More RCA Victor
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 to 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.
Regular 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.
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.
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.
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 found 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
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.
YouTube video for a demonstration.
Gently, sit down!
Not 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
Exercise 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.
created a simple staging rack (an old audio equipment rack) with
a rugged power-strip and ten individual X-10 Home Automation 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
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
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
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
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.
My 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
Meanwhile, 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
RCA J2 and
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Tip! 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,
RCA J2 with
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.
In defense of
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
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
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
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
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