Gramophone Dreams #73: PTP Audio Solid9 Turntable, Sorane SA-1.2 Tonearm

I wish that all who love LP playback as much as I do could hear a Thorens TD 124 or Garrard 301 or EMT 930 in their systems, but those products are subject to the vagaries of supply and demand: They are rare and pricey.—Art Dudley

I have a friend named Yale, a record producer, who lives in a capacious, art-filled SoHo loft with enormous windows, craggy wood floors, and a high, tin-tiled ceiling. I enjoy Yale's company because he has extraordinarily diverse, highly evolved taste in music, art, architecture, books, home furnishings, and hi-fi equipment.

In one part of Yale's loft, a large, tin cow weathervane stands on a bureau. Bolted to the ceiling above the dining room table is a greasy black 300lb electric motor with a wide pulley—the kind formerly used to turn the belts that powered sweatshop machines ca 1920. In the purest essence of 1970s SoHo style, a loft bed is situated above the closet and bathroom, and the kitchen floor is raised to shelter plumbing pipes. There's an unnamable piece of machinery, about the size of a small dog, on the floor next to the couch. It sits there because it looks elegantly mysterious, inspiring curiosity and contemplation. Yale and his architect wife spent decades creating this dreamy, comfortable space, which leads my mind to reminisce—and loft envy.

One sunny winter weekday, Yale invited me over for the express purpose of helping him decide which amp does a better job powering his patinaed 1970s Tannoy Cheviot speakers: his newly arrived, 1956 Fairchild 260 tube amplifiers or the shiny Line Magnetic 2A3 amp he'd been using for some time. His "gear table," he said, was too small for both.

As we unpacked the Fairchilds, we agreed: Those push-pull 6L6 mono amps are museum-quality masterpieces of industrial design. The Fairchild 260s are, along with the Marantz Model 2 and the Brook 12A, top classics of American mono-era amplifier design.

As we unwrapped the NOS tubes, I reminded Yale that RCA released the 6L6 beam tetrode in 1936 and that it was designed specifically to have a distortion characteristic high in second harmonic and low in third harmonic, for use in push-pull, audio-frequency amplifiers in which the second harmonic gets canceled. Push-pull 6L6 tube amps are notoriously musical, revered especially for their vocal reproduction. These rare Fairchild 260s are the holy grail of 6L6 design.

When we got the tubes in and the wires connected, only one channel worked. After some fiddling, we had sound from both channels, but one speaker was out of phase. As Yale troubleshot, I sat myself down in a random chair about 30' from the speakers and began to check my email. Suddenly, both speakers jolted into loud, in-phase action, making my head jerk so fast I hurt my neck. When I looked down, I saw my right foot tapping like a sewing machine. Then I felt my head bobbing. I was having an "Oh my! Listen to that!" moment.

Full-strength Pace, Rhythm, and Timing (PRaT). Unsuppressible forward momentum. Music grooves owned the room. Artists' intentions were coming through. My brain gave no thought to "how does it sound?"

When the second record ended, I turned to Yale wide-eyed and exclaimed, "Wow! You were right. You're not an audiophile. You are a music lover!" I said this because, earlier, Yale had denied being an audiophile, saying he just likes "gear."

It was obvious he cared little about all that "audiophile checklist" stuff and not at all about those speaker setup–room arranging rules that place a high priority on a strategically positioned listening chair and precisely focused image mapping. To me, it seemed that Yale's system was carefully curated to do one thing perfectly: remind himself and show his friends how good his records are.

I asked Yale how he chose this particular mixture of stuff. "I chose most of it because I liked how it looks," he answered. "I don't compare equipment. I just go by what moves me." That made me smile. "I believe that strategy works," I told him. "Because ... in my experience, most components do sound like they look." I complimented my friend and his wife on their good taste, saying, "I think your audio gear is 'of a piece' with your art and furnishings and taste in music."

Watching me swoon over the gray, hammertone beauty of his EMT 930 turntable, Yale explained that he had owned quite a few turntables, "but once I realized that idler wheels were close to god, I bought into the myth." Yale told me his EMT cartridge came from Art Dudley, whose writing had been "an inspiration" during his gear-buying journey.

Yale has a second system, set up along the long, high books-and-records wall. It features a crisp-looking Thorens TD 124 (completely stock, restored by STS Turntables) with an SME 3012 arm and a Denon DL-103 moving coil cartridge wired into a 1960s Voice of Music, EL-84–based integrated amplifier powering some snappy-looking Altec Model 14 speakers sitting on the floor pointing out at no particular chair. When he played it, this system filled the room with sound and gushed boogie factor like the first one.

Both of Yale's systems moved the music forward better than any newfangled system I've encountered. I wasn't sure why. When a sound system excels at PRaT and momentum, those talents swamp all other considerations. PRaT is engagement factor. It's what seduces listeners. Forward momentum is what holds their attention. When PRaT rules, noise, distortion, and frequency response become secondary. In order for me to love an audio system, it must have a strongly coercive nature: It must invite me in, pin me to my chair, and force me to listen intently. For me, it's PRaT (and authentic tone)—not SINAD (footnote 1)—that makes recorded music believable and exciting.

Ever since that day at Yale's, I've spent much time thinking about why idler-drive turntables excel at pushing music along. All my belt-drive and direct-drive players run at the same 33 1/3 , 45, and 78 speeds, but compared to that EMT 930, my 1984 Linn LP12 feels like it's dragging a hind paw. And Dr. Feickert's Blackbird plays brisk and surefooted and makes records exciting, but it's not a locomotive like that EMT.

In the quiet passages, my LP12 is quieter than all forms of direct or idler drive, and its lower noisefloor exposes more of that inner detail we audiophiles crave. But EMT's 930—and also the PTP Audio idler-drive turntable I am about to describe—do something unique with quietness, momentum, and what Art Dudley called "touch," which I interpret as a commingling of tactility and corporality.

What probably makes vintage idler drives so supercharged, PRaTwise, is the precision-made, high-torque AC motors they use to turn heavy platters with no speed correction or belt decoupling. To my subconscious mind, idler drive feels more solidly connected to the music's forward momentum than direct drive does. To my conscious mind, idler drive appears less conditioned, less electrically affected, than direct drive. Compared to idler and direct drive, belt drive feels like it decouples the platter and record grooves, not just from the motor's noise and vibration but from the essence of its torque and power. I can't swear that I hear this, nor can I describe what idler drive sounds like any more than I already have—but I can feel it, as I did that day at Yale's.

Since that day, belt-drive decks feel like cars with automatic transmissions. Yale's EMT idler feels like it has a sturdy gearbox and a stiff clutch.

PTP Audio's Solid9 Record Player
I am home now in my studio, listening to PTP Audio's simple-as-a-rock Solid9 turntable (footnote 2). The Solid9 is a restored, hot-rodded, replinthed Lenco idler drive (footnote 3) that my Eurofriend Peter Reinders builds in his shop in the Netherlands (footnote 4). Every time I place a disc on its rubber Lenco platter mat, I admire every no-frills thing about it. It looks solid and purposeful.

Back in the '80s, when I was buying and selling used, broadcast-quality decks, my Japanese customers' first choice was always the rarest: a gray, hammertone, grease-bearing Garrard 301, followed by an ivory-colored grease-bearing model. In third place was Garrard's ivory-colored oil-bearing model.

Farther down my customers' want list (and my price list) were idler-drive models from Gates and Lenco. The made-in-Illinois Gates was a cool-looking, truck-tough turntable with a gearshift-styled speed-change lever and a choice of 16" or 12" platters. Its most distinguishing feature was the idler mechanism: The idler wheel didn't drive the platter's outer rim as in the Garrard and EMT; instead, it drove a massive inner hub surrounding the cast platter's spindle. According to Gates's advertising, this "hub-drive" strategy reduced rumble by allowing the motor to operate at a lower speed.

Between 1946 and 1979, the Lenco AG offered a third approach to idler drive. These Lencos used a long, gently tapered, horizontally positioned motor shaft to drive the bottom of the platter via a skinny (4mm) spring-tensioned vertical idler wheel. Where the idler is positioned against the tapered shaft determines the platter's speed. This is the mechanism used by the PTP Audio Solid 'tables.

Footnote 1: SINAD stands for signal-to-noise-and-distortion ratio. See

Footnote 2: Art wrote about PTP 'tables several times including here and here.

Footnote 3: See

Footnote 4: PTP Audio/Audiomods, Email: Web:


Ortofan's picture

... Fairchild 260, the Marantz Model 2 and/or the Brook 12A truly superior to that of the McIntosh MC-30?

directdriver's picture

Superior in what? In looks or sound quality? I had experience with all the items mentioned. They're all different in looks and sound and they all use different tubes.

Ortofan's picture

... those three amps are "museum-quality masterpieces of industrial design."
Industrial design would suggest that they were referring to visual appearance, rather than sound quality.

directdriver's picture

There's no mention of superiority of those to the MC30. The MC30 is not even mentioned in the article. Why even bring that up?

Ortofan's picture

... mentioned in the article.

Herb Reichert's picture

we were referring to how they meet the eye and how Yale and I buy stuff because it looks cool

as for the MC30 I serviced and used a few, and they sounded extremely good with RCA LC1 speakers (and many others), but to me they look a little Edsel glitzy not so understated as the Marantz Model 2 for example. The Brook 12A and the Harmon Kardon Citation II are my favorite push-pull amps for sound.


Anton's picture

I do not know which came first, but the Sorane and Dynavector tonearms are like Samantha and Serena.

Are they officially related?

call me Artie's picture

The relationship is visual, not functional. The Dynavector DV505 arm was one early design that took into account the fact that ideal effective mass for stereo tonearms is not the same in the vertical and the horizontal planes. I can't do a dissertation on this here, but it is to do with the fact that in stereo low-frequencies are recorded in mono (horizontal stylus deflections only) whereas mid-to-high frequencies are recorded in stereo (i.e. vertical and horizontal stylus deflections). Lots of people have worked out that the ideal effective mass for an arm/cartridge combination is different in the vertical and horizontal planes for this reason. Examples include Dynavector with the previously mentioned DV505, Moerch, and most linear-tracking arm manufacturers. Unfortunately, this Sorane arm appears to be a look-alike which has none of the advantages of the Dynavector original, because it does not include a separate pivot at the "knee" bend, therefore does not have different effective mass in different planes. Artie

call me Artie's picture

Anton. Unless I am missing something, I suspect you may have meant "Venus and Serena" in your tennis reference?
Hope I'm not being dumb

jimtavegia's picture

This whole idea of what is better can really be a discussion starter, a good thing perhaps?

I am beginning to think that at nearly 76 and retired that I am on the outside looking into this current "audiophile life". That is OK for me.

Once I saw in your show coverage from Munich an "entry level" integrated amp that was $33,000.00 I knew I was now the kid with his face against the candy store glass window. Looking at the prices of the gear at your last two show reports only proved it to me. I am glad, I guess, that there are folks who can afford such gear and I sure hope it makes them happy and manufacturers can stay in business.

I hope that by years' end I am the proud owner of a BenchMark DAC3 to upgrade my listening experience. It will be my last upgrade in my digital world as two of my other systems are driven by Schiit headphone amps and Project Audio S2 DACs. I really need nothing more than that.

What does bother me is that I asked a "sensitivity question" of a well known above middle tier gear builder of one of their power amps. I asked the question on-line as they asked possible owners for questions.

I asked: "What is the input sensitivity of the amp to gain full output of 100+ watts per channel amp?" Their on-line reply was: "It operates on 120V and no one would ever listen to music at full power." I was expecting an answer of something like 2-5 volts max. from a preamp or a direct output CD source would give full output power into 8 ohms.

Like many I am not sure if some who are answering know what the real question is, or how can anyone define for someone else what "better" is?

Like the D'Agostino review when he states that, for him, measurements are only part of the story and what sounds better to him is what counts. With his experience I can appreciate that.

I always look when new models of what reviewers own are brought out and then after reviewed see who jumps in to move up to the new model or what makes someone jump on this new model when they could have had the old model years before and enjoyed them as well?

I do appreciate DR. Kal in giving us reviews of affordable digital products and his "in use experience" is invaluable for us not quite up to technical speed has he is.

I do wonder after these two shows if the market is in a shift upward price wise-mode to where the income distribution is moving towards? Many of us may be content with the gear we own and just look at increasing the number of new music releases we own. Not a bad thing for musicians everywhere. That seems to be where I am as I have bought much new music in the last 3 months.

jimtavegia's picture

Three CDs in heavy rotation right now are: Molto Molto; Ole Borud: Soul Letters; and Eva Cassidy: I Can Only Be Me with members of the London Symphony Orchestra. Every one of then with my AKG K701's and either my Schiit Asgard or Vali headphone amps I am right in the room with the performers. I can't ask for more than that. The Cassidy album is great studio/digital trickery.

Ortofan's picture

... on display at the Munich show, John, from the Darko Audio site, remarked that the show was one of what he termed opulence. He also went on to comment that he turned down offers of equipment to review whose prices he considered to be excessive.

On the TNT-Audio site, Carlo Iaccarino mentioned that there was a room at Munich called "Sounds Clever" which contained four systems, each with a price ceiling of 5,000€ (~ $5,350), that were selected by four different German audio publications/websites. Details of the systems weren't provided, but will be covered in a follow-up report.

jimtavegia's picture

I guess for me that I fell into being more of a Stereo Review kind of subscriber, but I do understand how the market has changed and the business model needs to follow for people to keep manufacturing alive. I look forward to reading about the the $5,000.00 ceiling systems and see what was presented and maybe some of that will be reviewed at some point.

I am keen to own a BenchMark DAC this year and that would be my limit to spend, but it is good to know that it stands up favorably to much more pricey units. If for some reason another one of my sliver disc spinners did die, I would consider the Yamaha CD-S1000 as a replacement so I can continue to listen to my SACD collection.

Thanks for the reply.

funambulistic's picture

Darko declines some reviews because the prices are excessive for his channel/website (said some of his patrons/viewers would freak out) not that they are excessively priced. He also said he only reviews stuff he can actually afford.

ddiljak's picture

Lot of Art Dudley references and, if I didn't know better, I'd say it feels like he wrote this article (high praise indeed). Thanks very much for that, Herb!

Lars Bo's picture

Thanks, Herb. I really enjoyed your piece, and, as usual, I find your thoughts inspirational.

Quote: "... (idler-drive TTs) do something unique with (...) what Art Dudley called "touch," which I interpret as a commingling of tactility and corporality".

Yes, I have always got connotations of tactility and corporality from Art Dudley's concept of "touch", too; all, perhaps, evocative of flesh-and-blood-human play of physical instruments, and one resonant manifestation of human connection and addressedness in playback music audio.

Thanks again.

anystereo's picture

I appreciate the effort you put into writing about this stuff. It really matters to me. So, I have a Garrard 401 which I love, I had an earlier 301 and sold it and my beloved thorens 124 out of guilt I guess. How many can you really use at one time? But after selling them I started to collect again and now have quite a few a Gates, Rek-oKuts and a QRK/Gates and an sp15 and 125MKii as well a few others. Enough already. The secret I think to the garrard idlers is, including my beloved 401, is that it operates like and old lady driven car, its got feet on both the gas and the brakes at the same time. This creates a window of steady driving that sluffs off minor and even not so minor disturbances as the needle plows thru the snow. There should be a 'specs for this needle drag over brake/accel. drag. The 124 is a really beautiful machine and works this way too to some extent doesn't it? But i could not understand it really and couldn't find a way to get the best out of it and the double platter kind of bothered me it seemed like too much. So someone else has it and i hope making the best of it. My current interest is in the sp15 which I think in theory at least is like a drive with both the gas and brakes engaged but with the artistry of jackie stuart thrown in, -move over grand ma. It reminds me of driving my old 911, brakes and gas brakes and gas always one or the other mostly in quick succession especially on track days which were always glorious days. I just rebuilt an old beat up SP15 and now it spins like new and with the phone app is as steady and smooth as any other deck that i've tested, the auditions are scheduled. And these days I drive an Elan which handily takes any off ramp at 90+ no brakes just gas -were-ing and sluffing all at the same time. But man i love that Abis arm you've reminded me of it -you 're cruel oh so cruel, now i gotta start saving and filching pennies from the kids again.
P.S. Have you any experience with the Mullard 3-3 amp? An oldy but a goody.

Herb Reichert's picture

I grew up driving cars from the 1940s and '50s, plus drag race cars muscle cars big trucks and tractors. The PTP TT reminds me of setting the tractor throttle in one position and just going down a paved road steady as she goes. No change in speed or traction.Just forward movemnet. LOL

And....... the one time I drove a Lotus Elan was unforgettably exciting. A great car to stear.


John Francini's picture

After reading both this article as well as all of Art Dudley's Listening columns and others, would it be reasonable to rank turntable drive types, in terms of PRaT from most to least, idler drive, direct drive, and then belt drive?

I'm asking because while I don't have the budget for any of the rejuvenated models described here, I was considering a Technics SL1200-M7 as being a potential replacement for my existing modest Thorens and Dual belt drive models, which play records competently but definitely don't give much of a sense of PRaT - they don't make me want to get up and move to the grooves.

What do you think?

Herb Reichert's picture

to "rank" components, or in this case turntable drive types.

I believe the #1 mistake audiophiles make is to declare one form of technology superior to another.

I try to take my review practice one component at a time, to listen mindfully, and be aware of what I really 'feel' about the listening experiences I am having.

Overall, I advise audio folks to explore and learn and try those things they think they are against. The more different things I try – the more distinct are the differences I notice myself noticing.

To that end I just bought a relatively fresh Lenco L75 and a Shure M3D cartridge and plan on comparing that modest old setup to my reference 3-speed, two-motor, Dr. Feickert Blackbird with a fancy new arm and cartridge.

Stay tuned.......

To answer you question more directly, if you've never owned a direct-drive turntable now is a good time to try one.

peace and sharp needles,


rockdc's picture

your L75 will be held back by the box it's in and the plinth it's on..... oh, and the Lenco tonearm too.......

rockdc's picture

I have had 2 Lencos for the past 10 years, one the stock top plate on a 4" plywood plinth, and other on the PTP plate, his original PTP-4, on a base of 4 layers of corian, home built. Both better to me than my (now sold) 301, 401, TD-124, LP12, Merrill Heirloom. Great to see your review of Peter's Solid 9, Herb. Good stuff!