Saturday, February 6, 2010

Turntable Trouble




As you can see from the photo, my new record player isn't anything special, but it was a hell of a lot of trouble to get set up and it's still not working properly....

A couple of months ago my old record player finally died and I had to make do with my emergency portable one for a while. Anyway, Mrs J stipulated that if the turntable was going to stay in the living room (which it was) then it had to fit in with the interior decor (retro-Scandinavian as revealed in a previous EOTWQ) and be small enough to fit on the shelf, ruling out both a nice, new sleek machine and those big, old clunky 70's wooden things. So, when I spotted this simple, retro beauty with a 7" turntable (for any audio nerds out there, it's a PE or Perpetuum Ebner, which, from what I could find out, were made in West Germany but discontinued at the end of the 60's) in a Swedish charity shop for under a fiver, I snapped it up, put it in a box and shipped it back to Tokyo, and decided to worry about whether it worked or not later.

It had a strange cable into the amp which i'd never seen before, so I put it in a bag and took it to Akihabara (Tokyo's famous Electric Town). After being snubbed and laughed at and frowned at by about 20 different shopkeepers, I finally found a bloke in an ancient booth in a decaying shopping arcade who took pity on me and helped to split the cable into the required red/white thingy (as you can tell, i'm not too technical). I took it home and plugged it into the telly (i don't have an amp or even any speakers, or even another CD player type hi-fi thing, I just plug the record deck directly into the digital TV) and............ nothing came out, so I realised that I needed a pre-amp or an equaliser or something like that. So after buying a new cartridge/needle from somewhere in America over the internet and a cheap secondhand equaliser in a furiously fought online auction, my fiver had turned into about 50 quid and everything was in place.........I carefully selected the nearest LP to hand, dropped the needle and........it worked like a dream, result!

But the euphoria was short lived. With some LP's it works fine (it seems to like jazz), but with others it skips and slides over the grooves (it virtually glided over my cheapy cheapo repress of "Nevermind", which is so flimsy it's virtually a flexidisc!).

If anyone has some audio expertise and might know what's causing it; is the arm too heavy? Is the turntable too rigid? Do old record players have difficulty playing new LP's? Do I need to buy yet another new needle? Any tips or advice would be greatly received.

Oh..and if anyone else wants to share their audio set-ups, that would be nice too...although i'm fairly confident that my set up is the crappiest and most rudimentary!

18 comments:

Shoey said...

What a sad tale. My non-techie guess would be that any 70's tech is likely to work better with stuff made from the same era or earlier. Things were much chunkier back then, including the channels in a record.

Blimpy said...

yep, the needle on my red portable 1950s record player is incredibly wide, and would destroy the close-together grooves of an LP - I only used it for a bit on 45s, and then put the whole thing away - shame cos it looked ace. The arm was super heavy too. I now use a Sony record player that plays things just a wee bit too fast. One day I will get a Pro-Ject turntable...one day...

ejaydee said...

Is that a Sonny Rollins LP?

Japanther said...

hmm....thanks Shoey and Blimpy, I suspected it was something like that.....looks like it's back to the portable one for now, unless I can do something clever like file down the needle to a sharper point........

@ejay - indeed! That was another Swedish charity shop find. We had got a bus 40 minutes out of a small town to a tiny tiny town (village?) that had nothing but a hardressers, a flower shop and after walking along a pavement-less road for a bit in the snow, a nice big charity shop. I got the Sonny Rollins LP and a Cannonball Adderley one for 5 crowns (about 40p) each!

Chris said...

I seem to remember that we bought a 'stereo-compatible' needle cartridge for our sixties record player when stereo records started to appear. (I'm pretty sure it was only the change from mono to stereo that necessitated the change.)
Whether or not you can get such a beast for your deck I have no idea but I presume you've done some surfing for a solution.
Maybe an old electronics shop would have something that would fit?
Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Next time you're in Sweden. http://www.clasohlson.se/Product/Product.aspx?id=146528442

They also do one for converting to MP3s.

Click on the photo for a larger image.

Fuel

goneforeign said...

What you need to do is to set the tracking weight and the anti-skate value, I had one of these back in the 70's but didn't keep it very long and I don't remember the adjustments for the tone arm. Basically you adjust the tone arm balance until it balances without settling on the record and then set the adjustment to between 1 and 2 grams, for the anti skating you'll just have to play with it if you don't have the handbook; skating is the problem you describe, the stylus zipping across the album's surface. I've found the sometimes putting a penny [US] on the cartridge helps, [it's about 1/2" dia and adds just enough weight to stabilise the stylus].
Can I suggest that you don't buy a turntable for how it looks but rather how it sounds, you live in the land of one of the best turntables in the world, the Techniques 1200, I've had mine for maybe 30 years, it's never faltered! They also produce a cheaper version if budget is an issue.

TracyK said...

Yup, I'd suggest doing what I had to do to my crappy thing in the 80s: blu-tak a 2p coin to it. Worked a treat.

goneforeign said...

p-s. Today would have been Bob Marley's birthday, he would have been 65. RIP Bob.

Japanther said...

@chris - thanks. I didn't know about needle type. i'm pretty sure it's not a "stereo-compatible" one at the moment, so i'll check around the internet for some info., thanks.

@goneforeign - that sounds like it might do the trick, I was hoping for your words of wisdom. How do I go about adjusting the tone arm balance? Is it simple to do? I hesitated about putting a coin on because I thought the problem was that it was too heavy, but you're right of course, if it's "skating" across it should need more weight. I'll give that a try too.

If I had my way, i'd have a nice sleek deck with the best sound there is, but that's the compromise of co-habitation for you!!


...RIP Bob....as promised about 6 months ago, i've started to slowly build up my BMW collection if I see a cheap LP and will be playing some this morning!

goneforeign said...

There has to be some means of adjustment, usually screws or sliders. Just start by playing with whatever and seeing what changes result, look for engraved numbers that look like 1.0 - 1.5 - 2.0 - 2.5 etc, they're gram tracking settings, that's where you start to balance the arm/cartridge, get that balanced to zero and then try 1.5 grams, if it skates start to play with that.

Japanther said...

cheers GF, i'll have a play around when I get a moment tomorrow.....

Chris said...

Japanther, I have fond memories of adjusting arm weights, too, and it's a bit tricky given the small tweaks required. I would heartily recommend you check out the cartridge type first as, if you're trying to play a stereo record with a mono needle, you will damage the record; and if you've just increased the weight of the arm, you'll damage it more/faster.
Have you got any mono records? How do they sound? You say 'with some LP's it works fine' - are they old mono ones? If so, the cartridge type is the problem; if not, pile on the pennies!

goneforeign said...

Chris: I think you'd have a hard time finding a mono cartridge these days, everything I've read about has been mono/stereo compatible since about the 70's if not earlier.

Chris said...

gf: But if the machine was discontinued at the end of the 60's, then it was probably initially equipped with a mono cartridge. I remember it being 1968 when we had to deal with the change.

zag said...

Audio set-up you say ?

How about a Pilot radiogram from the '50s ? Looks a bit like the one in this ad - only nicer - http://is.gumtree.com/ad_image/live/big/291115631.jpg

It has the grills right across the front and big black bakelite (or whatever that stuff is called) knobs. And it still works. You have to wait a good two or three minutes after turning it on before it even starts to hum, but when it gets going the sound is lovely and rich.

The turntable still does a good approximation of 33 1/3 & 45 RPM, but I think I can excuse a slight lack of accuracy given its age.

It has a special place in the zag household - it was on my list of requests when my grandparents house was being emptied a few years ago. They had it since my mother was a little girl and I loved the sound of it when I used to go visit my grandparents. None of the rest of the family could understand, but I'm sure you guys do.

It also has a special place because it is a rare example of my handywork or DIY actually working. I managed to defeat the mighty woodworm through grim determination and a large dose of chemicals.

The turntable is rarely used - these days it gets an occasional splin to play the only vinyl I've ever bought over the internet - Irish Mambo by the Honey Dreamers. I heard it on the radio here once and cracked up and then spent the next year or so trying to track it down. It was worth it.

z

goneforeign said...

Chris: But he bought a new cartridge.

Japanther said...

@zag - very cool. and amazing that it still works.. a mark of quality you don't get these days!

@GF&chris - i'm going to have a tinker later IF (and it's looking increasingly unlikely!) I get through this mountain of paperwork, but for now the penny on top seems to be doing the trick. although i'm a bit worried it might be heavy and damaging the records.
re: the cartridge - i did buy a replacement, but as far as I can see it's just a never-used original replacement cartridge (it looks really old!) and it doesn't indicate whether it is stereo or mono.....I checked the internet of course but couldn't get a straight answer out of it!