Having experimented with quite some tables of all drive technologies I was fascinated with DD drive the first time when I aquired a Nakamichi TX 1000 some 10 years ago, a more or less Micro Seiki design with a MS direct drive. The Denon 100 was my next win in this specific field. I don’t remember very precisely but I think there was a guy ‘Down Under’ always pushing me to go for a Victor 101 DD table. Maybe I was not the only one :-)). When I listened to the Victor in Sydney my surprise was quite obvious. Okay I thought, maybe I should give it a try despite the complex electronic design of the Victor, thus showing that many ingenious development teams had “collaborated separately”. I had experience with that phenomenon when refurbishing the electronics of the Nakamichi.
Accidentally in 2015 I bought a Victor 101 wreck in Canada going for full refurbishment. After one year of learning about the circuits, the motor design, the necessary chips etc. my repair shop was able to bring the Victor back to life… This table now is completely up to date.
So I started comparing the Victor 101 with my Denon 100, the Continuum Criterion, my big Micro SEIKI and the EMT R80 (927). Or to put it in other words, looking how the small guy performs in comparison with the Big Monsters. Let me state beforehand I am using different phono stages but on a very equal level: Zanden II, Boulder 2008, EMT JP 66, Kondo M7.
Comparing the tables at this session I am using similar or the same MCs but different tonearms: on the Victor- SME 3012 R II Pro and Continuum Copperhead. On the Denon -Exclusive EA10 and Denon Dynamic Servo Tracer. On the Criterion -SAEC WE 8000 and Continuum Cobra. On the R80 – SME 3012 I and Ortofon RMA 309. On the Micro – SAEC 506/30/FR 66s. Cables are usually Crystal Cable Dreamline or Ortofon TSW-6000
In the end there might be many parameters which are not matched or comparable – in difference to a fully paralell testing, same tonearm/cart/phono-pre/cables etc.
When I talk about my impressions it is a very personal and individual assessment based on the experiences I collected with my units in my listening room. The record I used on all tables was Miles Davis – Kind of Blue, Original Master Recording (MFSL 45 rpm, 2015).
I also have an excellent master tape copy of Kind of Blue which makes it easier to get an idea what the pressing and the turntable/tonearm/cartridge/phono-pre combination is able to deliver.
Building up the Victor I needed reconfigurating the Continuum Copperhead arm. I am always pleased how precisely Continuum planned to bring in the counterweights – my god, in the end it is a trial & error game – but it works!
After isolation tuning and some other small improvements the Criterion/Cobra plays on the perfectly adjusted Boulder 2008 in such a convincing and stable/quiet/thrilling way that I always shake my head in disbelief when I read depreciating comments on blogs around Boston. I guess these boys never had the chance listening to these units in a chain, other than on audio fairs.
The Micro with a modified motor and double fly wheel connection does his job as good as the 5 times more expensive new version. The trumpet of Miles and the Saxophon of John are staying in the room like in a small Jazz hall, just as you are sitting close to the stage, direct, open, precise and catching you. Nevertheless the EMT with it’s idler drive – the unit is as old as me- is able to add a nice punch providing an even slightly deeper sound stage. The bass, and I don’t mean rumble noise 🙂 , is just perfect. Still my favorit.
When it comes to the two direct driven tables the majestic and technically superb DENON astonishingly does not beat the small Victor. Both units deliver a fantastic wide and deep sound, even better than the big Sony which I would regard as an excellent table but a bit overrated, also due to Sony’s tonearm geometry.
Having in mind how much you need to invest for all the Big Boys – Ah, I still love them – you may reconsider if it isn’t worth going for a refurbished Victor 101 in a good plinth.
The man in Sydney must be very happy in his rocking chair…
…and I am enjoying Miles from this wonderful new MFSL pressing on the Victor 101!