We’re pretty big into music around here, and we’re pretty old-school-type audiophiles. We have an iPod (one of the old iPod minis that Kristen got when she bought a Mac about 6-7 years ago) that we don’t really use and we occasionally hook up the computer to our stereo. Most of our music is on CDs, tapes (me mostly), and vinyl. We have lots of vinyl (courtesy of various former grad school teachers who wanted to unload their collections. I’d say a good half of the records we have are in closets because we just don’t have enough shelving for them all (which we’ll hopefully fix in the near future when I build a stereo cabinet). You can see our somewhat sad stereo table here. The point being, we listen to lots of vinyl, some old and some new. We’ve had a USB turntable for a couple of years that works pretty well considering how inexpensive it was and how ugly it is.
Pretty much since we got the USB TT, I’ve been planning on getting a good quality, vintage TT. Since we don’t live in a big city, or really near one, most of my vintage audio shopping happens on eBay. You can imagine the problems involved, but you won’t have to, I’m going to tell you all about them.
My search for a vintage TT has so far been pretty sad. As of this writing, I have 4 TTs here at the house, only one of which gets used. (This is where you start to think I’m a little off. Maybe I am. Actually, I am a little off, partly foolish, and completely impatient. And so I now have 4 TTs) The problem has been that the TTs I’ve gotten on eBay have arrived with various degrees of problems that either weren’t explained in the listings or I didn’t know to look for them before I won the auctions.
Here’s the rundown on the TTs I’ve bought, what’s keeping me from using them, and what I know now to look out for when I (obviously) buy the next one.
1. Sansui SR 212
This TT I bought about a year ago and is, according to audiophile forums, a pretty decent 70′s Japanese TT. It has a suspended platform for the platter that is supposed to help keep the records from skipping if the TT is jostled. It’s a belt driven TT, and it has a counterweight on a string substituting for the little anti-skate dial usually found next to the tonearm (although the TT I got didn’t come with this counterweight). Plus it looks bitchin’ with its fake wood base.
The Problem: When I set this TT up and tried out a record, the speed was off. The record played noticeably slower than it should have (I figured out that it spun at about 31-32 rpms instead of 33, which turns out to make a big difference). The belt was supposedly new, and I oiled the parts that needed oiling, and still 31 rpms. Something on the inside just isn’t getting the speed right. Trying to find someone locally who understands this problem and can actually fix it has been impossible so far.
2. Sanyo TP 727
I picked this TT up about a month or so ago, and when it came in, everything seemed great. It played at the right speed and it sounded good. Until it got a couple of tracks in and the needle and cartridge (the part the needle is attached to) started to drag on the record.
The Problem: I realized that the tonearm was missing its counterweight. Clear as day and I didn’t even notice. Trying to find a counterweight for this particular model has also, so far, been impossible. So I strung up the counterweight from the USB TT and it seems to play fine (even though I know this is not very good for my records).
3. Yamaha YP D6
The most recent TT I bought I just knew would be the one that worked. The listing seemed pretty sound, it clearly had the counterweight, and it was reported to play great. Also, it has the nice fake wood base I like so much.Then I got it set up and Kristen noticed that as the records played, the platter (where the record actually sits) kind of wobbled.
The Problem: Come to find out, the platter is warped slightly, and the spool that the platter sits on is crooked. So technically it plays the records, but there’s a bump every revolution that messes with the sound and probably puts more pressure on the needle than it should have. Bad things.
Here’s what I’ll be looking for the next time I buy a vintage TT. First, I’ll make sure that it has all the parts (e.g., counterweights) that is should have. Then, I’ll make sure to ask the seller questions about the playing speed, if the belt is new, and if the platter spins level. Also, and I learned this after the first TT, I’ll make sure to only buy a TT that can be returned. The Sansui was sold as-is, the Sanyo I could have returned, but apparently it cost more to ship it than I payed for it, so the seller just told me to get rid of it and gave me my money back. The Yamaha is due to be shipped back this week.
If you’re looking to get an old TT, and are looking on eBay, that’s awesome. But you should be a much more inquisitive and patient to make sure you get one that’s worth the money and actually works. (Remember that I’m basically Veruca Salt when it comes to buying these things. That’s right, I’m not above dropping a Willy Wonka reference.)
I’ll let you know how the next TT works out–it shouldn’t be too long now.