Turntables

Lenco L-3808 Turntable: Direct Drive on a Budget

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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14 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
    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

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