Tag Archives: Pete Verrando

16" transcription record

Presto T-68 16″ Transcription Turntable Restoration

 About 3 years ago, I saved the pieces of this 16″ transcription player & cabinet from a dusty internment.

The 16" platter, stripped, cleaned and ready for re-felting

The 16″ platter, stripped, cleaned and ready for re-felting

presto turntable

cabinet as found

16" presto turntable

Project in pieces before restoration

Presto top plate with idlers removed.

Presto top plate with idlers removed.

 

 

 

busy day at txsound

busy day at txsound

 

 

(Click the thumbnails above for a larger “before” view). ,  This Presto T-68 Transcription Turntable with Pickering 190D Tonearms was used at an Air Force base in Fort Worth. Found inside the cabinet was a 16″ acetate record, with the lacquer falling off the aluminum substrate. The disc labels indicated the acetate had various Reveille bugle calls, marching and teletype sound effects. The military base had its own radio station, or perhaps they used these effects over the public address system for PT!

acetate presto turntable txsound verrando

The acetate found in the cabinet.

acetate labels presto turntable

Old Acetate disc labels from in bottom of turntable cabinet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upon complete disassembly, work started on the motor & start capacitor, with a gentle variac power-up to check for shorts in the windings, or a bad capacitor.  It’s an an Ashland Hysteresis Synchronous motor of 1/100 horsepower. after a complete overhaul, the motor ran continuously for a couple of days to observe operating temperature, let the bearings settle in,  and discover any latent noise or vibration issues.  New motor mounts were installed as well.

Ashland motor presto turntable

Motor removed for teardown, old lubricant removal, reassemble and re-lubricate. Slow power up with variac.

Three rubber idler wheels transfer the motor’s energy to the platter at 78, 45 or 33 1/3rpm, depending on which plane of the spinning motor shaft is engaged (see photo below).

presto t-68 idler wheels turntable txsound

Transport with Terry’s new idler wheels installed.

The existing idler wheels (above) were hardened and crumbling. The brass hubs were re-surfaced by Terry’s Rubber Rollers. The motor and idlers get the platter up to speed in about 1/4 of a platter rotation. Pretty quick, which was important for the operators ability to tightly cue the audio tracks.  

The tonearms are type Pickering 190D, originally wired for mono.  BTW, Mr. Pickering holds the original patent on the moving magnetic phono cartridge!  These tonearms were heralded for extremely low vertical to lateral moments of intertia, and minimal vertical mass.  Because of the big swing of a long tonearm, the tracking error is less than 2.5 degrees.

pickering 190D tone arm

Pickering 190D tonearms, mono wiring & magnetic arm rest.

pickering 190 txsound verrando

The Pickering 190D (click/enlarge)

The tonearm’s extremely low head-mass  can deftly handle a warped record very nicely.  The rear tonearm is intended for a 78 rpm cartridge/stylus.  The front arm is for a microgroove cartridge.  A top- mounted rotary switch selects which arm is fed to the pre-amp.  Before restoration, the signal passed through a Pickering model 132E passive equalizer before being pre-amplified by a mono model 230H Pickering tube preamp.

 

 

pickering 230H preamp. txsound

Ad for the original preamp. (click/enlarge)

pickering presto

Pickering passive cartridge equalizer.

presto tonearm selector

78- LP tonearm selector

presto power switch

Power switch with a hand-made plastic mount-plate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both  tonearms get re-wired for stereo, no small task with hair-thin oxygenated tonearm wire. The rotary switch was replaced to enable stereo switching between tonearms. The mono Pickering equalizer was removed(which will fetch about $100 on ebay) and the resulting empty hole with a bat-handle power switch for the motor, a more practical use of the space.   The turntable previously was powered-up when the speed selector was enabled. A  black switch mounting plate was created to match the other label plates on the plinth.

 

 

A new stereo tube preamplifer is now required inside the cabinet, so a Little Bear Stereo Valve Preamp was shipped in from Hong Kong.  (below)

 

Little Bear Presto Pickering

The popular Little Bear stereo tube pre-amp from Hong Kong.  Very nicely designed!

 

presto rca patchbay txsound

RCA patchbay on rear panel.

 

To allow the user to select the internal or an external preamp, An RCA patch bay  is added on the rear cabinet panel. Also shown is the ground lift switch, power connector and chassis ground terminal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

pickering presto turntable txsound

Assembly and wiring of tonearms. Individual Channel signal/ground wires eventually made into twisted pairs for hum suppression.

 

The cabinet was a challenge, especially the plinth. The 3/4″ plywood base surface was covered in a thick, ancient, funky, dull- green laminate. The surrounding metal was painted industrial grey with a good deal of chipping & corrosion. The metal surrounding the laminate was refinished in hammer-tone grey .  The funky-green clashed with the other colors, so the wood top was refinished in solid satin black.  The platter had plenty-enough green in it after the re-felting, which is done with felt, spray adhesive, and careful lathe-style trimming with a razor. The plinth’s vertical edges were stripped down to the bare metal and polished to a bright shine, almost chrome. The polishing process was observed in a motorcycle restoration shop, and has been sucessfully used here on lots of projects.  (Enlargable thumbnails below)

2014-07-03_13-08-52_159

2014-07-04_13-36-10_96 2014-07-04_13-36-41_12 2014-07-04_13-41-56_855 2014-07-03_12-46-10_159 2014-07-17_21-07-16_881

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

cabinet7 cabinet8 cabinet9

 

 

 

 

 

presto24bh

Collection of 16″ transcription records are stored inside the cabinet. Those suckers are heavy.

 

The Presto- DuKane cabinet, preamp and associated wiring came together as pictured. The tonearms get fitted  with  Shure M91ED cartridges, the rear cartridge with a 78rpm stylus. The unit is extremely well grounded, including the motor shell, and cabinet ground is independent of signal ground. Wether using the internal or an external preamp, there are no hum issues. As a precaution, a ground lift switch was added to the rear panel.  Power lines are capacitor bypassed at the entry points and at the power switch.  (below pics are enlargeable)
P1030664h presto4h presto17H presto19h presto20h

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The table adds a special allure to vinyl activities. A heretofore ignored  pile of 78 rpm records have provided some very interesting listening!  It’s the record industry in its infancy. Various recording techniques can be discerned, qualities, different equipment eras, groove depth variances, etc can all be heard.

 

 

 

 

presto turntable t-68 transcription verrando txsound

 

There’s a million cheap 78s, lps and 45s still floating around out there, in thrift stores, estate sales, and flea markets.  Many found 78s  have never been played, and those make for remarkable listening. Back in the day, the commonly used steel needles would destroy a 78 after 20 plays. Many outstanding shellac records are still out there, They are remarkable examples of recording skills and standards through the era.

 

presto transcription vinyl txsound pickering tonearm trans.com txsound

The 60’s produced some remarkably well mastered LP’s as well.  I particularly like the Command 35mm series, which are still in plentiful supply at the above mentioned sources. See you at the Goodwill!

MORE ABOUT TRANSCRIPTION TURNTABLES….

In the US, professional transcription turntables were primarily made by RCA, Gates, Fairchild, Presto, and McCurdy in Canada. They also required a separately purchased  “transcription” tonearm, about 3″ longer than a standard tonearm. The extra “swing room” these arms create also reduce stylus tracking error, especially on 7″-12″ records.

I’d been searching for a 16″ transcription turntable for many years. These tables are a unique and dissappearing part of broadcasting history.  Unlike a 12″ platter, they can  accommodate vintage 16″ transcription vinyl records, popular in the radio industry through the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. Amazingly, for their size, these records only contain about 15 minutes of program material per side!  That’s because the grooves are spaced far apart. The discs typically cannot fit on a standard 12″ turntable platter without hitting the tonearm base. The US Armed Forces and Veterans Administration used these records extensively to distribute their radio programs. The records also were popular for distributing library music, jingles and commercials.
70-D_001

RCA 70 transcription turntable. Thousands of these used to reside US radio and TV stations.

Beardsley.press

A 16 inch record press

 

Gates transcription turntable txsound

Earliest version of the Gates CB-500 Transcription turntable.

The big turntables often came mounted on a cabinet, the size of a dishwasher. The earliest tables used this space for a complex, gear driven, flywheel-stabilized motor, These motors provided the necessary torque required for slip-cueing records and fast startup rotation.  Eventually, the torque came from smaller, hysteresis sync motors with idler/puck drives.  By the early 60’s these became the standard turntable design for radio/tv stations. In the early 80’s, Technics Corp. introduced powerful, direct drive, crystal controlled motors. They were adopted quickly by radio stations and used until CD’s replaced vinyl entirely…

rcaTTunderside
Huge flywheel motor affair that is under the platter of the early RCA transcription turntables.
Maybe there's still some hiding out there, somewhere?

Maybe there’s still some of these hiding out there, somewhere?

RCA BQ-2B 04

A more recent underside of a transcription turntable, the RCA BQ-2B. I do not recommend placing a tube amp in the cabinet!

 

 

 

 

If you’ve got room in your listening area for one of these behemoths, you’ll find them few and far between, and priced outrageously. And that’s before the freight shipping required to send to your place.  The most current and popular transcription unit is the Gates CB-500 ,  and the cabinet (if you can find it).

The Gates CB-500 and cabinet. The Holy Grail? This one's in Russia! The front panel controls are a sloppy, abortive add-on. 

The Gates CB-500 and cabinet. The Holy Grail? The front panel controls are a sloppy, abortive add-on.

 

 

 

gray-research-model-206-12-1 tx sound verrando

Grey Research Viscous Damped Tonearm with installation template.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Personal Story Time: In my college days of Radio and Television (circa 1980), the school had a large, 3 camera TV Studio, with a huge cyclorama curtain surrounding the walls.  One day, while scrounging behind the curtain, I found two of the huge RCA transcription turntables, in their massive cabinets. They had the coveted Grey Research Damped Transcription Tonearms, so named, as the arm rode on a layer of oil to isolate it from the turntable’s vibrations. And also to minimize lateral friction. The RCA tables were in deplorable, but restorable condition. Piles of 16″ records cluttered the space around the machines. I had little interest in vintage gear in those days, and forgot about them.  20 years later, I  learned l that when the TV studio was renovated into a dance studio, the turntables had been unceremoniously trashed.  Truthfully, over 30 years later, I still have lucid dreams about finding vintage broadcast equipment in the bunkers and catwalks of my alma-mater’s fine arts building.  – by Pete VerrandoMeadows_School_of_the_Arts

Why I like Sennheiser G2/G3 systems for everything but talent wireless

sennheiser G3 wireless

Sennheiser G3 wireless microphone system.

Here’s just a few reasons why I love G2/G3 for IFB/scratch track feeds over Lectro or Zaxcom IFB solutions:
– The mini plug input/output is highly compatible without need for custom cables. You can feed a scratch track to  a Red Epic with a standard ipod cable. Transmitter Mic/line input selectable thru tip or ring on the cable. You can hook up to anything with a good set of adaptors. Have you sent audio to a Black Magic camera yet? Non-standard, strangely wired 1/4″ jack inputs, but no problem with a Senn and an ipod cable with a headphone adaptor.
– you can feed  hops and Ifb with same transmitter. 1 less frequency to coordinate.

-Less weight and RF mess in a sound bag. I’d rather carry around a 2 ounce, 30mw G3, than a 1/2 pound, 250mw flamethrower like the Lectro T4.

– I purchased my first set for scratch track hops in 2005. I now have 6 transmitters, 4 plugs, 6 receivers and 15 IFB’s. All purchased on ebay, and on average, less than half of retail. (Many misguided soundies and one-off project users buy these, then dump ’em. )

I’ve yet to have one break.  I’ve replaced many antennas at 5 bucks each, if you can solder well, you’re good.
– huge battery life. 3 days with a pair of lithium AA’s
-audio/rf metering on every unit
-Better range than lectro R1a or zax 2.4 gHz IFB units, owing to  external whip antennas
-transmitter won’t RF swamp a sound bag
-some venues now restricting 2.4 gHz devices as they compete with wifi (Zaxcom IFB)
-super wide input/output audio level settings. It’s easier to set the level on the Senn than dig around on the cryptic Red Epic’s audio screen. So why bother?
-instinctively intuitive to use. Big, understandable, backlit display
-great for feeding video assist, pa systems, or pulling feeds from PA or press feeds
velcro them together for 2 channels, and they are still a very small receiver pkg.
-They’re Great crash wireless for talent- (about the only time I’ll put one on a talent).
-30 mw is low for transmitter power, but as an IFB, the pack is not against somebody’s body.
Instead, it is out in free space on your cart or bag. So no RF absorption from a sweaty cast member’s body.

I’ve have found that the Lectro IFBs are better if your crew needs to change receiver channels frequently to listen to different sound units. WIth Lectro R1a’s, They just push the volume button to cycle thru programmed channels, without needing to look at it. (Don’t know if the ERX can do this).

-Senn’s butt-plug transmitters are also cheap and great for a quickn’dirty wireless handheld for PA or voice-of-god mic for AD’s

On a recent commercial, with one Senny transmitter, I fed scratchtrack to  two Alexas, video assist, client-lounge PA speaker and 15 IFB’s. Excellent range, kinda nice.
-iem headphone amp VERY loud. Even the regular receivers can drive a headphone at +6

-easy to coordinate freqs with internal pre-selects/rf metering, or use the freq finder app.

IEMs and beltpack receivers will also receive acceptable audio sent from more powerful lectro IFB transmitters.

-I could go on. I’ve got buckets of these things.

But I never will use them as frontline talent wireless. They breakup a little at high audio frequencies (sibilant sounds) unless you stay well within the headroom, like half-level.

-By Pete Verrando www.txsound.com

 

Video Blow Torch Transmitter Interference for Wireless Microphones

gx-68 wireless video transmitter swamps wireless mics

The GX-68 Swamping Video Transmitter from Canada.

Imagine yourself listening to your favorite music on an Ipod with some really nice headphones. Maybe those Bose Quiet-Comfort 15’s, my fave on airplanes. They really sound great.

Now imagine you’re at a Skrillex show, 1st row, next to a massive stack of loudspeakers, while still listening to your Ipod with those great Bose headphones. What? Can’t hear your Ipod? You might say you’ve been swamped or more technically, de-sensed. Your headphone audio can’t compete with a Skrillex speaker stack. Bass, highs, no matter. Can’t hear a thing. No matter how great those headphones are, Skrillex’s speakers are overwhelming them.

Skrillex is swamping your headphones. The only remedy is physical distance between you and Skrillex.

lectrosonics, scans, wireless microphones, interference

Various Lectro Scans…Top left- pretty swamped! Bottom right- wide open.

The whole hop affair requires robust, expensive wireless audio systems. But, like my Bose headphones, my fine audio receivers had to share 1st row with the blazing Skrillex video flamethrower, and were de-sensing as a result of the powerful RF eminating from said blowtorch. The receivers have a frequency scan function (Lectrosonics UCR411a), and it was showing complete RF obliteration with the video transmitter switched on. A solid black block, floor to ceiling. When a powerful RF transmitter comes shoulder-to-shoulder with an RF receiver, de-sensing happens. The trans RF overwhelms the circuitry in the receiver, regardless of frequency selected. The only cure is distance.

Move the transmitter 3 or 4 feet away, and everything’s OK! But the only place for the video transmitter and my receivers to live were on the side of the camera. So who’s problem is this? Why mine, of course! Camera and director could not work without the little wireless video system.

No problem, the director says! We’ll just go “hard wire” from sound to camera for the entire week. Dark storm clouds formed over my head, images of water skiing behind camera, with an audio-cable tow rope, inside a wrecked-out house. Outside of interviews and other “tame” shoots, the last time I went hard-wire to camera was probably sometime in 1998.

Cameraman: Works great at home, he says. You can take the camera home tonight and “work it out.”

Lectro Lectrosonics scan swamped

Another Swamped scan on a Lectro Receiver

So, my 1st day goes down with the cable tether, as the production was in 1st day freight-train mode, and no down time for a little audio troubleshooting. I trudge the camera home that evening to perform the “prep” that should have happened the day before the shoot. On the bench, I learn that the transmitter is tunable from 512 thru 800 mHz. From the internet I learn about the transmitter, specs & how to set the frequency, as camera dept. hadn’t a clue about their little black box. I try different combinations of transmitter and hop frequencies, looking for those that play well together. No go. The video transmitter swamps everything from Lectro Block 21 thru 26 and beyond, regardless of frequency setting.

I try some surgery on the video transmitter’s antenna, running a tightly looped wire around the antenna and soldering it to the BNC shell. This detuned the antenna to the point where it became a less effective radiator. However, this may make matters worse by raising the vSWR of the antenna, which may cause the transmitter case radiate RF, or even burn out the transmitter.

I finally mount the transmitter way forward on the camera, tucking the antenna under the viewfinder, and set it to 800 mHz (channel 69). I mount the audio receivers at the extreme rear of the camera, using Lectro block 21 (520 mHz). Doing a scan, this gets the swamping down to the 50% point on the scan display.

Using 100mw transmitter hops, I send audio to the camera and walk test it in the backyard. Amazingly, no dropouts or hits! The Lectro wireless are robust enough to deliver clean audio despite 50% RF interference levels on the receivers. This is using UCR411a Receivers. I’m not sure I could have accomplished the same feat with the less-robust Lectro UCR401 receivers, or SRa’s, which are the equivalent of 401’s. Looks like camera’s gonna have to lug around a little extra weight on the side!

Regardless, I keep a minimum distance from the camera throughout the week, to make sure those hops were solid. I also ran 24 bit backup audio files on everything. Camera dept. refused to do a free-run sync of timecode with my recorder, something to do with the antiquated notion that sequentially coded files digitize faster. No argument from me. If they need the backup, hello Plural Eyes.

Lessons learned! Good times!      by Pete Verrando www.txsound.com

 

Location Sound Mixer, Time Code Slate Inventor Bill Daly -RIP

Bill_Daly location sound mixer

Bill also realized the first “Time Code Slate” using video monitors and a desk clock.

Bill Daly, a veteran N.Y. sound mixer filled in for Tod Maitland on the first 2.5 weeks of JFK in Dallas, doing all the motorcade scenes. I was the 2nd mixer and sfx recordist with my Nagra 4L and one of the early portable DAT machines, 5 years into my career. Bill was pretty gruff and would occasionally tear me a new arsehole by day, but always followed up by buying me a drink after wrap and regaling me with war stories. I’ll never forget one day, while sitting in the window sills of the 6th floor Book Depository, seeing Bill’s massive cart on the street below, with his huge Sela mixer and umbrella anchored to his cart, but no immediate sign of Bill. A gust of wind hooked the umbrella and pulled the cart over on its back, his stereo Nagra flipped lid-down and skidded on the pavement. Boom op T.J. O’Mara dashes over to the pile and slaps his hands to his head, and frantically he goes about righting the whole mess. I think they were back up and running in 15 minutes. It was surreal. He was just as encouraging and kind to me as he was a ball-buster. Cheers Bill!  by Pete Verrando, www.txsound.com

tod maitland jfk

Tod Maitland while in Dallas on JFK.

 

peteNagraBob16mma

Good Old Days of Nagra 4.2 and 16mm Film

This was an industrial film for The Associates, basically loan-sharks in hi-rise offices. Cameraman Bob Tullier is in the bag, loading 16mm magazines for his Cinema Products CP-16 motion picture camera. We called it “Sherm”, short for Sherman Tank, which is what the noise sounded like from the camera body. I have a Nagra 4.2 full track mono recorder there. The mic was a Sennheiser 816. I am wearing shorts, but this was 1986 (I’m 26 here). Bob and I went to college together, graduating about 1983. So this is us making real money. Thanks, Bob, for hiring me.