Thursday, January 5, 2017

vintage silver pioneer

We spent a week in Illinois visiting with family and doing Christmas activities with everyone. We had a great time even though the kids were sick part of the visit; and the trip is always "fun" on Christmas Day since there's no place open for "breaks" other than gas stations. Regardless, the kids did great and they were still on a buzz from opening presents early that morning. We had planned on visiting friends in Chicago, but the kids illness had us rethink that plan.

During our visit with Jill's Uncle Larry, we were discussing vinyl and Jill and I commented on how we wished we had a record player. Uncle Larry mentioned that he could "fix that" and later before we left he offered to give us the stereo that had belonged to Jill's Grandfather. I was floored as I really have always loved the analog/mechanical wood and silver faceplate stereos of the late 70's and early 80's before everything turned into a black plastic box. Uncle Larry mentioned that they would need to be cleaned up and possible belts replaced but that he was certain that replacement parts could be found. He even had multiple copies of the various original brochures, owners manuals, as well as wiring schematics. He offered to hold everything for us until we could pick them up during our next visit, but I squeezed them into our Subaru being careful not to scratch the components. I took them back to Jill's Mom's house afterwards so that we could figure out how we might be able to squeeze them into the car ride back to North Carolina with the usual car load of kid's presents that we usually take back with us.

My Dad loaned us his hitch mounted cargo carrier and I was able to load all of the toys and suitcases onto it so that the stereo equipment would be safe and sound inside the car. While we were loading up for the trip back, Jill's Mom brought out wood base Pioneer PL-A25 turntable. The dust cover was super cloudy and the wood was dry, but I figured it would be a cool addition to the audio set-up in case I had trouble with the PL-400 from Uncle Larry. She also offered to give me some other vintage speakers that she has, but we couldn't fit those on this trip.

When we got home, I started inspecting everything and spent a couple nights cleaning up the metal faceplates, and futzing with the PL-400 turntable. When I played the first record on it, there was a noticeable drag every 8 seconds or so. The PL-400 has a strobe that shows if there is any variance in the speed of the turntable and it was "missing a dot" ever so often. I completely dismantled the player and cleaned everything and still no luck. After much searching I discovered that there are two potentiometers that can be adjusted via the bottom of the turntable to adjust speed at 33 and 45 RPM respectively. Such an easy fix that would have not required a full dismantle, but at least I know everything is clean and tidy inside. The old stylus was in rough condition so I ordered a new one that should produce really good sound.

I cleaned the cassette player and it does indeed need new belts as one of them was completely disintegrated. I'm not sure how much use the cassette player will get, as I believe I dumped all but a few of my cassettes except for some mix tapes I made for Jill when we were fist dating. That said, I went ahead and ordered the belts so I could get everything back in working order.

The receiver cleaned up great. I took the wood surround off and blew the dust off of all of the circuitry. I really love the design of this particular component. The action of the dials are so smooth and the various levers are so cool. Jill and I hooked up her iPhone to the receiver and wired the Pioneer speakers along with the speakers that are built into our living room and kitchen ceiling. It sounds amazing. I have an old plastic Pioneer black box receiver and the super heavy silver SX-3800 receiver blows it out of the water. It's amazing! Receiving these pieces have me studying the design and engineering of these pieces and how the audio industry was in it's golden age during this time period. It's so interesting how cheaper components gave way to the current systems and how quality went down. These were really pricey pieces back in the day and surprisingly they are holding their value and some pieces are going up in value. This really says something about current audio equipment.

I cleaned up the turntable that Jill's Mom gave us and applied some wood restore to it and the speaker cabinets. The wood really came back to life and I was very pleased with how I was able to buff the turntable aluminum casting on my buffer and do a pit of polishing of the various bits. This particular turntable is belt drive unlike the direct drive PL-400. It's belt was toast and had melted into the surface of the player under the turntable. I cleaned the mess from the melted belt and ordered a new belt and cartridge/stylus for it. I can't wait to hear how it sounds. I am looking forward to getting the other speakers from Jill's Mom and purchasing some of my favorite albums on vinyl. It's been fun to research these components and the vintage stereo enthusiast community.

Every time I listen to a record it brings back fond memories of my Mom's extensive vinyl collection and her love of music. My Mom always had nice stereo systems and so I have that level of appreciation not to mention it's super cool to have these pieces that were a part of Jill's childhood when she visited her Grandparents. We decided to display them rather than pack them away inside our furniture. I hope I can build a custom cabinet and vinyl storage in the future. I'll try to post some before clean-up pics and discuss what I used to clean the dust covers in some later posts.

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