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 Post subject: RCA Victor New Orthophonic High Fidelity Tonearms
PostPosted: Dec Fri 17, 2010 3:42 pm 
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I am curious, given RCA Victor's reputation for cutting edge quality back then (50's-60's), why RCA Victor put tonearms in their High Fidelity systems that were so straight as to cause tracking errors particularly in LP's. I don't believe they did not know what they were doing because everything else they were making was excellent. The quality of their mono and "Living Stereo" records was awesome and the sound of their HI-FI systems was beautiful. Even the tonearms of their all-45 players was bent to a more correct tracking angle. So having said all of that, why would this once-great company sabotage themselves with tonearms that were inferior to the rest of their sound systems? If you were to put a V-M tonearm from that period in those RCA console sets, that would be a real fine sounding system indeed, it seems to me, because the V-M tonearms I have (from 56 and 62 respectively) are light and track ALL my records with most excellent results. I have always loved and respected RCA Victor's products from the 50's and 60's and I have collected 3 or 4, so I am just looking for a little insight on this. Moses_007 and Bastardbus in particular are doing some beautiful restorations on the RCA Victor line and I just drool when I see what they are doing to those consoles and portables. Can't wait to read your thoughts on this.


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PostPosted: Dec Fri 17, 2010 6:05 pm 
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I've posted comments on here about the same thing, namely those poorly-angled tonearms that RCA Victor put out.

That, I believe, was a weak link to their systems for years.
Even when stereo became popular around 1960, they (RCA) continued to produce badly designed arms.
Consider that a stereo cartridge *needs* to be as tangent to the stereo groove wall as possible for minimum distortion.
The RCA's were only accurate at the innermost grooves, or playing 45's.

Additionally, their pivot assembly is the crudest I've seen.... cheap and basic, with large contact areas resulting in higher vertical/horizontal friction.

V-M went the distance and used refined bearings in their changers... some with a ball-bearing race for horizontal freedom.
That's why their Zenith-brand changers were able to track at "2G" forces.

I know Larry's bound to kick in here soon.....LOL

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PostPosted: Dec Fri 17, 2010 6:12 pm 
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RepairTech wrote:

Additionally, their pivot assembly is the crudest I've seen.... cheap and basic, with large contact areas resulting in higher vertical/horizontal friction.

V-M went the distance and used refined bearings in their changers... some with a ball-bearing race for horizontal freedom.
That's why their Zenith-brand changers were able to track at "2G" forces.



I think RCA's pivot assembly has more to do with tracking errors than tonearm design. I have noticed occasional tonearm hangups (backwards tracking) on various records. What is strange is that the same record cut may hang up on one player and play through just fine on another. For the longest I thought it was just some bad records, or dirt here and there inside a groove. However, I have about come to the conclusion it's the players themselves.

This was indeed a weakness for RCA.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Fri 17, 2010 6:54 pm 
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I remember RepairTech saying in a previous topic about how RCA's tonearms favored the 45 disc. I just find it strange that RCA would do this on purpose specifically because RCA made very good quality LP's from the mid-50's onward and I am sure that those RCA tonearms probably did a lot of permanent groove damage to their OWN LP's as well as those of other labels. It seems RCA was standing by the 45 even at the expense of one of their other products. Oddly enough, it seems that Columbia did the same thing with their OWN 45's when they introduced the use of Polystyrene as opposed to Vinyl to press their 45's with. I don't understand why it did not occur to RCA and Columbia that they BOTH had a really good product and should have used their best manufacturing techniques for both the 45, LP and the RCA tonearms. RCA's consoles and their portable Hi-Fi's were beautiful units, but when I buy one of the RCA Hi-Fi units in the future I would change the tonearm for the sake of sound quality and my records, originality be damned (with apologies to my friend Larry). I was born in 1961 and I missed RCA's golden era in the 50's, so I am trying to play catch up ball here.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Fri 17, 2010 7:49 pm 
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Tracking error..SURE but damn if this is not the most beautiful changer-tone arm ever made!

Image
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To me the `55-`59 RCAs are similar to the old Volkswagens I love as well. My `50 beetle has only 25hp, a fully non-syncro transmission (which means double clutching up and down just like driving a semi), it has cable brakes (yes cables!), it rides on 5.00-16 tires which are like wagon wheels and the heating system is basically non existent but WOW is it beautiful and what a blast to drive!

Nostalgia, that is what I am looking for in these old RCAs. I want that look, the feel, sound and smell of that little maple 7HF45 that was in the spare bedroom at my grandparents as early as I can remember. Who cares about a little tracking error :wink:

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Fri 17, 2010 8:11 pm 
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I have to agree with you there, Bus. When it comes to Hi-Fi's and Stereos from the 50's and early 60's, you can't argue with the emotion that nostalgia brings. To me a home is not complete without a stack of LP's or 45's spinning on a turntable in a console or portable unit, especially at Christmas. I guess, for what it's worth, I was just doing an amateur psychological analysis on RCA Victor's true intentions. And I do agree with you that the tonearms do LOOK cool.


Last edited by vmguy on Dec Sat 18, 2010 5:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Fri 17, 2010 8:14 pm 
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Think about it...these record players in the 50s were all designed for mono records, so tracking wasn't an issue even if the tone arm design isn't the best in the world. As Todd points out, they are simply beautiful and that's why RCA outsold all its competition in the 1950s.

Stereo records did not come out until 1958, and these 56-57-58 RCA record players all were produced prior to stereo. Even with that being said, the early stereo records didn't have their grooves compressed like the 80s stereo records are. That is likely why RCA enthusiasts occasionally experience tracking problems with 80s or early 90s stereo records. The players simply weren't designed to play that kind of record.

My 1956 RCA Victor high fidelity attachment unit has perhaps the worst tonearm design that RCA ever produced...yet, once the tonearm pivot, trip slide and trip pawl are all polished up like new, it tracks pretty well.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Fri 17, 2010 8:40 pm 
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vmguy wrote:
I have to agree with there, Bus. When it comes to Hi-Fi's and Stereos from the 50's and early 60's, you can't argue with the emotion that nostalgia brings. To me a home is not complete without a stack of LP's or 45's spinning on a turntable in a console or portable unit, especially at Christmas. I guess, for what it's worth, I was just doing an amateur psychological analysis on RCA Victor's true intentions. And I do agree with you that the tonearms do LOOK cool.


If I was asked to do a psychological analysis of why RCA did what they did. I would say take a look at the time period those RCA units were built. That was the late 1950s and the designs of everything being manufactured at the time were very futuristic and had little if no usable function. Look at the huge fins on the cars absolutely useless but they looked cool. Furniture, the designs where ridiculous and very uncomfortable but man did it look cool! I think RCA was marketing to that same mindset, they were going for "form over function" and looks like they hit the nail on the head for what people wanted at the time.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Fri 17, 2010 9:06 pm 
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Larry, I would LOVE to have one of those beautiful blonde RCA mono consoles that you have. I saw the pictures that you and Bus posted of your RCA units. I'm jealous. I hope you all realize that I am not dissing RCA Victor products from that time. I just wanted to explore some of the more curious aspects of them. I have a couple of RCA's 45 players and I love them. I fondly remember the first RCA player I ever bought was a 1VA-14. It was not Hi-Fi, but it was a very reliable unit and I only paid $20 bucks for it. I plan on getting one of the Hi-Fi versions (hopefully blonde) of RCA's 45 player within the next year or so, or better yet one of the blonde Hi-Fi 4 speed units (the part number escapes me at this time).


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Fri 17, 2010 11:20 pm 
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Here are some RCA blondes to make you drool.

SHF-8 from 1958:

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7-HF-5 from 1957:

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SHF-4 from 1958:

Image

SHF-6 from 1958 and 7-HF-45 from 1956:

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Sat 18, 2010 4:31 am 
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Did someone ask why competing corporations in the fifties couldn't work together to make one awesome product?

Now THAT'S funny!

eric


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Sat 18, 2010 5:05 am 
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45sguy wrote:
Did someone ask why competing corporations in the fifties couldn't work together to make one awesome product?

Now THAT'S funny!

eric


For the same reason that Ford, General Motors and Chrysler didn't work together. :D


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Sat 18, 2010 5:24 am 
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Ok, ok 45sGuy, I get your point. Maybe I just hear way too much talk about "bipartisanship" on TV and radio. It doesn't work in politics and obviously didn't work for RCA or Columbia either. I was just playing the "what if" game again. Larry, those are really beautiful RCA units. I would be deliriously happy with any one of those "ladies" (clears throat). I have always loved blonde consoles. They just really light up a living room. We had a blonde oak console Hi-Fi made by Westinghouse that my father got for a graduation present in 1958. Had a great V-M 1210 record changer in it and the sound quality was tremendous. He got rid of it in 1968 and I have yet to find another just like it. We didn't get our first stereo set until 1969.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Sat 18, 2010 4:21 pm 
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bastardbus wrote:
vmguy wrote:
I have to agree with there, Bus. When it comes to Hi-Fi's and Stereos from the 50's and early 60's, you can't argue with the emotion that nostalgia brings. To me a home is not complete without a stack of LP's or 45's spinning on a turntable in a console or portable unit, especially at Christmas. I guess, for what it's worth, I was just doing an amateur psychological analysis on RCA Victor's true intentions. And I do agree with you that the tonearms do LOOK cool.


If I was asked to do a psychological analysis of why RCA did what they did. I would say take a look at the time period those RCA units were built. That was the late 1950s and the designs of everything being manufactured at the time were very futuristic and had little if no usable function. Look at the huge fins on the cars absolutely useless but they looked cool. Furniture, the designs where ridiculous and very uncomfortable but man did it look cool! I think RCA was marketing to that same mindset, they were going for "form over function" and looks like they hit the nail on the head for what people wanted at the time.



"bus",
I must respectfully disagree with you here.
As the owner of three Forward Look vehicles,I can tell you the Fins were not useless!
Chrysler did wind tunnel studys which proved the fins reduced the need for steering corrections due to crosswinds by 20 per cent at highway speeds.
Yes,the fins primary function was to propel us into the wonderfull world of tommorow,and they are still the most beautifull cars ever made today,but they were functional,at least on Chrysler models.

Also I must disagree about all the mid century jetsons furniture being uncomfortable.....nothing could be further from the truth.
Charles Eames fiberglass arm chairs are extremely comfortable,as are Saarinens "Womb" and "tulip" series of fiberglass chairs,and George Nelsons Coconut chair for that matter.

I am a firm believer that stunning beauty and futurism need never be sacraficed for functionality,to me those designs were not "ridiculous" but the best ever made.
When you look at the designs of the late 50's and early 60's it's obvious that everything that has come since has been a huge step backwards.....the "Future" was our past!


Last edited by Hi-Fi in Fiberglass on Dec Sat 18, 2010 8:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Sat 18, 2010 4:48 pm 
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moses_007 wrote:
45sguy wrote:
Did someone ask why competing corporations in the fifties couldn't work together to make one awesome product?

Now THAT'S funny!

eric


For the same reason that Ford, General Motors and Chrysler didn't work together. :D


You're exactly right Larry!
Competition is what makes better products.
Each company trying to best the other,the whole idea of competing companys working together is absurd.

The auto industry used to keep it's designs under wraps even when out on the test track so the other guy would never know what hit him when they appeared in the showroom.

The effect of Virgil Exners 1957 Forward Look cars sent Gm into a panic as they rushed to catch up!
Harley Earl was so upset when he saw how futuristic the 1957 Chrysler cars were that he stormed into Chevrolet exterior designer C.J. MacKichans office and tossed a 1957 Plymouth brochure on his desk and said "why don't you just quit?"

It took gm until 1959 to copy chryslers "Forward Look" huge fins and low rooflines,and even then (with the exception of the '59 buick) they were poor imitations for the most part.


Competition is the very key to advancements.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Sat 18, 2010 7:59 pm 
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LOL

I'm glad everyone got that one.

There was NO way that the corporations would have worked together because they EACH thought they were right! Can't imagine working with someone on a product I'm passionate about only to have them incorporate ideas into the project that I don't agree with.

Even if WE see they each had good points, THEY didn't see it. One thought they were right and the other was wrong, and vice versa.

eric


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PostPosted: Dec Sat 18, 2010 8:42 pm 
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45sguy wrote:
Did someone ask why competing corporations in the fifties couldn't work together to make one awesome product?

eric


If they did, they would be fined or imprisoned for conspiracy, restraint of trade, and further violation of who knows how many other laws.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Sun 19, 2010 2:47 am 
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Hi-Fi in Fiberglass wrote:

"bus",
I must respectfully disagree with you here.
As the owner of three Forward Look vehicles,I can tell you the Fins were not useless!
Chrysler did wind tunnel studys which proved the fins reduced the need for steering corrections due to crosswinds by 20 per cent at highway speeds.
Yes,the fins primary function was to propel us into the wonderfull world of tommorow,and they are still the most beautifull cars ever made today,but they were functional,at least on Chrysler models.

Also I must disagree about all the mid century jetsons furniture being uncomfortable.....nothing could be further from the truth.
Charles Eames fiberglass arm chairs are extremely comfortable,as are Saarinens "Womb" and "tulip" series of fiberglass chairs,and George Nelsons Coconut chair for that matter.

I am a firm believer that stunning beauty and futurism need never be sacraficed for functionality,to me those designs were not "ridiculous" but the best ever made.
When you look at the designs of the late 50's and early 60's it's obvious that everything that has come since has been a huge step backwards.....the "Future" was our past!


:lol: HAHAHA spoken like a true `50s FANATIC.

I enjoy nothing more then chatting with folks with utter passion about something and you sir have that and I completely agree with you! I was just making unbiased psychological evaluation of the situation :wink:

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PostPosted: Dec Sun 19, 2010 3:45 am 
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:lol: :lol: :lol: You're right it's an obsession! :lol:

I agree with you,I enjoy meeting people who are passionate about things too,like these Rca's and your Volkswagens...I can tell you truly apppreciate and enjoy them by the way you spoke of the split window 1950 Beetle you own.

You embrace it for the 25 hp motor,lack of a gas gauge and cable actuated brakes,things others would find fault with you appreciate as they make up the unique character of the car.
I totally understand and respect that!

I also agree that the Rca tone arm is beautiful and sleek and part of what gives these units their character.


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PostPosted: Dec Sun 19, 2010 6:13 pm 
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On a phonograph with less than optimal tracking angle, never use an elliptical stylus or it'll chew the groove to pieces. Always use a spherical or conical stylus.

Perhaps RCA's tonearm was trying to even out the wear on Columbia's inferior LP frormat. :-)

Two ways of telling the stylus is getting worn, the scratches get louder and the end of an LP side gets fuzzier.

Ken D.


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