any less shocking.

PTP Audio, Peter Reinders's company, was started for the very same reasons. Peter came to the conclusion that one of the audio technologies from the past, which triumphed in the 1950s and 1960s, namely the idler drive in which the platter is driven by the motor through an auxiliary idler pulley, has certain advantages that both the belt drive and direct drive systems are lacking. The idea behind the idler drive is simple: you take a powerful motor with a long shaft, which drives the platter by means of an auxiliary pulley (the "idler") pressed to the motor shaft and the platter. The pulley can be pressed to the platter edge horizontally (from the inside or outside), or vertically, from the bottom of the platter. The first method can be found in the Thorens TD 124 and Garrard 301 turntables. Both these designs are currently highly valued and used by prominent audio journalists, like Art Dudley (see my interview with Art HERE). There are also companies that specialize in their restoration, such as Swissonor from Switzerland, which often features in High Fidelity reports from the High End show in Munich (you can find our last 2014 report HERE). A kind of "imprimatur" for the idler drive is a completely new design from only a few years ago, the VPI Rim Drive & Classic Aluminum Platter, in which heavy aluminum platter is driven by a flywheel. The latter in turn is belt driven. A "hybrid" of sorts. And the newest addition to this "family" is the Simone Lucchetti Audiosilente Blackstone turntable from Italy, a classic "idler" showcased at the High End 2014 in Munich.

Coming back to Thorens, there are two excellent books dedicated to it: Gerhard Weichler's Thorens. The fascination of a Living Legend and Swiss Precision by Joachim Bung, whose subtitle The Story of the Thorens TD 124 and Other Classic Turntables introduces the subject of this review.

It is quite clear that Joachim is a huge fan of the Thorens TD 124. Describing the turntable and the story behind it, he also makes references to other designs that were its biggest competitors during the late 1950s and early 1960s. The book chapter titled Competitors of the Thorens TD 124 starts with a description and introduction to a design from the Swiss company, Lenco.

Founded in 1946 in Burgdorf, a small town near Bern which is considered the Swiss capital (Switzerland officially does not have the capital), it was the result of Fritz Laeng's fascination with audio components to reproduce sound. By the end of the 1950s the company offered two turntable models, one of which, the L 60, featured the idler drive. The special design of the drive system, with a conical shaped motor shaft allowed for a stepless speed regulation. The first turntable that was included in the hi-fi category was the L 70 from 1960. However, the model that became most successful was the L 75 from 1967. A heavy platter, idler drive and large motor were the basic distinguishing features of this design.

In the introduction I have mentioned the company Closer Acoustic and its Eva speakers that employ the Supravox 215 Signature Bicone full range driver (made in France). It just so happens that the owner, Mr. Jacek Grodecki, is also an avid enthusiast of restored Lenco turntables (his blog can be found HERE). A whole community with its own culture grew around this brand, which is reflected by the forum named "Lenco Heaven". Peter Reinders, whose first ever turntable was a Lenco, is a member/administrator there also. He joined the movement in 2005 when he built his first Lenco based turntable. In order to improve it, in 2006 he designed the PTP, i.e. Peter's Top Plate, a massive plate on which to mount other mechanical components. The plate is laser cut from 4 mm stainless steel. The motor and the platter bearing are mounted to two separate parts of the PTP. This was how PTP Audio was born and the following years brought new versions of the plate. The currently available models are the PTP4 and PTP5.

PTP Audio SOLID9 Audiomods SERIES FIVE Turntable and Tonearm

Peter did not stop at that stage. Persuaded by his friends and acquaintances, he built a complete PTP turntable. The two models that followed were the Solid9 and Solid12, designed for 9-inch and 12-inch tonearms respectively. They are based on Lenco turntable components from the 1960s and 1970s, combined with modern materials and precision manufacturing technologies. The older parts include the motor, idler, platter bearing, the platter itself and platter mat. The modern additions are the base and tonearm. To manufacture the base Peter uses Corian, a material known in the interior design industry. It is easily machined and has very good mechanical properties. It is available in m any colors and contributes to the considerable weight of the whole turntable: 20kg, of which the platter weighs 4 kg.

Any arm can be ordered but the review unit came equipped with a great looking arm from the British company Audiomods the Series Five. It was designed as a modification of the Rega 303 arm, with additional holes to lower the weight and featuring new ceramic bearings. Other new parts include a clamp and a mechanism allowing precise VTA adjustment on the fly. Its repeatability is outstanding, and it uses a micrometer scale for the readout.

PTP Audio SOLID9 Audiomods SERIES FIVE Turntable and Tonearm

The counterweight underwent an even more pronounced change. The new design is a three disc sandwich with high-gloss polished steel discs on the outside and a thin copper disc in the center. Its total weight can be changed by screwing in the screws (included). For precise weight setting a small cylinder travels along a threaded shaft protruding from the counterweight rear. Instead of the magnetic anti-skate from Rega we have here a classic solution with the line and sinker. The arm is wired with pure silver cable, also forming the interconnect, which connects to a phono preamp (0.9 m).

A few simple (short?) words from…


Owner, designer

PTP Audio SOLID9 Audiomods SERIES FIVE Turntable and Tonearm

Peter Reinders himself.

PTP Audio was founded by me and is built on my many years of experience in audio and with Lencos especially.

I got my first turntable (a Lenco!) when I was about ten and it went on from there.

In 2005 I joined the revival when I built my first Lenco based turntable. Immediately I began thinking about ways to improve it. This led to the first PTP, an innovative top plate to replace the flimsy original. In the wake of the PTP's success quite a few people asked me for complete PTP based turntables. PTP Audio is the answer to that request.

PTP Audio SOLID9 Audiomods SERIES FIVE Turntable and Tonearm

The Lenco L78 table from 1970s.

We make a unique range of turntables. Unlike 99% of the turntables currently made, ours are idler wheel driven. This principle guarantees unbelievable musicality and powerful dynamics.

To achieve this we take the drive system from a vintage Lenco, restore it to its former glory, and combine it with the best modern technology has to offer:an extremely stiff base laser-cut from stainless steel, and an elegant plinth made from solid, CNC machined composite material. All our products are made to order and assembled by hand. The result is a turntable that combines the sonic signature of an idler drive with the looks and reliability expected today. All PTP Audio products are made to order for each individual client.

Phase One, the first prototype made by Peter.


Albums auditioned during this review

Meditation – Mischa Maisky/Pavel Gililov, Deutsche Grammophon/Clearaudio LP 477 7637, 180 g LP (1990/2008).

Thorens. 125th Anniversary LP, Thorens ATD 125, 3 x 180 g LP (2008).

• Ben Webster, Old Betsy - The Sound Of Big Ben Webster, STS Digital STS 6111129, 180 g LP (2013).

• Bill Evans Trio, Waltz for Debby, Riverside Records/Analogue Productions APJ009, "Top 25 Jazz", Limited Edition #0773, 2 x 180 g, 45 rpm LP (1961/2008).

• Bill Evans, Bill Evans Live At Art D'Lugoff's Top Of The Gate, Resonance Records HLP-9012, "Limited Edition - Promo 104", 2 x 180 g, 45 rpm LP (2012).

• Dominic Miller, 5th House, Q-rious Music/Rutis Music QRM 122-2, 180 g LP (2012).

• Frank Sinatra, The Voice, Columbia/ Classic Records CL 743, Quiex SV-P, "50th Anniversary", 180 g LP (1955/2005).

• Freddie Hubbard, Open Sesame, Blue Note/Classic Records BT4040, Quiex SV-P, 200 g LP (1960/1999).

• Kitty, Daisy & Lewis, Kitty, Daisy & Lewis, Sunday Best SBEST25, 180 g LP (2008).

• Miles Davis, Miles Davis and The Modern Jazz Giants, Riverside/Analogue Productions AJAZ 1106, "Top 100 Jazz", 45 RPM Limited Edition #0706, 2 x 180 g, 45 rpm LP (1956/?).

• Thelonious Monk, Solo, Columbia/Music On Vinyl MOVLP843, "Classic Album", 180 g LP (1965/2014)

The Japanese quarterly Stereo Sound, which I have been buying for years now, looks like a book when put in the shelf. A pretty solid book, I should add. Printed on art paper, partly in full color and partly in black-and-white, it has a status comparable to the Bible in the country of the samurai. Its editors are considered "priests" or perhaps even demigods. I am writing all this with due respect and without any malicious intention or jealousy.

The magazine has been in print for well over 40 years and covers all the most expensive audio products it receives for a review before the world even learns about them. It also reviews lots of budget products. Important parts of the magazine are its music reviews, including audiophile releases, and a reference guide for music collectors. However, the most important parts are perhaps the descriptions of readers' audio systems and—from time to time—those of the magazine editors. The latter featured in the next-to-last "summer" issue No. 191.

I have already written this elsewhere: I do not know Japanese, which I sincerely regret. Fortunately, there are English translations available of the reviews from this quarterly. But, to be honest, it is not the words that are most important. The most significant things are actually the photographs published alongside the reviews. They are a kind of keyhole through which the Western man, unfamiliar with the language, can peek at the habits and passions of music lovers and audiophiles from a country that is so mysterious and exotic to us, Chopin's compatriots.

Each of the presented systems is distinct and unique but share a few common features that are recognizable to me. On the one hand, they show extreme modernity and uncompromising pursuit of the goal using the latest, most expensive and technologically advanced products. On the other hand, we can see an almost fanatical devotion to artifacts from the past, technologies that triumphed in the 1950s and 1960s, and often, as in the case of horn speakers, go even further back.

It is therefore not difficult to see systems pitted next to each other, one fronted by an ultra-modern audiophile player with an outboard master clock, and the other by turntables, often classic European models. Fans of the latter have a special habit, which is repeated as a kind of leitmotif: in a box, not far from the turntable, we can see removable headshells, mostly from SME, with mounted cartridges. Often there are over a dozen of them, each one dedicated to a different group of recordings, pressings and releases.

Every now and then I feel I might be Japanese. Perhaps not a native, but one that thinks of himself that way. When I review products like the TechDAS Air Force One turntable, which fronts Isao Yanagisawa's system, the Mark Levinson №52 preamp that also features in the same system, the Accuphase C-27 phono preamplifier that working in the system of another "Stereo Sound" editor, or the Jeff Rowland Corus preamplifier that is the foundation of Mr. Nobuyuki Fu's system, I feel somehow connected with them. I will never be a samurai, but I think that thanks to the music and audio we can have something in common.

But I never felt so close to the people who are a role model for me in many areas, as I did when I was listening to the Solid9 turntable. Firstly, I dealt with an idler drive design—a technology that has been kept alive by a group of enthusiasts that want to preserve some of its advantages, at the expense of other things where other technologies are superior. In Japan, this type of anachronism is characteristic for people who are aware of both the possibilities and limitations of modern audio, and who consciously consider their choices.

What was much more important, however, was that when the turntable was spinning my records, I kept changing cartridges quite often, listening with interest to the changes they would introduce to the sound. One or two changes at most are usually enough to determine the direction that I should pursue. This time I could try out classic, heavy cartridges that I really like, and that do not work well with all tonearms and turntables: the classic Denon DL-103, its much more expensive version the DL-103SA, the Miyajima Labs Shilabe with the needle pressure of 3 g, the Kansui from the same company with a greater compliance and lower needle pressure, and above all the ZERO mono cartridge that was sent to me by Noriyuki Miyajima-san, the owner of Miyajima Laboratory, as one of the first users outside of Japan.

The described changes were not made for the sake of change. Actually, based on experience and predictions, I try to limit the number of variables in a review. The more time I spend on exploration, changes and fine-tuning, the less time I have to listen to the music. Because there is more good music than I can listen to in my whole lifetime, it would be a pity to waste time on something that further reduces this. All within limits of course, since it always takes some effort to make the music sound as good as possible.

This time, swapping cartridges changes the very fabric of the music. The Dutch turntable with a Swiss heart and English arm invites the user to such introspection ; to listen to the next disc with curiosity and excitement. It is not ideal—it's "idlear" instead :). Firstly, there is no ideal audio component and, secondly, there are turntables from a similar price range that do certain things differently, and some of them even better. At the same time, this is a turntable that makes a virtue of the choices that went into its development.

Its sound is full and coherent. This was to be expected, because that is usually the sound of non-decoupled turntables with a large motor. It is also, as far as I can recall from various audio shows and auditions, the sound of idler drive designs. What came as a surprise to me was the intensity of both the fullness and the coherence. 'Authority' is probably the most appropriate word to describe this relationship. Vinyl discs played back on this international combination had power and confidence that was inherent to the presentation. Disc after disc, musical genre after musical genre, production after production, pressing after pressing, and the effect remained the same: solid music al presentation embracing the listener.

The basis of this symbiosis is something that could be called "compatibility". Interestingly, I usually come across something similar in digital components, mostly those from the top shelf, but only the successful ones. There it results from a low jitter and great phase coherence. I have a feeling that we are dealing with something similar in this case, as if the idler drive, free from the problems of direct drive (i.e. without an analog jitter introduced by the correction circuits) guarantees to perfectly convey the attack transients, maintaining the rhythm and pulse. This is the foundation of music, and without this perfectly drawn attack, ideal coherence and timing, there is nothing but noise.

It is difficult to indicate what kind of tonality is characteristic of this set—the turntable with the arm. Each cartridge sounded slightly different, in a way that was characteristic of itself, not of the turntable. The Shilabe was darker and more velvety, the Kansui more open, and the ZERO was warmest of them all. The DL-103 had its tonal balance based on the lower bass and dense midrange and the 'SA' version on the midrange.

At the same time, however, there was a tendency to lower the tonality and to "ground" the sound. If a large number of turntables sound warm, smooth and maybe even saturated, most of them do not really have a clue where the foundation of the sound is, nor therefore where to build upon it. This obviously includes the lowest notes of music al instruments, further enhanced and lowered by the acoustics of the room in which the recording had been made. Low reverb is something that creates real volume non-amplified instruments. Even if it does not seem to extend really deeply, having a reserve and breath at the bottom end help it create a realistic, credible music event.

The Solid9 creates just something like that. It is hard to say whether it lowers the tonality, because combined with any of the above cartridges it did not really show an emphasized bottom end. At the same time, however, we are aware of that foundation; the sound is free and smooth due to the fact that it has something to lean on, instead of "drifting" passively and just creating the impression that it knows the direction in which it flows. Here, we have a focused energy; I would even go as far as to say self-awareness.

Although I have so far been concentrating on the bass, there are no less interesting things happening at the other edge of the frequency range. Since it is a very balanced sound, the last thing I could say is that it withdraws the treble. And yet the top end is served up sparingly and deliberately. While in the midrange we have clarity, openness and dynamics, the treble seems to somehow keep up with it, rather than set the whole direction. Actually, I did not particularly mind it. This was the consequence of a specifically-shaped sound, i.e. a coherent midrange and well-defined, deep bass. I did not expect it to be as rich in complex harmonics as the aforementioned Air Force One or the Thales TTC-Compact. I simply assumed that it would be that kind of sound and was sticking to that.

The differences between classic, belt-driven turntables and the one under today's review lie primarily in the differently emphasized various sonic aspects. Although they may seem apparently minor, it is actually what organize s the sound. It is difficult to speak in Solid9's case about various music al planes. This is not the kind of resolving sound that is capable of separating the surface noise, pops and crackle s from the registered music event. They all arrive together and at the same time. Neither does it have the insight into the texture of the sound that high-end belt-driven turntables do. It is, however, very difficult to find a classic turntable that sounds so authoritative and has such a fantastic bass without contouring (i.e. hardening) it, an effect I do not like and which we get, in turn, in many direct-drive turntables.


The Solid9 equipped with the Audiomods Series Five arm is a special proposal. Not because it sounds weird or different from the norm. In this case, it is easy to say that this is the right kind of sound. There is a certain organized quality to it, and hence good rhythm. While it would be hard to talk about specific coloration, its sound may be perceived as somewhat warm and set lower than usual.

It is difficult to find an equally solid sound, even with expensive mass-loaded turntables. The latter will show an even more disciplined bottom end, perhaps even more powerful, but also somewhat artificial and colored. The bass in the Dutch turntable has a perfectly matched balance between softness and hardness, density and openness. The treble never poses any problem, but due to the fact that the music al presentation is a whole together with pops and crackle, care needs to be taken when cleaning and washing your vinyl records. Given that, even badly damaged discs are played back nicely, without annoying interference from pops and crackle.

This is a perfect basis for music lovers who do not want to look any further. Equip it with any of the aforementioned cartridges and you will be in for an amazing musical performance. If anyone thought that idler drive s introduced "audible" distortion in to the sound, they should think again. And they would do best to listen to the Solid9 in order to get rid of yet another stereotype. Stereotypes come from somewhere, but they cannot dictate to us what we should think.


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, SERENADE IN B FLAT MAJOR.
KV 361 "Gran Partita. Stuttgart Winds. Tacet L 209-1, 180 g LP

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the Tacet label is the work and love of Andreas Spreer. Founding it in 1989 in Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt, this music producer and sound engineer had a clear vision of what he wanted to achieve and of the methods by which he should do it.

His pearls in the crown are the two series: Tacet Real Surround Sound digital series and analog, vinyl discs. This time we talk about the latest vinyl release, a few words are due about the analog signal chain. Mr. Spreer is a true analog fanatic. Hence, he makes his recordings, and his frequent guests include Wojciech Rajski and Polish Chamber Philharmonic, on carefully restored reel-to-reel tape recorders. He also uses tube equipment, and some recordings are "Tube Only" projects. In the case of the reviewed album, part of the audio chain was tube-based, as indicated by the appropriate logo on the cover. The recording was made in 2012 using several microphones, including the tube Neumann U 47. The record was made with Half-Speed Mastering technology and comes in a gatefold cover, with a commentary in the center and two photographs—one of the band and the other of the master disc cutter head. The white center label on the disc is very tidy, with well-chosen typography. The recording and production was handled by Andreas Spreer.

On the photograph featuring the band and Mr. Spreer standing next to it, you can only see the two main microphones, the Neumann U 47. However, from the description we learn that there had been many more microphones. If I did not know that, it would have been hard to find it out. The sound is in fact very smooth and continuous, without any phase problems or soundstage irregularity. The sound is dense and somewhat "tubey" in the sense that it lacks aggressiveness and roughness. Its distinctive characteristic is smoothness. The soundstage is very natural, both in its width and depth. You can hear that the microphones had been close to the performers, and this is the only way to find out that the multi-microphone technique had been used. It is a very direct sound in which the room acoustics play a rather minor albeit clear role. Dynamics are outstanding. You can thoroughly examine your cartridges in this regard. I am sure that some of them have a poorer tracking performance which will result in a slight distortion. The latter is, however, not the record's problem but rather the cartridge's. The record is very good, very nicely played and equally well recorded.

Sound quality: 10/10


In this type of design, i.e. relatively simple, the devil is in the detail, especially in the precision of manufacturing and assembly. The Solid9 looks very—well—solid. Its 400 x 500 x 50 mm base is made of Corian. The material was invented by the American company DuPont, which also gave us Teflon, and is mostly used in the production of tops and work surfaces with high durability and abrasion resistance. In audio, it is used because of its very good mechanical properties, especially its vibration damping quality. The base of the turntable under review has been finished in black; there is also a choice of white finish included in the basic price. M any colors are available, although you will have to pay extra for them.

PTP Audio SOLID9 Audiomods SERIES FIVE Turntable and Tonearm

The base sports cutouts for the mechanical components. The large motor from the original Lenco turntable (on three springs) and the main platter bearing, also original, are mounted to two separate PTP plates. The latter are laser-cut from 4 mm steel sheet. The idler pulley between the motor shaft and the platter is secured on a long, quite flexible metal arm. The 4 kg platter is made of polished aluminum. Its top surface features a mat made of aluminum and rubber, which also comes from the original Lenco. The turntable rests on three height-adjustable feet, two at the front and one at the back.

The user can regulate the speed by moving a knob adjacent to the platter. To do this, it needs to be unscrewed, slid in the slot and screwed back in. Any speed between 33 1/3 and 45 rpm is available. The motor is powered by AC current straight out of the wall socket. It is turned on with a small push button on the left side of the platter. The IEC mains power connector is located in the center of the rear.

The turntable came equipped with the Audiomods Series Five tonearm. It is based on the Rega RB 303 arm design, from which the arm tube has been taken, made of cast magnesium alloy. Its weight has been reduced by drilling various diameter holes along the entire length of the tube. The tube is suspended on ceramic bearings, mounted in solid, steel clamps.

PTP Audio SOLID9 Audiomods SERIES FIVE Turntable and Tonearm

The manufacturer has equipped the arm with a precise VTA mechanism. It uses a graduated vertical micrometer screw. After setting the VTA the arm must be fixed in place with a smaller, horizontal knob The latter is not particularly convenient to use because it is located very close to the handle of the arm lift. Internal wiring uses multi-stranded silver wires that run straight outside the chassis without any connectors, thus creating a 0.9 m long interconnect. Each of the parts I have mentioned can be purchased separately as upgrades to one's Audiomods tonearm.

PTP Audio SOLID9 Audiomods SERIES FIVE Turntable and Tonearm

Prices: €2550 + €999


[email protected]

[email protected]



Text and images by Wojciech Pacuła,

Translation by Andrzej Dziadowiec

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