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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)

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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

 

 

 

 

 

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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

Robocop Memories- Callsheets, Scripts, Photos, Comics, Video

robocop, Dallas, 1986,pete verrando, In 1986 I was a new freelancer in Dallas, TX, and was hired to assist with on-set video playback for Robocop. I had never been on a movie set prior to this, my experience limited to industrials, tabloid television and the like.  This was a new world for me. I’ve recently came across a stash of items I had saved from those days-  callsheets, photos, scripts, etc., so I thought I’d post a few here.   I ended up providing this “24 frame video service” to about 40 motion pictures shot in Texas throughout the mid-80’s to mid-90’s. At the bottom of the article is my video demo reel from my playback days.

Video Playback” was a position similar to music playback on a set. Except, I was working with videotape or providing computer & camera feeds. These sources fed televisions, monitors or computer screens in the camera frame.  The sound department often pulled a feed from the video, and I was tasked with hitting the playback on cue with what the actors were doing on set. I also sychronized the film camera to the video. The film camera had to be in-sync with the TV screens, or the 30 frame screens would flicker against the camera’s 24 frame shutter. Interfacing and controlling the camera dept’s raison d’etre  called for technical competence and diplomacy.

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The Boardroom were Murphy blows away Jones. Notice ED209 hiding around the corner!

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The VTR’s used to feed the boardroom monitors in the final scene.

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Sound Mixer Robert Wald’s, C.A.S. sound cart on the set of Robocop. Notice the FM radio headsets used for Comteks in 1986. Vega wireless, Stereo FM Pilot Nagra. This was the first “location sound cart” I had ever seen.

ed209, robocop, verrando, video playback, sound mixer

ED209- the life-size model present on the set of Robocop.

Robocop, video, board room, murphy, verrando, production sound mixer, blog

The 2nd to last page of the Robocop script- boardroom scene

Robocop, murphy, board room, video playback , verrando, texas location sound mixer

Last page of the Robocop script where Murphy shoots Jones in the boardroom.

robocop, call sheet, verrando, texas location sound mixer

Call Sheet from Robocop – 1986- hand-written in those days!

robocop, call sheet, 1986, film, verrando, texas location sound mixer

The primary cast of Robocop, as listed on the call sheet, with their call times.

Robocop, call sheet, ED209, comics, verrando, texas production sound mixer

A little set humor was added to each day’s call sheet on Robocop, 1986.

Here’s the demo I would peddle to various productions when they came to Texas. “Need any video playback?” Productions were surprised when they learned the service was available in Texas!

The Allure of Nagra Tape Recorders

Nagra IV-S tape recorder

Nagra IV-S Stereo Tape Recorder

Particularly regarding the Instrumentation Nagra SJ, an audiophile client was asking me what made the Nagra sound “special.” The SJ has “extended frequency response” to allow for measurment of vibrations and supersonic artifacts. Does it sound better? Is it the amplifier design?

Nagra III tape recorder 1960

This 1960 Nagra III has unusual head shielding. Also there is no tone generator or BA (before/after) switch.

The SJ is not necessarily going to sound better. The SJ recording system did not include the same pre-distortion tricks that are employed in the audio Nagras. As you go up in record level, saturation and non-linearity increase. Pre-distortion served maintain that linearity. Otherwise, the SJ has NAB/CCIR record and playback EQ like any other Nagra. The head gaps on the SJ’s were narrower, to allow for higher frequency recording and playback at 15ips. The specifications have the response at 35khz at 15ips. ….Nagras were often built to order, with unique circuitry combinations based on what the individual customer needed. Along with circuit improvements/changes done at the factory, (many undocumented) there’s hundreds of different Nagra configurations. There were even Nagras built without a front meter or input level controls, just a blank panel (Nagra IV-ML) These days, every Nagra I encounter is different in some way from the norm.

Nagra IV-ML

The Nagra IV-ML had no front panel meter or level controls.

nagra IV-ML

The levels were meant to be controlled at the mixer.

The Nagra playback amplifiers are simple, discrete transistor designs. I’ve had clients who own outboard tape head pre-amps they’ve paid $4000 for, like the “King Cello” preamp, so they want the outputs of the heads available on the side panel of the Nagra. For example see http://www.reeltapes.net/kingcello -one of these expensive preamps.

King Cello Nagra

King Cello Tape Head Preamp- $4000

Using the Nagra in a home music playback environment goes beyond the sound of the internal amplifiers. Users also appreciate having a very unique, professional, portable recorder. Stereo Nagras sold back in the 80’s for around $10,000. The build quality is remarkable, with no stamped parts, only machined aluminum/stainless steel parts. The functionality and durability were designed to withstand constant use in extreme environments and temperatures. The servo motor speed control can maintain perfect speed while the recorder is dropped to a table, or while the user is running on foot with the recorder on the shoulder. The tape tension mechanics are ingenious, continually self-adjusting tape tension during transport operations. The aesthetic design is a direct reflection of Kudelski’s sensibilities, from the unusual dual-needle meter, to the use of excessive panel labeling. Kudelski’s electronic designs were not complex, but all component values, tolerances and other characteristics were carefully regulated. All transformers and inductors (using toriod cores only) are wound entirely in-house. All fasteners are made of stainless steel. It is a laboratory-grade instrument that found its primary home in the alternative universe of motion picture production. That the film art-form once required such elegant, yet precision equipment is part of the Nagra’s allure. -by Pete Verrando www.txsound.comNagra IV-S Verrando  

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Car-to-Car with Lectro’s SMV

   Recently, I was on a shoot following bounty hunters around a city every night for about 10 days. Both cars worked together, with two hunters in each. Each car had a camera operator inside,  and both “hunters” were mic’d with Lectro SMV’s , transmitting directly to an SRb 2-channel receiver on the camera. 

    Camera mic was on channel 3/4.  Now the fun part–   a plant mic was placed in the car’s headliner dead center, and fed to an external SMv transmitter on each car. Both SMv’s at 250mw full power, and taking 12 volts  from each car’s cigar lighter. Our follow vehicle had two Lectro SNA-600 dipoles mounted about 12″ above the roof on fiberglass poles, feeding a Venue Field inside the van. The Field received the 4 officer’s wireless, & the two plant mic wireless.  

Rubber band pulls transmit antenna away from car to maximze range. Fixed to glass with heavy-duty Velcro.
Transmitter  then covered in gaff tape 
Follow vehicle SNA-600 antennas fed a Lectrosonics Venue Field inside. 


On the road, the follow vehicle could reliably  hear those plant mics  up to 1/2 mile away from the hunter cars-  sometimes more in the countryside!  In the city, we would routinely loose the cars in traffic, but could usually still hear them.   This made for great follow vehicle IFB, & two clear recorded tracks of car interior when bad guys were loaded in the car. 

-by Pete Verrando

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.