Sutherland Engineering Timeline record weight

Ron Sutherland has devised the Timeline, a device for testing the 33.33 and 45rpm speeds of turntables. It's housed in a disc of aluminum and Delrin that fits over the platter spindle. Turn it on, and an LED shoots a red dash of light at the wall (if there is one) behind your turntable. If the dash doesn't move, the speed is correct. If it drifts to left or right, you'll need to adjust the 'table's speed. Unless your wall has hash marks, there's a bit of subjectivity involved, and at $399 the Timeline isn't cheap, but Sutherland says he's not making much money at that price, and that it will take a lot of sales to recoup the R&D he's put into designing something as precise as he claims the Timeline is.—Michael Fremer

Brian Damkroger followed-up on the Timeline in December 2010 (Vol.33 No.12):

As a diehard vinyl junkie, I have assembled or built a pretty comprehensive set of accessories over the years, ranging from all of Wally's Tools to a homemade switchbox and high-precision HP multimeter that I use with test records to help fine-tune a cartridge's azimuth. The one thing I lacked—it was a major source of frustration—was a simple, robust way of measuring and monitoring a turntable's speed while a record was playing.

Usually, my routine for doing this comprised three steps. First, I'd run the 'table for 30 minutes or so, to get any lubricant moving and bring everything up to temperature. Next, I'd set the speed with a strobe and test disc. The final step was to put the tools away, cue up the record, and hope that the speed was—and remained—correct. I always found this process unsatisfying, and in some cases—such as when two supposedly accurate turntables were obviously running at different speeds—infuriating.

Ron Sutherland's Timeline, which was briefly mentioned by Michael Fremer in the March 2010 "Analog Corner," is the answer to my prayers. This simple, battery-powered record weight, 3" in diameter, houses an extremely accurate strobe light that projects a spot onto a wall near the turntable. If the turntable's speed is correct, the spot on the wall doesn't move; if the speed is not correct, the spot moves. Best of all, the Timeline allows the speed to be set, monitored, and tweaked as necessary, all while the record is playing. Different record sizes? Changes in room temperature? Phases of the moon? No muss, no fuss, no angst—your turntable is running perfectly, and you know it. Or maybe it's not . . . but that's a different issue.

These days, most high-end turntables come with some sort of clamp or integrated disc hold-down system. My Spiral Groove SG-2, for example, has a slightly concave, screw-down clamp, and my VPI HR-X has both a weight and a rim clamp. Both the Spiral Groove and VPI are superb with respect to speed accuracy and stability, but both need a bit of tweaking from time to time.

No problem—with the VPI I used the Timeline instead of VPI's own weight, then added mass to bring the Timeline's 9.7oz (275gm) up to match the VPI's 26.3oz (745gm). For the SG-2, I set the speed with the Timeline, made sure it was stable, then used the Spiral Groove's own screw-down clamp, adding just a bit of ballast to make its weight match the Timeline's.

Anyone who's serious about analog needs a way to accurately measure, set, and monitor his or her turntable's speed, and Ron Sutherland's Timeline perfectly fits the bill. It's a gorgeous little gadget and spectacularly accurate, but far more important, it's simple and easy to use—which ensures that it will be used. $399 isn't pocket change, but for someone with a wall full of LPs and a multi-thousand-dollar analog rig, it's a small price to pay to ensure that that rig is running at precisely the right speed. And for a diehard vinyl junkie such as I, it's indispensable.—Brian Damkroger

Sutherland Engineering
455 E. 79th Terrace
Kansas City, MO 64131
(816) 822-1881