Reference Lenco Part Four

Story continues

Mono & Stereo Reference Lenco is almost ready. Here is the Part four of the Jean Nantais chronological article about making it happen. Please take a look into the article. Its worth seeing every step of the Jean Nantais dedication and passion:

"We come to the final instalment before shipping, the woodwork and final assembly and testing. The Reference Lenco I first designed and built years ago required many much larger tools, lumber and work stations than my earlier Classic models. So, especially with my new MKII design, I needed greater space."

The Reference Lenco MKIIs and Classic Lenco MKIIs deserved a workshop reflective of both my approach (hand-made and hand-tuned by myself, and based on aspects of musicality dismissed as Flat Earth by objectivists) and of the product itself, which is intended to capture all the musical content and excitement intended by the musicians, recording engineers, producers and so forth. I chose a 19th-century schoolhouse, 800 square feet and spacious, built in 1863, which operated as a school for more than 100 years (decommissioned in 1967), which fits in well with my activities bringing the Lencos to light, and teaching the world about the potential and superiority of idler-wheel drives (ongoing). As an aside, right up to 1967, students of the school were required to bring some wood every day for the wood stove in winters.

The setting: a small historic village which once boasted a wood mill, a grain mill and a cast iron parts manufacturer (and which had its own telephone company, only bought out by Bell in 1967),and which was also the scene of the famous in Canadian history log drivers, who rode and shepherded the logs down the rivers and rapids of Canada’s rivers when lumber and furs were Canada's main products.

The Schoolhouse borders on a lake and river and a wilderness preserve. Thus, all the elements are there: wood, metal, natural beauty and the communication of knowledge. The space, the place, the history all fit in with what I do, and why I do it.

Like the Lencos I am most known for improving, the Schoolhouse needed some work, as some of the original hand-hewn beams on which the floors rested had rotted, along with large patches of floor. So, we cut off the rotten sections, replaced them with modern joists, and used some sections of the original floors in a pattern with the 2”-thick hemlock chosen for the floorboards.

The building itself has several large windows, which in addition to the several lighting methods (left over from a time when the Schoolhouse was converted to a museum for the town), ensures I can better see what I’m doing, important when dealing with millimetres. The pale yellow paint adds to the lighting clarity, and at the back you can see the lumber racks I have built to hold all the several woods I have been collecting over the years, as there are good pieces and not-so-good pieces of each species. So, for instance, I will go through a large pile of, say, canary wood, in order to find that one best piece. So it’s not as simple as simply sending me a photo of some spectacular wood and simply saying “I want this.” Often, there is no such beautiful/perfect piece of wood instantly available. So, when I see a particularly beautiful sample of some type of wood (like the Yellow Cedar Burl), I add it to my collection against the future. Many, as with the Yellow Cedar Burl which is the wood chosen for this review, I buy raw and sometimes even green, which requires milling and stacking in order for it to air-dry – which preserves the colour – and stabilize. Along the walls you can see the special jigs I have built to ensure even pressure in the clamping of the layers of my plinths.

The large assembly of tools large and small are required in order to make especially the Reference Lenco MKII possible, a great element of which is the sound and control of certain musically-gifted woods, in particular combinations, with particular methods of assembly. Audiophiles tend to believe that rarity, cost and density is the secret to great results (same as with metals) and they couldn’t be more wrong. End results, as in the actual sound (good or bad) of a material, determines what works, not some theory predicated on exclusivity or misguided logic (i.e. logic which is proven wrong by testing). Many realize that these same principles also guide successful electronics and speaker design (i.e. simply using a shopping list of expensive items almost ensures musical and tonal disaster). The bulk of the work and machining is done for the interior, which remains proprietary.

That said, the exterior requires an enormous amount of work, but is satisfying, interesting and artistically fulfilling: as I used to write back in the days of the Building high-end ‘tables cheap at Home Despot Thread on Audiogon, let’s have fun with this! The only requirement for the exterior is that it be strong, and hopefully dense (and so always hardwoods): the exterior’s sole purpose is to add mass, and to add to the plinth’s total integrity.

In the next set of photos you can see the Yellow Cedar Burl Reference Lenco MKII taking shape. Burls have no real structural integrity: the same reason which makes burls so striking also undermines their structural aspect, so one must be very careful in milling and air-drying these burls, as otherwise they tear themselves apart while drying and disintegrate in the process, a very expensive mistake both in terms of effort and of cost. So, I made it a veneer, choosing, as is to my own taste, the wildest pieces of wood from the pile I milled, embracing rather than avoiding “defects”. Plus, the craziest patterns tend to group around these defects. This natural wildness is visually commensurate with my sonic aim, as symbolized by the dolphins I inset: The totality of all this - especially the dynamic freedom and amazing PRaT - are symbolized by the leaping dolphin, an iconic representative of freedom and joy, in this case a freeing of the music, and its power.

Once the main body of the plinth veneered, I proceed to mill the wood for the sides, always a contrasting wood for the visual effect I am after in my MKII designs. Both the dolphin and the dowels are made from the contrasting wood (in this case wenge for the dolphin, but yellowheart for the dowels for strength).

Looking at another wild wood, in this case a maple which was somehow “contaminated” with spots and picked up at a local historic wood mill (which you can see in photos), you can see the traditional-for-References rounded edges. So, the Yellow Cedar Burl Reference Lenco MKII built for monoandstereo has sharp edges on the front and along the back, as will all burl Reference Lenco MKIIs, with, in the case of this particular ‘table, shaped black wenge sides.

Finally, once the varnishing is done, then the machine is assembled as per previous sections, and tested in my main system over a few days to ensure all is operating and sounding as it should before shipping. The RS Labs RS-A1 tonearm shows up in so many of my photos as it requires no holes be drilled, and so is a quick and easy and unwasteful (of tonearm boards) way of testing each ‘table before it is ready to ship. In addition, it is an excellent musical tonearm which is a pleasure to listen to, provided a good cartridge match is found (I have had great success with Benz cartridges, and most recently with an Ortofon Rohmann). Once that test is passed and all aspects of the sound and engineering verified, I move to the more serious tonearms and cartridges these ‘tables are usually paired with, which customers send to me, drill the tonearm boards and mount the tonearms, playing these as well to ensure that all mechanisms have free play, and with a good range of motion both horizontal and vertical.

This particular Reference Lenco MKII is now playing perfectly, and is now ready to ship. Each ‘table I build is carefully packed by myself, as learned from a turntable shipping expert who used to have a web page dedicated to the subject.

Links to the previous articles:

Reference Lenco MKII Part One
Reference Lenco MKII Part Two
Reference Lenco MKII Part Three

Matej Isak. Mono and Stereo ultra high end audio magazine. All rights reserved. 2006-2013. ..:: None of the original text, pictures, that were taken by me, links or my original files can be re-printed or used in any way without prior permission! ::..