Willi Bauer, maker of the dps turntable takes ‘does what it says on the tin’ product naming to new heights of clarity, or at least he does when you realise that dps stands for der plattenspieler or the record player. Willi is a Bavarian from Munich, home of Europe’s finest high-end show and blokes who wear leather shorts. Willi as far as I know, does not wear lederhosen, but he does have a fascination for turntables, setting up his first one at the tender age of 15, culminating in 1999 when he started producing der plattenspieler.
The path that led to this result started with a Linn LP12 in 1978, replaced by a Pink Triangle Anniversary that arrived some fifteen or so years later. When PT went out of business he made a new bearing for the turntable but also invested in Bill Firebaugh’s radical Well Tempered design, with its tonearm suspended on fishing line and a bearing that was propped in a box of oil. Looking at the dps you can see how Willi combined ideas from both of those designs. You have a similar approach to the WT plinth in the dps sandwich, along with a PT style acrylic platter.
But look a little closer and you will find there is plenty to distinguish the dps. The inverted bearing is composed of a tungsten shaft supporting an engineering plastic sleeve and uses a ruby ball to take the weight of the platter. The bearing shaft uses rubber O rings and a high viscosity oil/silicone mix to provide a specific and high level of resistance to the efforts of the motor. The idea here is to combat dynamic wow. This is the notion that variations in the signal create variations in drag at the stylus/vinyl interface, supposedly because friction varies with signal. Others get around this by making the platter very heavy so that its inertia can overcome this issue, but there are those that dislike mass because of its ability to store energy. Acrylic platters are also extremely stiff and have a relatively high resonant frequency, something which the heavily damped bearing on the dps attempts t o control or at least ameliorate. Acrylic platters of yore have often produced a highly dynamic and exciting sound but one can’t help feel that this is due to resonance within the material being transmitted through the vinyl into the stylus. Listening to the dps 3 it seemed that the combination of bearing design, the threaded plastic record clamp and plinth design managed to retain the speed associated with acrylic without the associated resonance, it’s still a more lively deck than my SME 20 reference but then again, most things are.
The plinth is made up of four layers although the first, a dense foam matt in a fetching shade of green, is so slim that it’s not visible. It is important however as it forms a constrained layer sandwich between the supporting surface and the turntable base proper which is a granite slab. This slab is primarily intended to act as an energy sink for the motor that sits upon it, but it also supports three foamed elastomer pucks which sit in cups that can be adjusted for height. You don’t use them to level the plinth as this changes the angle of the platter relative to motor, but rather to bring the top plate up to the same height as the top of the motor body. Next up is the layer with the wooden surround, this contains a laminate of wooden and damping foils topped with a layer of cork which should have the effect of stopping high frequency resonances from getting into the black acrylic top plate. This top layer is where the tonearm and main bearing are supported and like the rest of the plinth is held in place by gravity and friction alone. In fact there are no real fixings as such on the turntable, the bearing housing slots into the plinth and the motor sits on the granite slab. If you decide you’d like to save on dusting time the optional lid also just sits on the top of the deck, with small transparent feet stopping it from sliding off.
The top plate and the next layer need to be made to accommodate your arm of choice. dps markets its own reworking of the Rega RB250 which has Incognito cable and a tungsten stub and counterweight as well as waxed-paper damping in the tube. This arm just slots into a hole in the black acrylic and is fixed by a grub screw from the side, thus allowing adjustment of VTA. The SME arms being somewhat bulkier require a larger hole in the wood layer to accommodate the cable outlet. There are two dps turntables or, to be precise, there is one turntable with two alternative power supplies for the AC motor. The dps 2 has a single-phase supply with switching and adjustment for 33/45, while the dps 3 considered here has a synthesised three-phase supply which offers the same facilities but is twice the size. These power supplies are made by Willi’s cohort Lawrence Martensen whose MPS phono stage I got quite excited about a few issues back. They share the same style casework with (beautiful) blue LED pinpricks to indicate status. The benefit of threephase operation according to Martensen and Bauer is that each phase is spaced from the next by 120 degrees, which forms a virtual rotating magnetic field within the motor’s windings. This is said to result in much smoother rotational forces when correctly set up. Which is where the many slot head bolts in the front of the PSU and the sockets in the back come in. They change the relative angle and amplitude of each phase and are factory set. So, in practice there are only two controls of relevance, neat little toggle switches that control speed and on/off. Given the threaded clamp, you need to make sure the switches are readily accessible.