So where 21st century vinyl reproduction stands?
We hear many of the present triumphant vocalizations of massive machines impact, but these uber techno sculptures are more of Ibuprofen potency rather then being really musically inclined. The heavy weight championship trend, that is going on now for decades left an unsettling feeling and sadly driven away many of people to take vinyl reproduction seriously. Some of these iron sculptures actually put more of a stigma on our industry rather then welcome people in…
Many of audiophiles and music lovers are still waiting to be corrected with the latest and greatest analog replay machines and stood attached to the machines of the “past”.
Bulky machines coming from the European industrial heaven sees to be more and more a matter of luxurious ego trips and material wellbeing showcase rather then a real high performance stand out products performing on the level of the dedicated pricing. I'm the first one to embrace the exotic and special gears when it comes to the high end audio, but I'm the last one buying into the nonsense and BS overtness.
Let me level on the plane of sanity for and linger in a moment. BMW Series 5 implements crazy amount of technological discoveries frankly works as a highly reliable piece of industrial art and advancement. Let me lurk into the dealings of so highly praised grand turntables. In nutshell, many of them cannot even hold pitch stability regardless of many dedicated electronically controlled mechanisms. And thats only one small fragment. I could go on and on, but let me get closer to the point. How come that many of the past vinyl machines can still stand along or surpass the contemporary ones? Mental, time loop encapsulation or? Perhaps the answer is even more simple that it supposed to be...
Taking apart some of the legendary turntables reveals profound simplicity. This usually translates into vast time and funds being spent into the optimizing the product before it seen the light of the day. In the past turntable manufacturers employed highly trained and efficient people with real technical know how and more then right dosage of pin point determination.
JEAN NANTAIS TT
I believe my introduction pointed exactly where I wanted. Having spent almost two years with the Jean Nantais MKII Reference Lenco turntable was quite a mind opening experience. I've been literary in the camp already, but quite few people could witnesses and confirm what many are repeating for decades. Garrards, Lencos, Thorens etc. were remarkable machines that can still rival if not surpass many of the current turntables. Heretic?!
“Their great advantage over other systems is their torque, and the fact their torque is pure analogue. This leads to a combination of speed, dynamics timing and naturalness all at once which is supreme, in my view at putting the “music” back into music reproduction. Which was the whole reason I decided to start an “Idler-Wheel War”.” - Jean Nantais
In Poland show living legend of high end audio FM acoustics' CEO Manuel Huber was playing records on this particular turntable. This is the man that can enthuse full packed room of people for few hours with music. His almost mystical sense for music and its reproduction is one of the kind and his affection and clear affection for such machines is evident. Anyone can inquire with him how he feels about the modern iterations of analog playback.
Jean Nantais reference Lenco Turntable created the story of it own over past few years and sure by no coincidence or being kitten by the ”tons" of heavy metals.
You can read more about his approach and philosophy here: link and here: link, but in a sum, he took the legendary Lenco and pushed it into the completely different realms.
His success is evident and is it really intriguing, that many of the heavy machinery owners converted to his Lenco’s? Well, there should be more then one reason…
The first one I would lay down is musicality. You can instantly hear the music being enriched with the lively attributes via Jean Lenco. Compared with many of the new wavers the difference is not subtle and even untrained ear can spot it. Musical flow resolves in a much more unaltered rendition of original material moving closer to the mighty power of the analog tape machines. Iron, solid steel, aluminum etc. being used on many of the present turntables are adding the unmistakable ring effect and dullness to the sound. These are the design choices, that led to precognition. With vinyl reproduction everything and anything matters. Vinyl rig chain represent the most fragile system chain and its prone to every miniature changes. It's fully perplexed science in action.
On many fronts high end audio one can explore and exploit the undefined grounds. Yet, more then anywhere else vinyl reproduction and surrounding paraphernalia is utmost subjective to the actual physics rules. That's why we see and hear so many turntables being introduced year by year sounding so utopian distant. There is little advancement or stand out abilities being presented and introduced. No one can really trick the Mother Nature and the longest standing laws. As a fact you must start with a clean slate being totally dependable on the real tech and measurable objectivity.
WOOD VS METALS
I'll won't go in the total extremes and state that no turntable that uses different metal based materials cannot not be sounding good or even great. It can be perfected to a certain level by mixing the different materials and following the real technical norms.
Still, like with best speakers wood based chassis are being used for a strong reason. This relates exactly the same with the wooden plinths being implemented with the turntables. Getting deep down can be open up a pandora box of an endless discussion, but listening results are easily obtainable and more then worthy of pursuing.
There is something inherently right about timbre, tone and color when it comes to the wooden plinths combined with the solid mechanic solutions and Jean Nantais Reference Lenco MKII turntable speaks for it self…
Pat Metheny Bright Size Life
One of the most inspiring Pat Metheny’s releases. Partnered with Jaco Pastorius on bass and drummer Bob Moses this album is pure exploration of asymmetrical phrasing coated with Midwestern mystical mood. There is something completely different and highly involving and radiating across all the album’s tracks.
In the middle of the Midwestern Nights Dream song, a sudden blast of Pat’s guitar resolves strikingly especially in the mids. Push forward energy can “confuse and bring down to the knee many record players. Not so with Lenco MKII. It kept momentum straight ahead, under control and without showing any stress.
Manfred Eicher always ensured different ECM sound, that might not be to everyone’s taste. I tend to like and love it. It gets under your skin, but also demands a particular turntable ability to come to life and Lenco MKII was no stranger in making one of my favorite Pat Metheny albums come to life.
Doug McLoud Come to find
An easy choice to challenge dynamic impact and being there factor. Along with some of the Opus 3 Eric Bibb recordings this album instantly shows the ability of any turnable to reproduce dynamic contrast of acoustic guitar and vocals at its best. Most importantly it gives you hands on translation ability of the turntable. Complex overlaying of plucks, string resonances, delays and decays is never easy to reproduce. With Reference With the proper gain match everything related with this album should be lighting fast without loosing a mojo! Lenco MKII Doug’s spirit comes alive and imprinted within few grooves. Not a quality I’ve stumble upon too often.
Franz Schubert, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Gerald Moore – Franz Schubert Lieder
Another reference black disc, that feels more like emotional drug intake rather then job undergoing task. The Hoch Deutsch pronunciation and sublime piano following puts a unexpected stress on any vinyl setup. Both piano and vocals are among most complex and demanding “instruments” to reproduce at its full scale. Getting it right technically might be a quick judging leit motif of many contemporary record players. Combining the emotions, spirit of the recorded event and natural flow is something much more demanding. Yet, Jean Nantais comes with such gestalt by nature.
Fischer-Dieskau’s proper reproduction demands more. By reaching to the interactive potency of this childlike poetry there is certain, primal need of subtle transcription where the emotional bound happens and might even revoke a familiar state of mind, reflecting in almost Carl G. Jung like collective unawareness :). There is a lot more hidden in the music that we’re often credit it for. Magic of high-end audio happens when things correlate on certain level and by unlocking the hidden parts evokes our urge for more…
Jean Nantais MKII Lenco fluidness and transfer of the musical energy worked across the genres with greater potency and most importantly acting like an open window to the endless universe of analog heaven.
How can such archaic technology compete with the contemporary record players? Back in time, reflecting to the past century a lot of energy, R & D and founds were dedicated to the development of such machines. Even by today’s standards the manpower usually associated with such projects cannot be repeated at present times. Something familiar reflect the golden era of Japanese giants back in the 80’s. We live in different world with different rules and consequently some of the historical movements cannot be easily mirrored.
Such endeavors resulted in many products that still holds not only well today, but can even surpasses many of so called high end audio turntables.
Jean Nantais infused his life’s passion, spirit and know how into perfecting the Reference Lenco MKII turntable. Like most real hard core enthusiasts he never settles with his ongoing research. There are no quick endeavors and repetitions. Everything comes as a result of a slow process where trial and error painstakingly lead the pace and the end results heavily relies on the listening part.
Jean Nantais Reference Lenco MKII turntable comes as focused performer that encapsulates lifelike energy, being a key point of drawing one into the music.
Like with everything related with highly perfoming turntable setup one needs to put a bit more time to get everything right and to create a balanced analog reproduction chain that works in synergy. When pushed the proper plane, Reference Lenco MKII turntable steps forward, smacks you with instant forte presentation and draws you into the core of the music.
Most awekening part about Jean Nantais’s Lenco is the ability to extract much more information out of the black grooves that many similar or much higher priced turntables fails to do. This factual observation speaks for itself.
Lurking back in past reveals some intriguing facts about the machines of the past (Western Electric, 300 B amplifier concepts etc). How can some of almost century old designs and mechanical solution still rival or better modern counterparts? As written above, there were something constitutionally right above doing things right from the ground up.
Jean Nantais Lenco impressed me with the absence of mechanical imprint, that is too often associated with many renowned German turntables. Across different well known material Lenco MKII never leaned toward this non sublime phenomena. With Jean’s refinements this iconic turntable managed to lock within music and stay focused on the musical material rather then particular part of the music.
In era where we’re fighting with the hubris of clinically sounding and musically dissecting audio front ends Jean Nantais Reference Lenco MKII turntable comes as a healthy reminder of what analog should and can stand for. For what it represents and its given performance I'm happily awarding it with the Mono and Stereo Highly Recommended award and Mono and Stereo Upper Echelon Award...
Text: Matej Isak