Heybrook TT2 Review

Almost every major development in turntable design had occurred by the time the Heybrook TT2 was released in 1980. Although we had quartz-locked direct drive, British manufacturers usually avoided it due to cost concerns. As a result, the majority of UK decks were variations on the Linn theme, which was itself a variation on the Thorens theme, which was itself a derivative of the original AR belt-drive from decades before. A rubber belt was used to turn the platter, which was powered by an AC motor. This was installed on a chassis that rested inside a wooden plinth and bounced thanks to springs that were calibrated to keep the deck isolated from the outside environment. The £195 TT2 was exactly that, a subchassis deck with independent springs in the best British fashion. The design’s attention to detail, as well as the fact that it was constructed to very high standards and with great care, gave it its beautiful sound.

The plinth, like many other decks of the time, was made of laminated, high-density particle board, which was believed to protect against airborne vibration. The deck was isolated from the outside world by an MDF damped, box steel welded cross shaped subchassis installed on three coil springs tuned to 5Hz, which, along with rubber mounting bushes, did the most of the work. The subchassis tightly held the bearing and armboard, forming a closed mechanical loop that allowed energy to be released in a regulated manner. The armboard was laminated as well to provide dampening while maintaining a strong base for the arm.

A hardened, diamond-polished shaft ran on a precision steel push ball, lubricated by light oil, in the brass-encased main bearing. A large two-piece platter was installed for speed stability; according to legend, the first batch of 100 TT2s had black spray painted platters to hide cosmetic defects in the early castings. On the near tolerance crowned pulley, which had two steps for speed change, a precision ground drive belt circulated. The Impex 24-pole AC synchronous motor was utilized, which was securely mounted to the plinth to isolate motor noise from the chassis assembly.

The TT2 didn’t sound the way it did because of the sum of its parts; Peter Comeau, who has some of the best ears in the hi-fi world, tinkered with it beautifully. The corporation spent a lot of time testing with deck and fine-tuning it. The armboard, for example, was made up of two pieces of 9mm birch ply glued together; it was only secured to the subchassis by one of the two bolts, the one closest to the bearing, while the other just secured the board. This resulted in a little ‘lossy’ connection, which was deemed to sound the best. The second stud was taken off on older steel chassis models so it wouldn’t reach all the way through the chassis. The motor received a spring thrust pad that pressed against the bottom of the shaft, as well as a white nylon cup for the bearing’s bottom.

The Heybrook measured well for a mid-priced design, despite the fact that British manufacturers didn’t sell on specs. The only concern was speed stability, which was claimed as less than 0.08 percent (DIN, peak weighted) although most people considered anything below 0.1 percent was difficult to hear. That was good back then, but the quartz locked direct drive Technics SL-150 of the time only managed 0.03 percent accuracy. Of course, wow and flutter weren’t – and still aren’t – the only criteria for a turntable’s sound; another was rumbling, which the TT2 measured at a fantastic -79dB. (the Technics was quoted at -78dB). When it was evaluated in the 1984 edition of Turntables and Tonearms, it was greatly lauded for its performance and, predictably, received a Hi-Fi Choice Recommended label.

The TT2 was improved on a regular basis, much like any other strong deck of the time. The initial version had a fabricated steel subchassis (which could be distinguished by the huge mains switch next to the nameplate), but it was replaced with a cast aluminium chassis similar to the Linn Keel (although several decades earlier, of course). This type usually has a red neon rocker switch, but the simplest way to tell is to peek inside – mark 2 variants have a silver chassis rather than a black one. The plinth came standard with a wood veneer finish, although it could also be ordered in black.

It sounds like a slightly flat, undynamic version of the Linn LP12 of the time – which is excellent praise considering it cost around half as much as the Scottish deck. It has a smooth, warm sound that is exactly what people think of when they think of vinyl’s romanticism — whatever you play on this deck never sounds obnoxious. It’s always even, maybe a little soft, but it’s packed with a surprising amount of detail, especially in the midband. The deck offers a good warm bass that can fall into boom if set up incorrectly. It’s fairly tight and tuneful when properly fettled. The Heybrook is outstanding over the midband; many people believe the TT2’s main bearing is just as good as the Linn’s, and it certainly doesn’t lack detail.

The Heybrook delivers a wide, spacious recorded acoustic with excellent image location – though it’s still a little two-dimensional compared to the Linn. Soundstaging is a strength of the TT2, and it gave the LP12 a tough time despite being so much cheaper; the Heybrook delivers a wide, spacious recorded acoustic with excellent image location – although it’s still a little two-dimensional compared to the Linn. However, the whole result is really pleasant, and it is much better when the Heybrook TPS electronic speed controller is used. This allows for quick switching between 33 and 45, as well as a tighter, more grippier sound, pushing it closer to Sondek territory.

The Heybrook TT2 got better and better with time, but it also got more and more expensive. Starting at £195 in 1980, it rose to £265 by the mid-1980s, when the Linn LP12 was retailing for £470. When manufacture stopped in 1992, the final versions cost £469, which was nearly twice as much as a Linn. Despite its obvious abilities, the deck never took off and has yet to become a cool classic that everyone is talking about. It’s strange, especially since the owners of these turntables don’t appear to be in any hurry to sell them.

All of the mechanical pieces, including the bearing, shaft, motor pulley, and sub-platter (as well as the mark 1 steel chassis), are built to very tight tolerances in a machine shop close to the factory. The optional TPS dedicated power supply has been reported to be prone to burning out a chip, rendering it unusable; if this occurs, it will need to be returned to factory specifications. Drive belts are still widely available for under £10, and if they are original, they would benefit from being renewed. While you’re at it, clean the path of the belt on the motor pulley and inner platter using a tape head cleaner to improve the sound. For a TT2, expect to pay between £100 and £300, depending on condition. They are still fantastic value for money after three decades.