Melco high mass turntables.
The legendary Melco turntable systems.
Melco Inc.was established in Japan in 1975 by Makoto Maki as an engineering concern and a manufacturer of the highest of high-end turntables. Production of turntables began in 1978, but the models didn't hit the UK shores until around 3 years later. Melco's design philosophy was to produce turntables of indisputable and unsurpassed quality, seemingly with cost considerations not too high on the agenda. The designs were honed by extensive auditioning tests which supplemented the engineering expertise the company had.
All the Melco turntables were belt driven in so far as the "belt" consisted of a thin, silk thread that ran around the perimeter of an oversized platter of extraordinary weight.
The motor unit.
The Melco motor unit, a heavy duty 24 pole hysterisis synchronous device was encased in a thick-walled aluminum sided box, unattached to the main base. The silk thread belt ran around the perimeter of the deep platter, then wrapped itself around a brass pulley fixed to the motor spindle.
Speed change between 33 rpm and 45 rpm was possible with a lever which physically slid the motor unit slightly nearer or further from the turntable base, enabling the silk thread to take up a different position on the spindle pulley on a section which had a greater diameter for 45's. So sweet, just so that you could play the Shangri-Las “Leader of the Pack” without hindrance. Mind you, the turntable was a kind of "Leader of the Pack" itself.
The selection of bases available for the turntable system were equally beyond what the UK market had ever been subjected to, and in fact wasn't to see again until many decades later. All the base options, except for the 3202 model which had a wooden frame, were made of non-resonant graphite cast iron. Depending on the model, the heaviest was 50 kg and the lightest (the 3202) 12 kg. All the cast iron bases could accept 3 tonearms. The arm supports supplied by Melco, were made from 30 mm thick aluminum alloy, and could accommodate a 12 inch arm if necessary.
Oh the mighty Melco platters! Now there's a thing…
Three different platters were available, 3560, 3533, and the 3520 - 35 Kg, 20 Kg and a mere 12 Kg respectively. All the platters were made of high density gunmetal, heavily damped underside and dynamically balanced after damping. There was no turntable mat as such. The record sat directly onto the platter surface which was highly polished and slightly concave. Why? Well, the record “clamp” (actually a brass weight, much heavier than most other turntable platters at the time), held the record down against the slightly concave brass surface which allowed superb contact and dampening of any vinyl "chatter".
Bear in mind this was all happening in the late 70's....
Here is an extract from a leaflet produced by Studio Beco about the Melco turntable.“The bearing was a precision assembly. The shaft was made from precision ground tool steel running in phosphor-bronze liners supported on patented anti-vibration rings. The shaft tip and thrust pad were made from extremely hard, heat-treated titanium alloy. The pad is made slightly softer than the shaft tip in order to reduce wear. The liners are bored in-line to very close tolerances. This in conjunction with an extra long shaft (102 mm) ensures a close coupling of the record to the arm for maximum information retrieval. No other currently made turntable has a bearing as smooth and as precise as the Melco patented bearing”.
The Studio Beco influence.
Studio Beco began importing Melco turntables into the UK around 1980, initially from a London base in Beak St, London W1 and then in Chiswick, West London. They were the sole European distributors for Melco, and apart from importing the turntables, they were also the first to import Audio Note (Japan), now known as Kondo, into the UK. This included the M7 silver-wired pre=amplifier and the huge single-ended Audio Note Class A push-pull mono block power amps which utilized 211 valves, (which were, incidentally, intended for use as transmitter valves in WW ll ). The principal figure behind Studio Beco was Be Yamamura, an unbelievably avid audio enthusiastand experimenter who went on to manufacture his own products, including an air-bearing turntable, horn loudspeaker enclosures made of solid Iroko hardwood which were virtually large enough to live in. Later Be formed Yamamura-Churchill with Robert Churchill. The short-lived company once again manufactured big, exotic horn loaded speakers, amplifiers and some highly regarded cables. Yamamura-Churchill disbanded in the 90’s, but Be still continues to design and manufacture exclusive equipment in Italy. Surprisingly, he now only utilizes digital sources.
It's clear that Studio Beco were ultra-serious about audio quality, but perhaps expectations were a little too optimistic about the UK market. The Melco approach was well beyond the ken of the UK Hi-Fi press who, true to form, had been obsessed for years with under-performing, Toy Town equipment made nearer home.
Studio Beco undertook some minor modifications to the Melco turntable, primarily to increase the inertia of the platter to match that of a record cutting lathe. If you look carefully at the photograph of the platter in the complete system, you will see the additional solid brass “turntable mat”, no less than 10 mm deep. It served to supplement the overall weight of the platter by a few more kilograms, increasing it's inertia still further. In addition, another bigger, heavier record weight was machined from solid brass (see photo above). This was the mother of all record weights, pushing well past the 6 Kg mark and provided an upper arm workout, wanted or unwanted, during a listening session.
The turntable system shown here was the top of the range model produced by Melco. The arm is a Fidelity Research FR-66, a twelve inch design and contemporary to the turntable. The pick-up arm support base shown is not the original Melco one, but as a further advance into the audio stratosphere, this one was machined from a 35 mm solid block of grade 316 non-magnetic steel . The original, much lighter arm-board still exists.
I cannot verify this, but I gather there are only two Melco turntable systems of this type in Europe. There are more of the lower specification models worldwide, but as Melco produced turntables for only a few years, all the models remain pretty rare. This complete turntable system is now for sale by the original owner who purchased it from Studio Beco in the 80’s. It was the only one imported into the UK and is still in beautiful condition, having had little use over the decades. It has been carefully stored with the platter removed to prevent any possibility of bearing damage.
It should be noted that the motor is a 110v model, so a step down transformer is required for operation in the UK. In addition, the drive pulley diameter is correct for a 50 Hz AC supply, to attain the correct speed of the platter by the synchronous motor. The turntable unit is therefore not suitable for use in countries where the AC is 60Hz unless an alternative pulley wheel can be sourced or manufactured. Please contact mysonicspace for more details.