Vintage Record Player Whisperers Wanted
September 10, 2014 9:55 AM   Subscribe

I have acquired a gorgeous vintage record player, which I would like to either repair myself, or find someone to repair in the Chicago area.

I recently picked up this beautiful vintage GE record player for cheap, with the hope/intent of fixing it up and using it to, you know, play records. I am pretty handy (can solder, etc) but know nothing about fixing vintage electronics, so I am on the fence as to whether I should even attempt to fix it myself. My initial foray into learning how to do so has uncovered all manner of warnings about "don't just plug it in and see if it works because it might burst into flames and kill you", which has really put a damper on my urge to plug it in and see what happens (also, presumably the seller did this experiment for me, or it would not have cost me $20).

So, hivemind-- how do I safely proceed with debugging (and hopefully restoring) my record player's functionality? If the answer is "just take it to a repair shop", I'd really appreciate some suggested repair shops in Chicago as I just moved here and don't know the area at all.
posted by shaka_lulu to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
First step: Check the model number and see if you can't Google up the service manual.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:04 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is this thing old enough to have vacuum tubes in it? You might find some guidance from the members at the Antique Radios site.

If you can furnish a model number, they should be able to help you get a schematic that tells you what all the parts are and how they are connected to one another. Typically on an old electronic device, you'll want to start by testing and (probably) replacing the capacitors.
posted by Longtime Listener at 10:10 AM on September 10, 2014

Response by poster: Ah! I meant to supply the model number in the original post-- I think it's a RP 2020 A (the back sticker is barely legible), but unfortunately googling that doesn't seem to yield me schematics, only searches for replacement needles...
posted by shaka_lulu at 10:15 AM on September 10, 2014

Sys Rq has step one for sure; check and see if you can actually find the service manual.

With those parts numbers in hand, see if you can find all the major parts for it. I've fixed several old turntables, but sometimes you just can't get the appropriate part.

They're not super close to you, but the dudes over at Sound Classics should be able to help you out, and a friend of mine in the Chicago area swears by them; You can circumvent alot of time and frustration by having them diagnose the problem. Do keep in mind this probably won't even be cheap to diagnose, let alone fix.If it's just a capacitor or transistor here or there, you can probably fix it easily; if its a full motor or other large bit, they can be more difficult to source.

I'm re-reading the question and…you have turned it on, right? Turning it on most likely won't blow anything up that isn't already fucked. Chances are, if its non-operational, you'll get some half-hearted function out of it, or nothing. Plug that sucker in and at least assess what, if anything is wrong with it.

All that said, I wouldn't play records I wanted to keep around on a record player like this; it will quickly eat your vinyl alive. If you have, or want nice records, you should try and find a nice, up to date record player. This thing is really pretty, and would make a lovely centerpiece to a room, but even fully operational it won't sound that great, and seriously will fuck up your records over time…and possibly sooner than that.
posted by furnace.heart at 10:16 AM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Looks like about early to mid-60s vintage to me, and yes, totally a classic.

You can test most of the electronics by playing the radio; if that doesn't work or there's a tremendous hum (bad electrolytic capacitors), I'd say it's hopeless.

The needle in the ones I've seen was bonded to a weird pink piezoelectric crystal which was pretty fragile, and I don't think any subsequent modular cartridge has any chance of substituting.

Those things were pretty rough on records at best, so don't play any keepsakes or collectables on it -- but on the other hand, that thing will play through scratches which would knock the tonearm of a sophisticated turntable right off the record.
posted by jamjam at 10:32 AM on September 10, 2014

Best answer: The record player itself is made by Garrard (likely not GE).
If it's the record player you're concerned about, it bears a striking resemblance to a Garrard AT6 with a different tone arm.

To save you the hassle of an unnecessary site registration, I downloaded the owner's manual for you and set it up here.
posted by plinth at 11:50 AM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Yes, this must be early to mid 60s. Later models would have GE's own turntable, which was not as good as this Garrard. This style of player is not the equal of separate components of the same vintage, but I'm thinking this particular unit is about as good as it gets for a flip-down style phono.

Seconding the recommendation of Antique Radio Forums where there are folks who restore units like this regularly. Nthing too the idea that this won't be for your MoFis, Japanese imports, etc. but for common records in less than top condition. Fortunately the world (not to mention my basement) is full of such records. Good luck!
posted by in278s at 2:16 PM on September 10, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you everyone and thank you plinth for the manual!!! Man, did they have some gorgeous instruction manuals back then or what?
posted by shaka_lulu at 11:48 AM on September 11, 2014

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