You may not have heard much about Lenco recently, but back in 1946 the Swiss brand had a strong reputation for its turntables.
Sadly, it didn’t last and in the 90s the company was taken over by the STL Group in the Netherlands. Nowadays Lenco makes action cameras, tablets, Bluetooth speakers, multi-room systems, clock radios – and turntables.
Combining heritage with modern functionality, the Lenco L-90 sports a wooden case with walnut veneer, which is at odds with the modern, minimalist vibe we tend to get from turntables these days.
The company says it’s trying to reinvent the vintage B55 Lenco turntables from the 1960s.
But don’t let that fool you into thinking Lenco has gone old school, because its features show otherwise. There’s a built-in stereo pre-amp, and you get not only a line-level output, but also a USB output for converting vinyl to digital on your computer (software included).
Elsewhere you’ll find a heavy aluminium platter with a rubber mat. The headshell is aluminium too, and removable, which makes swapping cartridges easier. A moving-magnet cartridge with a diamond tip comes pre-installed.
Speed change is electronic, switching from 33 to 45 RPM with the press of a button. This is a semi-automatic turntable, so you have to manually cue up the record but it will automatically stop itself when it reaches the end.
The quality of the build is a little hit and miss. The main bearing is smooth, but the tonearm bearings rattle a bit. Set-up is straightforward enough. The counterweight must be manually balanced and adjusted, while the anti-skate is adjusted with a dial.
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Once it’s good to go, we spin a bit of Nick Cave and hear a decent, smooth rendition of The Boatman’s Call. The sound is weighty and full-bodied.
Detail and definition are good enough to make sense of what’s going on. It’s a pleasant performance, easily better than many similarly priced CD players we’ve heard.
But we want more. While this sound is listenable as background music, we don’t feel particularly engaged. It is a rounded performance without any particular Achilles’ heel, but it needs more in the way of resolution and dynamic expression.
Compared to some of its rivals, the Pro-Ject Essential II Digital for example, the Lenco is not well versed in subtle negotiations.
It needs greater refinement to make the most of Nick Cave’s poetic pensiveness, and the nuanced dynamic shifts as his resolve waxes and wanes. It’s also not all that clean or insightful – voices and instruments could do with more texture.
The Lenco L-90 is a decent proposition if you’re happy trading sound quality for features.
It certainly is easy to operate – fine for casual listeners, but sonic purists could do better for the money.
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