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The R.E.A.L.® Turntable

"A New Approach . . . A New Standard"

Turntable including clamping system


Tonearm not incuded

Clamping system

ring clamp and centre weight


Ring Clamp


Centre weight



  • Description
  • R.E.A.L 101.2
  • Design
  • Clamping System
  • Reviews

With a clean sheet of paper and the Energy Management discipline in mind, a new approach to the non-suspended turntable design emerged.

All of the active parts, the Motor, Tonearm and bearing assembly are positioned on an acoustically neutral Isolation Damping Elastomer Plinth Core. The feet act as a damping suspension (hence suspended plinth) and a second layer of isolation is provided by the plinth elastomer. The result is a dramatic elevation in the resolution and music realism of all past designs.

George Merrill

The R.E.A.L.® 101.2 Turntable

(Tonearm not supplied)

A New Approach A New Standard

“The Suspended Plinth “
The most dramatic improvement in turntable design in 30 years! The patented R.ubber E.lastomer A.coustic L.aminate controls self generation and external energies to a degree never before accomplished.
The result is a dramatic elevation in the resolution and music realism of all past designs.

  • Energy management design
  • Rubber Elastomer Acoustic Laminate
  • Elastomer suspended MDS impregnated oil well bearing
  • ¾ inch polished stainless steel spindle
  • Inverted adjustable hemispheric feet
  • Acoustic Isolation Valleys
  • Elastomer suspended azimuth adjustable tonearm mounting platform
  • Bakelite resin composite platter
  • Rubber cork compound mat
  • Built in Strobe Disk
  • Elastomer suspended synchronous motor with MU shielding
  • Outboard Microprocessor Motor Drive 33-45 RPM
  • Optional periphery clamping ring and center weight
  • WOW & Flutter .02% Din 45-507
  • Speed Accuracy 2 parts per million

Merrill Williams R.E.A.L. 101.2 Turntable

Explanation of Design

With a clean sheet of paper and the Energy Management Discipline in mind, a new approach to turntable design emerged.

The Turntable consists of a rotating platter that supports a phonograph record, a drive source for this platter (motor, pulleys and belt), a plate to mount the bearing which accommodates the platter shaft, mounting for the motor and pickup arm. This mounting plate is called the plinth, base or chassis. Some type of feet are used for support of this plinth.

The turntable must cope with four types of energy intrusion:
One: Self generation and internal coupling of energy produced by the motor, drive system, platter support bearing and tonearm.
Two: Mechanically coupled energy that enters the support feet.
Three: Airborne energy contained within the operating environment.
Four: Energy generated by the stylus to groove contact during tracing (playing of the record).
•  The R.E.A.L. Turntables major innovation is the construction of the plinth (base).
•  Design by Merrill – Williams (Patent # 8,406,112 B2).
•  The plinth is the heart of the turntable and supports all three energy generating parts (motor, bearing/spindle and tone arm).

The plinth was designed using a technique called “Energy Management Design”. The base is designed as a laminate. Construction consists of a specific formula 14 lb rubber compound elastomer faced with phenolic. Areas are isolated with Energy Isolation Valleys (breaches in the laminate) in such a manner that the operating parts (motor, platter spindle/bearing and the tonearm) are not allowed to transmit energy through the laminate material. Energy isolation and dissipation occurs only within the core elastomer. The advantage to this system is the energy developed by each of these operating part is absorbed and dissipated by the core elastomer before it can intrude and affect the performance of other parts. For example the motor energy is dissipated before it can contaminate the energy release from the tonearm.

To keep the rigidity integrity intact seven struts are placed in calculated locations within the plinth forming a support truss system.
The use of an energy transfer tonearm mounting platform coupled to the damping elastomer accomplishes a most important function the dissipation of Tonearm Release Energy.
Integrated in the design of the tonearm mounting platform is the ability to azimuth align the platform with the platter.

The second type of energy intrusion (mechanical transfer from the stand used to support the turntable) is managed by a system called the Isolation Foot which contains a Special Polymer Inverted Hemisphere.
An adjustable support column attached to the rubber elastomer is resting upon an inverted hemisphere of highly absorbent rubber. This support column utilizes a positioning pin to hold the foot in place. The column consists of two parts, the height adjustment collar and the hemisphere coupler with positioning pin. A bolt is inserted through a compressing washer and the plinth elastomer (energy blocking holes are drilled around the mounting point of the foot bolt) into the hemispherical coupler, drawing the adjuster collar and hemispherical coupler tightly together (this system is another first). The resulting support column is extremely solid while still having height adjustment capabilities. The curved face on the hemispherical coupler allows shallow contact with the hemisphere which helps to subdue energy transmission. The flat of the hemisphere is placed in a support base (fitted on the surface contact area with three feet) to allow retention of its shape and for uniform input of energy into the foot.

The third type of energy (airborne) is damped by the over all energy absorbing capability of the laminate, feet and platter. The total package is virtually impervious to airborne energy encountered in the listening environment.   

The platter design and material consideration along with the mat control the fourth type of energy.  The platter is manufactured from a compound containing bakelite cellulose and resin (another first). The characteristics of the material, high density, low resonance top and dimension stability make an ideal platter. A rubber cork compound mat is used to place the record upon, thus quelling vibrations within the vinyl as the stylus is tracing (playing) the record. An optional clamping system enhances LP damping to the highest order.
The platter shaft is manufactured from precision ground stainless steel (3/4 inch) with a hardened thrust ball placed at the end. The platter is supported in an oil well bearing manufactured from MDS impregnated nylon (another first). A hardened surface is provided at the bottom of this bearing to allow the shaft thrust ball to ride with virtually no friction (i.e. no noise).

The R.E.A.L. 101.2 Microprocessor Motor Drive System 33-45 RPM

Any turntable that has fixed speed (no manual variation) cannot retain speed accurately under all temperature and humidity conditions. The expansion / contraction coefficients of the drive materials will vary with the environment. For example, acrylic will grow or shrink dramatically with normal room temperature changes. A variable speed control solves this problem. The result is retention of accurate pitch.

AC line power is contaminated with multi frequency trash. Without a buffer, this trash is fed directly into the motor and coupled into the drive system and record support platter. A properly designed power supply will isolate the turntable drive system from this trash. This will help to eliminate the clouding of micro level information and lead to improved resolution culminating in better imaging, detail and musical realism.  

The Merrill-Williams Microprocessor Motor Drive uses a regulated DC power supply powering a microprocessor, employing crystal controlled adjustable dual oscillators for sine and cosine drive. The low distortion precision sine wave dual oscillators drive two high power low distortion amplifiers that power the motor. Speed sweep is plus or minus 2 percent. The turntable speed is checked with an on board strobe light driven by a short pulse square wave oscillator. A Sutherland Timeline is used to certify accuracy.  
Touch button logic control is employed.
The MD-1 is supplied with the REAL 101.2
The Microprocessor Motor Drive affords a noticeable improvement in performance.

Q/A what is the design difference between the original Merrill Heirloom and Merrill–Williams R.E.A.L.

The Merrill Heirloom was designed in late 1970.
It had many new ENERGY MANAGEMENT approaches to turntable design:

  • The first use of acrylics.
  • Cast anti magnetic fluid damped motor pod.
  • Oil well bearing.
  • Constant resonant tuning system.
  • A subchassis integrated tonearm mounting platform for energy management control.
  • Decoupled and lead damped outer record support platter.
  • Aluminum resin driven platter.
  • Copolymer drive pulley.
  • Digital motor drive system.
  • Critical elasticity calculation for the belt’s low pass filter action.
  • Seven layer lead damped plinth.
  • The first use of a periphery clamping ring.
  • After the Heirloom production had stopped for many years the design was reborn as the Merrill-Scillia MS-2 and MS21.
  • These turntables were manufactured as an absolute exact copy of the Heirloom design.
  • The major improvement to the new production was the polymer material used in the subchassis and the outer support platter. This turntable was heralded with exceptional reviews.
  • Class A in Stereophile for 3 1/2 years (review November 2007).
  • A Super review from 6 moons. (John Potis)

The Merrill-Williams R.E.A.L. 101.2 is again (as the original Heirloom) a totally new approach to turntable design. Using a patented R.ubber E.lastomeric A.coustic L.aminate along with other new innovations, the Energy Management Design principles are raised to a new level. The sonic performance overshadows the original Heirloom design by a wide margin.

The Merrill –Williams Clamping System
The most toughly engineered clamping system available

The center weight and periphery ring are designed to function as a team. The mass distribution is optimal to achieve the most uniform pressure on the LP. To insure the periphery ring has a low resonance top it is formed from forged bronze. A damping inlay is inserted in the ring body to tune the resonance.
The cone shape of the center weight helps to eliminate the resonant peak. A rubber knob is placed at the top to help absorb energy. This knob also aids in handling. A damping pad is used to contact the LP. A rubber insert in the spindle bore decouples the weight from the record spindle.

Debunking LP Record Weights and Clamps
by George Merrill

The LP record ranges in weight from approximately 80 grams (Dynaflex 1969) to 200 grams. Most pressings weigh from 100 to 130 grams. One reason the heavier and thicker records sound better is the vinyl will not vibrate to the degree as the light weight records. The 180 and 200 gram records are the choice for less vibration, and can render better sound. The rule is simple, the more damping applied to the LP the better it sounds. This result can be obtained from its own vinyl mass or external. To achieve the best external damping, the record vinyl needs to come in total contact with a vibration damping material (mat). In the past a few record mats have used small rings or points to support the record in a few places. This flies in the face of common logic. Holding the record to a damping material is the job of weights and clamps. An LP record’s label is thicker than the vinyl playing surface.
The label varies from approximately 20 to 60 thousands of an inch thicker than the vinyl. A record mat will have a depression in the center to allow the record vinyl to lay flat, otherwise the label would be the only contact point. If a center weight is used that is very heavy, let’s say 2 lb. the lighter records will lift from the mat. This happens because the mat depression edge will act as fulcrum. This information tells us we should use a center weight tuned for the record thickness and weight. However this is impractical. Here is the solution: Use a center weight that weighs 8-10 oz or less. This weight will work with all but the lighter records. The alternative to a weight is the screw down clamp. These clamps have pluses and minuses. The plus is down force on the record can be controlled. The minus is if not designed properly (unfortunately most are not) spindle energy is coupled into the record. It takes very little intrusion of external energy to cloud the mechanical output of the stylus. (I wrote a paper on proper screw down clamp design about 25 years ago.)
The best answer is the periphery clamping weight along with a center weight. The weight balance between these two should be calculated for even and optimal down force on the entire vinyl area.
As the stylus traces the groove, energy is radiated in all directions, as it reaches the periphery of the record and then reflected back into the groove area. The periphery clamp will help damp this edge energy before it is reflected into the groove area. The center weight also acts as a damper. The first production periphery clamp was used on the Merrill Heirloom Turntable 1980. Kenwood also introduce theirs about the same time.

Merrill-Williams R.E.A.L. 101 Turntable R.E.A.L. Good

According to a recent poll of our editors and reviewers (TAS 216), the AR XA was ranked as the most significant turntable in the history of analog playback. If you ever lived with the AR XA turntable or one of its successors (XB, XE, ES-1, ETL-1, EB101), you may well have installed some of the popular “Merrill mods” that helped lift the sonic performance of that entire turntable family. These ranged from enhanced speed controllers and motors, to acrylic-lead turntable mats, acrylic subchassis, center and outer clamps, and improved parts, among others. Thousands were reportedly sold, making them the most popular mods for those venerable belt-driven, spring-suspended classics.


Equipment Review: Merrill-Williams R.E.A.L. 101 Turntable

Back in 1973, my passion for turntables began with a modest purchase of an Acoustic Research AR XA. At something like $88 including a pre-installed Shure cartridge, it was a no-brainer even for a High School freshman on a paper route budget. For several years, I “unofficially” worked at an audio store, assembling and setting them up for waiting customers. Little did I know back then that this cheap unassuming little workhorse of a turntable and diamond in the rough would ignite the creative juices of one George Merrill in Tennessee.


An Interview with George Merrill of Merrill-Williams Audio

I first received an early production Merrill Williams R.E.A.L. 101 turntable System from George Merrill for evaluation in June of this year. It did not take much time for me to realize three things:

  1. This turntable represents a complete re-think in belt-driven turntable design.
  2. This is no re-hash or derivative of the famous Merrill Heirloom or Merrill-Scillia MS21.
  3. This turntable may very well be a game changer.

As such, I feel it important that before we start the journey down the road of describing the Merrill- Williams R.E.A.L. 101, we should first get a bit into the head of the man chiefly involved in the design. Read More...

35 Years in the Making

George Merrill, a Memphis, Tennessee native, began his career in the audio business when he was just 14 years old. In 1974, he created UnderGround Sound. After realizing how different turntables sounded from one another, he set out to experiment with all the versions of Acoustic Research turntables and modified them accordingly. These “Merrill Mods” made a legend of George Merrill. Read More...


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