Turntable Review

Lenco L-3808 Turntable: Direct Drive on a Budget

Want to go direct drive but are afraid of the expense? Lenco might have a surprise for you. Paul Rigby reviews the Lenco L-3808 (and provides a money off deal: see the end of the review)

Right, take a quick look at the price point below and then take a gander at the images and you just know that Made In China or similar is hidden somewhere within the chassis of this Lenco design. At this point the analogue snobs will lift their nose and leave the room. Still here? I’m glad, because this little turntable has a few surprises in store.

But what about that strobe light and pop-up light (for DJ use) that will immediately warn you that this might be a sad little Technics 1200 rip off? In this case, first impressions are very wrong indeed (although the turntable is recommended as an effective budget DJ tool, that’s true).

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 09.18.33

The construction is relatively solid for this price point with an all up weight of 5.4kg (the competing Dual MTR-75 weighs in at 4kg, for example).

The unit arrives with a dust cover but I would recommend removing it during play to avoid noise from its rather shaky mounting. By all means put it back, in place, when your listening session in over to protect from the dust.

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 09.19.05

The S-shaped arm looks and feels flimsy and small but it is secured well with an arm lock to prevent accidents. At the end of the arm is a removable headshell containing a standard (for this price) Audio Technica AT-3600 cartridge which Lenco asks you to run at a tracking force of 2g. Interesting because Dual, via its MTR-75 turntable, requests that you run exactly the same cartridge at around 3.25g! I know which one I’d rather place in my vinyl grooves! If you do buy yourself this deck, upgrade to a better cartridge ASAP. Something non-conical too which will enhance detail retrieval and the sonics immeasurably.

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 09.18.19

A manual turntable, beginners will be happy to see an arm lift which worked easily and well. An included moving magnet phono stage (which appears to be similar to that featured in the Dual MTR-75) is fitted within the chassis to save costs and to enable you to connect the deck to an amplifier’s line input or powered speakers. It can be switched to accept an external phono amplifier too, something that I would highly recommend as soon as you can afford one to further increase sound quality. A USB digital output is also present that can be used with the included Audacity music editing software to enable digital recording of your analogue discs. A mains cable is pre-fitted to the turntable.

IN USE

I found that, playing the turntable at 33.33, I did have to move the pitch adjustment just a tad from the default ‘0’ postion, to correct a slight speed drop.

OK, there’s no quartz control connected to the direct drive motor here, so you can’t expect nailed on speed control but it ain’t too bad once you get to grips with the pitch adjustment. The 8-pole, 2-phase design does a decent job considering the price.

Apart from that, the Lenco sprang into life without any issues.

SOUND QUALITY

I began the sound tests playing a selection of the 80s minimalist synth outfit, Bizarre Unit, combining vocals, sparse early synths with organic instruments

One of the principle failings of the budget turntable – even more so the sub-budget table – is how very much out of control it is in terms of assembling and presenting diverse frequencies to your ear. Just about everything that can go wrong normally will: blooming bass, smearing midrange and faltering stereo image with a flat soundstage and no character to any of the instruments. The Lenco addresses many of these failings from the core of one single feature: it’s direct drive motor. This single, yet essential, feature gives the turntable that one essential weapon in its sonic armoury, control. Because of the direct drive motor, there is far more focus and precision in terms of overall presentation than you would normally expect at the low, low price point.

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 09.19.23

Apart from the stereo image being rock solid and central, the bass was noticeably heavier than normal with a heft and weight that added significant presence to the entire track. Drums were meaningful and full of character, giving a foundation to the music that moved it forward at a steady pace while the midrange was, for the price, so accurate it actually created air and space in the soundstage, allowing more vocal reverb to be ‘visible’. This accuracy also infused the electric guitar with a sense of extra speed, as the transient performance improved immeasurably. The bass guitar also had more form and character. The vocals – both male and female – exuded emotion but also the delivery provided new details and nuance while the synths stopped spewing their smearing frequencies over everywhere and kept themselves to themselves. They no longer tried to mask subtle details, giving the music a richer flavour.

I then moved to the jazz vocal of Gogi Grant and the track By Myself, from the  1960 LP, Granted It’s Gogi on Living Stereo.

Grant’s wide ranging and dynamic vocal needs space and air to expand into and the Lenco, considering it’s low price point, certainly offered that. Grant fairly sparkled into a stereo image that pushed backwards as a 3D effect, allowing her big band orchestra to play around her. The focus upon her vocal allowed the ear to follow each element of her delivery with some ease.

The brass offered no brightness or stridency but, instead, had a texture through the vibrational effects of the performance giving an admirably brassy tone to this section of the backing band while keeping a measure of reverb to add energy to its effect.

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 09.18.07

Bass, from this direct drive, bounced and responded splendidly. The double bass having a notable sense of power and control on the early parts of this track. Percussion was particularly successful off this track. Partly, because the precise treble performance allowed the cymbals to offer both delicacy but also accuracy.

CONCLUSION

It’s not perfect – how can it be at £200? This is a sub-budget design so the myriad of tiny design quirks can and should be forgiven. The sound quality, meanwhile, is absolutely superb. A real shocker because it really shouldn’t be at this low, low, price. The Lenco is a solid (in plastic terms, at any rate), great sounding and easy to use turntable. A top class budget performer and a brilliant choice for anyone wanting to enter the vinyl fray.

VIDEO WALK-AROUND

Enjoy a guided tour around this device with a video walk-around created by and featuring the Audiophile Man, that can be accessed below:


LENCO L-3808 TURNTABLE

Price: £200

Tel: 0333 1234 603

Website: www.lencouk.com


GOOD: precision, focus, ease of use, bass, price, direct drive

BAD: slight initial speed adjustment required

RATING: 9

Award1


REFERENCE

Dual MTR-75 turntable

Trichord Dino phono amplifier

Rega Brio-R amplifier

Spendor S3/5R speakers

Tellurium Q cabling

Harmonic Resolution Systems Noise Reduction Components

All vinyl was cleaned using an Audio Desk’s Ultrasonic Pro Vinyl Cleaner


MONEY OFF DEAL!!!

Fancy buying a Lenco L-3808? Use this exclusive discount code: VINYL25 when buying your turntable and you will save 25% off the L-3808 (well, actually ALL Lenco turntables on the website). This offer is valid until beginning of September. Just click this  link to go to the Lenco shop page: www.lencouk.com

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34 Comments

  • Reply
    Peter M.
    16th June 2017 at 12:42 pm

    A nice detailed review, thanks! It looks like exactly what I am looking for. Just one question: What other cartridge you would recommend (still considering the “user-on-a-budget)?. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Peter M.
    17th June 2017 at 11:06 pm

    Thank you! I just received my Lenco L3808, and my first impression is OK. I will use it at home. no regular DJ-ing – I think, it it is not solid enough to be dragged to gigs twice a weekend. The sound with the original cartridge seems a bit “cold” to me, but I also read that they need some time to break in, and for the sound to “open up”, as somebody described. We’ll see. It seems a good buy. Thanks for the review, once again!

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      17th June 2017 at 11:35 pm

      No problem, Peter. Break in is important, yes and a cart upgrade will help even more. Don’t forget about where you put the deck in terms of isolation and make sure the headshel goes into the ATM correctly. Even minor ‘play’ will affect the sound. You want the stylus (not the cart’s body) absolutely vertical.

  • Reply
    Peter M.
    22nd June 2017 at 3:27 pm

    Thanks, Paul! I read quite a few good reviews on the AT95E. One practical question: Do you know if, in this case, I would have to replace the complete cartridge, or would the stylus (more precise: the little green holder + the stylus itself) fit on the ATN3600 cartridge?

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      22nd June 2017 at 3:45 pm

      Hi Peter – you’ll need to buy the AT95E itself, the complete thing.

  • Reply
    Danny Gromfin
    23rd June 2017 at 2:18 pm

    Paul – check out the Audio-Technica AT-LP120 which from the looks of it could have licensed their design to Lenco?

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      23rd June 2017 at 2:30 pm

      Similarities might be more to do with the host, Thai-based, Hanpin factory than Audio Technica, Danny. Also the AT deck has interface differences as well as the arm design.

  • Reply
    Willem Verlijsdonk
    4th July 2017 at 10:02 am

    Hello Paul, after reading your test I bought the Lenco L-3808. I must say here in The Netherlands its even cheaper . Only € 175,00 . So its a great buy.!
    I very pleased with my buy, based on your revieuw, thanks for that!
    Maybe you can give me an advice about a needle with a bit more quality than the standard delivered needle with came with the original turntable. It’s playing good, butt something says that there could be better? Could you advice me please. Many Kind Regards from The Netherlands……

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      4th July 2017 at 10:18 am

      Nice to hear from you, Willem and glad you’re enjoying your Lenco. The issue with the cartridge is the stylus tip which is conical. This means that it doesn’t track the grooves in an exacting way. It’s cheap and cheerful but not much more. A finer tip is what you need. This cartridge from Audio Technica provides an elliptical tip which should offer superior performance: https://eu.audio-technica.com/hifi-phono/cartridges/AT95E

      • Reply
        Willem Verlijsdonk
        4th July 2017 at 11:30 am

        Thx ! I will contact the supplyer in The Netherlands. Thanks very much indeed!

        • Reply
          Peter M
          13th July 2017 at 2:32 pm

          On recommendation of Paul (and there are more reviews out there, confirming this recommendation) I just bought the AT95E for this turntable (bought some 3-4 weeks ago – also for 175 EUR) at Amazon.de for a good price (and free shipping to Belgium – so I guess to NL as well). I received it today, may have time over the weekend to swap the current styles for this new one. I am curious about the result!

        • Reply
          Erwin
          7th October 2017 at 6:47 pm

          Ik ga dezelfde eens plaatsen….is het een vooruitgang?

          • Paul Rigby
            9th October 2017 at 9:26 am

            Can you possibly ask this question in English please? The automatic translation I have here is not particularly clear. Also my language skills are little more than zero 🙂 Thanks.

  • Reply
    NTG
    15th July 2017 at 6:56 pm

    Hello and greetings from Greece! First of thank you very much for your amazing review. It was the reason I’ve ordered the L3808! 🙂 One question please: Is it possible to replace the L3808’s cartridge with the Ortofon Concorde Pro? I can’t find any information about it on the internet. Greetings, NICK

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      16th July 2017 at 3:00 pm

      Try this link for information, NTG: https://www.henleydesigns.co.uk/assets/_managed/product/files/OrtofonDJCatalogue1.pdf
      You shouldn’t have any problems with the Ortofon and the Lenco.
      Here’s a useful FAQ for you to: https://www.ortofon.com/support/support-dj/faq-setup

      • Reply
        NTG
        29th July 2017 at 4:34 pm

        Thank you very much for your answer! I received the turntable and it was exactly as you’ve described it. I’m really shocked with it’s amazing performance! I decided to order the “Ortofon 2M Blue PNP” as a replacement (and upgrade) of the cartridge. Within the next week I’ll receive it.

        • Reply
          Paul Rigby
          29th July 2017 at 5:30 pm

          Sounds good to me, NTG – glad you’re enjoying it.

          • NTG
            3rd August 2017 at 5:56 pm

            Just one hour ago the Ortofon Blue arrived & I’m listening to the first LP now. It really blows my speakers away!! Great bass, clear high frequences and all the details are here! I really can hear every instrument very very clear, as if I bought a very expensive turntable! But the best thing is that there is no distortion on the last tracks of LP’s with many songs on each side. This was a major problem with my previous very chip cartdridge (AT 3600). Also the needle doesn’t skip anymore in some parts where the AT 3600 failed everytime I heard it. I’ve put a record which I know very well and these were problems I had, but they are not here anymore! I can’t really imagine how much better quality the Ortofon Blue will bring after 40 hours which it needs to play. I strongly recommend it!! Just one thing… I decided NOT to buy the PNP (Plug ‘n play) Ortofon, which causes serious problems because of it’s heavy weight. I bought the Ortofon 2m Blue & separately the (blue) Ortofon SH-4 Cartridge Shell

          • Paul Rigby
            3rd August 2017 at 6:19 pm

            Great stuff! Glad it’s working well for you. 🙂 Thanks for the pointers too.

        • Reply
          Libor
          14th August 2017 at 12:55 pm

          Hello,

          I would like to upgrade my cartridge as well and I thought about Ortofon 2M Red. Is it really not possible to use the PnP solution on L-3808? Why did you buy new headshell as well? Is the original not compatible or is there any other problem with it? Thank sou for answer!

          • Paul Rigby
            20th August 2017 at 9:24 pm

            Hi Libor
            Sorry for the delay in replying – just returned from holiday: yes, you can fit the 2M Red, if you wish. I didn’t buy a new head shell. I used the one that came with the deck.

  • Reply
    AUDIO TECHNICA AT-LP3 TURNTABLE: A FAMILIAR FACE? - The Audiophile Man
    30th July 2017 at 1:20 pm

    […] Dual MTR-75, which was a bit of a mixed bag in terms of build and sonic qualities as well as the Lenco L-3808, which I found to be superb in terms of sound quality from its direct drive. All of these products […]

  • Reply
    Rob
    2nd August 2017 at 9:51 am

    Nice review, I have a Soundlab TT here which is a bit beaten up with a broken tonearm, yet it sounds really rather suprisingly good! I very much suspect it has the same OEM internals 🙂

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      2nd August 2017 at 10:32 am

      Hi Rob – yes, apart from a few tweaks here and there, you could be right. Thanks for the note 🙂

      • Reply
        Rob
        2nd August 2017 at 2:20 pm

        I’m fancinated how this compares to the Planar 1 😉

        • Reply
          Paul Rigby
          2nd August 2017 at 2:29 pm

          Hi Rob – The Planar 1 is superior. If you have the chance, grab the Rega.

          • Rob
            2nd August 2017 at 2:40 pm

            Good to hear, so to speak…

  • Reply
    Patrik
    5th September 2017 at 10:00 pm

    Hi Paul! I would like to thank you for your detailed review. Following your advice I upgrade my cartridge to Ortofon OM3 E. Result is really amazing. Thank you once again.

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      6th September 2017 at 5:59 pm

      No problem, Patrik – glad you’re enjoying it.

  • Reply
    Krizia Matthews
    7th October 2017 at 7:25 pm

    Hello Paul. Thanks for the review. I would like to ask you which external amplifier you recommend to use with this turntable. I have a Yamaha HS5 speakers. Thanks,

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      9th October 2017 at 9:24 am

      Hi Krizia – What budget do you have?

  • Reply
    Emma
    26th October 2017 at 4:06 pm

    Hi Paul after reading your review this is the record player I will be buying for my husbands birthday. I’m on quite a tight budget and am getting a bit mind boggled about speakers I don’t want ones that will not do the sound justice and I will replace the bits you recommend in time. Could you recommend any please I have a budget of around £100 for now.
    Thank you

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