SRM Azure turntable - a DIY upgrade

Apollo83

Active Member
Hi all. I thought I'd share my record player upgrade journey.

After upgrading my speakers and amp I started thinking about upgrading my admirable but limited Rega RP1.
I mostly listen to records on Sunday mornings with CDs seeing service the other 90% of the time so I wanted to keep the price reasonable at below ~£600
That might get me a new Planar 2 or a slightly used Planar 3 and the Planar 3 in particular was tempting.
But another option is to upgrade parts of the record player yourself using kit parts. This appealed to me more.
In particular the idea of creating an aesthetically interesting piece appealed to me.

Enter SRM Tech with their Azure turntable kit replicating a lot of the structure of the Athena that got such good reviews.

After a little research it seemed the RP1 was not a great source of parts that would sufficiently upgrade the sound.
So I sourced a cheap 90's Planar 3 with chips, cracks and scratches on the plinth and lid, but otherwise in good condition. This was an ideal donor deck.

Azure-1.jpg


Next I stripped it down into constituent parts, cleaned it and lubricated the motor, hub/subplatter and cueing lever.
Meanwhile I had ordered the SRM Azure from Stuart Michell at SRM who was very friendly and gave helpful pre-sales advice.
With all parts assembled I was ready.
Rega Planar 3 on the left, SRM Azure on the right:

Azure-2.jpg


First to build was the lower plinth carrying the PCB, motor, switch and isolating domes to rest the upper plinth on.
A little soldering for the switch wires onto the PCB, some flag terminals for the other end of the switch wires and a little use of an Allen key for tightening screws - nothing scary.

Azure-7.jpg


Next was the upper plinth carrying the hub/sub-platter and the tonearm.
Some spanners needed for this one.

Azure-6.jpg


Then on goes the glass platter (and acrylic mat).

Azure-10.jpg


And finally the optional extra of the acrylic cover.

Azure-8.jpg


And that was it - build complete in less than 2 hours.

Lets look a little closer at the interface between the two plinths.
The upper plinth sits on the three sorbothane domes on the lower deck which in turn sits on steel spiked feet which can optionally be placed on steel discs with anti slip material on the bottom.

Azure-4.jpg


What about the tonearm mount.
The tonearm attaches to a short extension of the upper plinth which is made from rigid clear acrylic. An acrylic spacer (available in different widths for vertical adjustment) and damping material sit between the tonearm and plinth.
As you can see this record player is still a Rega at heart.

Azure-5.jpg


The final part of the upgrade journey was to fine tune the tonearm position, tracking and anti-skating. For this I used the very useful producers cut of the Hi-Fi News Test LP.

The end result?
Well of course it is difficult to identify sound improvements for anything with a 2 hour build process in between listens and I can't claim much difference in overall character of the setup which is using the entry level AT95E cartridge.
However I do believe I noticed one improvement in how quiet sections of a track seemed... well more quiet :) A 'deeper silence' if you will, which in a gentle solo piano piece revealed extra detail and when part of a staccato rhythm added 'punch'.

The overall sound is a definite and noticeable upgrade on my Rega RP1 which I'll now sell.
But that isn't the whole story.
What this DIY approach has given me is 2 hours of meccano-for-adults fun, a small sense of achievement and an immediate bond with a piece of equipment that I will listen to every Sunday morning and, now it appears, most weekday evenings!
It has probably also given me the bug for DIY upgrades and I can see a cartridge upgrade, hub/subplatter upgrade and maybe even motor upgrade spanning out for the next few Christmases and Birthdays. :)
Finally, it has also created an aesthetically beautiful piece of art sitting in the corner of my room that can even be appreciated with sound off...

Azure-3.jpg


For more details of SRM see http://srm-tech.co.uk
 

Khankat

Well-known Member
Great read. Good for you finding an alternative route to better sound. And as you said, there's plenty more you can do in the form of further upgrades. I hope you keep the thread alive with news of what you do next.

I have purchased parts from SRM Tech and have found their products do what is claimed of them.
 

Apollo83

Active Member
...And as you said, there's plenty more you can do in the form of further upgrades. I hope you keep the thread alive with news of what you do next.
Will do.
Also if anyone else is thinking of taking the plunge and has more detailed questions, give a shout and I'll share what I learned.
 

Apollo83

Active Member
So with the pound going even lower and my euro worth even more I decided to look at the next stage of the upgrade - cartridge.
Having decided to stay moving magnet and look for one with a replaceable stylus I researched and decided to go for the Goldring 1000 series. I was going to go for a cheaper stylus and upgrade later but with a good deal on a 1042 available I went straight to the top with the Gyger S profile...

IMG_0991.jpg


Installing took an hour.
Or I should say installing it twice took an hour :)

First of all the easy part was attaching the cartridge to the headshell.
Removing the tonearm and turning it upside down so the nut nestled in the L-shaped recess was key. Then with finger on the nut from one hand and allen key in the other the bolts were tightened easily.
With tonearm reattached, I balanced the tonearm and set the weight to 1.75g.
Then I used a generic template (the ones from the the HiFi News Test LP) to set tonearm alignment. Once I saw I had it correct I tightened the bolts further and attached the cables.
On went the Hi-Fi News test record and oh dear...
Higher volume test tones had distortion and in headshell alignment and tracking tests the left channel had distortion...
Changes to VTF and anti-skating didn't help much.
I went back and checked the vertical alignment and noticed that when the stylus hit the record it sat further down allowing the cartridge to sit lower. in that lower position the bottom of the cartridge was not parallel to the record as recommended. So out came the tonearm again and in went a 3mm spacer to lift the base of the tonearm. Looking at the cartridge again, it looked good and the general high volume distortion was gone...
However distortion in the left channel remained. So back I went to the cartridge alignment template and noticed the cartridge was skewed anti-clockwise by about 0.5 mm from perfect... Sure, that couldn't make a difference I thought.
Just in case, I slightly loosened one bolt and more fully loosened the other allowing the cartridge to pivot around the tighter of the two. Then I carefully nudged the cartridge a tiny bit and tightened both bolts being careful not to allow the cartridge to move as i did so.
Looking at the template again it looked perfect, but what would it sound like?

Back on the test record it passed all tests with flying colours including the notorious +18dB bias test. This cartridge tracks much better than both my previous AT's.
As for its sensitivity to set-up, I'm guessing that the profile is elongated along the direction of the groove maybe making it particularly sensitive to groove alignment?

Is the sound worth the alignment effort?
What first struck me was the quietness of the background. The SRM chassis motor isolation had helped a little with this but this cartridge moved it to a new level.
As Nick Drake's Pink Moon began to play what struck me next was the detail (and at higher volume 'punch'). What was strange was that it seemed to be across all frequencies. It wasn't the artificial detail you get by shaping one part of the spectrum (usually mid/high). There was no brightness or sibilance. Rather it seemed like the attack and decay across all frequencies were so precise that the detail was revealed. I'm not sure if they are related to that detail but the soundstage and instrument separation were improved also.
I couldn't believe how well this sounded on my humble Rega Brio and Monitor Silver 100's.
I've always been a believer that CD/FLAC sounds better than vinyl and just used vinyl for the ceremony, nostalgia and slightly warmer sound. But this is strange; I think my vinyl may now sound better than an equivalent CD.
Nick Drake did, Brian Eno also - I wonder if they use the same masters... Its weird to me that I'm even asking that question.

So where does this put me on my upgrade journey.
Well to put some arbitrary figures on it. (scaling 100% from baseline Rega RP1 to current SRM/ Rega P3 / Goldring 1042):

Upgrade from RP1 to Planar 3 ~ 20% subtle but noticeable improvement in detail
Planar 3 onto SRM Azure chassis ~ 10% noticeably quieter floor
AT95E cartridge to Goldring 1042 ~ 70%, quieter floor, much improved detail, more believable soundstage.

The only problem with these upgrades is that I now think they have revealed a slight background sound coming from my bearing/sub-platter. Its noticeable with my ear up close to it, but I think it is transmitting slightly through the platter/mat. I 'think' I can hear it during quiet parts of tracks... :)

So it seems a bearing/sub-platter upgrade might be next...

The fun continues!

IMG_0985.jpg
 

Khankat

Well-known Member
I too, have a Goldring 1042. It is a very good cartridge. Give the 1042 40- 50 hours running, and it will reward you with even better sound quality.

Worth knowing that, the entire 10xx range all share the same body. Although rewarding, I dread cartridge work, as just the smallest mistake could prove costly.

You have a wealth of upgrade options available to you, from custom counterweights to VTF mods and many more.

I'm with you on preferring the sound of vinyl to that of Red Book CD. Some time ago, I auditioned a number of CD players. The dealer had set up one of his listening rooms with the same gear I had at home. The CD players were demonstrated in no particular order. I didn't care for any of them- too cold and analytical with little musicality and even less warmth. Turning to leave, thinking the demo had ended, the dealer asked me to remain seated while he set up the next and final player. Two bars in, and I knew this was the one for me. When I turned to the dealer to see which player it was, he revealed the Linn Sondek LP12...

Everyone has their preferred sound, hence the enormous range of equipment on offer. Horses for courses and all that. So just enjoy that which suits you!
 

BT Bob

Distinguished Member
Interesting thread.

I have a RP1 Performance pack - recently changed the cartridge for a Nagaoka MP-110, but I'd previously added the SRM-Tech Sub-Platter damping kit - made a noticeable difference to my ears. You may fancy giving one a go - plotter triangles that fit into the cutouts on the subplatter.

Sub-Platter Damping Kit for Rega
 

Khankat

Well-known Member
Interesting thread.

I have a RP1 Performance pack - recently changed the cartridge for a Nagaoka MP-110, but I'd previously added the SRM-Tech Sub-Platter damping kit - made a noticeable difference to my ears. You may fancy giving one a go - plotter triangles that fit into the cutouts on the subplatter.

Sub-Platter Damping Kit for Rega

Like you, I have and still use SRM-Tech products, including their damping materials. Quite simply, they work, the difference they make, tangible. Just their damping applied to my Linn Axis made a huge difference. Gone, was the platter ring. I am happy to recommend them.
 

BT Bob

Distinguished Member
Will do.
Also if anyone else is thinking of taking the plunge and has more detailed questions, give a shout and I'll share what I learned.
I've been looking at your posts a bit more. Can you confirm that the feet on the Azure align with the feet on the old Rega plinth? So if you have, as I do, the Rega wall-mount the Azure would just fit on?
It does look, though, that then the acrylic cover you have wouldn't fit, as it looks like that literally is a big cover that sits on the table the Azure is sitting on covering everything.
 

Apollo83

Active Member
... Can you confirm that the feet on the Azure align with the feet on the old Rega plinth?
It does look, though, that then the acrylic cover you have wouldn't fit, as it looks like that literally is a big cover that sits on the table the Azure is sitting on covering everything.

Hi Bob.
The 3 feet of the Azure appear to form an equilateral triangle of length ~278mm.
I have the smaller acrylic cover from SRM which is ~44cmx36cmx13cm.
I have a piece of granite (cut by a local kitchen surface provider) with slightly larger wxd that it sits on (mostly for aesthetic reasons but also for a stable level surface).
I don't have the Rega wall mount dimensions to hand so I'll let you determine if the Azure is workable on that.

IMG_0754.jpg
 

BT Bob

Distinguished Member
Hi Bob.
The 3 feet of the Azure appear to form an equilateral triangle of length ~278mm.
I have the smaller acrylic cover from SRM which is ~44cmx36cmx13cm.
I have a piece of granite (cut by a local kitchen surface provider) with slightly larger wxd that it sits on (mostly for aesthetic reasons but also for a stable level surface).
I don't have the Rega wall mount dimensions to hand so I'll let you determine if the Azure is workable on that.

View attachment 1191489
Thanks - lovely looking set-up, by the way.
 

Apollo83

Active Member
OK, so Christmas came around and Father Christmas brought be a new hub and sub-platter.
Or more accurately it was the extremely friendly Gus from TangoSpinner in Argentina.

I had considered using Fidelity designs but was concerned the bare metal sub-platter on glass platter may not isolate as well as the tangospinner which has a silicone (?) ring for exactly such a purpose.
I suspect the fidelity design may work excellently with a resin platter.

I decided on the Pugliese sub-platter and VHL hub/sleeve from tangospinner.
Gus was a pleasure to order from (I confirmed the hub size required for my set-up with him before proceeding) and delivery was prompt with contents well protected.

Here is the tangospinner:
untitled-6.jpg


And here it is attached to the Azure chassis:
(notice the black silicone ring around the circumference on top of the sub-platter which stands slightly proud to isolate the metal from the platter that will go on top)

untitled-14.jpg


And one more with the glass platter and clear acrylic mat on top:

untitled-20-2.jpg


The tango spinner runs incredibly smoothly. I can no longer hear any faint rubbing sound when the platter is turning and I can no longer hear any low rumble through the speakers at normal listening volume.

So there we have it - my last planned upgrade to my DIY turntable.
I may look at the motor in the future but I'm detecting no speed issues and the old 90s Rega motor is still working well, so for now it lives on in this Rega/SRM/Goldring/Tangospinner turntable. :)

Looking back I've noticed distinct improvements along the way which with my updated arbitrary weighting I'd describe as:
Upgrade from RP1 to Planar 3 ~ 20% subtle but noticeable improvement in detail
Chassis from Planar 3 to SRM Azure ~ 10% noticeably quieter floor
Cartridge from AT95E to Goldring 1042 ~ 60%, quieter floor, much improved detail, more believable soundstage
Hub/Sub-platter from old Rega to Tangospinner ~ 10%, low rumble removed

I've enjoyed building my own turntable and now feel comfortable tinkering with it and fitting and aligning cartridges. I've learned a lot and had some fun.
Now I can just sit back and listen :)
 

Khankat

Well-known Member
OK, so Christmas came around and Father Christmas brought be a new hub and sub-platter.
Or more accurately it was the extremely friendly Gus from TangoSpinner in Argentina.

I had considered using Fidelity designs but was concerned the bare metal sub-platter on glass platter may not isolate as well as the tangospinner which has a silicone (?) ring for exactly such a purpose.
I suspect the fidelity design may work excellently with a resin platter.

I decided on the Pugliese sub-platter and VHL hub/sleeve from tangospinner.
Gus was a pleasure to order from (I confirmed the hub size required for my set-up with him before proceeding) and delivery was prompt with contents well protected.

Here is the tangospinner:
View attachment 1240422

And here it is attached to the Azure chassis:
(notice the black silicone ring around the circumference on top of the sub-platter which stands slightly proud to isolate the metal from the platter that will go on top)

View attachment 1240423

And one more with the glass platter and clear acrylic mat on top:

View attachment 1240424

The tango spinner runs incredibly smoothly. I can no longer hear any faint rubbing sound when the platter is turning and I can no longer hear any low rumble through the speakers at normal listening volume.

So there we have it - my last planned upgrade to my DIY turntable.
I may look at the motor in the future but I'm detecting no speed issues and the old 90s Rega motor is still working well, so for now it lives on in this Rega/SRM/Goldring/Tangospinner turntable. :)

Looking back I've noticed distinct improvements along the way which with my updated arbitrary weighting I'd describe as:
Upgrade from RP1 to Planar 3 ~ 20% subtle but noticeable improvement in detail
Chassis from Planar 3 to SRM Azure ~ 10% noticeably quieter floor
Cartridge from AT95E to Goldring 1042 ~ 60%, quieter floor, much improved detail, more believable soundstage
Hub/Sub-platter from old Rega to Tangospinner ~ 10%, low rumble removed

I've enjoyed building my own turntable and now feel comfortable tinkering with it and fitting and aligning cartridges. I've learned a lot and had some fun.
Now I can just sit back and listen :)

I have to say, your deck and setup looks spectacular. Love it set-off by the granite base. What metal is the new sub-platter?
I recently had made to order, an acrylic turntable cover. It sits on the turntable wall shelf. Apart from doing the job and looking good, it was not expensive primarily, I expect, because it was not from a Hi-fi retailer. In that way, I daresay your granite slab was less expensive, because of the type of business you got it from.
Somehow, I doubt this will be the end of your upgrade path, as you will find yourself wondering what else you can do to improve your system.
 

Apollo83

Active Member
... What metal is the new sub-platter?
I recently had made to order, an acrylic turntable cover. It sits on the turntable wall shelf. Apart from doing the job and looking good, it was not expensive primarily, I expect, because it was not from a Hi-fi retailer. In that way, I daresay your granite slab was less expensive, because of the type of business you got it from.
Somehow, I doubt this will be the end of your upgrade path, as you will find yourself wondering what else you can do to improve your system.

Hi Khankat.
I believe the sub-platter is 6061-T6 grade aluminium with a 316L stainless steel spindle.

You're right - looking for non-hi-fi sources for certain materials like covers, plinths, cabinets can save money and still deliver quality.

As for further upgrading? For my turntable I'm happy with where I am now...
Time to enjoy the music :)

Having said that I fancy taking apart my Chess clock and see if I can improve one of the mechanisms thats running a little slow...
Maybe that'll remove the urge to go at the hi-fi for a while :)
 

Khankat

Well-known Member
Ha yes, you're going to need something to help keep your thoughts off upgrading. But your turntable really looks very nice indeed. The sub-platter looks beautifully finished. Happy listening.
 

Khankat

Well-known Member
I meant, but forgot to ask, is the drive belt the standard offering or one of the upgrade types available?
 

Apollo83

Active Member
I meant, but forgot to ask, is the drive belt the standard offering or one of the upgrade types available?

The belt is the upgraded clear silicone version with no additives. Very good quality. No slipping, even on start-up.
Also the motor pulley is the upgraded brass type (harder than the standard alumnium one although I'm not sure that's necessary).
With the belt and pulley you need to make sure you order the correct one for your electricity supply (50Hz or 60Hz)
 

Chuckd8

Novice Member
Appollo, did they give you any type of asssembly instructions with this setup? I just receievd mine with no instructions whatsoever.. I could probably just wing it and put it together but it would be nice with some kind of guide for reference. Ive seen other photos from people who have ordreed stuff from them with printed instruction on white paper.. let me know thanks.. I also sent them an email. I didnt see anywhere on their site where i could download anything.
 

Apollo83

Active Member
Hi Chuck.
Yes it came with printed instructions.
Also I have a PDF version handy (I've tried attaching it here)
If you have any questions, give me a shout.
Or contact Stuart Michell directly - he's very helpful.

Of course, once finished, make sure to post pictures here :)
Good luck!
 

Attachments

  • Azure instructions 1.pdf
    616.7 KB · Views: 222

MaryWhitehouse

Well-known Member
Hi, With a bit more time how's the SRM kit standing up? I'm thinking of building a new table and spotted these kits which seem great value. Thanks.
 

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