Trio Lo-7D

Kenwood L-o7DSurely the most complete Japanese turntable of its time, the design team at Trio/Kenwood was the first to take a fully rounded look at the acoustic properties of materials used in turntable construction. By the standards of its late nineties seventies rivals, this seminal high end turntable was decades ahead – and correspondingly expensive, too. At the time it reached the UK market in 1979, it cost four times the price of a Linn LP12 – although it did include a tonearm!

Incredibly heavy at over 40kg, and beautifully built, this is a sight for sore analogue eyes. Whereas Technics used slabs of diecast aluminium for its turntable motor unit housings, the Lo-7D’s plinth was a fascinating mix of mahogany and Trio’s ‘ARCB’ material (a synthetic stone). Underneath this, an aluminium beam stiffed the structure, running from the main bearing to the main tonearm mount, giving a ‘closed loop’ for information transmission that was isolated from external vibrations.

The clever thinking didn’t stop there, as the platter was a massive bronze affair, with an additional stainless steel top disc; the combination of these materials was thought to give the best resonance damping. On top sat the LP record, and on top of this was the ‘disc stabiliser’ and a heavy bronze record clamp; the former was a heavy weight that fitted around the circumference of the LP to lock it to the platter with tremendous force. Although a bit fiddly, it gave many of the benefits of the horrendously complex and potentially troublesome vacuum stabilisation as used by Luxman. When the stabiliser is used, you have to push a button on the outboard power supply, which serves up just a little extra juice to the silent, high torque direct drive motor to allow its quartz crystal referenced speed control circuitry to lock properly. The fitted tonearm comes as standard, yet is no slouch with its carbon fibre arm tube and precision bearings.

In the Linn-obsessed British hi-fi press of the late seventies, the Lo-7D was largely overlooked. If it was noticed at all, It was seen as something of an anachronism – after all, any serious turntable didn’t come with a tonearm as standard, did it? The curious thing was though, that this product was light-years ahead of the Linn in terms of its design philosophy, and also much of the technology used. For example, the offboard power supply or something that Linn would do eight years later, while the ultra high precision direct drive motor was decades ahead of the LP12’s AC synchronous motor and belt drive.

It sound quality was superb, and in many ways superior to the LP12. Fit this deck with a good modern cartridge such as a Lyria Delos, and one is immediately struck by its clarity and neutrality; by the standards of its time it’s quite remarkably open. For example, a 1979 LP12 has a noticeably ‘woody’ coloration, especially in the bass, whereas the Trio is tight and taut and lean but no less powerful. Further up in the midband, and the turntable sounds amazingly focused. There’s a sense that ever thing is pin-shop; there is no blurring or smearing of the sound. This is surely down to the excellent speed stability, and the materials used in the deck of which were chosen to not store energy. The treble response is wonderfully crisp and detailed, and wonderfully spacious.

There is a definite ‘family resemblance’ to other high end Japanese super decks of the time (Marantz TT-1000, Technics SP10) in its general nature. Thanks to it soon direct drive system, the music has a wonderfully propulsive gait to it. Rhythms are served up with a tremendous urgency that makes the LP12 sound positively soporific. Yet normally in comparisons such as these, the Japanese direct drive would fall down in the final analysis because of its harshness. This is something the Lo-7D simply does not have; it’s a wonderfully refined performer, doubtless thanks to all those clever plinth materials.

In absolute terms, the tonearm cannot compete with a modern Rega – it softens transients and lacks spatial accuracy. But if you fit another arm (which is easy, because there’s a space for a second pick-up), you soon begin to realise this is an impressive product. In absolute terms it could do with a touch more colour and romance, but still this isn’t enough to sully what’s undeniably an excellent performer. Gone but not forgotten!

2 comments

  1. With the exception of Pioneer’s and Technics’ almost all japanese high end turntables were made by Micro-Seiki including Luxman’s, Onkyo’s, Yamaha’s, Marantz’s and indeed Kenwood’s. Late samples actually have a very small badge on the back saying “MICRO”.

    • Quite right – Pioneer, Matshushita/Technics and Sony were the ‘big three’ and Micro made most of the other major Japanese brands, often to their specifications. A bit like Nakamichi in the early days of cassette!

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