18
Jul
11

Dr. Feickert Blackbird turntable

Back in the eighties, turntables with soft sprung suspension was the way to go. However today, only a handful follow this route as a means of isolation – from acoustic feedback and motor vibration. Isolation platforms replaced the sprung suspensions together with ultra low vibration motors with noise levels well below that of vinyl noise, sending sprung suspended turntables into obsolescence. Today’s latest crop of turntables bears more mass than ever before – the heavier it is, the more stable the turntable will be (at least, that’s the theory). The more stable the turntable, the better the bass extension and in tandem, the soundstaging dimensionality improves. There is very little reason to go back to soft sprung suspended turntables.

I believe non-suspended turntables offer best all-round sound quality – superior bass extension, pitch stability, stable soundstage, and superior decay characteristics – soundly trumping any suspended turntable. The three main lines of turntables in the store – the TW Acustic, Nottingham Analogue and Dr Feickert fall into the non-suspended category.

Dr Feickert’s entry level turntable, the Woodpecker is a high performance turntable designed for ease of setup and ease of use, quite unlike his more advanced designs like the Twin and the forth coming Triple which is really a vinyl enthusiast’s kind of turntable. The relatively big difference in the price between that of the Twin and the Woodpecker created an opportunity to offer a better turntable to slot into their line-up – one that retain the ease of setup and use of the Woodpecker but with better performance and user flexibility.

The Blackbird is the result of this. It looks like a larger version of the Woodpecker, and indeed it is! It needs to be larger to accommodate a twelve-inch tonearm. In addition, there is now room for a secondary arm – a nine or ten incher (eg Rega tonearm). The plinth is similar to the Woodpecker – a thick slab of MDF sandwiched between two sheets of aluminum. Look closer and you will notice it has a two motor drive system. Placed symmetrically on either side of the platter, it provides for better drive stability, as the two motors will balance out any speed variations between the motors; and also higher torque to achieve a little bit of the ‘grip and drive’ of the highly sought-after idler-drive systems. The DC motors are of the ultra low vibration variety from Pabst. The motors are mounted on the aluminum top plate; the idea is to dissipate whatever little vibration from the motor to spread all over the aluminum plate. The two motor drive means the power supply had to be up-rated from the Woodpecker’s single motor drive, and it now comes with an external power supply box with a detachable IEC power connector. The Delrin composite platter and bearing is identical to the one used in the Woodpecker.

A hard rubber belt goes around the two motors and grips the platter symmetrically on both sides instead of the usual case of a single motor drive where the belt goes all around the platter. This means the belt would have significantly less contact with the platter, which means less motor vibration is transferred via the belt to the platter. The record is held down to the platter by a light screw-on clamp. The bearing is ultra smooth, spinning the free platter (without the belt) takes a while to even slow it down.

Between the Woodpecker and the Blackbird, what is expected of the bigger brother? The dual arm would be useful for those who like to have a differen cartridge for different kinds of music. While the Woodpecker is a very good turntable at its price point; the Blackbird improves on the Woodpecker’s strength – being quieter and more refined with excellent separation and deeper bass extension. The dual motor drive of the Blackbird adds a greater sense of precision yet for some reason, it offers a more relaxed presentation.  If you have the budget for the Woodpecker, you may like to consider if the extra $2K upgrade for the Blackbird is worth the extra. I would perhaps opt for a cheaper tonearm and cartridge to go with the Blackbird rather than a better tonearm and cartridge with the Woodpecker. But that’s just me!

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