Help fix my slightly messed up turntable?
June 27, 2018 8:25 PM   Subscribe

Calling all makers and fixers! I am new to this hobby. Found this on a stoop and am in love. But how to fix it? Images are here Anyone with experience, what do you think? Can it be done? Thanks in advance!

Extended summary:

There is no needle where the needle is supposed to be, just three scraggly red blue and yellow wires hanging down and sort of dangling over the turntable part. Also, the jacks that one would plug into a speaker (?) are missing the blue jack (the yellow and red are ok). Instead of that, there is a fork looking thing with no insulation - so possibly a fire hazard?
posted by karmachameleon to Technology (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The "needle part" is the cartridge and stylus, which are meant to be replaced. Here's some instructions. Hard to tell if your turntable is ready for a replacement, or if it's been damaged.

The spade is the ground wire. That's how it's supposed to look. Your amp should have a screw labeled "ground"; you loosen the screw and tighten it over the spade.

Good luck!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:42 PM on June 27, 2018 [3 favorites]

It also looks like you're missing the platter (and mat that goes on top of it), no?
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:46 PM on June 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

Yeah, the fork is the grounding wire. That’s fine.

You’re missing the cartridge, which is the “needle part”. It looks like the connection may have been damaged, the cartridge should probably plug into some sort of socket.

You’re also missing the platter, aka the spinning thing that the record sits on.
posted by gnutron at 8:46 PM on June 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Can I buy the platter???
Yeah, there are totally two slits where the screws could go in to screw in the cartridge. Do the cartridge and stylus have to be that Gemini brand of a specific kind, do you know?
posted by karmachameleon at 8:49 PM on June 27, 2018

I'm sure you could, but you're trying to piece together a turntable from something you picked up from a stoop. You know it's missing the cartridge and platter; there's no telling what else is wrong with it.

Here's a recent eBay listing for a PT2000 that ended at $50, plus shipping. I can't give advice on DJ turntables--is that what you're looking for, or just a regular turntable for listening to vinyl at home?
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:00 PM on June 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

You should definitely make sure that replacement parts are compatible with that turntable, especially the cartridge. Also, before you sink money into parts - do you have an amp & speakers? Are you willing to spend more money to build a complete system? I also agree with Admiral - it was thrown in the trash - it’s possible there are other significant issues that aren’t as easily fixed.
posted by gnutron at 9:06 PM on June 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you have any electronics repair place in your town I am sure they will be super lovely and helpful beyond your wildest dreams/way less expensive than you might imagine...

I am still in the afterglow of getting my turntable fixed TODAY at a place called “high tech electronics repair.” The proprietor has owned the business for decades, gave me the whole scoop on how I could replace the even-more-ancient turntable in my old timey 1940s tube radio/turntable console, and also answered all my questions about the cassette recorder in my classique boombox.

May this sort of repair shop live forever.
posted by wowenthusiast at 9:09 PM on June 27, 2018

Oh no I have the platter whoops. Thanks and listening intently over here.
I don't have big speakers and am not sure if it is going to become a DJ turntable. But it definitely turns on and spins at both 33 and 45 rotations per minute.

The platter isn't part of the photo but repeat folks, it is there.

Thanks! No expectations, just want to learn how to do.
posted by karmachameleon at 9:12 PM on June 27, 2018

PS This is just to use as a record player
posted by karmachameleon at 9:34 PM on June 27, 2018


So I'm going to use all the terms you might need so that you get familiar with them.

It looks like you've got a headshell. That's a thing that attaches to the end of the tone arm (the 20cm long wand that floats above the record and should terminate with a needle). The headshell screws into the tone arm.

On the headshell you can fit a cartridge (example 1, example 2) using two very small screws. A cartridge is the bit that holds a needle (stylus or tip) and converts its movements into electrical signals using a tiny internal magnet.

Headshells have an entirely standardised interface for where they attach the tone arm – so lots of different headshells are compatible with lots of different turntable tonearms. This enables a person to quickly swap one cartridge for another; instead of having to do something fiddly with the carts and the small screws and wires, they can just unscrew the entire headshell. The headshell in your picture has a small lever sticking out of it which you use to pick up and lower the tonearm on to the record.

So you have a headshell, but you say you have no stylus (needle) on it. That might be because there's no cart mounted on the headshell. That sounds like what's happening here, because you've those scraggly wires sticking out. The end of a tonearm which has no headshell on it has no scraggle wires, just an interface to marry to the headshell. But a headshell without a cart has those wires. The cart is screwed to the headshell and the wires on the headshell locate to connectors on the cart.

In addition, many carts have replaceable needles. But as it sounds like you need a whole cartridge you don't need to worry, cos when you buy a cart it'll come with a needle already on it. It'll also come with those small screws you need to install it on the headshell. Installing carts isn't hard – it's fiddly, not difficult – and there are lots of youtube video explainers. Lots of cart options here and at many DJ supply stores.

(If it's usefully instructional, note that a model like this one is a combined headshell and cart in one – the silver loop on the left back is where it screws into the tonearm, and there is no removable cart. But It does have a replaceable needle/stylus/tip. You don't need one of these, I'm just flagging it so you can see the difference. Compare it with this, where you are looking at a headshell [this time the interface for the tonearm is on the right], the cart is mounted beneath it with two small screws and those 4 wires. The cart itself is replaceable, and it also has a replaceable tip).
posted by Joeruckus at 12:55 AM on June 28, 2018 [4 favorites]

There are two types of cartridges as well: moving magnet and moving coil. Both have ridiculously low output signal voltages, but moving coil has ridiculously ridiculously low output. Neither type will drive the same kind of general-purpose inputs you'd wire a tape deck or CD player to.

If your amp does not have its own dedicated phono input, you'll need a separate phono preamp to go between your phono cartridge and one of your amp's general-purpose inputs. The preamp type has to match the cartridge type. Most amps that do have a dedicated phono input will have one that suits a moving-magnet cartridge; moving-coil gear is generally more high-end and almost always needs a separate preamp.

The reason you have a separate grounding lug on the signal cable is to make sure that the chassis of your record player is grounded to a point on your amplifier that's physically very close to the shield grounds built into the main signal connectors. This is necessary because the output from the cart is so tiny; given the sheer amount of amplification that's going to be applied to that output, it's very easy for tiny amounts of stray mains-borne hum to find its way into the signal path and become annoyingly audible.
posted by flabdablet at 1:04 AM on June 28, 2018

This should have a counterweight that goes on the end on the tonearm. Do you have that? If not, this will be unusable until you get it. You can get a decent cartridge for around $15–just look up “Audio Technica 3600” on eBay.
posted by Slinga at 4:12 AM on June 28, 2018

Good catch by Slinga. Those counterweights are absolutely not optional. They screw in and out to allow you to adjust the tracking force the stylus applies to the groove, usually mismeasured in grams; a typical tracking force for a typical midrange cartridge should be something like 2g.

With the counterweight missing, you might easily end up with a tracking weight of tens of grams - enough to damage the tiny cantilever arm in the cartridge that supports the actual stylus jewel and gouge the crap out of any record you attempt to play, quite apart from sounding terrible.
posted by flabdablet at 5:23 AM on June 28, 2018

Given that there are only a few of these tables on eBay, they're very cheap, and they're broken, there's a decent chance yours will not work properly, even with the cartridge and counterweight. I know it seems neat, but my suggestion is to find a decent turntable on Craigslist and give this one away.
posted by Slinga at 6:45 AM on June 28, 2018 [4 favorites]

Welcome to a fun and frustrating hobby!

So, some bad news. This particular specimen is, unfortunately, unlikely to be a cost-effective repair job. As noted above it requires a counterweight on the tonearm, and a stylus/cartridge combo. The counterweight is very unlikely to be swappable with another turntable's counterweight, so you're probably looking for a very specific part for this particular table.

You also mention there's only 3 wires in the cartridge mount area (under the headshell) -- this is another problem that I don't believe anyone's mentioned yet; there should be four. In the best-case scenario this means that only the L or R channel is getting picked up, in the worst-case scenario it means the whole tonearm needs to be replaced as well.

There's a greater-than-50% chance it also needs internals replaced, which is why it was retired in the first place. This is because the spinning platter is run off a motor, and a motor wearing out will cause the record to spin the wrong speed or inconsistently, which will make the music sound very bad. This is most likely where the original failure was, and the owner tugged off and stashed the other salvageable parts (cartridge, etc) before throwing it out. Which is to say, replacing those parts probably won't get you a working turntable.

Here's the good news! There are many, many inexpensive options in the Goodwills/Craigslists of the world and I am optimistic there will be one you can fiddle with and upgrade components on, for quite a bit cheaper than replacing all the missing/broken parts on this one, and without the frustration of starting with a likely dud. Shop around and have fun! (Remember you'll also need a phono preamp, an amplifier, and a pair of speakers; some of which are combined/built-in/all-in-one, depending on what you get.)
posted by churl at 5:05 PM on June 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Hi all that's what happened.
posted by karmachameleon at 11:07 PM on July 1, 2018

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