The Reference Master record player was vastly complex and so expensive to build that it was never to be a commercial reality, only one ever seeing the light of day. The Rock V takes much of the engineering and thinking involved in the IV project and recasts it in a more practical and realizable shape. So, gone is the three speed electronic power supply with fine pitch control; gone is the electronic adjustment of VTA and the motorized arm base that compensated automatically for tracking error – although these features, or facilities quite like them will feature as future options on the Rock V. However, core aspects and principles have been preserved through a novel and to some no doubt, shocking use of lateral thinking.
The logic goes like this: a turntable is a precision engineering product and what makes it expensive is the precision required and the small number of parts produced. But, whilst you can ill afford to reduce the precision or widen the tolerances, you can reduce costs if you increase numbers. If you increase numbers a lot, then you’ll slash those costs, so why not cannibalize key parts from the World’s most successful and reliably engineered budget turntable, the Rega? And that’s exactly what Townshend have done. Look at the arm and you’ll notice that the bearings, base, arm-rest, arm-lift and bias arrangements are all taken directly from a Rega RB300, duly sandwiched between a new armtube and counterweight arrangement. Less obvious is that the motor pulley, sub-platter and main bearing as well as the glass disc that forms the basis of the main platter are also culled directly from Rega parts. By doing so, Townshend are able to rely on Rega’s engineering consistency and selection processes, where thousands of parts are matched to meet precise tolerances, to deliver parts at a price and quality that they could never achieve independently. Those savings can in turn be invested in other aspects of the design, to whit, the plinth, suspension, damping trough and tonearm parts.
The deck itself is a three-point suspended design, using a powder coated plated steel sub-chassis filled with cast plaster-of-paris sitting on three coil-springs. Each spring is enclosed in a rubber bellows (or shock boot in cycling parlance) that is pierced by a small hole. Move the spring and you alter the internal pressure of the bellows, which thus resists movement until the air pressure equalizes, the rate of equalization defined by the size of the hole. It’s a form of damping much used where weight is an issue, so you find it on high-performance motorcycles and mountain bikes. Indeed, anybody who rides such a vehicle will instantly recognise the slight wheezing that accompanies violent displacement of the Rock V’s sub-chassis. The main plinth is also stainless-steel, chosen for its longevity, while three turned bosses provide parking points (left and right) for the record clamp and a drip tray for any escaping fluid from the parked arm’s damping wand, to prevent cosmetic marring of the shiny surface. Aluminium plates front and back dress and further damp the plinth, which sits on a 6mm thick steel base and four feet.