Apr 212015
 
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I don’t mind saying that this particular review has been a very long time in gestation and at one point I wasn’t entirely sure it would actually happen as Arthur Khoubesserian’s other Funk Firm products (1), each one needing personal tender loving care were pushing further and further back the launch of these more niche items.

Anyway recently, pretty much out of the blue, Arthur contacted me again and asked if I would still be interested in formally reviewing the new Strata Platter but also now with the new Spin Bearing and to round things out an FX3 tonearm. I didn’t have to think too long about it and this review is the end result of me saying yes..

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As fate would have it though a further delay presented itself while a suitable FX3 arm was found that I could use, but thankfully this was a much shorter delay than had been the case with the platter and bearing.

Why? 

Many out there will ask the question why one would take a DJ deck – said with suitable sneering tone – and do anything to it, sure its hardly a hifi product ? Well the reality is that the original Technics SL (short for Stereo Player) was introduced in 1978 as a HiFi turntable, the 1200 model coming with an arm and the SL120 an empty armboard ready cut to accept an SME (2) tonearm, the audiophiles choice of the day and in some cases still these days, even on a humble Technics 1200.

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The mk2 was introduced in 1978 and it is this version that is so common, having been used by various radio stations, DJs and home audio enthusiasts over the years till production ceased in 2010. There are two versions of the mk2 both identical except for colour, with the 1200 being the silver version and the 1210 being the black. Of course other versions followed the mk 2 each one improving a little on the original 1978 version, these include: the mk3, mk4, mk5 and the final version the mk6 which was launched in 2008, barely two years before the plug was pulled on production in 2010 (3)

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The one thing all these versions have going for them, which is why folks still write about them and produce modification 5 years after discontinuation, is an excellent quartz locked speed stable direct drive platform, upon which it is more that possible to improve on the stock components, platter, bearing and tonearm, the original parts very easy to remove from the Technics 1200/1210. Technics turntables were of course built to a cost originally and a particular market niche, so while the bearing, platter and tonearm are very good in reference to the original design brief and price point they can be bettered and it is in doing so that the true quality of this design can be realised.

Quiet a few forward thinking companies over the years have noticed this inherent quality lurking in the turntable’s motor unit and have offered upgrades to the parts they feel should and could be improved on and the areas most commonly targeted have been the bearing, platter, tonearm and even the PSU. Some of these offering have been reworkings of original parts addressing areas of weakness but other companies have created fresh new part designs.

Historically KAB (4) of America were arguably the first company to offer Technics related upgrade products and the Funk Firm are one of the most recent, to offer the curious Technics owner brand new, from the ground up products and an upgrade path, which as I found out work with together with great synergy.

Product Descriptions. 

The Funk Firm Strata Platter

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The Strata platter is a two part construction, consisting of an inner aluminium hub onto which the original Technics platter’s magnet assembly must be fitted, unscrewed from the donor platter and fitted with great care onto the underside of the Funk Hub with the magnet orientated correctly to the speed stator.

005_1024x768The platter itself is made from a lamination of glass and a damping/bonding material which Arthur was reluctant to say precisely what it was. With the early version of the platter (which I had) the edge of the platter shows clearly the various layers, when looked edge on, that make the platter up. The current production version is slightly smaller in diameter (so it doesn’t catch on the inside of the turntables lid, if the turntable is played with the lid closed as the early version of the Strata did) and now has a better finished edge, which hides the layers. The current Strata is also now sans the white writing – Funk 1200 – which a product survey revealed was not widely liked.

The interface with the record is a Funk Firm Achromat with a record recess, the Achromat having been bonded to the top of the Strata in such away so that platter and mat become one.

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Holding the platter up and rapping it with my knuckles indicated it was fairly inert, i.e not obviously ringing, unlike the original Technics metal platter which despite its inner damping still rings a bit along the edges where the speed dots are. It goes without saying that this isn’t a very scientific test and perhaps conducting the same test with measuring equipment might show some resonance/ringing, but to my ears the Strata seems fairly dead.

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The Funk Firm have offered a platter for the Technics before, the MK1, which was an entirely different design and made from a type of acrylic, machined from one piece and production of it only stopped because manufacturing costs were rocketing. Necessity being the mother of invention Arthur put his mind to designing an alternative and the Strata was the result, a design he feels is superior to the original design.

Funk say this about the Strata………

‘To create a stable, wide diameter support for the record, that doesn’t move. Conventionally platters have either thickness or a sizeable edge. the trouble is the standard 1200 / 1210 series platters lack both!

We are effectively left with a disc, severe ringing is the natural consequence, (For proof we need only examine the original metal offering: Place a finger through a hole, tap it gently and “feel” the edge. The all too familiar uncontrolled,vibrating “Klong” confirms the problem: The edge is moving.) One can try changing material: Glass…ceramics…plastics. In all cases, tap the edge and you can still actually feel movement.…And if you can feel it, the stylus can read it.

It turns out that this is in fact a difficult problem to solve, thus a creative solution was needed: Here’s Funk’s solution: For the Platter: Strata – a new construction.

FEA modelling produced a new construction. A glass inner ring is constrained by an outer ring quickly to control the motion. Called “Strata”, its beauty lies in the fact that even as a flat disc, like-for-like, self-ringing is reduced by an order of magnitude. Repeating the tap test now, virtually no movement can be felt. Optimising its mass means the servo operates as intended.
Bonding Achromat to Strata finishes it off making Strata the ideal record support.

A complex, precision-machined central hub supports Strata, interfaces with the bearing and takes the rotor magnet.’

The Strata is a nicely made item and that goes for the original version as well as and the current one.

The Funk Firm Spin Bearing

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The aftermarket for alternative bearings for the Technics 1200 is a fairly well developed one with a number of companies offering bearings, mostly based on re-engineered OEM bearings and thus are not entirely new designs. To my knowledge only two companies to date offer an entirely new bearing for the Technics 1200/1210 and one of them is the Funk Firm, the other is an Australian company which takes its name from its maker, designer Mike New.

Having talked quiet a bit with Arthur early on in the development of the Strata platter (when a review was originally discussed) I knew he had a desire to offer a complete synergistic package with which best to express his personal ideas re what makes the ideal Technics 1200/1210, a Funk Firm Technics and having the original bearing or another designers bearing fitted to the turntable didn’t sit well with achieving that goal.

This was originally only originally mooted to me as an idea, an ultimate goal – other projects permitting – not a definite, but perhaps the original Funk Strata hub not correctly fitting the Mike New bearing brought this idea to fruition sooner than might have been the case (5).

The Spin is described thus on the Funk Firm’s website…..

‘To get the very best from Strata’s increased information resolving capability we developed an all-new, optical grade Sapphire*-Ceramic bearing called “Spin”.

A Sapphire thrust plate mounted on a precision stainless steel shaft running against a lab standard ceramic ball and in PTFE bushes produces a bearing with ultra-low friction, which delivers silent, inky-black backgrounds capable of complementing Strata’s unrivalled performance.’

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The Spin is machined from one piece of aluminium and more or less follows similar dimensions to the OEM bearing, with the exception that the bearings interface with the plinth is thicker than the original Technics effort and has a sealed bottom oil well, which is quiet substantial. The bearing must be filled with supplied oil, using a syringe.

Fit and finish of this item is to a high standard.

The Funk Firm FX3 Tonearm

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For a short period of time Funk offered a reworked original Technics 1200/1210 tonearm, the Funk FX1200, with the OEM arm tube replaced with a carbon fibre one (which was the case with all Funk arms at the time) , better quality bearings and internal and external armcable, however a redesign in the entire Funk tonearm range, moving away from carbon fibre to aluminium, and there being little interest in the reworked Technics Funk tonearm (plus dissatisfaction in the rigidity of the Technics arms VTA system – pretty sure I recall Arthur saying this during a conversation ) Funk abandoned making any more after only making a few.

However in keeping with the overall goal of a Funk Technics, an armboard was designed for the existing range of Funk tonearms and it was an FX3 supplied with one of these armboard’s that arrived in the post to get the review finally under way.

Funk say this about the FX3…….

‘FX3 is a “from the ground up design” & is the next generation of this technology.

• Funk’s F•X beam: Very low “Q” with very low self-colouration has less effect on the cartridge. The sound is characterised with speed, layering finesse and fine resolution. Above all reproduction enjoys an uncommon naturalness.
• ABEC 7 bearings.
• High linearity falling-weight bias for optimal tracking and extended stylus life.
• Straightforward Azimuth adjustment.
• In line with the stylus the Lo-slung counterweight gives a sleek stylish design.
• Calibrated, sliding weight for tracking force produces a variable mass design – 9-13g eff mass. Increases with tracking weight: Matches MM and MC cartridges.
• Cabling – high purity copper (standard). Other options available.’

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The arm is unusual in that it has both a course counterweight for balancing and a fine tuning weight that is used for setting the actual tracking force weight. not unheard of before but what makes the FX3 unusual is that this is achieved by a metal ring which is moved along the length of the arm tube. Various weight indicators are marked in white along the armtube and I found them to be fairly accurate, so balancing the arm by using the larger weight at the far end of the arm and then using the smaller sliding ring did achieve the correct weight more or less but I would still recommend using a quality electronic scale to fine tune tracking force – which would in my view given an arm of this cost be a no brainer.

One small concern I have here is the lack of a tightening screw to secure the large counterweight in place, though in use as far as I know it never moved – so call this piece of mind and mine was troubled by the absence of such a screw.

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Unlike many arms that favour a fixed or one piece headshell, the FX3 has a multiple piece affair where the headshell is a two piece affair, with finger lift and cartridge mounting in two pieces, with the cartridge mounting bolts screwing the two together and a single screw holding the headshell onto the tonearm.

The FX3 permits HTA, which can be adjusted by loosening a screw on the left side of the armtube and moving the headshell by gently turning left or right. This allows one to make sure the base of the cartridge sits parallel to the surface of the record. I must say in all the years I have been setting up turntables, cartridges and tonearms I have never noticed an issue that makes this adjustment option a necessity for gimballed bearing arms – but with unipivots this can be a very real issue and those designs address it – but for those worried by such possibilities Funk have included it.

I did have a degree of concern re ultimate rigidity in this set of arrangement – others like Scheu, and Well Tempered have had similar – though in reality and use there were no obvious short comings in the FX3, so call it a bias I have against non fixed, single piece headshell tonearms that I mention this.

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One small thing that might, and I must stress might be a potential issue, is the lack of side to side adjustment that headshells with slots for mounting cartridge bolts through provide. The FX3 has two holes only to serve this function and this arrangement prevents this cartridge body adjustment.

Why is this important ? Because some, in fact many cartridges cantilevers are not always 100% parallel to the sides of the body of the cartridge, and I am talking new cartridges here not well used ones – though they too can have this issue.

I recall a few years ago an article in Stereophile in which the author mentioned this problem and asked the question does this in reality mean many cartridges put onto the market are in fact victims of poor build and poor quality control – and thus in reality are faulty ? The author went on to suggest maybe these cartridges should be sent back as being unfit for purpose. I can’t recall the authors name to link to the article but he raised an interesting point that not all cantilevers are parallel and as such one should never align a cartridge just by using the body of the cartridge. When setting up a cartridge be it Moving Magnet, Moving Coil or other one should always set up using the cantilever.

The problem here is the design of the FX3 restricts left to right adjustment as there are no slots to allow tweaking the orientation left or right of the cartridge body and the slot in which the armtube rests on the top of the headshell is tight and thus gives no real movement left to right of the cartridge holder, only back or forwards along the armtube to adjust cartridge overhang. As a suggestion to solve this, making this slot a bit wider would facilitate this potentially vital adjustment, but would also possibly compromise mounting rigidity. Luckily I had no such issue with my cartridge but I still feel this is a valid concern.

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What I will say is it is vital to use the supplied template to get the right overhang for your cartridge as failure to do that will mean the cartridge wont be aligned right.

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Bias adjustment is via a threaded rod upon which one adjust weights up or down, a protruding rod from the arm catches this and as the arm tracks a record this moves. Not a particularly elegant solution in my opinion but it works.

The armtube rests in an open ended arm rest which doesn’t prevent the arm from moving if one is careless or say has to move the turntable, as the arm will jump easily out of this rest, definitely best to keep the cartridge stylus guard in place – just to be safe.

Overall fit and finish is workmanlike but lacks the polish of finish one finds with products from the likes of SME, Origin Live, or Rega – at the price point this is a little disappointing.

003_1024x768The armboard supplied was nicely made (normal stock item uses carbon fibre but this one was made from acrylic) but as I said to Arthur in an email, two securing screws in the arm mounting collar would be better as they would apply even pressure from opposite sides of the tonearm mounting tube, thus providing a tighter fitting, which would make it much easier to adjust the arms height and also would guarantee perpendicular positioning of the arm. The single screw mounting does, unless one is very careful push the arm over – within the collar – to being just slightly off perpendicular. This issue isn’t unique to Funk I should say as any company using the single screw holding method also risk arms, carelessly set up, to be off too – Jelco tonearms spring to mind as also having a similar potential issue.

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System Used

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Technics 1210, Graham 2.2 tonearm, Van Den Hull MC10 MC cartridge, Jim Tieman armboard, VDH MC10 cartridge, Graham ic70 arm-cable, Funk platter mk1, Bruil Record Weight, Paul Hynes SR7 PSU, Passlabs Xono phonostage, BAT VK52se pre-amplifier, Music Reference RM200 mk1 power-amplifier, Anthony Gallo Reference 3.5 speakers. Cabling: Atlas Mavros XLR to XLR cables, Atlas Mavros speaker cable. Mainscables: Audience AU24, Analysis Plus Power Oval 2, Equipment tables – Clearaudio Aspekt racks, Sound Mechanics C8E isolation cones, RDC isolation platforms.

Music Used

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Thomas Dolby – Aliens Ate My Buick

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Dead Can Dance – Into The Labyrinth

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Yello – One Second 

and other records.

Methodology

In order to do this review I decided to start off with a standard Technics bearing fitted, and standard platter but in order to easily achieve repeatable VTA re the cartridge I opted to begin with a Graham 2.2 tonearm, as its VTA adjustment tower makes repeated settings much easier and quicker to achieve than even my SME 5 can.

The 1210 I had to hand had an external PSU cable fitted, so I opted to use a Paul Hynes SR7 external power supply, the best that he makes and also in for review (6).

From the standard Technics OEM platter/mat and bearing I would fit a Funk Achromat, then in order to gain perspective on the Strata platter I would listen to a Funk platter Mk1, then the Strata, OEM bearing and then the FX3 arm. To finish, after listening to the full Funk Firm setup including the Spin bearing I would then swap the Spin bearing out for the standard OEM bearing.

Its easy to write all this but the doing of it stretched me, particularly in regards to swapping items in and out, back and forth, both safely and accurately – keep in mind that not only was I taking a Technics apart and reassembling it I was also setting up and swapping a cartridge as well – a fairly time consuming procedure too.

I had hoped to compare another bearing (The Mike New) to the Spin but due to only having an original Strata and Hub I was unable to do this (7) as that first Hub won’t fit a Mike New bearing. This was a shame but as that Hub fits an original OEM Technics bearing and the new Spin bearing the review concentrated on those.

The Review

It is well known that a standard Technics while a lot of fun to listen to isn’t that three dimensional sounding, being somewhat flat, tonal textures greyed out and treble lacking a degree of definition and air. What it does have going for it is excellent speed stability, lots of bass, precise timing and a great sense of foot tapping fun but its not a particularly refined beast.

But as I stated above in the introduction the basics makes it a great platform for improving the areas where its lacking and the relative ease in which these offending bits can be removed makes taking it further a tweakers/designers/manufacturers delight if they view the task worthwhile and thankfully quiet a few do. This particular review explores one company and their designers views – the direction the Funk Firm feels it should go.

First Step: Listening with the OEM platter, OEM standard mat, OEM bearing and Graham 2.2 tonearm.

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Just before beginning this review I had been listening to this particular Technics, as it had been set up then, Funk mk1 platter, OEM bearing, SME 5 tonearm, Audio Tehnica AT33eV cartridge with a set of slip on isolation feet covers called Techieboots and had made no decision regarding their merit but in this context they frankly were messing the sound up badly, muddy boomy bass and veiling of fine detail and instrument separation was their effect. Removing these from the Isonoes opened the sound up again and the veiling vanished – they were left off for the remainder of the review.

There is no doubt that using the Graham 2.2 rather than the standard arm helped greatly in reducing many of the negatives a standard Technics 1200/1210 has, but no matter how good the tonearm this can’t address any issues in the motor unit – which will easily migrate into the record cartridge interface – and after familiarising myself with this set up I was better prepared to chart the improvements or not that swapping in Funk Firm items might bring.

Music was enjoyable but, and this is a big but, as hard as it was to divorce myself entirely from previous listening experiences with this particular turntable, approaching listening as a completely new person might, I was unable to do so. The music I knew intimately was lacking the spark I am used to, there was a serious flatness to the sound and a very obvious lack of transparency across the frequencies, that because I knew they could be there were painful re their being absent.

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As a quick experiment and in keeping with where the review was heading I swapped the stiff rubber OEM Technics mat out for a specific made for the Technics mat (it has a lip taken out of the edge to match the profile of the Technics OEM platter) Funk make, called an Achromat.

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Adding the Achromat was quiet dramatic as it opened the sound up, it was now possible to hear more into the music, the soundstage gained some width and depth, lacking before, and the bass while still missing some definition gained more texture and subtly.

Step Two Listening with the Funk mk1 platter, OEM bearing and Graham 2.2 + weights vs clamps. 

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I am always curious to see where a design has come from and thus understand better the improvements gained by going to a mk2 of anything from a mk1. Sometimes companies will use a mk2 to go in an entirely different direction – sometimes forced on them by cost increases or manufacturers who made parts going out of business or deleting components – to an original design and that is very much the case here with the Strata platter.

As I have mentioned in the product details section of the Strata above, one of the most immediate differences over and above the materials used is the look of the two platters. The original Mk1 Funk platter as I said above was machined from one piece, and was designed to sit into the hole the Technics platter also sat into, thus meaning one could not see into the inside of the turntable.

The Strata sits just proud of the turntables plinth and one can, if looking side on see underneath the platter to the internal working of the turntable. Now one could keep the plastic cover plate in place, that Technics supply to cover the internals, but general consensus is that removing this improves the sound quality of the turntable, something I would agree with, but for some this seeing under the platter may be a turn off. My view is keep an open mind, sometimes a slight visual compromise is worth it if the sound improvement is big enough.

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It took me a matter of moments to swap platters, check arm VTA and begin listening again. I had so far been using Thomas Dolby’s wonderful album Aliens Ate My Buick and I stuck with that.

The difference and improvement was immediately audible, there was a more open detailed presentation, bass was cleaner, more extended and nuanced. Soundstaging was wider and deeper and it was now easy to hear into the recording more as the music had gained more air and dimension.

Thomas Dolby’s vocals sat within their own space, with instruments and backing vocalists in their own – not spotlit or like open Venetian blinds – space. The music had gained both more openness and focus but had also gained greater coherence.

As I listened through the album I decided to try a tweak adding a record weight from Rudolf A Bruil (8) and then a favourite of some a Michell Clamp.

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The Bruil record weight is just set in place over the bearing spindle and doing so brought an immediate improvement to focus, and detail across the frequencies, and bass gained depth, nuance and power. The weight extending the bass but also tightening it up too.

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Using the Michell clamp was a serious retrograde step, shrinking the soundstage slightly, reducing openness and adding a veil to the music, using it also made the bass plody and less well controlled and defined.

For the rest of the review I decided to try the Bruil Weight and Michell clamp with each Funk Firm item.

Step 3 The Strata platter, OEM bearing and Graham 2.2

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Fitting the Strata is fairly simple task but one must take care to fit the original Technics magnet assembly carefully and accurately, failing to do this will result in potential speed anomalies and possible rubbing if the magnet is not centralised to the speed sensor stator and bearing hole.

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In the original Technics platter there are guides that help do this but on the Funk Firm Strata hub there are not and there is enough play around the holes in the magnet assembly and the screws securing this to the hub so that the magnet could be fixed slightly off centre.

The Graham tonearm needed a smidge of readjustment to the VTA after swapping between the two platters but this didn’t significantly take long to do.

Placing Aliens Ate My Buick on the platter cuing and listening revealed a slightly less warm, more forward sound than the Mk1 platter but this change in presentation was balanced out by an overall more open and detailed sound, greater bass depth and power but no loss in articulation or nuance.

The soundstage gained width and depth compared to the mk1 platter, greater focus but after listening to the whole album I couldn’t help but feel that this change in presentation took the sound more in a HiFi direction than the more musical one that the slightly warmer, tonally richer mk1 platter had. So slight loss of detail retrieval and openness vs more open detailed, slightly more forward sound was the compromise. Of course the mk 1 platter is no longer available so if one prefers the more musical over HiFi then the Strata might not be the right choice – unless one is adding a Funk tonearm. More on that in Step 4.

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As with the Mk1 platter I felt the Bruil weight used on the Strata sounded better than the Michell Clamp, as with the mk1 platter the improvements were similar to before.

While I was mulling this over it began to dawn on me that perhaps a lack of synergy might be at play here and perhaps the Graham 2.2’s very slight frequency suck out, lower midrange and upper bass,was being spot lit by the Strata platter. I recall that one of Bob Graham’s goals with moving forward from the 2.2 to the Phantom was to address this slight suck out.

Thinking now was the time to try the Funk Firm FX3 I removed the Graham 2.2.

Step Four Funk Firm FX3, Strata Platter, OEM bearing 

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Fitting the FX3 required the Strata platter to be removed and truth be told this was a tad fiddly particularly due to the aforementioned single screw holding the arm in the armboard collar but overall it was no more complex than fitting and setting up any other tonearm but some companies do make some aspects of this easier and as I mentioned earlier a two screw approach would make this task more pleasant.

Once the FX3 was installed, the Van Den Hull MC10 cartridge in place and everything just so I sat down to listen again and it was quiet a moment as the previous issues were now gone, balance having been reinstated and a bit more as well. I laugh my evil laugh (9)

Frankly it was like listening to an entirely new turntable set up and in many ways among some of the best listening experiences I have had to date with any of my Technics 1200/1210s – I have three here.

Thomas Dolby’s album was now being reproduced with increased bass weight, deeper with much more articulation and at times this had explosive power. On the track Pulp Culture there are a number of times when the music is punctuated by powerful bass notes and the way they energised the room was way beyond what I had heard so far. Now don’t mistake this for being overblown bass because it wasn’t, the bass was tight and deeper, more extended as the track had been recorded and it ebbed and flowed, driving and being more subtle as Terry Jackson played it.

Soundstage width was wider stretching further past the edges of my Anthony Gallo speakers than before and also deeper and instrument separation, detail and layering was better. There is a section just to the beginning of Hot Sauce where a native American chant is present and at each stage of this review the clarity in which it could be heard improved but the FX3 took that further making each element of the chanting clearer in the mix.

Putting the Bruil weight onto the record made things somewhat more precise and improved focus as it had before.

Step Five Funk Firm FX3, Funk Firm Spin, Funk Firm Strata platter. 

Next up was the Spin bearing, I left this to last because its easier and quicker to install than swapping the tonearm out but one must be very careful while doing this.

The bearing is held in place by three screws at equidistant points which go through the motor stator into the bearing and then into the lower part of the turntable chassis. It is vital when reassembling to make sure the bearing is centralised, level and the board the motor stator sits on is also correctly positioned otherwise it is very difficult to fit the screws accurately. This board is also held in place by screws at key points around its edge. Everything must be correctly positioned for the turntable to work right.

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When screwing the bearing into place use equal gentle force to tighten and don’t over tighten as its possible to strip the threads in the plinth by doing this. One other thing its important the bearing is fitted level, if its not the platter will rise up and down while turning and the magnet assembly may rub against the motor stators. Sounds complex ? Well it isn’t but care must be taken to do things just right.

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The Spin bearing conforms to the general dimensions of the Technics bearing but like the Mike New Bearing it is thicker so it is possible in some cases that the solder spikes under the direct drive motor might short with the bearing so I would suggest trimming them before installing the bearing (10) but do so carefully. The particular deck I was using had previously been fitted with a Mike New bearing prior to this review, so the solder spikes had already been shortened therefore I had no problems.

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I managed to fit the Spin and have everything up and running fairly quickly and was looking forward to listening to a complete Funk Firm Technics.

The improvements were there to be heard but were more subtle than the change in arm. I was able to detect a further opening up of the soundstage, more openness across the frequencies and a greater cohesiveness. Subtle details in the music were clearer and thus easier to make out. Interestingly I felt the overall package now was producing a very musical sound, with all the elements noted before but with a hint more sweetness in the treble and a little less forwardness than before – with the sweetness, music reproduction was a touch more relaxed but felt better balanced and more cohesive as a whole.

These improvements may be as a result of a reduction in the noise floor, but I can’t really say if this is the case and I can’t offer any measurements to prove that the Spin was doing its job better than the OEM bearing, but fitting it brought about these changes and as I felt they were an improvement, albeit a more subtle one I have to accept this was down to its presence in the chain, a missing part of the Funk Firm Technics jigsaw – now complete.

One small issue raised its head at this point of the review. As before I tried the Bruil Weight and wanted to try the Michell Clamp but due to the Spin bearing being slightly shorter than the OEM bearing there was not enough of the bearing protruding above the surface of the record for it to grip onto. I am pretty sure the Bruil would still be superior but I was a bit frustrated I could not do the direct comparison as I had before. However all further listening was done with the Bruil Weight in place and I think, at least in the context of my system that this Weight works very well with the Funk items.

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Broadened my listening out to include other albums, such as Dead Can Dances – Into The Labyrinth (a firm favourite of mine), Yello – One Second, and others and enjoyed the listening experience greatly over a few days, but time was ticking against that, as the Funk Firm had requested their items back, so as a last step I decided to remove the Spin bearing.

Step Six, Spin removed. 

Removing the Spin helped clarify where the Funk bearing was improving things. Sans Spin, music was slightly flatter, tonally slightly thinner, soundstage depth reduced a smidge, fine details slightly veiled and bass a little less extended and controlled. Its difficult to quantify re percentages, so I wont but certainly the way the turntable was playing records now was less enjoyable.

An Elephant – Not.

One slight elephant lurking in the room I have left to the very last to address is, was there any speed stability issues? Well put simply no, over all the different types of music I listened to, there was no issue I could hear with speed instability. Some have stated that they can hear such using platters that are heavier than the OEM platter and the Elephant in the room I guess is that these folks claim to be able to hear the servo hunting to maintain correct speed when using a non Technics platter. In the case of the Funk Strata speed was stable during its use – period.

I should say I can’t claim to have perfect pitch but I heard nothing during the review on the wide choice of music I listened to, to indicate any speed problem.

Conclusions

For while now, pretty much since I started playing around with Technics 1200/1210 turntables, I have been of the view that Technics modifications very much reflect the ideal Technics sound/performance in the minds of the companies/designers that offer a full set of modifications, so a Funk Firm Technics reflects Arthur’s ideas, an Origin Live Mark Baker’s, KAB, Inspire etc theirs and so on, so its very much a case of whether that concept reflects the prospective buyers ideals as well, as to which version one buys into.

Of course one can go off piste and try and mix and match a mixture of these products and others – and many have – and therefore risk a lack of synergy, coherence of performance something the Funk Firm have made a priority as it is very obvious that Funk Firm’s Technics modifications work very well together and as one advances through adding these items one gets closer to that whole level of Funk performance – the sum of the parts very much making the whole. Not to look at this as a whole to aim for, runs the very real risk I feel of mismatching and some parts of the jigsaw maybe not working as well with some items as they do their own companies.

I think the tonal issues, slight thinness and forwardness I heard with the Strata platter with the Graham 2.2 arm in place points to this being a reality, of course other arms might work well or better but might not and these could be quiet expensive tonearms. During the course of this review I found that the FX3 matched well, better than well in fact  – which is something one would always hope for that all items from one company will work together. However in my long audio experience that has not always been the case but it is here. In the case of the FX3 once in place on the review 1210, everything snapped back into place and those slight tonal issues were replaced by a lovely musical sound.

It would be too easy to dismiss the FX3 because of its somewhat workmanlike finish but this arm performs well and I know I have been critical re that lack of polish – and while I think those criticisms are fair comment – please keep in mind they are not issues that detract from the performance, which at the end of the day is the most important consideration. The FX3 is a very good tonearm in its own right and it complements the other Funk Technics items to a T.

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The Funk Firm Strata, Spin and FX3 work in harmony to give the potential Technics upgrader an excellent option, not the only one out there I hasten to add, but one that is a lot of fun, and pushes the performance of a humble turntable – some insult it by calling it a DJ deck – well into the level of performance that many expensive high end turntables offer and a few can but dream.

The Funk Firms Technics products should definitely be on every Technics owners radar re being very worthy of consideration to take the turntable to new levels of performance. so email Funk and give them ago, you may well find your thinking and Arthur’s gel and if so you are in for a treat.

 

 

Neil 

 

Manufacturer – Funk Firm http://www.thefunkfirm.co.uk/

Source of Loan – Maufacturuer.

UK Distributor – Direct from Funk Firm

Retail Prices –  Strata Platter £480, Spin Bearing £420, FX3 tonearm £1589 (available from Funk Firm Dealers), Technics armboard £76

Contact Details for Funk Firm can be found here – http://www.thefunkfirm.co.uk/Contact_us.php

 

 

 

(1) Funk Firms launching of the Little Super Deck, Flamenca, Super Deck Grande and F5 2 delayed the development and finishing of the Technics related products. Funk Firm while not being a one man band as such is very much Arthur Khoubesserian’s project and as he takes a very active role in product development etc – I think it fair to say he is very much hands on in how he runs Funk – the getting to market of these other items took precedence.

(2) Listing of all Technics turntables http://vintagetechnics.co.uk/turntables.htm

(3) History http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technics_SL-1200

(4) Kab USA https://www.kabusa.com/frameset.htm?/ttables.htm

(5) I was sent an early Strata platter and Hub to review awhile back and while the Hub fitted a standard OEM bearing it would not fit a Mike New bearing. Placing the original Hub on this resulted in the Hub not seating correctly which mean’t it would rock. This turned out to be because the first recess before the hole the platter is lowered onto the bearing was not wide enough.

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The first Hub was 20 mm wide inner wall to inner wall and 5 mm deep. A revised Hub (22 mm wide and 5 mm deep) was sent but due to it being rushed the speed sensor stator was not fitted correctly and while it fitted the Mike New bearing the platter ran at the wrong speed.

I was left with the Strata and the two hubs for a substantial period of time and while Funk concentrated on other products it looked like Funk may have moved on from these Technics items, so it was a pleasant surprise when Arthur contacted me out of the blue to announce it was still on and he had a bearing now called the Spin and would I like to review a full Technics set up now, including an FX 3 arm.

(6) Next up is a comparison review of Paul Hynes SR7 (and other PH PSUs) and other Technics PSUs. I have been working on this for awhile and I should have this completed and published within a few weeks.

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http://www.paulhynesdesign.com/

(7) The current production Strata platter and its hub are compatible with the Mike New bearing now having a first recess of 24mm wide inner wall to inner wall and being 5 mm deep.

(8) Information on the wonderful Bruil Weight can be found here on his Sound Fountain website http://www.soundfountain.com/amb/puck.html

(9) I use that phrase as tribute to Sam Tellig (not to plagiarise him) an important reviewer on Stereophile who has hung his hat up re reviewing for Stereophile. That catch phrase appeared often in his reviews as he enthused about a product and its sound quality. I hope he pops back up at some point because I for one will miss his unique reviewing style, which was always informative and entertaining. If Sam (Tom Gillett) chooses not to then thank you for making my audio journey so entertaining over many years – more than I really want to dwell on.

http://www.stereophile.com/content/departure-long-term-srereophile-writer-sam-tellig

(10) This potential issue came to light when talking with a potential Spin customer who reported the problem after trying the bearing out. In this case with the Spin installed the turntable wasn’t working. Checking the solder spikes under the circuitboard they appeared to be shorting so trimming the solder spikes solved the problem.

 

© Text and Photos Copyright 2015 Adventures in High Fidelity Audio. Except album sleeves/manufacturers images Copyright resides with those owners.

NB No part or portion of this article may be reproduced or quoted without written permission.

 

 

 

 

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