I am especially fond of this particular Sony aesthetic, mid 1970s:
I am especially fond of this particular Sony aesthetic, mid 1970s:
Back in the 80s and 90s, I had hundreds of these. But even with a good deck, cassettes (from whatever manufacturer) never sounded as good to my ears as the original vinyl they were ripped from. Close, yes. But not the same.
There was no denying the convenience, and in the days before portable and car CD players, they were the only way to take your music with you.
I gave most of my cassettes to my sister during the great purge of 2003, but I think I still have about a half dozen in a box somewhere.
The Fisher RS-3050: this is one that flew under my radar all these years. Maybe because back in the day Fisher wasn’t considered as good as Pioneer or Sony or Technics. No matter; this is one gorgeous piece of gear.
No, I’m not back to normal. But it helps my mood to continue posting my usual stuff in the midst of this continuing insanity.
It arrived warped and will be returned for exchange, but even with the warp it sounds wonderful—easily one of the best sounding “new” vinyl pressings I’ve gotten.
A couple of those “Holy Grail” pieces…
Rotel RA-1312 Integrated Stereo Amplifier 1976-1981
I knew there had to be treasure vaults like this scattered across the globe, but never believed in a thousand years I’d actually see one. Too bad the stuff has all been sold. That guy is probably a very wealthy man now.
Why, oh why didn’t I get one of these when I had the chance?
I’m reposting this from my old blog, because I just found it on the WayBack Machine and had believed it was lost forever. I know my friend John is going to have some choice words for me for putting this out there again (like he did 8 years ago) because people will fuck things up if they attempt this on their own and aren’t very careful, but since he’s not repairing these tables anymore they won’t end up on his bench. Still…proceed AYOR.
Fully 99% of my usual readers can skip this whole post. It’s some serious geek shit and I’m posting it for those who happen to be looking for this info through Google or whatever.
A few days ago my buddy John sent me a new Shure V15 type IV cartridge for my turntable. Back in the day, this was the holy grail of many audiophiles, and while I’d never owned one myself, he assured me it would sound better than my current cartridge. It was his way of saying thanks for not bidding against him on an eBay auction for a particular piece of equipment that he knew I had my sights on.
Anyhow, the sound is beyond my wildest expectations, and even though it’s a long-discontinued item and I may never be able to find a replacement stylus for it when the time comes, I’m going to enjoy the hell out of it until then because it has reminded me that yes Virginia, vinyl does sound better than CD.
This sudden renewed appreciation for analog also prompted me to get off my sorry ass this morning and attend to some much needed—and horribly overdue—maintenance on my turntable.
Back in the late 70s when Technics introduced the first Mk2 line of turntables, they were in many respects the state of the art. The 1300Mk2, which in 1977 sold for $500 ($1800 in today’s dollars), was a beautiful piece of engineering—although not without some inherent design flaws that have reared their ugly heads as these tables have aged.
(To be perfectly fair, I’m sure the designers at Panasonic never thought about these issues, finding it ludicrous at the time to even think that these tables would still be in use thirty years after their introduction.)
First and foremost is the notorious arm lift problem. In most basic terms, Panasonic used a piece of plastic that was too thin, putting it in a location where it was continually subjected to intense stress. Needless to say, as the years wore on and the plastic lost its elasticity, the part eventually snapped. A replacement is naturally now unobtainable, but my friend Joel came up with a very creative—and lasting fix. (Thankfully he passed this knowledge onto his assistants before he died.)
If you’re ever looking to buy a 1300Mk2 or 1400Mk2 off eBay and the seller claims everything works just fine, don’t believe a word of it. If Joel or his successors haven’t fixed them, I guarantee they’re broken.
Two other common problems with tables of this vintage are that the lubricants used in various locations within the mechanism have dried out and have become sticky. This manifests as wonky buttons and the start/stop feature not working.
While fixing the arm lift problem isn’t something that should be attempted by anyone other than the good folks at The Turntable Factory (it’s buried deep within the mechanism and even I am scared to venture that far into the workings—although I have and understand the mechanics of it), if you’re comfortable with a few small tools, have a good eye and a bit of patience, it is possible for you to address the other problems.
The arm lift on my Mk2 was—naturally—repaired by Joel years ago, and I cleaned the dried goop off the the control buttons a while back, but for some reason I never addressed the solenoid spring issue and lately the start/stop has quit working.
Inspired by the new cartridge, here’s my How-To on fixing the start/stop issue:
You will need:
・a flat surface to work on
・a philips head screwdriver
・needle nose pliers
・something to hold a bunch of small screws
・rubbing alcohol and q-tips
Estimated time to complete: Approximately one hour. Longer if you’ve never torn one of these apart before.
Disconnect the turntable from your receiver or amplifier and put it in your workspace.
Open the dust cover and remove the cartridge, tonearm counterweight, slipmat and turntable platter. Make sure the manual arm lift lever is in the down position, and lock the tonearm down. Remove the six black screws holding the cover plate in place. Put the screws in a safe place.
Remove the cover plate and put it aside.
Carefully disconnect the five electrical connectors from the circuit board and motor beneath the cover plate. They all just pull straight off, but the one at the very back under the chassis and the small clear plastic connector immediately in front of it have a clip that holds them in place. If no one has ever worked on the table before, there may be a small plastic cable tie organizing the wires. You can safely discard this after removing it.
Place a folded towel on your work surface. With the turntable dust cover still in place, carefully flip the entire assembly upside down so that the dustcover is resting on the towel. Using a philips head screwdriver, remove the seven screws holding the bottom trim/foot panel in place and put them in a safe place.
Remove the bottom trim/foot panel. Remove the four screws holding the floating subchassis in place.
Holding the black subchassis in place, carefully flip the entire assembly back upright. Raise the dust cover, unlock the tonearm and raise the manual lift lever. Swing the tonearm toward the center.
CAREFULLY lift the chassis (with the dust cover still attached) upward, taking care not to catch it on the tonearm. Set it aside.
Lower the manual arm lift lever and move the tonearm back to its rest position, locking it down.
CAREFULLY turn the subchassis assembly upside down and place it on the towel. Remove the 8 screws that are marked in the photo below. Keep these separate, as they are not interchangeable and need to go back in their original locations.
Lift up the black subchassis panel. Put this aside.
Identify the two solenoid locations on the bottom of the tonearm mechanism assembly.
To remove Solenoid #1, gently hold back the three retaining clips with a finger and lift the assembly out of the retaining bracket. DO NOT FORCE anything, as the plastic has become brittle with age and if it breaks, you’re going to be royally fucked. (This is where the patience part comes in.)
In my particular case, the felt pad attached to the flapper panel on the solenoid assembly was sticking against the white plastic bumper. This may or may not be present in all cases, but if so, dip a q-tip in rubbing alcohol and give the plastic part a good swapping to remove any residue
If you’ve removed the flapper, slide it back in place, first hooking the clip on the one edge into the spring and then slipping the two notches back in place on the solenoid.
If there is any dried lubricant on the spring (in my case there wasn’t), clean it off with a q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol.
Gently push the solenoid assembly back in place until it snaps into place. Verify that the flapper moves freely by pushing it with your finger toward the large white gear.
Solenoid #2 is the sucker that causes all of the start/stop problems, and as you can see from the photo, mine was covered with goop.
Before removing this solenoid, you’ll need to remove the control arm that it is attached to. CAREFULLY pull back the retaining clip and lift off the control arm.
CAREFULLY pull back the three clips enough to release the the solenoid assembly and pull it out. This one may put up a little more of a fight than the other one. Be gentle.
Carefully remove the flapper assembly by turning it at a slight angle so that it slips out of the retaining clips on the solenoid. Unhook the flapper clip from the solenoid spring.
A gummed up solenoid spring is an unhappy solenoid spring.
With a q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol, clean the lubricant off the spring and the plastic parts.
You may need to pull the spring to extend it a bit to make sure the alcohol gets in everywhere (a pair of needle-nose pliers is good for this) to get all the goop off. WHY Panasonic chose to lubricate this is quite beyond me. It’s not needed!
Reattach the flapper assembly by first clipping the end into the spring and then turning it at a slight angle so that it rests within the retaining clips on the solenoid assembly.
Push the solenoid back into the retaining clips until it snaps into place. Make sure the spring and flapper aren’t caught on anything.
Reattach the swing arm by pushing it back into place until it clicks, taking care that the solenoid flapper meshes with the end of the arm properly.
A clean solenoid spring is a happy solenoid spring!
Reattach the black subchassis, taking care to align the tonearm mechanism properly and making sure that the proper screws are all returned to their proper locations. When that’s completed, turn the assembly back right side up.
Release the tonearm lock. Raise the arm lift lever. Swing the arm toward the center.
GENTLY lower the chassis and dustcover assembly back onto the floating suspension, taking care to clear the tonearm. If it’s in the proper location, you’ll know it because the tonearm base will be perfectly lined up in the round cutout on the chassis. If not, raise it slightly and move it a bit until it seats properly.
Swing the tonearm back to its rest position and lower the arm lift mechanism.
Lock the tonearm down.
Now’s the tricky part. With one hand firmly underneath the turntable on the subchassis and one on the center of the dustcover, turn the entire assembly upside down.
Reattach the subchassis to the main chassis using the four screws that were removed earlier.
Reattach the bottom trim/foot panel using the 7 screws removed earlier.
Turn the entire turntable right side up.
Reattach the electrical connections, making sure that the two clear plastic connector clips at the rear snap into place.
Replace the cover panel, taking care that it’s not pinching any of the wiring underneath. Reattach using the six black screws removed earlier.
Replace the turntable platter and slipmat. Reattach the tonearm counterweight and cartridge, balance arm, and set tracking force.
Plug back into your receiver, power up, and enjoy some vinyl!
As you probably know from a previous post (not to mention the numerous “Vintage Audio Porn” posts since then), I’ve been obsessed with audio equipment since I was a teenager. This is one of those quirky obsessions that only other people who share it seem to understand. Thankfully, I still have a few of those quirky friends in my life with whom I can freely converse with.
So if you’re not one of those folks, you might wanna just move on to the pictures of the nekkid men elsewhere on the blog. Just sayin’.
While I have a good grasp of most of the major players in the field (Pioneer, Sansui, etc.) during audio’s age of big iron, I pride myself most on my knowledge of the Technics brand and smugly thought I had uncovered and documented every piece of equipment they sold between 1974 and 1981 or so. Imagine my surprise then a few nights ago when I ran across this picture of a turntable whose existence I’d been totally unaware of—but whose seeming absence from the lineup I’d often pondered.
A bit of history… Starting in the mid 1970s, Technics pretty much without fail offered three varieties of any given turntable model they produced (there were specialized one-off models and whatnot, but they’re the exception rather than the rule): fully automatic, semi-automatic, and manual. With the fully automatic models you would start a record playing by moving a lever or pressing a button. The tonearm would move over to the edge of the record and slowly lower to start playing. At the end of the record, the arm would raise up, return to its rest, and the machine would either completely shut off or the turntable would stop rotating. With the semi-automatic models, you would have to manually lift the arm and place it at the beginning of the record to start, but at the end it would raise by itself and return to its rest. The fully manual models are self-explanatory: you did it all yourself (and are the type of decks preferred by DJs).
Technics’ triad numbering system for the various turntable lines was always linear: 1300, 1400, 1500 or 1600, 1700, 1800 (with the lower numbers of each series always being the fully automatic versions). They branched off on that a bit in later years, but it was consistent prior to that.
For all these years, the one glaring exception to this nomenclature was their “01” series.
The “01” series were strange critters to begin with, and I remember the first time I saw one in a store I had to do a double-take and say, WTF is that? Physically they were based on and closely resembled the 1600/1700/1800 series, obviously having used the same dies to cast the turntable bases, but their electronics and parts of the the tonearms (but not the tonearm mounts) came straight from the 1300Mk2/1400Mk2/1500Mk2. Likewise the turntable platters themselves resembled the Mk2 series with a brushed aluminum rim with the strobe dots on the underside, but the angle of the edge of the platters was identical to the 1600 series. And also like the Mk2 series, the 01s were also quartz-locked (using all but one of the same ICs)—something that the 1600 series was not. But the quartz difference between the 01 and the Mk2 series was that there was no pitch control, meaning that you were tied to an exact 33 or 45 rpm; and rendering them useless for DJ work. This explained in my mind why there was no manual version of these strange beasts, no 1501.
But as I discovered a few nights ago, there was a 1501 produced and sold—although apparently only in Japan. At first I didn’t believe it…was this a one-off machine? A custom logo screened on a repainted 1401?
No, it was an actual product. Further Googling presented me not only dozens of photos of these machines in the wild, but also the product brochure.
And now of course I want one. Only because of its rarity.