By popular demand, I’ve decided to write some articles about servicing direct-drive turntable motors. Having recently overhauled a Denon DP-1200, this seemed like a great motor to start with.
The Denon DP-1200 is a direct-drive classic, loved by thousands around the globe. Consider this a workhorse deck, solid, well-made, reliable, with great sound. This is Denon’s take on a workhorse, like a Technics SL-1200 which I’ve reviewed here and serviced here. I prefer the quirky Denon with its tape head speed detection system and cool tonearm. You’ll find other articles I’ve written about the lovely DP-1200 here.
The real heavyweight here is the motor itself though. The Denon DP-1200 motor looks and feels like it could power a washing machine. These motors are super-reliable and one of the most solid turntable motors you’ll ever see. It’s only when you hold and work on properly engineered motors like these that you understand what a joke the motors in Linns and Regas really are.
In terms of servicing, these motors have no brushes to wear out, no bearings other than the spindle bearing itself and this is the only part that should ever need service. Read on as I discuss the main points to consider when servicing one of these great motors.
In the two images above, we can see the overall layout and size of the Denon motor. This is a serious chunk of metal that thankfully doesn’t need to be removed from the chassis to service the bearing. Having said that, some may want to completely remove the motor to clean it and remove all traces of the old lubricant.
Servicing the Bearing
In this image, I’ve removed the bearing cap to access the oil reservoir and bearing. The thrust bearing is clearanced. This clearance is determined by how far the bearing cap was screwed in at the factory. The cap is not screwed in all the way and this clearance must be restored after servicing the bearing. To this end, you’ll need an accurate way to measure how far the cap is screwed in. I prefer to use a digital depth gauge like that found on calipers like these.
A closeup of the opened bearing. The bearing cap is on the left, bearing structure on the right. Note the residue and magnetic ‘sludge’ in this bearing. All of this must be removed.
This is what the bearing looks like after careful cleaning with a lint-free material of your choosing. DO NOT use tissue paper, this will leave fibrous residue in the bearing, leading to increased wear and noise!
There are three things left to do. You’ll need to add a few drops of a premium synthetic bearing oil, like Liquid Audio Synthetic Turntable Bearing Oil. Add the oil very carefully and don’t allow it to contaminate the threads on the bearing assembly. This is because the thread locking compound won’t take if the threads are oily.
Note that I removed this motor as part of a more thorough service on this DP-1200. You don’t need to though!
Two last things – screw the bearing cap back in just the right amount to restore the depth setting you measured initially. Now add some green thread sealer/locker. This will hold the cap in place, stopping any potential movement. It also seals the threads, preventing oil from escaping.
If you made it this far, you have now completed servicing the bearing of your DP-1200 motor!