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 Post subject: Wollensak T-1500
PostPosted: Jun Fri 22, 2018 11:38 pm 
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Location: Boston, MA
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This is the Wollensak T-1500 tape recorder I found at a regional antique festival in MA. I was mainly curious rather than interested, as I have an excellent stereo tape recorder which I use frequently, and didn't really have much need for a mono machine. But this model has great historical significance, and when I saw that it was complete with its original vinyl slipcover and all accessories (including the very hard-to-find power cord), I offered $10 and it was in my hands.

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Wollensak T-1500s were ubiquitous when I was growing up. They were in every school, office, and in the homes of individuals who could afford them. Tape recorders in the 1950s and 1960s were personal luxuries and the Wollensak was definitely on the high side -- $200, when $2500 would buy a new Chevy. They were the first mass market tape recorder to offer true high fidelity performance, and became renown for their powerful 10-watt push-pull amplifier, easy controls, rugged all-metal construction, and particularly compact size (more on this later).

The T-1500 was the key member of a series that included the T-1515-4 (mono record and stereo playback through an external amplifier), T-1500SS (solid-state amplifier), and T-1580 (4-track stereo record and play). All were housed in a compact metal case. The T-1500 was introduced in 1958, replaced by the nearly identical T-1500SS in 1967 which continued as an "AV" model until 1981 for a 23-year run. Going by date codes my machine was made in mid-1963.

The machine seemed to have been stored in a dusty, damp environment but the vinyl slipcover was effective -- the only corrosion was on the metal handle which projects through the slipcover, and the machine was quite clean. My wife is very concerned about items from the antique festival carrying small creatures into the house, so while still in the garage I popped the bottom cover off the Wollensak. Except for a couple of very small very dead spiders it looked pristine inside, nearly brand new, and with no evident attempts at servicing. So far so good.

In spite of all my experience using these machines over the years, I had never attempted to repair one. It became clear very quickly that they are constructed very differently from any other tape recorder. Instead of merely lifting a chassis out of a Tolex-covered wood case, the Wollensak is opened by disassembling the metal clamshell -- unscrew the fasteners holding the sides to the chassis which releases the front panel. The machine is constructed with three chassis: amplifier, transport bottom holding the motor and reel spindles, and transport top holding the controls and head assembly. Removing the amplifier for recapping was easy, but the very compact and congested chassis meant that the four FP cans had to be re-stuffed, no under-chassis space at all! There were two plastic tubular capacitors which I replaced, but all other capacitors were ceramic or mylar film. All resistors checked out well within tolerance and seemed to be the superior A-B type rather than the drifty IRC.

Recap done I reassembled the unit to test. After a thorough cleaning and demag I tried a full-track tape I had recorded years ago and was very pleased at the excellent sound quality, just as I had remembered. I was not pleased at the wavering speed, grinding noises, weak takeup, and no fast-forward. Now it was time for a complete disassembly including separating the two transport chassis. This is not for the faint of heart, but is necessary to replace the stretched takeup belt and to thoroughly clean and re-lubricate all the idler linkages. The joys of a single-motor tape recorder! Reassembly was extremely fiddly and took several attempts to get everything in the mechanism lined up and engaged correctly. If I have to do it again I will be able to much more quickly!

Reassembling the metal case is also fiddly, but when lined up correctly everything goes together and is very secure. The machine was clearly designed to be disassembled for repair, but the very compact construction does make it complicated.

And it was successful! The T-1500 operates at 100% and the controls feel just like I remember them. I made a test recording and was extremely pleased at the performance. It could use an increase in bias to conform to the low-noise tape I have, and I really should tweak the head azimuth but am not rushing to do so because the adjustment still has its original seal on it, and the machine does interchange tapes very well.

This historic machine is a nice addition to my collection.

-David


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 Post subject: Re: Wollensak T-1500
PostPosted: Jun Sat 23, 2018 12:37 am 
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Location: Lexington, NC
I have many fond memories of the Wollensak. I worked in the media center of my high school for two years and got to know the school's recorder very well. I remember taking apart the take-up spindle and finding leather-faced surfaces to aid in braking. I don't know if all the models had this, but I was impressed. David, you describe the assembly and reassembly well. They are very compact units, especially the stereo versions.

I also remember the excellent pause control on these recorders that could almost imperceptibly edit out snippets very well, as good or better than cutting the tape. The only problem was the pause control lever was metal and cut into your index finger and didn't lock down. It made edits without a click or a pop and no speed variation and it worked really well editing music with its instant start and stop.

Yes the power cord is hard to find. I also recall the mikes for these machines worked exceedingly well for such a small mike. They also had an odd plug on the end, not quite the usual size phone plug. That plastic slipcover is great to have and you can put the power cord and take-up reel in there. The cord will also fit under the white metal cover, but not easily.

Thanks for telling everyone what you had to do to bring it back to life.


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 Post subject: Re: Wollensak T-1500
PostPosted: Jun Sat 23, 2018 2:34 am 
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Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 12:00 am
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Location: Olympia, Washington
Years ago, I had Wollensak 1520AV recorder. For a solid state model, it was excellent!


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 Post subject: Re: Wollensak T-1500
PostPosted: Aug Wed 04, 2021 2:07 am 
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Joined: Mar Thu 19, 2009 3:00 pm
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Location: Mid Michigan
I just found this thread while looking for service info for a T1515 that I recently purchased at an estate sale. I can do without, but it would be nice to have a copy. I bought my first T-1500 in 1961 while I was in high school and have owned at least 10 - 15 of them through the years, and as an AV equipment tech for 30 years I have repaired many more all the way through the 1520AV and the 2500 series cassette machines. I would appreciate any help I can get.

Jim


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 Post subject: Re: Wollensak T-1500
PostPosted: Aug Wed 04, 2021 3:43 am 
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Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 12:00 am
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Location: Boston, MA
I downloaded the manual for the T-1500 from Radiomuseum.org but for the T-1515 it seems the only thing they have is an marketing sheet. IIRC the T-1515 is very much like the T-1500 with the addition of a transistor stereo preamp, a 4-track head and a head position selector. The service manual for the T-1500 might get you most of the way there.

-David


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 Post subject: Re: Wollensak T-1500
PostPosted: Aug Sat 07, 2021 1:29 am 
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Posts: 263
Location: Lexington, KY USA
My father was a high school teacher and he used one in throughout the 1960's; the school considered it obsolete and he brought it home sometime after 1968. I was impressed by its construction. It looked as though it could be pushed off of the back of a moving truck and still work. Even after 10+ years of school use, it only took a bit of cleaning to make it look almost new and it still worked well and sounded pretty good. No doubt, that's what made it an institutional favorite.

Soon thereafter, he bought himself an early Norelco cassette recorder (very European, DIN connectors everywhere) and I don't think that he used the Wollensak again.


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 Post subject: Re: Wollensak T-1500
PostPosted: Aug Wed 03, 2022 6:15 am 
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Joined: Aug Wed 03, 2022 4:12 am
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Location: Alexandria, Virginia 22309
Hello,
New member here, and I just picked up an AV1520 online for $36, with mic & cord, in beautiful cosmetic condition. It was advertised as completely dead, but after a few minutes, I found the breaker reset button on the back and it powered up.
I got a mono tape I had of '80s popular music and it played just fine except for a bit weak. I did clean the heads. Depending on the original recording strength, at full volume, it plays from a normal room level to somewhat loud. But that's not really a problem for me. I played it for over an hour, the sound is clean, and the transport works perfectly and quietly. So I plan to occasionally enjoy it as is.
I also have a number of the older tube models, but only one works at the moment, but will soon need a take-up belt. I was surprised to read here that these were produced up to 1981. I believe one of my old electronic catalogs from 1970 listed one of these Wollensaks at about $300.
So my question is how to tell or find the production date on my AV1520, and does anyone here know what these cost by the end of production?

Thanks, Mark D.


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 Post subject: Re: Wollensak T-1500
PostPosted: Aug Wed 03, 2022 12:10 pm 
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Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 12:00 am
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Location: Fernandina Beach, FL 32034
Mark as for dates, you might look at several components for the date code, like on electrolytic capacitors and/or tubes etc.

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Don


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 Post subject: Re: Wollensak T-1500
PostPosted: Aug Wed 03, 2022 5:05 pm 
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Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 12:00 am
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Location: Boston, MA
According to the notes on this page:

https://museumofmagneticsoundrecording. ... ensak.html

the Wollensak T-1520AV was still selling well in its final year of 1981, in spite of its price having reached $695!

In addition to Don's suggestion, you may also find date codes on the potentiometers and the speaker.

-David


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 Post subject: Re: Wollensak T-1500
PostPosted: Aug Wed 03, 2022 10:49 pm 
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Joined: Aug Wed 03, 2022 4:12 am
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Location: Alexandria, Virginia 22309
Thanks for the links and great information here.
The AV1520 arrived while I was in Virginia Beach, working on a rental property, and the horrible traffic and weather Sunday made my return trip to Alexandria long and miserable. Then faced with unloading the car and tons of mail, I didn't get a free moment until well after midnight.
So it was time for some fun and unboxing the Wollensak. After getting it powered up and finding a suitabLe recorded tape, I just sat in the kitchen and enjoyed my new toy for over an hour. It was wonderful!

Something else was waiting for me Sunday night. I read that power cords for these are getting pricey. Well, for $18, including shipping, I found a like-new original two-conductor, white power-cord for one of my older tube T1500s. Also included was this nice, original T1500 mic!
.
Happy Motoring, Mark


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Last edited by Sunbeam on Aug Fri 05, 2022 8:17 am, edited 2 times in total.
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 Post subject: Re: Wollensak T-1500
PostPosted: Aug Wed 03, 2022 11:01 pm 
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Location: Brussels 1040, Belgium
The Wollensak T-1500 is a very nice, sturdy and well built little recorder, I have one in my collection and like it very much.

BTW, does anyone here know what was the business relationship between Wollensak , Revere and 3M and when were these companies merged (if they were ?), and which of them actually produced the T-1500 ?


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 Post subject: Re: Wollensak T-1500
PostPosted: Aug Thu 04, 2022 2:45 am 
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Location: Alexandria, Virginia 22309
Basically, the Revere Camera Company started making tape recorders in the early '50s, then merged with Wollensak, a lens maker. Wollensak took a Revere tape transport, and built a compact rugged metal 'aircraft-quality' case around it to create the T1500 in 1957. Then 3M bought Revere/Wollensak in 1960.
Check out the link posted above by 'dberman51'. I believe the second article by a Wollensak trained service manager & technician is more accurate and comprehensive.

Happy Motoring, Mark


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 Post subject: Re: Wollensak T-1500
PostPosted: Aug Thu 04, 2022 9:02 pm 
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Sunbeam wrote:
Basically, the Revere Camera Company started making tape recorders in the early '50s, then merged with Wollensak, a lens maker. Wollensak took a Revere tape transport, and built a compact rugged metal 'aircraft-quality' case around it to create the T1500 in 1957. Then 3M bought Revere/Wollensak in 1960.
Check out the link posted above by 'dberman51'. I believe the second article by a Wollensak trained service manager & technician is more accurate and comprehensive.

Happy Motoring, Mark



Thank you for pointing me the above link, everything I was looking for about Wollensak/Revere/3M was there, including full historical details.


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 Post subject: Re: Wollensak T-1500
PostPosted: Aug Fri 05, 2022 8:09 am 
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Location: Alexandria, Virginia 22309
I'm still amazed that Wollensak was producing a 1500 series open-reel machine as late as 1981.
In my collection, I also have one of the last American-made Ampex consumer recorders - a circa 1971 model 855 three-speed, three-head, dual-capstan open-reel stereo tape-deck. Ampex pulled out of the consumer electronics market in 1972.

Happy Motoring, Mark


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 Post subject: Re: Wollensak T-1500
PostPosted: Aug Wed 17, 2022 12:01 pm 
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Location: Beaver Falls, PA. USA
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I just picked up one of these from an estate; haven't looked at it yet. I really didn't need another reel machine, but there it was....

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Tim KA3JRT


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 Post subject: Re: Wollensak T-1500
PostPosted: Aug Wed 17, 2022 12:28 pm 
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Tim Tress wrote:
I just picked up one of these from an estate; haven't looked at it yet. I really didn't need another reel machine, but there it was....

You sound like me...

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Don


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 Post subject: Re: Wollensak T-1500
PostPosted: Aug Wed 17, 2022 1:28 pm 
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Years ago I had a solid state mono Wollensak that looked a lot like the one in the first photo.

Can't remember what happened to it, however I do remember it seemed to run slightly fast and I made a recording on it of a tape made on a mono reel to reel in 63 that ran slightly slow. A year ago I played the tape made on the Wollensak using my AKAI GX-255 to copy it to my PC and the music was at the exact right speed.

I also got a Wollensak T-1580 several years ago at a flea market. I started restoring it, but didn't do much more than replace some parts in he amp. The tape transport used some plastic parts that drive wheels are mounted to and whatever plastic it is has slightly warped throughout the years so the drive wheels don't slide and engage as good as they should.

At the time I bought it I didn't know that it was their first reel to reel that could record and play back in stereo.


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 Post subject: Re: Wollensak T-1500
PostPosted: Aug Wed 17, 2022 8:00 pm 
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Location: Alexandria, Virginia 22309
I picked up a model 1980, very cheap several years ago. It's the high-end version of the 1580 in a tall upright black case, with dual amps and VU-meters stacked below the transport, like many stereo Akais of the '60s.
But life interfered, and I never got around to testing it.


Also many years ago, a friend gave me her late husband's Wollensak 3500 - the only battery reel machine they sold. A 5-inch reel, two-speed, battery-AC portable, made in Japan by Sanyo, I believe. At the time, It played well, but wound up needing some small part. So a couple months ago I found a parts-machine on eBay. But which one to restore will depend on what shape my first one is in after so many years!

Happy Motoring, Mark


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 Post subject: Re: Wollensak T-1500
PostPosted: Aug Thu 18, 2022 12:56 am 
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Location: Boston, MA
Sunbeam wrote:
I picked up a model 1980, very cheap several years ago. It's the high-end version of the 1580 in a tall upright black case, with dual amps and VU-meters stacked below the transport, like many stereo Akais of the '60s.

Yes, the T-1980, which was marketed as "The Sound Room," was Wollensak's attempt to compete with Roberts by introducing a vertical form factor machine. I'm not sure how successful it was. It still used the T-1500 transport.

-David


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 Post subject: Re: Wollensak T-1500
PostPosted: Aug Fri 19, 2022 6:43 pm 
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I just looked at mine; it's a 1520AV, so it's a later model.

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