Lenco L-175 Turntable Review

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About Lenco

For those who didn’t know about vinyl and turntables, Lenco was founded in 1946 in the Swiss Burgdorf by the couple Fritz and Marie Laeng. Fascinated by sound technology, the Swiss Fritz Laeng started an electrical business in 1925 and his wife, Marie, became the driving force. When the couple, based on the strong demand for turntables, started a small factory, it was Marie that thought of the name Lenco (derived from the surname of the couple – Laeng Company, shortened to LaengCo, turned into LenCo then Lenco). Thus began the success story of Lenco. Key concepts were reliability of the turntables and the excellent technical service. The reputation of the brand, striving for perfection, was born.

In 1960 Lenco entered the HiFi-market with the introduction of a turntable that had a unique and heavy tone arm, which was sold separately later. The device was, thanks to its quality and reasonable price, the first choice for manufacturers of high quality stereo systems. The most successful Lenco turntable of that time was the L 75. It was introduced to the market in 1967 and the device distinguished itself from its predecessors by a massive, 4 kilogram turntable of 312 millimeter and its aluminum housing. The biggest improvement, however, was the newly designed tone arm, allowing the player to beat competitors in many areas. In the following years, the awarded arm was used by many other brands in their turntables.

 

Size and Build

With its glass top and a pickup arm, platter and moving magnet headshell of aluminium, the Lenco L-175 has the look and initial feel of a premium product. It’s a sleek and minimalistic design with the switches out of sight at the rear and an international (100V – 240V 50/60 Hz) external power supply tucked out of the way.

Compared with the original wooden Lenco L-75 turntable (which I also own) that can still be found changing hands on eBay, it feels surprisingly light. That’s because beneath the glass top, it’s all plastic and the rear-panel controls also feel a little insubstantial. While the power transformer makes a seemingly loose connection with its socket, my worry is unsubstantiated.

 

Features

If the headline feature of the Lenco L-175 is its USB port allowing you to play and rip records via a Mac or PC, the built-in pre-amp is perhaps the most useful. Amplified phono inputs are becoming rare on modern amps, but this deck will boost its own moving magnet output to regular line level.

Other niceties of this direct drive deck include auto-stop, so it won’t spin forever when you leave the room and anti-skate to prevent your needle drifting across the vinyl.

 

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Setup and Operation

Compared with hitting play on playlist, dropping vinyl involves a discipline that (at least for me) makes me appreciate the music I’m about to play a whole lot more. With your tonearm balanced by turning its counterweight, your headshell attached and needle in the groove, the results can be much more rewarding.  In this case, the 2.5 gram counter weight dial is pretty accurate as my Ortofon stylus gauge showed a pressure of 2.54 grams.

Recording directly onto my computer is similarly satisfying, especially when I play back my WAV and hear all the detail along with a gentle vinyl crackle in the background. I used a PC and free Audacity software and encountered no problems.

 

Sound quality

for vinyl. It doesn’t have the bass weight and bounce of a my Technics SL1200 mkII, which is very good in my book as I find the Technics to be too bass heavy.  The frequency response is rather flat, which is great for music transfer to the PC.

I dropped a freshly pressed album, Michael Jackson Xscape and Frank Sinatra Duets 25th Anniversary Edition, you’ll then realize why audiophiles swear by vinyl. There’s simply more depth to the music and this deck is able to reach it, well, most of it. The analogue soundstage feels larger and more open than its digital equivalent on CD.

Switching from the Lenco’s built-in pre-amp, to a dedicated phono stage, namely the excellent Rek-O-Kut mk III, brought quite dramatic improvements. Fizzing cymbals and thin basslines suddenly sounded much more full and rounded than before and the missing bass weight was restored. In other words, I wouldn’t recommend relying on the built-in pre-amp if you have any other options.

 

Verdict

USB-equipped turntables are often disappointing because they are built to be sold at a very low price point. While the built-in pre-amp not exactly audiophile grade, the Lenco L-175 is different because it achieves the warm, welcoming sound of vinyl thanks to more than decent design and a very good pick-up arm/cartridge combination for its price.

The built-in pre-amp has room for improvement although at this price point I really can’t complain, and the somewhat cheap-looking build quality (compared to the original Lenco L-75) still leaves me longing for the wooden Lenco decks of old. Lucky for us then, that during CES 2014 Lenco have told me that they are planning to revive one of its wooden classics in the near future.

 

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