Trio/design Kenwood’s team was the first to look into the acoustic qualities of materials used in turntable construction, making it the most complete Japanese turntable of its time. This iconic high-end turntable was decades ahead of its late-nineties, early-seventies rivals — and similarly pricey. It cost four times as much as a Linn LP12 when it was released in the UK in 1979 — however it did come with a tonearm!
This is a sight for sore analogue eyes, weighing in at over 40kg and superbly constructed. The Lo-7D’s plinth was an intriguing blend of wood and Trio’s ‘ARCB’ material, whereas Technics employed slabs of diecast aluminium for their turntable motor unit housings (a synthetic stone). A stiffening aluminium beam extended from the main bearing to the main tonearm mount beneath this, providing a ‘closed loop’ for information transfer that was isolated from external vibrations.
The intelligent thinking didn’t stop there: the platter was a big bronze contraption with an additional stainless steel top disc, which was supposed to provide the best resonance dampening. The LP record was on top, with the ‘disc stabilizer’ and a large bronze record clamp on top of it; the former was a heavy weight that fit around the circle of the LP to lock it to the platter with incredible force. Although fiddly, it provided many of the benefits of Luxman’s horribly complex and potentially dangerous vacuum stabilization. When you use the stabilizer, you must press a button on the outboard power supply, which gives the silent, high torque direct drive motor a little extra juice to allow its quartz crystal referenced speed control circuitry to lock properly. With its carbon fiber arm tube and precise bearings, the tonearm that comes standard is no slouch.
The Lo-7D was virtually disregarded by the Linn-obsessed British hi-fi press of the late 1970s. It was considered as a bit of an anachronism if it was noticed at all – after all, no genuine turntable came with a tonearm as standard, did it? The strange thing was that this device was light-years ahead of the Linn in terms of design philosophy as well as most of the technology employed. The offboard power supply, for example, was something Linn would implement eight years later, while the very high precision direct drive motor was decades ahead of the AC synchronous motor and belt drive used in the LP12.
Its sound quality was excellent, and it outperformed the LP12 in many areas. When using a decent modern cartridge like a Lyria Delos with this deck, one is instantly struck by its clarity and neutrality; by today’s standards, it’s fairly open. A 1979 LP12, for example, has a distinct “woody” hue, particularly in the bass, but the Trio is tight, taut, and lean, but no less powerful. The turntable sounds incredibly focused higher in the midband. There’s a sensation that everything is pin-shop; the sound isn’t smeared or blurred. This is undoubtedly due to the high speed stability and the materials chosen for the deck, which do not store energy. The treble response is exceptionally sharp and detailed, as well as exceptionally expansive.
Its general nature bears a strong resemblance to other high-end Japanese super decks of the period (Marantz TT-1000, Technics SP10). The song has a beautifully energetic pace thanks to its soon direct drive system. The LP12 sounds positively soporific because the rhythms are served up with such a sense of intensity. However, in comparisons like these, the Japanese direct drive would usually lose out in the end due to its roughness. This is something the Lo-7D lacks; it’s a beautifully refined performer, thanks to all those innovative plinth materials, no doubt.
The tonearm cannot compete with a modern Rega in absolute terms; it softens transients and lacks spatial accuracy. However, after you add another arm (which is simple because there is room for a second pick-up), you’ll quickly realize this is a fantastic product. In absolute terms, it could use a little more color and romance, but this isn’t enough to detract from what is unquestionably a strong performer. Although he is no longer with us, he will not be forgotten!