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 Post subject: New cartridge wrecking records
PostPosted: Nov Fri 20, 2020 6:47 am 
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Joined: Dec Sun 07, 2008 7:05 am
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Location: Meridian, MS 39307
This is one of those situations where it's probably best that I not have a sledgehammer within easy reach.

What we have here is a nice Phonola portable from the mid '50's and it uses a two-stage amplifier. When I got the record player, it had a Sonotone 2T cartridge in it that had, unfortunately, expired. I replaced it with an Astatic 89T and it worked; but, this cartridge seemed a little too hot for the amplifier.

I then installed a new Pfanstiehl P228 cartridge (Varco TN8 knock-off). I first tested it with a couple of junk vinyl 45's and it sounded decent. Then, I tried a couple of styrene 45's and it was obvious, both visually and aurally, that the records were being cremated on the first play. Even going back to the vinyl records and paying better attention, it was doing damage to them. Even though the vinyl records were being damaged, vinyl is way more forgiving than styrene.

I then checked the tracking pressure and it was about 5.5 grams (within range). Lowering the tracking pressure a little didn't help. Raising the pressure a little made it worse.

Flipping the needle to the 78 side seemed to do less damage (probably because the needle is not riding the bottom of the record grooves).

In the past, I've used the P228 cartridge with mostly good results; but, every once in awhile, something like this happens. I'm about ready to go back to the 89T and pad down the output so it does not overdrive the amplifier.

I also used the same P228 cartridge in a Newcomb school record player to replace the 89T and I'm having the same problem.

In both cases, I tried changing the needle to an older one that I had on hand and it did the same thing.

The reason I swapped out the 89T in the Newcomb is because it was skipping on some bass intensive 45's. With the P228 cartridge, it played those 45's; but, it's damaging the grooves.

I've heard people say that in record players like this, that a diamond needle with chew up records when a sapphire needle will not; but, I don't have a sapphire needle to try. Frankly, I don't know why it would make a difference because the two needle tips are both the same shape.

I wonder if these cartridges are "too compliant" for these tonearms and all I know to do at this point is try different cartridges until I find one that works with these tonearms. I think I have one of the "Crosley cartridges" with the red plastic needle and one of the Banpa cartridges with an LP/78 flip needle.

I don't know why this new cartridge is chewing up records; but, it's very irritating.


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 Post subject: Re: New cartridge wrecking records
PostPosted: Nov Fri 20, 2020 4:16 pm 
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Joined: Feb Wed 17, 2016 6:51 pm
Posts: 179
Location: Edmonton AB Canada
I have a brand new P228 from VOM on the exact same Astatic tonearm (on your advice, actually), and it works and sounds fantastic. I've played dozens of LPs 45s and 78s with it.

Since you had the same problem on two record players, it rules out any sort of problem with the tonearm bearing.

Have you got a different P228 on another record player you can try temporarily?

IMHO the P228 is a much better cartridge than the "Crosley Cartridge", both in terms of sound quality and tracking. It also has a flip over needle, which is something essential for people with a 78 collection.

I think the problem has got to be a defective cartridge - you've eliminated all the other variables.

That Phonola looks like a really nice record player.


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 Post subject: Re: New cartridge wrecking records
PostPosted: Nov Fri 20, 2020 4:42 pm 
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Joined: Apr Mon 04, 2011 4:23 am
Posts: 1050
Location: SW PA
I also have a P228 in the same tonearm on my Hamilton, and it sounds good and seems OK with styrene at 5 grams.

Personally, I'd send the dud back and make them keep replacing it until you get a good one. Getting and accepting a record shredding piece of crap is totally unacceptable to me.

I have one of those Banpa cartridges, and it is defective junk. I put it on a 3 speed Numark PT01 that came with the standard Crosley cartridge. I had to take it back off and put the original back on because the output was extremely low. :roll: I ended up robbing the mounting bracket for the P228 because it broke when trying to snap it in place. :evil:

Between the replacement parts being crude, low quality junk, and the machines themselves being various levels of crude to start with also, I barely fool with anything that isn't a proper component turntable with a magnetic cartridge anymore. The aggravation and poor results aren't hardly worth it to me.


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 Post subject: Re: New cartridge wrecking records
PostPosted: Nov Fri 20, 2020 5:56 pm 
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Joined: Feb Wed 17, 2016 6:51 pm
Posts: 179
Location: Edmonton AB Canada
beat_truck wrote:
Between the replacement parts being crude, low quality junk, and the machines themselves being various levels of crude to start with also, I barely fool with anything that isn't a proper component turntable with a magnetic cartridge anymore. The aggravation and poor results aren't hardly worth it to me.


I hear you. On the other hand, I have some quite expensive hi-fi turntables which sit idle while I play records on this primitive old "junk". That specific Astatic tonearm on the Phonola record player in the first photo actually sounds really good. I don't know if by chance or by design, but it has very little resonance of its own, and is capable of sounding far better than the cheap resonant plastic tonearms which came a few years later. It also has a classy look to it which more evolved equipment doesn't really match.

I also think the P228 is absolutely not junk. Once I figured out how to load it properly, I'm definitely getting hi-fi quality sound from it.

In any case, a defective cartridge here and there is not that big of a deal, when you take into account how cheap it is to begin with. I have a friend who had a $5000 Clearaudio moving coil cart lose a channel one month past warranty expiry. When I think about how I'm having just as much fun listening to records as he is but using a $22 ceramic cartridge, I have to say I'm feeling pretty good!


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 Post subject: Re: New cartridge wrecking records
PostPosted: Nov Fri 20, 2020 5:57 pm 
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Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 1:00 am
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Location: Haledon NJ USA
Even back in the 1960s, it was not too uncommon to get a replacement stylus with a defective tip. For that reason, even on a good magnetic cartridge, I never use a good record to test a new stylus.


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 Post subject: Re: New cartridge wrecking records
PostPosted: Nov Fri 20, 2020 6:16 pm 
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Joined: Apr Mon 04, 2011 4:23 am
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Location: SW PA
maxhifi wrote:
I hear you. On the other hand, I have some quite expensive hi-fi turntables which sit idle while I play records on this primitive old "junk". That specific Astatic tonearm on the Phonola record player in the first photo actually sounds really good. I don't know if by chance or by design, but it has very little resonance of its own, and is capable of sounding far better than the cheap resonant plastic tonearms which came a few years later. It also has a classy look to it which more evolved equipment doesn't really match.

I also think the P228 is absolutely not junk. Once I figured out how to load it properly, I'm definitely getting hi-fi quality sound from it.

In any case, a defective cartridge here and there is not that big of a deal, when you take into account how cheap it is to begin with. I have a friend who had a $5000 Clearaudio moving coil cart lose a channel one month past warranty expiry. When I think about how I'm having just as much fun listening to records as he is but using a $22 ceramic cartridge, I have to say I'm feeling pretty good!

Yeah, I do the same. It is sometimes fun to play beater records on my Califone, Hamilton, VM, etc.

I somewhat disagree, though. Modern made ceramics kind of are junk with poor quality control.

For what it is, the P228 isn't what I'd call cheap for $22+ shipping. Especially when you can buy an Audio Technica AT3600L on Ebay for ~$13 shipped, and it is far superior and has had no QC issues that I have heard about. Even the snobby audiophools that have tried them rave about them.


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 Post subject: Re: New cartridge wrecking records
PostPosted: Nov Fri 20, 2020 6:19 pm 
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Joined: Apr Mon 04, 2011 4:23 am
Posts: 1050
Location: SW PA
Ken Doyle wrote:
Even back in the 1960s, it was not too uncommon to get a replacement stylus with a defective tip. For that reason, even on a good magnetic cartridge, I never use a good record to test a new stylus.

No matter who makes them or how much they cost, I never use a good record to test a new unknown stylus / cartridge.


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 Post subject: Re: New cartridge wrecking records
PostPosted: Nov Fri 20, 2020 7:13 pm 
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Joined: Dec Sun 07, 2008 7:05 am
Posts: 4376
Location: Meridian, MS 39307
OK, I think I may have found the problem. The new P228 that the VM site sells uses the 865 family of needles. This needle has a shorter cantilever than the standard 864 family of needles, in order to boost the output of the cartridge from .5V to .8V.

This morning, while I was in a better mood, I tried several 865 needles and got the same results. I then tried a couple of 864 needles with the longer cantilever and the problem seems to have gone away.

I'm not saying for definite that there is anything wrong with the 865 family of needles that I have; but, those might possibly work better in a changer that uses a longer tonearm than what these manual players use.

As far as the quality of these new cartridges, the biggest problems I've had with them over the years are loose pins, pins that are not formed properly (making it very difficult to connect the cartridge), needle retainer clips that won't hold the needle firmly in place, and (in the case of the P51 family) I had the threads strip on the stylus retainer screw when I attempted to replace the stylus. Besides those issues, they all seem to have output and work; but, those things I mentioned can be a pain and for what they cost, the quality needs to be better. Back in the '90's, I was buying the PRB Varco knock-off cartridges from the parts house and the overall physical build quality was way better than the ones that are made today; but, what do you do? We're either forced to use what is being made or not fix up any of these old record players.

As far as using NOS ceramic/crystal cartridges, those are physically built better; but, are often dead from age.

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 Post subject: Re: New cartridge wrecking records
PostPosted: Nov Fri 20, 2020 7:39 pm 
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Joined: Apr Mon 04, 2011 4:23 am
Posts: 1050
Location: SW PA
The P228 I put on the Hamilton had pins that were formed weird making it difficult to get the wire clips on, and one pin started to push inside the body. It still seems OK.

The last P228 (or P226?) I tried to use, I went to put the wire clips on, and one of the pins folded like a cheap umbrella and broke. :shock:

The first Tetrad that I put on my Califone was a new reproduction. It was 99% dead right out of the box. :evil: I replaced it with a NOS, which had good output, but the LP tip came off the needle after almost no use.

The last NOS Tetrad that I bought and put on a BSR was bad. It had an intermittent channel.

I'd just about rather not fix old record players than constantly screw around with defective junk parts. That's just me, though.

I couldn't even imagine the frustration with doing these repairs all the time or as a business. :shock: That's probably one reason why some places won't even touch these machines.


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 Post subject: Re: New cartridge wrecking records
PostPosted: Nov Fri 20, 2020 7:58 pm 
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Joined: Jun Tue 07, 2011 1:03 am
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I've never had a problem with a P228 tracking around 4 grams. Sounds like it's tracking to heavy. Have you checked your scale to make sure it's measuring correctly?


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 Post subject: Re: New cartridge wrecking records
PostPosted: Nov Fri 20, 2020 8:43 pm 
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Joined: Feb Wed 17, 2016 6:51 pm
Posts: 179
Location: Edmonton AB Canada
beat_truck wrote:

I somewhat disagree, though. Modern made ceramics kind of are junk with poor quality control.

For what it is, the P228 isn't what I'd call cheap for $22+ shipping. Especially when you can buy an Audio Technica AT3600L on Ebay for ~$13 shipped, and it is far superior and has had no QC issues that I have heard about. Even the snobby audiophools that have tried them rave about them.


But that AT3600L is useless in an old phono with a heavy arm and a two pole motor. And the P228 claims to be Made in USA, presumably in small quantities, versus the 3600 which is made in enormous quantities in China, so no wonder it is cheaper. IMHO it's kind of a bargain that for $22 you can keep an old piece of gear going. If you check what ceramic cartridges with a diamond stylus cost in the 1950s and scale it for inflation, it really makes the P228 a bargain!

Perhaps because of this thread I've had the P228 going all morning, and it's very enjoyable.


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 Post subject: Re: New cartridge wrecking records
PostPosted: Nov Fri 20, 2020 8:54 pm 
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Joined: Apr Mon 04, 2011 4:23 am
Posts: 1050
Location: SW PA
maxhifi wrote:
But that AT3600L is useless in an old phono with a heavy arm and a two pole motor. And the P228 claims to be Made in USA, presumably in small quantities, versus the 3600 which is made in enormous quantities in China, so no wonder it is cheaper. IMHO it's kind of a bargain that for $22 you can keep an old piece of gear going. If you check what ceramic cartridges with a diamond stylus cost in the 1950s and scale it for inflation, it really makes the P228 a bargain!

Perhaps because of this thread I've had the P228 going all morning, and it's very enjoyable.

I wouldn't bet the farm that The P228 is made in the US. If it actually is, well, that's pretty sorry that the quality control is so bad.

If you think it is great and a bargain, you are welcome to that opinion. I don't share it, and I'm not especially attached to clunky old record players in general either. Some of them look really nice, but in my opinion, that's about the only thing the do well.


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 Post subject: Re: New cartridge wrecking records
PostPosted: Nov Fri 20, 2020 10:55 pm 
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Joined: Dec Sun 07, 2008 7:05 am
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Location: Meridian, MS 39307
I think someone told me that the current Pfanstiehl cartridges are actually made in South America and that they are only packaged in the USA. Since they are packaged in the USA, I guess they can get away with plastering the "made in USA" stamp on them.

One Pfanstiehl cartridge that I will not use is the red LP-only version of an Astatic 89T. They have poor compliance, sound poor, and will only reproduce one channel of a stereo record. The Astatic originals sound much better, track better, and combine the L and R for a mono signal.

The green 78-only plug-in cartridge is fine for 78's and I use it a lot in 78 rpm record players that I fix; but, I can't recommend the red one (unless you are playing mono spoken word records only).

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 Post subject: Re: New cartridge wrecking records
PostPosted: Nov Sun 22, 2020 2:56 am 
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Joined: Aug Mon 27, 2012 5:47 pm
Posts: 164
Location: Madrid, Spain / Wirral, England
Those 228 cartridges were I believe originally made by Sanyo. The first time I saw one was on one of their music centres from circa 1975.

If you fit the STG5 stylus, which has a metal cantilever, it should be far more forgiving due to the improved compliance. Another problem I have recently found is that the rubber link piece on the plastic shanked styli has stiffened with age, thus drastically reducing the tracking capability.


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 Post subject: Re: New cartridge wrecking records
PostPosted: Nov Sun 22, 2020 6:04 am 
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Location: SW PA
eclectik wrote:
Those 228 cartridges were I believe originally made by Sanyo. The first time I saw one was on one of their music centres from circa 1975.

According to the VM website, they appear to be a knockoff of an old Varco design.


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 Post subject: Re: New cartridge wrecking records
PostPosted: Nov Sun 22, 2020 12:23 pm 
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Location: Madrid, Spain / Wirral, England
Makes sense. Sanyo also used the Vaco (Varco) Luxor carts in many music centres.


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