Audiophile Turntable 101: Acoustic Research AR-XA - Page 2 - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #31 of 90 Old 01-30-2019, 07:36 PM
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Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
How many audio companies can you name who've been in the business so long that their first products predate the use of electrical motors!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_c...&v=XSN3rOKcrGI

^ A 1910 Nipponophone, powered by hand-cranked spring, still working a century after production!

Yamaha is even older, but they started with musical instruments such as this reed organ c.1887

Pianos in 1900.

and to the best of my knowledge didn't start making audio reproduction gear until well after WWII [1954?].
Amazing.

Save your money.
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post #32 of 90 Old 02-25-2019, 04:35 PM
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What a great video! Thank you for taking the time to make it. I only wish I'd seen it before I jumped into vinyl. What an education. Thanks!
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post #33 of 90 Old 05-18-2019, 02:27 PM - Thread Starter
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For their 40th anniversary Stereophile magazine polled their extended family of reviewers and writers to assemble an all time list of the 100 most important audio components of all time. Coming in at number 5, despite being dirt cheap [$78 for most of its production run], was the Acoustic Research AR-XA turntable:

"Stereophile review: Summer 1967 (Vol.2 No.5). While it was let down by a poor tonearm and cheap construction, Edgar Villchur's deceptively simple-looking turntable created the formula for almost every high-end turntable introduced in the past 40 years: belt drive and a suspended subchassis both provided high-pass filter action to isolate the stylus/groove interface from, respectively, motor- and loudspeaker-generated vibration. "

40 Years of Stereophile: The Hot 100 Products

Number one on their Hot 100 List was the well known Linn Sondek LP12 turntable, which anyone who has deconstructed one will tell you is essentially an AR-XA, albeit using much beefier parts and construction. Their current top version of it in deluxe configuration [including arm and cartridge] is called the Linn Klimax LP12 and (according to the link) will set you back about $23,747 [£18,670 GBP].

"The Sondek LP12 turntable, introduced in 1972, utilises a suspended sub-chassis design and a patented tightly-toleranced single-point bearing. The LP12 has evolved since its introduction, but its basic suspended sub-chassis design has remained.[5] The design was identical to the Ariston RD11[6] and similar to the Thorens TD150, both in turn based on the Acoustic Research XA turntable that was launched in 1961.[7] The XA was created by renowned audio pioneer Edgar Villchur.[8]"

History of the Linn LP12, Wikipedia

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post #34 of 90 Old 05-18-2019, 03:25 PM - Thread Starter
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Despite being a half century old at that point, The Absolute Sound magazine in 2011 ranked the AR-XA turntable number 1 (a notch above the Linn LP12) in their article "The 10 Most Significant Turntables of All Time":

https://web.archive.org/web/20140201...tas-216?page=1
https://web.archive.org/web/20140204...tas-216?page=2

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post #35 of 90 Old 05-18-2019, 07:04 PM
 
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Funny. From previous statements, Ive found some individuals to have no respect or even interest in what the Absolute Sound and Stereophile has to say, except when it agrees with them.
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post #36 of 90 Old 05-18-2019, 08:57 PM - Thread Starter
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I suspect another reason many people (including some magazine reviewers) discredited the XA tonearm, besides not understanding the physics behind why it is designed the way that it is, is because they failed to read the instructions and hence ended up harming their headshells. Whereas on a typical headshell (like on a SL1200) you can rotate the mounting collar to pull in the headshell into the mount, this exact same procedure applied to the XA can potentially strip the delicate, acrylic threads. On the XA the headshell must be fully inserted and pressed into the fully seated position first, prior to tightening the outer collar.

The way AR was able to release the lowest mass tone arm of any other turntable on the market (at the time) was to shave off every gram possible. Any unnecessary weight in the headshell and/or its mount are especially problematic because being so far away from the fulcrum they have greater inertial mass. [AR's minimization of inertial mass is why it passes the McProud test, as I demonstrated in the video]. This would explain why AR prioritized low mass over ruggedness for the mount.

Considering my XA headshells are older than I am and have successfully lasted over half a century shows that with proper care and use the design was indeed rugged enough.

Replacement headshells were sold by AR for $2, which included shipping and handling.

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post #37 of 90 Old 05-28-2019, 04:51 PM - Thread Starter
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For convenience and easy access, I have now indexed all the tests so while at Youtube you can simply click on the time mark links to jump to any specific test of interest, or here, below, simply click on the Youtube image above each description to watch the test/demo of it:

- sub-chassis ground strap to dissipate static charges [just a still photograph of it, no demo], reducing pops and ticks
- neutral balance tonearm (instead of typical stable balance) maintaining a non-varying tracking force even on dips/warps
- heavy platter for momentum (speed regulation) yet light enough to be driven with a precision, synchronous clock motor
An added perk of the neutral balance arm is the constant tracking force obtained even if the XA is relocated to a tilted shelf in the room.
- ULTRA low mass, acrylic headshell for low inertial mass in order to track difficult/imperfect records
- very rigid and inflexible, "box-construction" headshell design to minimize microscopic flexing (distortion) despite its low mass
AR's white paper "Skating Force: Mountain or Molehill?"- R. S. Oakley Jr., Audio magazine, Mar. 1967 summarized: Waveform tests show it's unimportant if using an adequate tracking force from the get go, however a DIY design like a weight suspended by a thread draped over a bent paper clip, attached to the arm, may be added for those who are still concerned.
https://www.americanradiohistory.com...io-1967-03.pdf
- Dead accurate speed and very low wow & flutter, including actual stylus drag during the test. [Even with oxide on this one's pulley and a cheap, aftermarket belt instead of AR's original belt, which were frozen solid and then machined on both sides for precise surface uniformity.]
Despite looking flat, a closer examination reveals that micro warps (surface bumps/dips) exist on most LPs. This is why the AR-XA keeps its pivot height much lower than the competition in order to minimize "warp wow". A demo compares the XA pivot height to that of a $28,000 tonearm using a 1 kHz test tone on the CBS STR-100 test record with an artificial warp.
- immunity to shock and vibration hammer test.
- Acoustic feedback "howl" immunity even at VERY high playback levels and when mounting close to, or even ON a speaker, including immunity to incipient acoustic feedback distortion, preventing boominess and murkiness, found at lower playback levels with some designs
- Ultra low mass headshell/arm: McProud Test at 33 RPM. [WARNING: May fling the arm off the record and damage the stylus on the competition!]
Full-size, NAB broadcast quality spindle diameter to minimize groove eccentricity wow.
Artificially induced 1mm eccentricity audibility demonstrated

THE FOLLOWING TEST REQUIRES EITHER SPEAKERS WITH GOOD, DEEP BASS IN A QUIET ROOM OR FULL SIZE HEADPHONES.

-3-pt. floating sub-chassis immunity to ROOM noise rumble, not reflected in a traditional rumble spec. [An ON/OFF demo of the suspension shows what it eliminates via spectral analysis.]

Nailing wood on the top plate [aka the "plinth"] demo!

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post #38 of 90 Old 05-28-2019, 07:20 PM
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Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
Using objective science tests I demonstrate what makes the legendary AR-XA turntable top-notch, even by today's standards, in my Youtube turntable tutorial. Some of the performance tests I conduct in this video must be listened to either with full-size headphones or with large speakers (or subwoofer system) capable of ~30Hz deep bass, in a dead quiet room. Otherwise you won't properly hear the improvement the AR turntable offers. ...
Very amazing video, both in terms of shedding light on the AR turntable and on the principles involved. I had one of these AR turntables in high school in the late 70's -- a neighbor sold it to me for I think something like $50. I didn't use it much. I knew it was a legendary turntable, but back then I thought it was old and the springs were funky, so I used my Technics direct drive turntable a lot more (direct drive was the "wave of the future" back then IIRC). I wish I used the AR more and held onto it.

I currently have an early 80's Rega P2 with glass platter (with the legendary broken anti-skate). I wonder how the 60's AR would compare to my P2.
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post #39 of 90 Old 05-28-2019, 09:46 PM - Thread Starter
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a neighbor sold it to me for I think something like $50.
There are people who make a career out of snatching up those affordable ones, often selling for nothing at yard sales or simply gathering dust in their grandparents' basement or attic, and they then soup them up with a few mods (maybe) and resell them on ebay for a, um, tidy profit.

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post #40 of 90 Old 05-29-2019, 06:01 AM
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Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
There are people who make a career out of snatching up those affordable ones, often selling for nothing at yard sales or simply gathering dust in their grandparents' basement or attic, and they then soup them up with a few mods (maybe) and resell them on ebay for a, um, tidy profit.
It does look rather sexy with that SME tonearm though ...

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post #41 of 90 Old 05-29-2019, 09:13 AM
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Great stuff m.zillch. Thanks!


That old AR turntable measures better in wow/flutter than my much more expensive turntable!
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post #42 of 90 Old 05-29-2019, 12:30 PM - Thread Starter
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It does look rather sexy with that SME tonearm though ...
AR specifically avoided the "spaceship look" of many Japanese arm designs starting to appear at the time [which exploded in popularity a decade later and remain to this day] and instead went for the simplest yet best performing design they could. This engineering diagram from the Villchur white paper I read from in the video shows the five different ways that an arm can be balanced on the horizontal plane (left to right in the image below):
SME 3009 uses method "C2":


Note: the "outrigger counter weight" option (C2 in the diagram) which the SME tonearm design employs was considered by AR but was ultimately rejected in favor of a "reverse curve" tonearm (b), popularly called an "S-tonearm" in modern parlance. For people looking to make the tonearm design look as complex as possible the outrigger balance is definitively the way to go, and it is found on many pricey designs to this day, because it adds more visual elements for the consumer to ponder and discuss.

Example:
"Yes, I get what that outrigger weight does and why it is important, just like I understand how the anti-skating weight dangling on the thread works and why it is important." This then empowers the owner and gives them talking points to brag to friends about when explaining to visitors what makes their setup so good.

The reverse curve arm however has some advantages and only one very minor disadvantage: if the tonearm aluminum tube were to be "straightened out" you would discover it is (let's say) .5 to 1 inch longer than a comparable straight tube needed to transverse the exact same linear distance, pivot to headshell. Thing is, AR was already using a thin-walled aluminum tube with an extremely low mass, so the mass of this added length is minuscule (milligrams). Reducing its length (and therefore its mass) by such a trivial amount was deemed unnecessary and it helped keep the whole design simpler and less complex.
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post #43 of 90 Old 05-29-2019, 07:04 PM
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Great stuff m.zillch. Thanks!


That old AR turntable measures better in wow/flutter than my much more expensive turntable!
Even modern cheap tables are doing pretty decent these days including my $299 Musical Fidelity Roundtable

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post #44 of 90 Old 05-29-2019, 10:59 PM - Thread Starter
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^Scott, does your cellphone app [different from the one I use, "RPM - Pro Turntable Accuracy"] have an option to turn off its "2sigma" wow and flutter estimation? In itself there's nothing wrong with doing it that way but it makes the WnF results only comparable to other measurements taken with that same app. [I also assume when it says "Wow" it really means "wow and flutter". Technically they are subtly different]:

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post #45 of 90 Old 05-30-2019, 08:03 AM
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^Scott, does your cellphone app [different from the one I use, "RPM - Pro Turntable Accuracy"] have an option to turn off its "2sigma" wow and flutter estimation? In itself there's nothing wrong with doing it that way but it makes the WnF results only comparable to other measurements taken with that same app. [I also assume when it says "Wow" it really means "wow and flutter". Technically they are subtly different]:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCwRdrFtJuE

This was saved in my photobucket files from a year or so ago.

We've been down this path before, but a long time ago. I think what happened is that I tried looking up the app you use on google play and found that it was iOS only. So I downloaded two or three apps from google play and found the apps to be pretty consistent. Details are pretty foggy at this point.

And yes, wow and flutter are quite different with wow being a slower speed variation and flutter far faster as in a few times per second.

Edit: This is when I also tried this at 45rpm and found that it was spinning fast enough that it flung the phone into my tonearm and cart. I think I stopped playing after that.

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post #46 of 90 Old 05-30-2019, 08:07 AM
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Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
AR specifically avoided the "spaceship look" of many Japanese arm designs starting to appear at the time [which exploded in popularity a decade later and remain to this day] and instead went for the simplest yet best performing design they could. This engineering diagram from the Villchur white paper I read from in the video shows the five different ways that an arm can be balanced on the horizontal plane ...

Great info in your post, but apparently you didn't notice how pretty that SME tonearm is ...


I get it, and the AR tonearm is actually great looking also in it's own minimalistic way.

As much as I admire the AR's technical excellence, the AR headshell is just ugly. Even as a high-schooler in 1979, the look of my AR headshell bothered me a lot -- it looked like it was from the 50's, or pulled off a "Close n' Play" to me. As an idiot teenager, that's why my AR sat idle and that's why I assumed my Technics direct drive was much better (without even bothering to compare them).

My AR headshell was gray, which is even uglier than black. I'm sure there is design excellence in the headshell as well, but it seems like they could have made it more attractive without sacrificing performance.
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post #47 of 90 Old 05-30-2019, 08:23 AM
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Thumbs up

Very similar to my Jelco arm on my TT.
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post #48 of 90 Old 05-30-2019, 11:03 AM - Thread Starter
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I consider the headshell "boxy but good".
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post #49 of 90 Old 05-30-2019, 12:26 PM - Thread Starter
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It's funny how by today's standards it looks "old" but at the time it looked "modern industrial minimalism" which is probably why it's on display at the Museum of Modern Art: "So it is altogether fitting that Villchur’s little masterpiece has a permanent place in the Museum of Modern Art’s industrial design collection." - Absolute Sound, 2018

Here's every single image of what turntables and tonearms looked like at the exact time of the AR-XA's release, advertised in the same Audio magazine I read from in the video, Sept. 1962:





Also keep in mind this was a magazine for audio hobbyists, audiophiles, not just average Joe's looking to get a record player built in to their TV cabinet console (furniture), so these are representative of "upscale" designs.
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post #50 of 90 Old 05-31-2019, 01:20 AM - Thread Starter
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Here's a guy who mods AR-XAs I dig because they look like the opposite of a spaceship: an organic, slice of a tree! Notice the brass AR badge in the front left just like on the un-modded version:


https://i797.photobucket.com/albums/...s1/ARBurl1.jpg

Here's the secret sauce, the 3-point floating sub-chassis [a steel i-beam extended into a "T"] under the hood.

https://i797.photobucket.com/albums/...ves1/Burl4.jpg

I guess for the nailing into wood demo I show at the end of my video he wouldn't need an extra piece of wood; he just nails into the turntable itself!
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post #51 of 90 Old 05-31-2019, 08:39 AM
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One of these years, I might get one. This is what my Dad had growing up. On the one hand, I don't miss the fiddlyness of the AR, however, I've been toying with replicating his system as it's all available on ebay. (The Advent Loudspeaker, Teac 1200u, AR turntable, Sony receiver). I broke every one of those things as a kid, some things more than once.... It's all been long gone for decades. Have to get it with a Shure cartridge for maximum nostalgia. Hopefully with age(lots of it), I'll be able to not break the stuff again. I'm kind of leery of buying an AR turntable and having it shipped, tbh.
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post #52 of 90 Old 05-31-2019, 11:17 AM - Thread Starter
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I'm kind of leery of buying an AR turntable and having it shipped, tbh.
I know what you mean. Once set up and with the springs working it's certainly not the sort of thing I'd want to have bouncing around on a UPS truck cross country!

Unfortunately the original box and packing material to break it all down into it parts for safe shipping are hard to come by at this late date. That cardboard box all by itself, by the way, even if worn/dirty sells used for more than the entire turntable when new!
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post #53 of 90 Old 06-02-2019, 07:42 PM - Thread Starter
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"State of the AR-T" -John Atkinson, HiFi News, May 2019

The original AR-XA appeared on the front cover of an audio hobbyist magazine [maybe "Audio Amateur"?] just a few years ago and I remember thinking at the time, "Wow, this thing is half a century old and it is still making waves and getting front cover exposure!?" but alas, I can' find it [the cover image] on the web.

In the mean time, I see John Atkinson had a nostalgic re-print of the AR re-launched 1983 version of the turntable [not designed by Villchur] in the most recent Hi-Fi News magazine, May 21, 2019:
https://www.hifinews.com/content/state-ar-t

P.S. I have a few quibbles with the article but regarding his comment that the spindle was "over-sized", I explain why it intentionally used the NAB Broadcast standard in my video at 40m35s. Also, AR described how if one was having an issue getting a particular LP to fit, the quick and easy solution was to use a pencil tip to enlarge the LP's hole slightly. [see attachment]
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post #54 of 90 Old 06-04-2019, 01:13 PM - Thread Starter
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I sometimes wonder if AR accidentally started the whole "break-in" myth by showing in their ads how their units were "run in" for 48 hours prior to the final inspection for speed accuracy, speed regulation, wow, flutter, and rumble:


Of course this had nothing to do with "breaking them in for the best sound". This quality control step was to weed out the bad apples so they could offer a 3 year warranty on the turntables, 5 years on the speakers [now standard for many companies but I think AR was the first], including they would even pay for shipping to them for the servicing and provide a shipping carton if the customer requested one.
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post #55 of 90 Old 06-10-2019, 03:50 PM - Thread Starter
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I just discovered an AR-XA test I missed: demonstrating the advantage to the neutral balance (rather than the more commonly used stable balance) arm. If I had known about it I'd have included it in the main video :



The AR-XA included the simple yet effective tracking force scale shown in the ad's photographs in the box, so this test would have been easy for any owner to replicate themselves.

This ad appears in the same Audio magazine issue, March 1967, with the article by R. S. Oakley Jr., p.40. "Anti-skating: Mountain or molehill?", explaining that there is no change in distortion on the AR-XA because it lacks an anti-skating force. [Oscilloscope screen grabs are provided to back this up.] The only change is the minimum tracking force value possible, which is a trivial 10-15% higher value than it would be on an arm design with anti-skating, but according to AR (and me) one should never use the manufacturer's minimum tracking force value in the first place, when they quote a range!

They also describe how to easily fabricate an anti-skating device with a weight hanging on a thread draped over a bent paper clip, for those who still feel they want one.
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Last edited by m. zillch; 06-11-2019 at 01:48 AM.
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post #56 of 90 Old 06-12-2019, 11:24 PM - Thread Starter
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I like this guy's hyper modded one.

I sold those speakers. [Back when KEF was good.] Reference 105.2 with some sort or ribbon super tweeter added on top. [We affectionately called the speaker "R2D2"; The top rotates to toe-in the mids and highs.] They were used as the reference speaker by some professional reviewers.
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"Why is there no arm lift?" was the number one request by owners and it's interesting what he's done. Not sure if he made that or if it is aftermarket.

AR's follow up to the XA, the XB, included an arm lift!

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post #57 of 90 Old 06-12-2019, 11:28 PM
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Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
I like this guy's hyper modded one.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gctpU3ohqzE

I sold those speakers. [Back when KEF was good.] Reference 105.2 with some sort or ribbon super tweeter added on top. [We called it "R2D2". The top rotates to aim the mids and highs. They were used as the reference speaker by some professional reviewers.
---

"Why is there no arm lift?" was the number one request by owners and it's interesting what he's done. Not sure if he made that or if it is aftermarket.

AR's follow up to the XA, the XB, included an arm lift!
It's quite possible my dad's AR would have survived my childhood if it had a lift. I dropped that sumbitch so many times....
m. zillch and leecreek like this.

Last edited by drh3b; 06-12-2019 at 11:45 PM.
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post #58 of 90 Old 09-03-2019, 01:03 PM - Thread Starter
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It's quite possible my dad's AR would have survived my childhood if it had a lift. I dropped that sumbitch so many times....
Did you ever actually break the stylus though? Instead of an arm lift AR had a built-in safety mechanism which slowed the arm's descent if dropped from high off the record, said to be good for people with "butterfingers". [Like me! ] It cleverly did not impact the free floating nature of the main pivot because when adjusted properly it only came into play if the arm moved more than a quarter of an inch, up or down. Part of it relied on a felt disc washer (which eventually decayed after many years/decades). Unfortunately this exact part is no longer available, I don't think, so many people suggest simply bypassing the whole mechanism instead, as a workaround.

I had enough video on my cutting room floor to cobble together another video about how to do this; i.e. bypass the damped descent safety mechanism (if one can't find a suitable washer during restoration). Here it is:

All the other main points of restoration are also briefly discussed, including how to clean/oil the platter and arm bearings and talcing a new belt, which can be bought on line. [I bought mine here. ]

Last edited by m. zillch; 09-29-2019 at 03:50 PM.
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post #59 of 90 Old 10-22-2019, 02:15 PM - Thread Starter
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Youtube doesn't allow copyrighted material except for very short excerpts. This can be a huge stumbling block for people like me trying to discuss audio! [Even though Youtube sound is compressed.]

They don't publicly state how many brief seconds of music are allowed, as far as I know, so I made it a point to only use very short excerpts of music in my AR-XA video. [Now with a new thumbnail ].

For people interested in getting a better idea of the audio performance by listening to actual uncompressed music, I have uploaded two 30 second passages of an LP played on the AR-XA vs. a CD of the same song to my Dropbox account, so the two can be downloaded and compared under double blind conditions in a different thread.

Last edited by m. zillch; 10-22-2019 at 03:18 PM.
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post #60 of 90 Old 10-27-2019, 09:53 PM
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Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
Youtube doesn't allow copyrighted material except for very short excerpts. This can be a huge stumbling block for people like me trying to discuss audio! [Even though Youtube sound is compressed.]
YouTube has gotten a lot more clever about how it handles copyrighted material now. Instead of cancelling the video and putting a against the account, it often will allow the video to run and send you an email informing you that ads may be ads inserted into your video and that revenue will go to the copyright holder. I assume the copyright holder needs to opt in, but it seems like a lot of songs have that arrangement. I' don't know if there is a way to "pre-check" if a song has the agreement, but it seems like a lot of them have it.
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