Exquisite William Firebaugh Designed WELL TEMPERED LAB RECORD PLAYER in Excellent Operating Condition Including Original Viscous Dampened Aluminum Tonearm and WTRP Wiring, Integral Record Clamp, Original Acrylic Platter, Optional Dust Cover & with Added Bonus Marigo Platter Mat and Factory Shipping Boxes. MSRP of This WTRP Assembly Was $2,728.
Well Tempered Lab was founded by William Firebaugh in the 1980’s, and was originally marketed and distributed by Transparent Audio Marketing out of Maine. At some point there was a falling out between William Firebaugh and the ownership group, and he left the original Well Tempered Lab company to go solo. For some time there were two “Well Tempered Lab” companies producing similar turntable products, with two separate web sites:
* www.welltemperedlab.net - This is William Firebaugh’s “New” Well Tempered Lab company site
* www.welltemperedlab.com - This is the “Old” Well Tempered Lab web site, and it appears to be down or out of business
Please note that this Well Tempered Lab Record Player (WTRP) that I am selling is from 1989 when there was only one Well Tempered Lab company.and predates this acrimonious split into two companies..
While this is truly a World Class turntable, this WTRP turntable is definitely not for someone who is only casually interested in playing LP’s. This WTRP turntable is for the true audio enthusiast who eagerly wants the opportunity to be able to tinker, adjust and “dial it all in” to extract every possible nuance from their albums. There is a Leap of Faith needed when setting up and using a Well Tempered Record Player, because even if you have owned many turntables in your life the Well Tempered Lab Record Player has its own way of doing just about everything. When they coined the term “Think Outside of the Box”, they were thinking of William Firebaugh and Well Tempered Lab. There are hundreds of high end turntable models in the world that are all incredibly similar in design and construction, but the Well Tempered Lab is not one of them.
The first thing that will strike you as different is that the main platter spindle bearing is not a tight fitting thrust bearing sleeve with a hardened round bearing at the contact point. The Well Tempered Lab Record Player has non-rigid bearings - an oversize spindle bearing well with five precision set Teflon contact points for the very large diameter flat bottomed spindle shaft; two up high, two down low, and one on the bottom that is actually offset of center. William Firebaugh calls that a "Zero Clearance" bearing that works with the vector force of the motor drive belt to achieve amazing levels of speed consistency and noiselessness. Firebaugh considers this design a tighter tolerance then the usual thrust bearing. However, the disconcerting result for the first time user is that the platter wants to tip over when the system is not playing, and seems wobbly until it gets up to speed. The system is designed for the platter to be perfectly flat and running without wobble only when it is actually in use and playing at speed, and the energy from the motor and belt make everything align flawlessly. In addition, the platter belt is also designed to have a 180 degree twist for optimum smoothness. The thick Acrylic platter has a significant cup shaped top surface, and is designed to be used with the integral platter clamp that threads into the top of the spindle. I have always used the Marigo Platter Mat (included in the sale) with this turntable, which provides a perfectly flat surface (note that the record clamp works fine with the added mat thickness and the Tonearm VTF has been adjusted as well).
The other unique design aspect is the tonearm assembly. The Well Tempered Lab tone arm actually has no bearings – there is simple monofilament line to control alignment and a disc floating in silicone to dampen resonance. While downforce is adjustable with a movable counterweight of a relatively normal design, that is where similarities end. Azimuth is controllable with a knob that tightened or slackened one of the monofilament strands. Vertical tracking angle is set by adjusting the height of the post that supports both the beam from which the arm is hung as well as the damping-fluid cup beneath it. Antiskating does not have an adjustment per se, but is designed into the mechanics of the twisting monofilament line that provides a type of antiskating auto-adjustment as the inward movement of the tonearm arm incrementally creates energy resistance from the twisting monofilament line. Another out of the box Well Tempered Lab design that is radically different yet incredibly effective.
If you can get past these unique design concepts and put the time and care into a proper set up, this Well Tempered Lab Record Player will reward you with World Class performance! There is an effortless purity of sound that takes it to the next level, and the ingenious and simplistic design and engineering have everything to do with it – there is no mechanical hardware interfering with the transmission of the signal. Note that the two specialized fluids for the Well Tempered Lab Record Player are very different viscosities however are both inexpensive and easily obtainable:
The tone arm gets 100,000 cSt 100% pure silicone into the reservoir cup.
The main bearing originally got "Dow Corning 200 Fluid" (50 cSt silicone), however Bill Firebaugh uses inexpensive and easily obtainable synthetic 5W-30 motor oil for the main bearing on his newer turntables and recommends it for this WT Record Player as well.
While this is an incredible sounding turntable, I do have a couple of pet peeves with the design. First, I don’t like the simple cup-shaped tonearm rest. While elegant and functional, it is a very shallow cup and without a top clasp it offers minimum protection and safety. Also, the contoured shape of the motor pulley bearing is a bit of a pain. It is a curved / convex shape, with the concept that the flat belt rides on the absolute center / apex of the pulley’s concave surface. It will do that just fine once properly positioned, but because the platter tips when you stop the player the belt has a tendency to ride up or down from that ideal spot on start up and has to be slightly nudged to re-align to that optimum pulley apex location. It is just a slight pain – it takes a moment to do it – but a pain nonetheless.
Functionally there are no issues – the turntable motor runs accurately at speed and is fantastically quiet, the platter runs beautifully flat and even when energized and at speed, the spindle bearing and tonearm are properly aligned, and all adjustments work perfectly – as new. Cosmetically it is beautiful without any major flaws, but not perfect. The plinth is designed as “constrained-mode damping” design, with three separate layers of MDF separated by layers of an elastic sound-deadening / resonant dampening material. It functions perfectly and looks great, however the three layers do not perfectly line up, and you can see an offset slightly on the left side. A very minor cosmetic imperfection, and it was like this from day one and was just part of the assembly process at the factory. Each slab has a black laminate material applied to the surface, a semi gloss finish on the sides and a matte surface on the top. One of the rear strips came loose at the rear bottom corner and got bent slightly. It has been re-attached into position, but you can still see a slight crease. Again, a very minor imperfection and only visible from the rear. Other than that the tonearm, platter, motor system and plinth have no issues – they look beautiful. The tonearm is wired with WTRP proprietary wiring and terminates in the back with a specialized bracket with a grounding connector and two quality phono plugs. The WT Record Player comes with the optional smoked plastic cover. It is a sit down cover and is in excellent condition with only a few extremely minor scratches, and has no stains, no clouding, no cracks, etc.
You can download a free PDF of the Owners Manual and a Set Up Guide at the Vinyl Engine at this location:
William Firebaugh’s Well Tempered Lab company is a very small organization, and customer service is not their forte. However, Mike Pranka at Dynavector is the current USA distributor for Well Tempered Lab turntables and is incredibly responsive and helpful. Although he took over distribution for Well Tempered Lab products well after this specific WT Record Player had been discontinued, he is extremely knowledgeable on all things Well Tempered Lab.
WELL TEMPERED LAB RECORD PLAYER SPECIFICATIONS:
(Please note that while I have a copy of the Well Tempered Lab Record Player Owners Manual, it has no actual technical specifications, nor have I found any online. All I have are these minimal dimensional and weight specs from my own measurements)
* Description: Belt-driven turntable with integral record clamp, filament-bearing, viscous-damped tonearm, and standalone AC synchronous motor assembly.
… speed selection (331/3 or 45rpm) via motor pulley selection
… tracking force
… damping (automatic)
… antiskating (automatic)
… Width: 19.0" (430mm)
… Depth: 15.3" (390mm)
… Height: 7.0" (130mm) (with feet on and with dust cover on)
… Turntable: 57 lbs unpackaged
… Motor Assembly: 7 pounds
When new, the MSRP for the WTRP was $2,433, and the optional Top Cover was $150. The added Marigo Platter Mat was $145. This is a total MSRP of $2,728 in 1989 for this system. I have syringes provided with additional fluid for both the main platter bearing well and the tonearm. While never manufactured in great numbers, these Well Tempered Lab Record Players are not exactly rare. However, WTRP models are much loved by their owners and do not come up for sale often. It is particularly rare to find one in such fine condition, with a factory top cover also in great condition, and with the very large original packing boxes. Payment is via US Post Office Money Order or COD (Cash Upon Delivery). Because the WT Record Player is all set up with the bearing and tone arm fluids loaded, my preference is not to ship it even though I have the boxes (Note that the dust cover comes in a separate box). I am happy to deliver for free if you are local to me in San Francisco, Berkeley or Marin County.