The world once more starts to embrace idler-drive, the problem faced by a turntable manufacturer today is that tooling-up for a completely new design would be prohibitively expensive because of the relatively low production numbers involved.

Inspire Hi-Fi has stepped up to the challenge of providing an affordable solution and, as with its Technics SL1200-based Monarch flagship [HFN Oct ’12], has chosen to use a plentiful classic design, the evergreen Goldring Lenco GL75, as the basis for its Enigma. It comes in a range of fine paint finishes – red, blue and black are available.

One of the most popular turntable units through the 1970s, the GL75 had a reputation for its fine build quality, so Inspire Hi-Fi has felt the need to do comparatively little to the deck’s basic mechanical componentry in order to exploit its replay potential.

The basis of the deck is a 240V synchronous AC motor which lies on its side under the deck plate. The rotor is a single-piece cone-shaped item over 2in long. Drive is taken directly from this to a vertical idler wheel that runs on the underside of the platter.

The arrangement allows continuously variable speed from 16rpm to 80rpm. Four movable detents allow speeds of 16, 33.3, 45 and 78rpm to be set: a neat arrangement but one prone to slight drifting, we found, especially when the deck was moved.

Inspire strips the donor deck, re-sprays the top-plate, services the motor and bearing thoroughly and re-assembles with a sprinkling of brand new parts. All mechanical items are checked and re-machined as necessary and the platter is polished to a mirror finish. The deck’s top-plate is cut out to accept a new arm-mounting plate configurable for any 9in template preferred by the customer.

Finally, an Inspire Acri mat and Puka record weight are added and the chassis is mounted in a beautifully finished solid wood plinth that can be veneered to the purchaser’s requirements.

Digging deep

The review sample was supplied with an SME M2-9 and Ortofon Cadenza Red MC. Listening to a deck like the Enigma for the first time can be an illuminating experience for many people, as the overall tonal balance of an idler-drive deck is often quite different from that of a belt-drive. A perfect example was found on the eponymous title track from Beth Hart’s album Bang Bang Boom Boom [Provogue]. Each section of the rhythm behind this track ends in two low piano notes, and whereas we were used to the first, slightly higher frequency one, being emphasised, the Enigma clearly picked out the second, lower note each time it was played.

It is for a good reason that idlers are so favoured by the bass-loving fraternity, as they really do dig deeper and the Enigma showcased this to great effect. It also set up a fine sense of front-to-back spaciousness, and gave performers plenty of space to work in as they played. The underlying pace of the music was very well captured too.

Higher up the frequency range, we found that the Enigma has a pleasingly neutral character. Working our way steadily through various genres, it seemed that the Enigma pulls off the old idler trick of making records seem just that little bit louder.

This trait would put the Enigma right at the top of a potential shopping list if low-end action is your main thing, but we continued to be impressed by the way in which the Inspire deck will turn its hand to anything. It sounded a treat when it came to thunderous orchestral material; equally, though, its fine detail retrieval meant that softer acoustic material sounded lifelike and natural.

Verdict

Inspire Hi-Fi’s Enigma modifications strike an admirable balance between subtle updating and maintaining the performance and quirkiness of the Lenco original.

Originally published in the 2013 yearbook