Factory Direct prices:
Teres 255 $ 3,300
Teres 265 $4,100
VTA "on the fly" adjuster" $220
We are very honored that Chris Brady chose Stereomojo for the very first professional review of any of his turntables. Thank you, Chris.
Chris Brady started out as a pure hobbyist and graduated into a Do-it-Yourselfer. He was one of a number of other hobbyists that started The Teres Project which began as a collaborative effort to design and build a world class DIY turntable. Participation in the project grew, leading to a large group purchase of bearings, platters and motors. In the true DIY spirit, project participants used the Teres components as the basis for a wide variety of turntable designs. Continued interest in Teres components beyond the initial group purchase created a business opportunity. The initial Teres Audio offerings were solely turntable components that required additional design and construction before a usable turntable could be realized. Over time additional components were added to the product line and eventually a complete turntable kit was offered. The product line has evolved from simple low cost kits to a diverse line of fully manufactured tables from the entry level 2 hundred series represented here, to the 300 series and the statement Certus series topped by the mindblowing 460.
Teres still offers parts and drawings for those who wish to ”do-it-themselves”.
“IT’S A FAMILY AFFAIR”
Eschewing the much too obvious “Brady Bunch” allusion, Teres is very much a family effort. Chris, who busts the myth that all audio designers are rolling in bucks by confessing that he has a day job, is the top dog. By the way, Chris’ day job is at Cray Computer. Papa Max does the designs for the trademark gorgeous wood components and invented techniques for overlaying wood bases. He also developed and refined the wood stabilization technique used for the wood platters. Chris’ brother Todd does the actual production of Dad’s designs. Chris’ other brother Bryce owns a machining business and helped develop the important bearing and platter. Lastly, Ryan Brady, son of Chris, does the website duties. Judging by his work, we wish he’d help US out.
A TALE OF TWO TABLES
While this review encompasses two different models, the 255 & 265, the only difference between the two is the platter. As you can see, one is acrylic with lead shot inserts and the other is a matching rosewood/lead combo. The 265’s rosewood is heavier and thicker and does offer a significantly different sound. Both tables come complete with everything necessary to get the table playing, except for arms and cartridges. There are a number of accessories which we’ll discuss in a minute.
Here is what the two tables have in common; first both use identical non-suspended plinths which is constructed from solid hardwoods and utilizing lead shot to damp vibrations.
Both also use the same bearing assembly which includes:
brass bearing housing
polished stainless steel spindle
threaded record centering pin (for use with a clamp)
custom nut for attaching the bearing
brass and delrin thrust plate
3/8" ball bearing
The Teres bearing design is a traditional upward opening bearing. However, like popular inverted bearings the majority of the assembly is moved up inside of the platter. This places the platter’s center of gravity below the top of the bearing. According to Chris, the result is the excellent dynamic stability that an inverted bearing delivers. However, unlike an inverted bearing, lubrication is provided by an oil bath. The bearing is designed with large amount of surface area to maximize viscous damping. The oil in the bearing exerts a smooth, constant resistance as the platter rotates, adding to speed stability. The bearing is machined from stainless steel and brass. A hardened ball bearing inserted into the bottom of the spindle shaft rides against a Delrin and brass thrust plate. The large 3/4 inch spindle shaft has been polished to a smooth (4 - 8 micron) finish. The clearance between the bearing surfaces is only a few 10 thousandths of an inch for stability. Just eye-balling and handling the machined parts told me that they are very high quality, especially at these price points.
Both also use a custom Teres controller system. I found that, like Nottingham and a couple of other tables, getting the platter started requires a little assistance in the form of a gentle nudge in the proper direction of the platter rotation, particularly with the heavier 265. I think this is actually a good thing, because a great deal of torque is required to start the heavy platter. That torque is unnecessary once the platter is spinning and building more torque into the motor can add unwanted artifacts. However, after the platter has reached the proper speed the controller switches to a mode that can only change the output voltage a few millivolts per minute. This avoids hunting (constantly making small speed adjustments) that degrades sonic performance of typical automated DC controllers. Once locked in the Teres controller adjusts the speed only enough to compensate for the slow speed drift that occurs during operation. The Teres is best described as a self calibrating fixed DC regulator. Speed is automatically maintained by a sensor that reads a strobe pattern on the underside of the platter. The Teres has more tech than meets the eye.
In addition to automatic speed control the Teres motor has some nice luxury level features that you don’t typically find in this price range. For example, giving the platter a gentle push automatically starts the motor. Slowing the platter’s speed with your hand automatically shuts off the motor. If you happen to fall asleep or need to take a phone call that lasts longer than you thought, the motor will automatically shut off after 45 minutes. Playing the table on weekends while I was writing or doing “chores”. I more than once neglected to flip an LP. The shut off not only saves wear on the table, but could rescue a stylus from damage by bumping against the label for hours. Changing speed from 33 to 45 RPM is done by simply holding down the pushbutton for 2 seconds. These are things that you sorely miss on other tables once you are used to them on the Teres. Nice job, Chris.
If you have read any of our reviews, you already know that we always try to ask the designer what his design goals are for the product under review. Especially for products that are NOT “cost-no-object”, that’s important because every designer needs to make decisions about trade-offs between price and performance. Also, there are often certain designs that need specific types of electronic corollaries that are not obvious. On speaker maker at a recent audio show happened to mention that his speakers “sound awful” with tube amps. They were designed to be used with solid states. If a reviewer didn’t know that in advance, a review would be pretty bad if he used tubes. Here’s how Chris responded to that question:
“One of the primary design goals for Teres turntables has been effective damping. Since Teres turntables are unsuspended there is common misconception that they do not deal with the problem of external vibrations. Teres turntables are able to dissipate a great deal of vibrational energy internally. So external vibrations are allowed to reach the turntable but are then dissipated once they arrive. The big difference is that energy emanating from within the turntable is also dissipated in an effectively damped turntable. It is important to have a mechanism for dissipating internal energy as well as energy from external sources. Suspension on the other hand deals differently with external vibration but generally does not deal with the significant issue of vibrational energy from the stylus”.
As I sit listening to my various tables, the thought often crosses my mind how amazing it is that such incredible sound can be reconstituted by a stylus made to vibrate by microscopic grooves in a slab of vinyl. When you consider how tiny those oscillations are, it makes sense that the less interference there is from spurious vibrations, whether internally or externally generated, the truer and more definitive the music.
Chris Brady continues; "There are many methods for dissipation of vibrational energy. Energy in any type cannot be eliminated or removed. It can only be converted into another form. At Teres we have found that loose granules of lead shot are extremely effective for dissipating vibration al energy. A common misconception is that lead is added to our turntables to increase weight. Simply adding weight to a turntable is useless and often will make resonance problems worse. The key factor is that the lead is in small, loose granules. When vibrations reach these granules they rub against each other and convert vibrational energy into heat. The weight is simply a side effect of employing a highly effective damping medium.
Another important design goal for Teres turntables is material selection. We find that hardwoods are superb in their ability to produce midrange detail and texture with natural warmth. While appearance certainly has a part in the decision to utilize hardwoods, the primary motivation has always been sound quality. It also is important to understand that the type of wood used is critical. Our experiments have shown that very hard and dense woods produce the best sound. Cocobolo produces the best sound because of it's extreme density and rigidity. Common hardwoods like oak, maple and walnut are far less satisfactory".
TERES ON TRIAL
If you could choose to begin with the better model or the slightly lesser model, which would you choose? I chose to start and the top.
I need to digress for a moment to say that we give the option to turntable makers to send along an arm and/or cartridge of their choice. That eliminates the prospect of them coming back after the review and saying that we used an incompatible arm or cartridge that compromised the sound of their table. Also, table makers sometimes do not provide armboards that fit certain arms that a reviewer may own. More than that though, we want to make sure a product with as much time, passion and money invested in it is reviewed at its optimum so you and the manufacturer get a fair representation of its capabilities. Chris chose to send a Moerch DP6 12” arm and a ZYX Airy 1000 3S. Since this is not a review of those products, I won’t spend much time describing the technical aspects of them, other than the combined price of them is more than the cost of the table alone.
The Teres comes almost completely disassembled. I would not call the assembly process a piece of cake, but it is very doable by most people with patience and a moderate amount of experience. I would say this table setup is not for the rank beginner with no experience, but since Chris is so available and willing to walk you through it (even though the owner’s manual is excellent), a newbie just might be ok and learn a lot about turntables to boot. Once the table was set up, there was virtually no maintenance needed.
Set up of any 12” arm is critical and so is a cartridge as sophisticated as the ZXY, but using my Fiekert device and being painstakingly careful, I’m confident the result was as close to perfect as possible. Even with the inclusion of the optional VTA adapter that allows changing VTA while the LP is playing, it took me a long, long time to dial in the proper settings for even the first LP. The good news is that this combo definitely lets you know when settings aren’t right and snaps into focus like an expensive Nikon when it is just right, the bad news is that it takes a lot of fiddling and minute adjustments to get it there.
Even though the VTA Chris’ wonderful VTA adapter is scored perfectly for repeatable settings, I found myself wearing a path in the carpet from my chair to the table to make minute corrections on just about every LP. That made it very difficult and more than a little frustrating to actually listen to the music. From the standpoint of sheer fussiness, I would not recommend this particular arm/cartridge combination, though I think individually the Moerch and the ZXY are excellent products.
When I reported my experience to Chris, he told me had not had time (if any) to work with the combo much and I could be right. After a few weeks of living with the combo, my Graham Phantom finally arrived out of a long backorder quagmire. I asked Chris if he could send me an armboard that would fit it and a few weeks later it arrived and I happily installed it on the 265. So, the following observations are an amalgamation of what I heard with the two different arms on the 265.
The first thing that jumps out of the 265 is the degree of quietness that it lends to the soundstage. This is where all the anti-vibration measures shine. Instruments and voices were bathed in a cloak of darkness that allowed them to be rendered in a very solid and dimensional soundstage. “The Mission” movie soundtrack is Ennio Morricone’s most brilliant effort in a long line of quintessential scores and compositions. It fuses traditional orchestration with African tribal percussion, various solo instruments (especially oboe and guitar) with adult and children's choirs blended into some of the most beautiful melodies every penned. The is a high degree of complexity that lesser systems simply smear together. The Teres 265 made it simple to follow each luscious line of each sound within Morricone’s intricate tapestry.
The oboe is particularly good for evaluation as it can easily sound like an English horn with less resolving systems, especially CD. In some cases it can sound more like a clarinet and I’ve even heard it sound brassy like a trumpet. The oboe solos are very emotionally evocative when rendered correctly, their pure, warm, legato plaintiveness in contrast to the busy background of drums and choirs. The Teres did a very respectable job of allowing all those qualities to emerge.
There is also a full range of percussion, both orchestral and African that range from very low and distant bass hits to complex African midrange drum patterns. The bass drum is recorded well at the back of the stage and isolated in its position there. The Teres did a good job of capturing the initial “thwack” and resulting deep reverberation. I’d say it among the lower top tier of the very best. (Remember that Teres makes several tables that are better and more expensive that this “entry level” model, so there is obviously room for improvement). Same for overall size and shape of the soundfield. I’ve heard better, but I have also heard much, much worse. The multiple layers could be separated a bit better and overall dynamic impact is a level less than the best, but we’re talking very small degrees of relativity here, not massive increments. For example, on better tables, those distant bass-thwacks can be absolutely startling – the “make me jump” sort, even though I have heard them thousands of times. On lesser table the hits can be muted resulting in a “is that all there is?” reaction. The 265 was much closer to the former than later. By the way, I own the CD, SACD and LP of “The Mission”. I wish someone like Mike Hobson of Classic Records would work his magic on “The Mission” and issue it on his 200 gram Quiex.
Speaking of Classic record reissues, at the New York Audio Show this year, I heard a recording that just impressed the heck out of me. I admit I have never been a big fan of Louis Armstrong. When I think of him, I always imagine hearing his ancient sounding mono LP’s of the Hot Fives & Sevens when I was a youngster. Either that or the sappy commercial things like “Hello Dolly”. I just never explored his catalogue. That changed when I heard an original “Satchmo Plays King Oliver” on Audio Fidelity played on the $100,000 Caliburn table through top-of-the-line Boulder amps and big German Physics speakers. The cut was St. James Infirmary. Great googly moogly, Greta! His phrasing, articulation and interpretation of the lyrics was riveting! His guttural, gravely voice which had been a turn off in years past, simply fit this familiar blues tune perfectly. I have played St. James many times in various jazz bands and ensembles, but I had never heard it by Louis and certainly never in this high quality stereo. I was astounded by the sonics, but even more so by Satchmo. Of course, I had to have it.
As it turns out, Classic Records does make a reissue of that cut, not at the normal 33 1/3, but rather at 45! I requested a review copy from Scot Markwell at “TheMusic.com” and anxiously laid it on the rosewood Teres platter when it arrived. What I heard was every bit as riveting and satisfying on this system as it was in NY. The Teres and Mike Hobson delivered everything I could ask of it. Mr. Armstrong’s voice was front and center with a degree of realism that was mind boggling. I could not stop playing it. The flip side of the 12” 45 is “I Ain’t Got Nobody” which is a knockout as well. Once again, the lowly LP and a fine turntable has enriched my life and given me hours of new, unadulterated pleasure.
One question that always lurks in my head when doing a review is “But, can it ROCK?!”. Another Classic Reissue, this time a tribute to Jimi Hendrix named “Power of Soul” (RTH 2012-140G-AQUA) put to rest any doubts about the Teres’ ability to boogie. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I am just not in the mood to listen to a whole symphony or concerto, or even a whole LP of one singer or band. Sometimes I just like a little variety without having to get and change an LP. “Power of Soul” does just that. I’ve never seen a tribute collection with as many incredible artists as appear on this one. Check this out:
Stevie Ray Vaughn
Bootsy Collins & George Clinton
Earth, Wind & Fire
George Duke and several others
PLUS, it comes in very cool BLUE 140 gram wax. All of Jimi’s hits are here – 20 of ‘em – with some of the most amazing interpretations of Voodoo Child, Purple Haze, Electric Ladyland and Little Wing ever. Hearing John Lee Hooker’s “Red House” is worth the price itself. By the way, the $19.99 price for a 2-LP set in blue vinyl is pretty cool, too.
The Teres elicited all the high voltage juice out of the electric blue vinyl. The many guitar solos were stinging and powerful, revealing the differences in style and tone between the guitar gods present here. As equally noted in the Mission and Satchmo disks, the sense of speed of the 265 is readily apparent. I never had the urge to mutter, “C’mon, let’s go!” I sometimes do. The Luminance power amp is the fastest amp on the planet and the Teres had no problem feeding it. Here, I think, the ZYX exhibited a bit of weakness in the testosterone department. It never sounded harsh or glary, but it was a bit on the polite side. I have two arm wands for the Phantom with a Dynavector DV-XX2MKII mounted on the other. The Dyna/Graham/Teres combo gave me 90% or so of the Airy’s finesse with a much larger does of raw power and emotion. The Airy was fast like an NFL wide receiver, say Marvin Harrison, while the Dyna was maybe a tad slower but more powerful like Terrell Owens or Chad Johnson – without the attitudes.
Over the course of the several weeks I had the pleasure of the 265’s company, at least 50 LPs were spun of all different types and genres. The Teres never failed to gratify or satisfy. Male and female vocals were outstanding and easily bested their CD versions. How any serious music lover can ignore analog is beyond me. It makes me want to mutter, “C’mon people, let’s go!”
As mentioned previously, the only difference in the two models is the platter. The clear acrylic of the 255’s heavy platter with the embedded capsules of lead shot is drop-dead gorgeous. The differences are not merely cosmetic, however. Like the Hendrix tribute above, it gives you a slightly different interpretation of the music. Some might like it less, some maybe more. The differences are not profound, but audible.
Both tables employ the same motor. On one phone call, Chris gave me a symposium on "cogging" as it pertains to electric motors. Cogging is a motor's propensity to jerk between cogs or electrical impulses that propel the motor. In it's simplest terms, the more cogs per minute or second, the less jerks, however small, in the motor's output. I'm all in favor of "less jerks" in this world, so more cogging is a good thing. Chris cited studies that have shown the human ear and brain is capable of detecting infinitesimal variances in pitch and time arrivals. That makes sense since pitch and time arrivals are what tells us from what direction a sound emanates. It's this combination that produces the Doppler effect as in why a moving train's whistle seems to drop in pitch as it passes. In a similar way, the ear is able to detect very small variances in a turntable's platter rotation, caused by too slow cogging, belt slippage or several other factors. We don't really identify it as pitch variations per se, but rather a smearing or dulling of the sound.
According to Chris, "Drive mechanisms have been a major area of research and development at Teres. From the beginning we have focused on low cogging motors. Our initial offering was a DC motor coupled with a smart controller. This novel design maintains accurate speed without problems of hunting (constantly making small speed adjustments). The low cogging of the DC motor allows for use of a rigid belt for better coupling of motor torque to the platter for superior speed stability. The new Certus and Verus motors from Teres offer a quantum leap in speed stability compared to traditional belt drive systems".
Listening to the same LPs as noted above, the 255 is a bit brighter and less rounded than its bigger brother. Overall temperature is a bit cooler and a little more etched, too. I would not describe the sound as etched at all, again we’re talking very small increments of “more or less”, here. Most noticeable to me was a bit less firmness in the bottom end. Not that it was weak or floppy, just not quite as solid as its sibling. The atmosphere was quiet with lots of air – pretty and elegant when called on to be so, big and bold when it was apropos. Vocals were a bit less juicy and warm. When I put in Gary Dodd’s tube preamp, things were much better. If you choose the acrylic platter, perhaps a tube amp, preamp or phono pre might be a good choice.
A quick note; on one occasion I forgot to put on the heavy, screw-down record clamp. I was surprised the LP didn’t slip on the acyrilc surface, but it was immediately apparent that something was audibly missing. The clamp is a necessity once you’ve heard the sound without it. Good thing it is included.
One very unusual approach that all Teres' employ is the lack of any mat on platter. I don't know of any other table manufacturer that does not include some type of material to place on the platter. When I asked Chris why he does not include a mat, he replied, "We don't include one because we don't recommend the use of one. We have tried many different mats and have never found one that sounds better than placing the LP on the bare platter".
If you are not familiar with the term "WAF", it means "Wife Acceptance Factor". Many women not only hold the purse strings, but also dictate what may or may not adorn their interior design sensibilities. That is why Stereomojo, as much as possible, attempts to include the feminine view of products we review. My wife Linda used to be on the staff of one of the top interior design firms in the US. She has a pretty good idea of what women like and don't like. Here are her comments on the Teres:
"It's elegant. Beautiful in form and function. It looks very expensive. I expected it to cost much more just from its appearance. It's much prettier than the typical square shape of our old Linn, for example. It's modern yet classical at the same time. The fact that it is mostly finely sculpted Rosewood is a big plus. That it is available in other fine finishes only adds to its versatility in decor. I think most women would find it pretty acceptable in their rooms."
Both the Teres 255 and 265 are very much works of art. They are a joy to behold and operate. I believe most people would feel a great deal of pride in ownership of either of these tables, including this reviewer. The degree of musical truth they convey is a true engineering accomplishment.
Teres also provides an important upgrade path to free owners from the frustrating merry-go-round of buying and selling entire turntable system just to get a slight improvement. Because of this and since Teres tables are custom made and not mass produced like some of the competitors, they are seldom seen on Ebay or Agon which keeps resale values high in the event you do wish to upgrade to an entirely different model. Dollar for dollar, we think it is very difficult to go wrong with a Teres table. The fact that perspective buyers and owners have complete access to designer Chris Brady via email or phone adds a great deal of value as well. There is also a Teres forum where people can ask questions and discuss their systems with other Teres owners.
The Teres 255 and 265, with high degrees of musicality and performance,
both constitute a great value in analog reproduction and are thus awarded our
Congratulations to Chris Brady and all the folks at Teres.
Chris tells us that both the 255 and 265 are soon to be replaced by a single new model with the designation "260".
"The new 260 is better than the 255 and very close to the 265 but at a lower price", he reports.
The planned prices for the model 260 is $3400 with a signature motor and
$4200 with the new Verus motor. The only differences are the platter and
the optional (but highly recommended Verus motor). The new platter is
made from a black composite material that sounds nearly identical to
the hardwood platter used on the model 265, but the cost is much lower.
While we hope to get a sample of the new table soon, we applaud Teres for their continuing efforts to improve an already outstanding price/performance ratio.