So it didn't all start with the Acoustic Research turntable then

While browsing the web for information on old Ariston turntables (as my lovely RD110SL which survived my student days is now being used by my daughter) I stumbled across this absolutely fascinating article on the development of the first high quality belt drive turntables. I had always believed that the real innovation was done by Acoustic Research, but from this it would seem that both Phillips and Components Corporation of New Jersey did much of the heavy lifting.

It’s an absolutely riveting account of the early days of transcription engineering for anyone who is interested in how the turntable evolved.

Just for clarity, I have no affiliation whatsoever but merely wished to share what I thought was an interesting account of events. What did occur to me was how early in the game SME emerged making tonearms - the Series 1 emerging in 1958/9, the series II around 1962, the Series III in 1977 and the Series IV and V in 1987/1986 respectively.




What happened to Acoustic Research? I have a set of their speakers from my first system in the 1980s?

My understanding was that the significance of AR was not that they introduced the first belt drive, rather that they introduced the first suspended sub-chassis TT (with belt drive), Which was around the beginning of the 1960s. I haven’t time at the moment to read that link, but I’m guessing that fits?

Thorens built on that introducing the TD150 in mid 60s. Ariston’s design at beginning of 70s was remarkably similar to the Thorens. One of Ariston’s people then founded Linn and produced the LP12 which IIRC was the subject of a copyright infringement claim suggesting it was a clone of the Ariston.

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They were taken over by Voxx who eventually just phased out the brand. First speakers i bought👍


Interestingly though Philips went back to just idler rather than idler + belt for subsequent versions:

I believe the American consumer of the time viewed the Components Corporation model as being a bit bulky and ugly so were more likely to go for a Rek-o- Kut idler model or similar.

With such a massive platter and bearing I would expect the CC to be an excellent performer and easily beat a RoK for rumble. It does show how designers were starting to take serious notice of motor isolation.

The one with the platter floating in a bowl of murcury gets my vote. Life was different back then.

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Interesting link thanks, I will check this out later when I have a moment of peace.

First suspended chassis turntable was introduced in 1961, by Acoustic Research XA turntable.
If Wikipedia is not wrong….

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That agrees with my “early 1960s”!


I remember seeing them in the shops in the early 70’s, I didn’t appreciate the leap AR had made in this product, of that others would follow.

Clearly a good engineering solution!

See here for the contemporary (1950s) viewpoint on the different drive solutions.

Nice to see the Melcos getting a mention in there. I’ve always had a bit of a hankering for a Melco…

Yes it would seem that Acoustic Research did indeed pioneer the suspended subchassis, however Components Corporation evidently did pioneer suspending the motor to isolate it from the rest of the turntable and also suspended the whole package on sprung feet. It could be argued that they therefore didn’t need to suspend the subchassis. I have no idea which solution is better but I would argue they are both interesting ways to address the same problem - namely avoiding motor vibration being transferred to the platter and arm.

It would indeed be very interesting to read a definitive account of the development of the turntable over the past 70 years, it would I think make for a very interesting read and I bet there is an astonishing amount of archive material available in the manufacturers’ vaults. It would be particularly interesting if this were combined with a chapter on each key turntable in vinyl history and some examples that jump out at me are:

Phillips 1950 belt drive (first belt drive turntable)
Components Corporation Professional turntable (first sprung/high mass turntable)
Thorens TD124 (for precision swiss engineering)
Garrard 301 (for refining the idler drive concept)
Acoustic Research AR-XA (first suspended subchassis turntable)
Ariston RD11 (for refinement of the original AR design in a superior sounding package)
Linn LP12 (for establishing itself as a world reference even if it did essentially copy Ariston)
Technics SP10 (first direct drive turntable)
Transcriptors Hydraulic reference (first deck to radically depart from the wooden box concept)
Michell Gyrodec (first turntable to incorporate self circulating bearing, peripheral mass on platter, first dynamically balanced subchassis via different arm mounting plate weights)
SME 30/12 - (First turntable from undisputably the greatest tonearm maker in history uses radical belt suspension design and ultra high mass)
ELP Laser turntable (worlds first laser turntable)

There will of course be many other decks worthy of inclusion in this list such as the Technics SL1200, the Rockport Sirius, the Goldmund Reference, the Oracle Delphi and the various air bearing models offered by TechDAS. There’s a lot of material out there but I think ideally the key would be to avoid being dragged into partisan comparisons of which is ‘best’. The key criteria for inclusion should be ‘did this turntable revolutionise the development of vinyl transcription’.

Hopefully one day somebody will write it, heck I even pondered writing it myself but the vast amount of research required and the relatively limited target market of committed vinyl fans means it would really have to be a labour of love I think!



Just looked up the Ariston RD 11, crikey, that’s an embarrassing family resemblance right there :slight_smile:

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Much of the metalwork for the Ariston was manufactured by Castle Engineering (owned by Ivor T’s dad)

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David Price gives some brief background to the Linn/Ariston relationship in his piece on the RD11 over on the zStereo site. Of course both owed much to the AR as well as the Thorens TD150…


From an article by ZStereo on the web about Ariston:
The company was started by Hamish Robertson, who contracted Castle Precision Engineering Ltd. – Ivor Tiefenbrun’s father Jack’s company – to make the deck for him back in 1970. The RD11 was developed by Hamish along with Ivor and Jack, and distributed by C. J. Walker and Company. But in February 1973, Linn Products Ltd. started selling turntables made by Castle Precision Engineering, which were apparently very similar to Aristons. Meanwhile, Ariston was taken over by Dunlop Westayr Ltd and renamed Ariston Audio Ltd, and Hamish Robertson left.

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A good list, but I think it should include the Thorens TD150 as the bridge between the AR and the Ariston and also the Garrard 201 as the first British transcription turntable.

Post WWII Garrard added 45 to the 201, but the limitations of direct drive at multiple speeds led to the development of the 301. The concurrent Thorens E53 family were also direct drive and the introduction of the 301 sent them back to the drawing board and their answer was the TD124.

There is also a rumour that Garrard had to pay Thorens a royalty on the direct drive system used in the 201, but I don’t know how true this is.

I once had the opportunity to buy a 201 for £50. At the time I wondered what I’d do with it so passed. However, it would have been interesting to study its drive system and I have plenty of 78s, I should have bought it!

Open source it? Suspect a fair few on here would contribute knowledge, or research time, or both.

I bought my first turntable in 1966–the AR for I believe $78. Added a Shure V15 cartridge and was off to the races. Then went the Thorens + SME route about 1972. Built an oil bearing floating turntable using the platter and the SME arm with Fidelity Research MC in about 1980. Morphed to a Goldmund Studio + Koetsu in 1983 or so with Apogee Acoustics. Transitioned to a Nucleus+ and Meridian Ultra Dac a few years ago. Now I only stream. I remember the AR fondly.