Monday, December 27, 2010

Michael Lim's upgrades for turntables

Michael Lim is the ultimate tweaker who has turned his passion into a business.

He sounded very excited when he telephoned me recently and asked if I wanted to check out his tweaks. I met him at a mamak (for the benefit of non-Malaysian readers, 'mamak' is a Malaysian colloquial term for Indian-Muslim) shop in Sea Park, Petaling Jaya, and over teh tarik (literally 'pulled tea') and roti canai (something like a pancake eaten with curry) we chatted about turntables and, well, tweaks.

Michael has been focussing on tweaking Rega turntables and I left for home after that snack with a hot-rodded Rega P2 in my car.

The next day, he SMSed again and asked to meet up so that he could pass me a modded Rega Planar 2, which he said sounded better than the modded P2 because the plinth was thicker and was made of a composite fibreboard material.

And that was how I ended up with a 20-year-old Rega Planar 2 with Michael Lim's mods for a couple of days.

* The original sub-platter made of plastic was replaced with Michael Lim's metal model (cost: US$150).

* The glass platter was replaced with his vinyl platter (US$130).

* The end stub and counterweight of the RB250 tonearm was replaced with Michael Lim's end stub and underslung counterweight (US$100).

* The motor was unscrewed from the plinth and screwed onto a Michael Lim-designed base (US$110). There is no contact between the motor and plinth.

* Michael supplied the Thorens' donut turntable mat made of felt, leather and cork which he said sounded good when used with his vinyl platter.

* A metal record weight with attached spirit level (US$20) was also supplied.

* A vinyl isolation platform with metal spikes and footers (US$110) completed his range of turntable upgrading products.

The hot-rodded Rega Planar 2 with Thorens donut mat.

Michael Lim's vinyl platter.

The metal sub-platter upgrade.

Michael Lim's underslung counterweight and
endstub made the most difference.

The heavy base for the motor.

Did the modded Rega Planar 2 with a low-end Grado MM cartridge sound good? Well, it surely did not sound like a stock Rega Planar 2 or even a stock P2.

According to Michael Lim, it sounds better than even the P5 and I must say that it sounded much better than my own stock Rega Planar 3 with Exact cartridge.

An audiophile who fitted Michael Lim's end-stub and underslung counterweight to his RB1000 tonearm reported improvements.

The modded Rega Planar 2 sounded very dynamic, fast, detailed and punchy. It also had a lower noise level - thanks to the isolated motor.

His mods can be used for all Rega models. Of course, the metal sub-platters and ceramic platters of the P7 and P9 need not be replaced, but the RB700 and RB1000 tonearms may benefit from his counterweight.

The quieter motors of the higher-end Rega models perhaps should not be messed around with, but there's no harm trying Michael's motor base since the upgrade is retrofittable.

I fitted Michael Lim's end-stub and underslung counterweight to the RB300 tonearm of my Rega Planar 3 and the change in sound was immediately discernible - the bass went deeper and became more powerful, the sound opened up and became more transparent and there was greater clarity overall.

I also used his vinyl platter with the Thorens donut mat, his isolation platform and record weight on my Rega Planar 3.

Of all his upgrades, I felt the one that made the most difference was the endstub and underslung counterweight followed by the motor isolation base and metal sub-platter. Next was the vinyl platter which gave music a steadier pace.

The hi-fi scene needs people like Michael Lim.

The hi-fi business needs boffins like Michael Lim because they add colour and excitement to the scene and in fact some leading hi-fi companies were founded by people who started out tweaking and making their own upgrades.

For more information, go to Michael Lim's website or e-mail him at

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