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More RCA Victor topics.

This section presents additional information about the RCA Victor "45" including information about how I rebuild, maintain and store these Fabulous Victrola 45's, suggested parts and accessories.  Also, I show some of my product ideas to extend the life and get more enjoyment from these 60 year old machines.

There are several maintenance tips toRCA Victor 45s in cabinet help keep a fully operational, working collection of RCA Victor 45 and similar players.  First, I think once restored these machines should be shown and played regularly rather than tucked away.  I keep them around the house and encourage friends and family to play them. 

Some of the record changers plug into modern receivers or the surround sound system and some of them have been modified to wirelessly transmit to any FM receiver.

RCA Victrola 45's in closetRegular play helps keep their lubrication in check, avoids the common flat tire problem associated with a static idler wheel and lets me know if there is a maintenance issue such as a failed capacitor, weak tube, broken string, etc.  If a guest's eyes light up over a pristine RCA EY-26 Ding Dong School phonograph, I want that machine to be playable at all times.  That is part of the fun.

The Dust Buster.   The primary problem for all vinyl record players and turntables is a four letter word, dust.   Even in the cleanest house, dust can be a problem.  A little dust on a new vinyl record will produce poor quality music.  And, nobody wants to look at a dust covered phonograph.  RCA Victrola 45's in glass cabinetSo I keep some stored in a glass cabinet, stored in large glass door closet and shelved in a California closet vacated by my youngest daughter who headed off to college.  Tip! Take over their closets when the kids leave.

Dust covers.  On July 30, 1955 the Record Chest Company of Atlantic City NJ set up a promotion with RCA Camden Records to encourage distributors to push a new product called the "45" Coverette, a chocolate brown plastic cover that nicely fits over a variety of RCA Victor 45 players from EY-2 to the 7-EY series including virtually any RP-190 machine with clearance for the cover.     

Coverette RP-190 cover

 

Over the years I have searched for these hard-to-find Coverettes which were originally priced at $2.95.  They now command a high price on eBay when they show up only a few times a year.

Just for fun, I decided to try working with thin plexiglass and making a few covers for those phonographs that seem to accumulate dust. With the help of  the proper Plexiglass glue and a few pieces of plexiglass to form the cover, the problem was solved. Now I need to keep the covers dust-free.   Tip!  Protect your machines, make some plexiglass covers.

Ristaucrat dust brushIt's also important to remove any dust that accumulates on the needle or stylus under the tone arm.   The Ristuacrat, one of my favorite machines, has a little brush that sweeps the stylus each time a record is rejected.  This feature is interesting because each Ristaucrat has some kind of cover which helps minimize the dust. 

One of the common problems foundCamera Lens Blower Brush with 'updated' RCA Victor and other machines that had its original cartridge replaced with a modern cartridge is the stylus is often knocked off the rubber yoke because someone had dusted the machine.  Tip!  Be careful.  To clean the stylus, use a Camera Lens Blower Brush. Experts recommend you brush from the rear forward. Interesting that all Ristaucrat brushes clean from right to left.  →

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.  Recently, there has been a lot of chatter about an unusual stylus cleaning technique.  Some of the 'experts' tell us to use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to clean the diamond or sapphire tip of all crust and dirt that accumulates from playing vinyl records.  One commentator says, 20 year old needle tips are now translucent as the first day.  No fluids, no hassle.   

We're told to 'cue down and just dip' to clean the stylus and lower or eliminate playback distortion.   As I am just now experimenting with this Tip, I don't know if it's good advice yet.  But just for fun, I used a jeweler's loop to closely examine a variety of cartridges and styli before and after using the Mr. Clean Magic Erase.  I was impressed with the gentle, thorough cleaning job it does.   There are some warnings on the package- not recommended for high gloss, polished, dark, brushed, satin and faux surfaces, bare and polished wood, copper and stainless steel.  So it might be a good idea to remove any residue from this cleaning agent.   Click this YouTube video for a demonstration. 

Gently, sit down!
Tone arm brushNot so common today are these great little tone arm brushes that serve two purposes. First, they help reduce the amount of dust and static electricity that often builds up on vinyl records.  Also, if you have a RP-168 "45" record changer that doesn't have the pneumatic dash pot that helps gently drop the tone arm onto the record, you can use one of these tone arm brushes.  After completing the reject/change cycle, when the tone arm drops onto the record, it sits down more gently when the tone arm brush touches the record before the stylus. 

PhonoJack AV equipment rackExercise those machines.  If you have a large number of electric powered phonographs it can be time consuming to run test them, cycle them and give the optional amplifier a little work out. 

I created a simple staging rack (an old audio equipment rack) with a rugged power-strip and ten individual X-10 Home AutoPhonoJack AV X-10 equipment rackmation lamp modules that are controlled by a simple X-10 timer.  The X-10 Controller Timer automatically powers on and off cycling each machine a fixed length of time.  Recapped/rebuilt amplifiers typically get burned in 8-12 hrs.

Tip!  A neat trick to repeatedly recycle any RP-190 player is to tilt the player, so you don't have to hit the reject button, a decent work-out.  I have modified these RCA Victors with an additional in-line fuse and proper grounding so run testing a batch of these machines in a safe, fire-proof area adds an extra measure of safety for these 'old fellas' now aged more than three score.   Wow, 60 years old!

Simplify the electrical and audio wiring.  Because these phonographs consume very little power you can safely use high-density power strips with a single power source on/off switch.  Tip!  Be sure to use a good quality power strip (with an optional surge protector) with a light that indicates power and always power off.  

RCA PhonoJack 12 port selector With a lot of help from my good friend Roy, a retired engineer we designed a simple RCA phono jack selector that allows me to select from up to 12 record changers, (for example, an RCA J2 with RP-190, a J3 with and RP-168, a Slide-O-Matic with an RP-199, even a 78rpm player and feed audio to a standard PhonoJack to (up to 2 RCA 9X 561 or RCA 9X 571 radio.      Click to enlarge photo.

In case you might have guessed, that steel box was RCA PhonoJack 12 port selector backoriginally a RS 232C serial port selector switch.   This little box allows me to select a variety of phono jack connected record changers.  It can optionally provide an audio feed to a speaker selector.  So the combinations are interesting.  It's easy to compare variables such as cartridge, stylus, motor, speed, format etc. Power is 110VAC supplied by power cord. 

Tinkering with pre-amps.  One of my first lessons learned when trying to connect a stand-alone J2 to my receiver was the difference between Aux/Tape/CD (or line in) and Phono.  Talk about impedance matching, RIAA curve, mVoltage, etc.  My friend Roy had custom built a variety of DC powered pre-amp devices (rather than buy one on eBay).  We thought maybe there was a market for this but after a little research we said, no way. Real audiophiles wouldn't use an RCA J2, J3, or Select-O-Matic and others buy an off the shelf AC powered pre-amp for less than $20.   Still ours sounded better.

I have a variety of RCA J2 record changers with a variety of pre-amps, one connects to the same FM receiver as my decent quality, German-made Dual 1200 turntable.  I ask people to tell me which record is playing, an LP on the Dual or 7" 45 record on the RCA. Ya can't tell!    Another RCA J2 plugs into an X-10 Smart Alarm in a guest bedroom, (typically for the kids) that will automatically start playing any 45 record through the bedside radio at the pre-programmed time.  Dad's a tease!  Another's in my office connected to a Tivoli Audio FM/CD/Aux System; nobody believes the quality of 'those little 45's".  No scratches, no clicks and pops, incredible base, etc. A FM wireless version described below also connects to the Tivoli Stereo System.

Tinkering with the FM Transmitter. When the low-cost .mp3 FM Transmitters were introduced a few years ago, I tried rigging one to a custom pre-amp that we had built for an RCA J2. I was surprised at the 'decent' sound. FM Wireless TransmitterMy friend Roy, an engineer who had worked at Symphonic˛ Phonograph Div. (Lowell, MA) was always tinkering, trying to make these RCA Victor "45" products sound better. At one of our weekly Saturday morning meetings, trying to convince him that I knew a bit more about audio that he expected, as I approached his kitchen table (our mini-lab), I carefully placed a breadboard with about 10 components, battery power connected to the back of a J2.  I said, turn your radio on to FM 106.7.  Without a slightest sign of excitement he said, whatcha got there? We can improve that thin sound, add base, etc.  

Because I had previously worked for a large well-known US networking and communications equipment company and had some business contacts there, we convinced the Taiwanese manufacturer to sell us 20 samples of these .mp3 FM transmitters at $10 each.  We sketched out a conceptual design and faxed it to Taiwan knowing our contacts would have no idea what we were trying to do.  Nonetheless they approved our order. 

RCA J2 FM TransmitterMeanwhile, I convinced Roy that we could develop an interesting product that would transmit a signal from an RCA J2 (no amplifier) using a low-cost FM transmitter that would soon flood the global .mp3 market and in conjunction with one of our TDA 2002 and LM386 chip pre-amp designs.  Notice that the white button that changes the FM channel is on the front of the RCA J2 and to the right of it are corresponding LEDs that indicate which FM channel from 106.7, 107.1, 107.5 and 107.9.  Normally one or more of these frequencies won't be occupied by a local FM station.  If the selected frequency steps on reception of a local FM station, the reception is still very clear with no interference as long as the RCA J2 is playing a record. 

RCA J2 and Bose LifeStyle 48 1  Home Entertainment

RCA J2 to Bose LifeStyle 48 SideOne of the best demonstrations of the clarity and richness of vinyl sound from a "45" record comes from the RCA J2 attached to my Bose LifeStyle 48 Home Entertainment (Surround Sound) System.  We built two pre-amps fitted inside the J2 so that we could create a true stereo output.  Each channel has its own pre-amp and we use the four pins of the Stanton magnetic pickup.

This photo shows the LifeStyle 48, remote control and RCA J2 Record Changer which powers on manually.  RCVA J2 connected to Bose LifeStyle 48The LifeStyle 48 powers on via the remote control and receives input from the J2 via two (L/R) RCA phonojacks connected to the Aux ports.  Interesting that the Ground (GND) was not needed to eliminate a possible 60 cycle hum.  GND is effective in reducing hum when connecting to a PC's Line In.

RCA J2 Bose LifeStyle 48 and RemoteThe Bose LifeStyle 48 Aux port receives the (L/R) audio signals from the J2, it indicates receiving No Video and Aux.  The received stereo signal is sent to the front and rear left and right speakers.  Center channel is not used.  Click on any photo to enlarge the image.

 To extend the functionality of RCA Victor's J2 we developed a board level product including the pre-amp, (using a TDA 2002 or LM 386 chip), RCA J2 with FM Transmitterpower supply and selectable frequency FM transmitter.  Notice that the J2 cabinet has been drilled so that the FM frequency button can be pushed.  These FM transmitters allow the user to select from up to 5 different frequencies starting at 106.7.   Look at the back of the J2 in the mirror and notice that we installed a 3.5mm mini jack for Line In off the pre-amp circuit.  This module is powered by a 12V DC power supply.

RCA FM J2 under plexiglass

Here's another shot of the FM Wireless RCA J2 protected with one of the plexiglass covers previously described on this site.

Another version of the RCA J2 FM Transmitter.  When pushed, the white frequency selector button moves up one FM channel and the corresponding green LED will light indicating which of the 5 channels has been selected. There is a red LED that indicates power on.  Click the image to see a close up shot of this version of the J2 FM Transmitter.  Cool!

Below is a close up of the FM Transmitter frequency select button and 5 LEDs.  This close up also shows two neat tricks I learned from Roy.  The original RCA cartridges and stylus were more rugged that the more modern ceramic or magnetic cartridges often installed in these RCA phonographs today. 

RCA J2 close up FM transmitter, felt strip, grommetRather than allowing these modern devices to drop to or scratch the motor board, we install a small felt strip with adhesive backing.  Should the user fail to place the tone arm back on the tone arm rest, the stylus will have a soft landing.  To further protect the stylus, I install a small rubber grommet over the tone arm rest.  This prevents the tone arm from dropping when on the rest and the rubber grommet holds the tone arm securely when carrying the machine.   

PhonoJack rubber grommets and felt stripsTip!  Protect your pick up and stylus with a piece of felt strip or green felt buttons.

Tip!  Stretch a tight-fitting rubber grommet over the tone arm (Pick up arm) rest.

If you find an RCA player with a brown felt strip and rubber grommets, chances are it was rebuilt by R. Roy, Bruce P. or me, PhonoJack. 

RCA J2 with FM Transmitter to Tivoli AudioRCA J2 with Tivoli AudioMusic System.  One of the electronics engineers from nearby Tivoli Audio in Boston couldn't believe one of their products worked so well with an early 1950's RCA record changer.  The interface to the Tivoli Audio System is by way of an commodity grade FM Transmitter or also by RCA jacks (L/R) to Aux on the Tivoli. This photo shows two prototypes.  In the first version on the left we drilled out the front of the RCA J2, and painted in inside perimeter gold to highlight the FM transmitter unit.  On the ten  subsequent units, we drilled only the white FM selector button and holes for the red and green LEDs. These units each have a female connector for a 3.5 mm mini jack, compatible with any PC's Line In interface.  This allows users to record vinyl records played on a J2 record changer to a PC via its sound card. 

Footnotes:

1 In defense of Bose Logo   I'll admit that I am no audiophile and I know a little about high-end audio stuff.  Some audiophiles love to take a shot at Bose USA describing how they can assemble a surround sound or home entertainment system for much less than the price of a Bose System.  Or, there are cheaper/better speakers, etc.  At the time I bought my Bose LifeStyle 48 a few years ago, I visited a local Bose showroom and was blown away by the incredible surround sound demo and help from a young energetic techie who gave good answers to a list of questions I had prepared.  Price wasn't at the top of my list; I wanted lots of flexibility anticipating the future.  Functions such a real time audio and video streams were new, HDMI had just come to market, intelligent port switching, sensing which interface had priority was important, soft selectable features was important and speaker quality for general listening (for example FM or satellite radio) to booming base associated with surround sound was on my priority list.

Buying the Bose LifeStyle 48 a few years ago has proven to be a smart decision.  It connects and switches between a variety of devices including a Motorola set top box, Sony Bravia HDTV, BluRay/DVD/VCR, Apple TV and the RCA J2 record changer.  The Apple TV box provides Internet connectivity,  connects a PC-based photo library to HDTV, provides access to my iTunes audio, video and other content, streaming video, NetFlix and other services, YouTube, in house LAN connectivity and using an iTouch, iPhone and or iPad remote control to select speaker pairs thoughout the house connected wirelessly using IEEE 802.11n via Apple Airports with 3.5 mm speaker jacks and USB.

˛ Symphonic Phonograph Division was subsequently acquired by Lynch Corp. who later sold the company to Morse Electro Products who manufactured the Electrophonic brand of consumer electronics.  Morse shut down Symphonic in 1973 and most of the Lowell MA jobs were moved to Puerto Rico.  Symphonic 45 Player Model 1045              

In the Lowell MA area, for many years during the sixties, Symphonic was the place to work for high school and college age students that got their first job and technical experience on the production line.  Frequently, we hear stories from senior engineers in MA High Tech that talk fondly about their early years at Symphonic. This particular phonograph with components manufactured by RCA and Crescent was assembled, tested and shipped to commercial accounts from the plant in Lowell is now in PhonoJack's collection. There is an unsubstantiated story that much of the remaining Symphonic Phonograph inventory which had not received the UL Approval had been dumped in the Merrimack River. 

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