Record Changers

Steven J. Gross

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Thread Starter
The back and forth between CDs and LPs is dizzying. We know reasonably priced CD changers are all but gone, turntables are back, the trouble is they are all truly garbage unless you spend a lot.
What happened to Garrard and BSR changers? They were built solid and were economical and fun.
They should retool and produce!
 

Mike Blakesley

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I'd be curious what the market is for "high end" turntables vs. crap turntables. While I'm sure there are quite a few serious audiophiles out there who know good sound when they hear it, and are vinyl aficionados, it seems like a lot of people who are into vinyl aren't really serious about it, they're people who are into it for the novelty.

My grandfather had a Garrard turntable that my uncle brought back from Japan in the 1950s. That thing was built like a tank. We also used to sell Garrards at our music store for a couple of years. I don't think we ever had a Garrard changer though. During that era (mid-70s to mid-80s), anyone who would buy an expensive turntable would look down their nose at a changer. Even an "automatic" turntable would turn some people off.

I had a Technics changer, although I hardly ever used the changer function on it. It was pretty cool -- rather than the swinging arm to hold the waiting records in place, the Technics would balance the records on three little fingers that stuck out from the spindle. When it was time to lower a record, another mechanism would hold the remaining records up, and the three fingers would retract to let the bottom record fall onto the turntable. It was quite the engineering marvel compared to a typical changer.
 

Harry

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I'm still using Technics "automatic" turntables from the early 80s. These wouldn't change records, but they had sensors to tell the tone arm whether it was a 7", 10", or 12" record so it could land properly at the start, and then it returns to its resting spot after a single-side play. Both use P-mount cartridges, which are looked down upon by the audiophile types. But I'm using an Ortofon 320 cartridge which is supposed to be among the best.
 

Rudy

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Changers were inherently flawed, so it's good that they went away. In fact, changers can only use a spherical/conical stylus, as if you use an elliptical or better, you'll wear the records abnormally. The problem is that the vertical tracking angle changes each time a record is added to the pile. A sphere can more easily rotate inside the groove as the height changes, but sphericals are also the worst tracking of styluses out there.

Records have been made for decades with raised label and edge areas partially to work on changers so they did not "grind" together but still, that's only in a perfect world--even minor and acceptable warpage can cause the surfaces of records to touch when they are stacked.

Most changers had to use an idler drive, since that was the only drive system capable of turning the combined mass of a stack of records. Belt drives could slip too much, and direct drive simply wasn't capable of using the mechanism.

Still, the way changers worked was always fascinating. Different manufacturers all had their own means of detecting record size, for example. I did own a Realistic LAB50 changer (not sure who made it for them) that was my first "separate" turntable, and never used the changer function, except maybe once or twice just out of curiosity. It was a belt drive, so I don't know how it would have held up with a stack of records. But it came with three spindles. One of course was the "stacker," and it was kind of a cheap design since there were three prongs that stuck out of the spindle on which the records balanced--there was no arm resting atop the records. The second spindle was like a cap that fit over the hub, allowing for single play. The third spindle was drop-in that was for single play, but was for repeat play--the changer would replay the same record over and over until it was stopped manually.

Changers made more sense in the 50s through the mid 60s when someone simply wanted to play an extended set of music, and sound quality wasn't what it was today. Mainly they were portables or consoles of limited fidelity, sold at department stores to homeowners who "just want music" in the home. (Today's equivalent would probably be a Bluetooth or network speaker plopped onto an end table or fireplace mantle.)

Agreed that there are some really crappy "lifestyle" turntables being made today--anything that says Crosley, for the most part, are rubbish and will tear up records. (They used to sell a single model for a few hundred dollars that was made by, I think, Pro-Ject, so that was the only model they sold that was worth buying.) Plus, many companies of the past like Garrard sold their name to other companies, and are either non-existent or selling cheap products trying to use the old name as a marketing gimmick.

It might be a good idea for me to put together a future article on what's available out there for new turntables. Sure, some will balk at $500, but consider that $500 today was probably the same value as $150-$200 from the late 70s.
 

Rudy

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I'd be curious what the market is for "high end" turntables vs. crap turntables.
It depends. The "lifestyle" turnables are the ones to avoid, and are basically for anyone who really has no sense of what sounds good--if music comes out they are happy. (I mean, seriously...would any music buff buy a Crosley from Bed, Bath & Beyond and play a $25 copy of Abbey Road on it? I'm not making this up...I actually saw both at our local BB&B a few years back!)

I think there are multiple levels here. There are some music lovers, like many in the forum, who want something that sounds fairly good that won't destroy records that they have spent years or decades collecting. Some might want slightly better sound than that, and will pay a bit extra. Someone archiving records to digital, or trying to get as close to an analog tape experience as possible, will gladly spend into the 4- or even 5-digit range to get a turntable/arm/cartridge system.

I will say this--I've heard them at all levels in these price ranges, and have heard everything from $500 setups to a turntable system that cost more than my house. But the sound? You'd be amazed at how realistic and lifelike an expensive system sounds. At times you'd think there was some trickery going on, but the systems are that good.

My grandfather had a Garrard turntable that my uncle brought back from Japan in the 1950s. That thing was built like a tank.
I wonder if it was a Garrard 301. This is a "new" version of it, but the original 301 looked the same (but without the strobe on the platter) and was made from 1953-1965. They did, however, made other changers during the 50s and 60s. But this one was the gold standard.

1656344182063.png

My grandfather had the SL95.

1656344386596.png
 

Harry

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Stacking 45s made sense. You wanted to hear a bunch of hits in a row without getting up to change the record. But stacking albums always seemed a bit strange to me. Unless you only wanted to hear one side of an album intermixed with one side of other albums, it just never made sense.

Then there were the 2-vinyl-disc albums that had a record with sides 1 and 4, and the other record with side 2 and 3. (I think the FOURSIDERs are that way.) You'd stack sides 2 and 1. 1 would play first, then 2. Then you'd flip both discs over and 3 would play, then 4.
 

Rudy

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As a kid, I really didn't care what the changer played, although I did also notice that the 1/2 sequence of record sides was thrown off by the changer. So I probably stacked records only a small amount of the time, and played single LPs on the changers for the most part. It did come in handy at parties, though--stack up the holiday music and let it play. Although some of the stuffy relatives were always asking us to turn it off after about an hour. 🙄
 

Stevenj

Well-Known Member
I have several players. My main rig is a Lenco L75. I also have a Elac Miracord which surprised me the most with flawless performance on auto and decent sound quality, but I'm afraid to change the cartridge. LOL. I also have a minty Garrard syncro lab 95 which I use the least. Also a Sony direct drive from the early 70s (wood grain, huge, heavy) that is need of a tone arm. The Lenco is the best. I've installed one of the Italian idler wheels, new v blocks and a ceramic spindle bearing.

Man, this hobby/obsession is fun.

Steve
 

Stevenj

Well-Known Member
It depends. The "lifestyle" turnables are the ones to avoid, and are basically for anyone who really has no sense of what sounds good--if music comes out they are happy. (I mean, seriously...would any music buff buy a Crosley from Bed, Bath & Beyond and play a $25 copy of Abbey Road on it? I'm not making this up...I actually saw both at our local BB&B a few years back!)

I think there are multiple levels here. There are some music lovers, like many in the forum, who want something that sounds fairly good that won't destroy records that they have spent years or decades collecting. Some might want slightly better sound than that, and will pay a bit extra. Someone archiving records to digital, or trying to get as close to an analog tape experience as possible, will gladly spend into the 4- or even 5-digit range to get a turntable/arm/cartridge system.

I will say this--I've heard them at all levels in these price ranges, and have heard everything from $500 setups to a turntable system that cost more than my house. But the sound? You'd be amazed at how realistic and lifelike an expensive system sounds. At times you'd think there was some trickery going on, but the systems are that good.


I wonder if it was a Garrard 301. This is a "new" version of it, but the original 301 looked the same (but without the strobe on the platter) and was made from 1953-1965. They did, however, made other changers during the 50s and 60s. But this one was the gold standard.

View attachment 7701

My grandfather had the SL95.

View attachment 7702
Years ago, I had a Garrard 990b. I found it at a resale shop for 15 bucks. It was strange in that it had an idler wheel underneath but was belt drive. Its speed was steady and it was a good sounding rig.
 

Rudy

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The Lenco is the best. I've installed one of the Italian idler wheels, new v blocks and a ceramic spindle bearing.
Those oldies are built like tanks! And I just saw the price of an L75--$550 and up. There were some flimsy mass-market turntables throughout the years, but a lot of those non-mainstream brands that cost a few bucks more are still around. And as you know, it's worth investing in upgrades.

Dual made some workhorses also. I owned one of their CS (?) models briefly but wasn't all that enthused about it, but it was a cheaper consumer line of theirs. The older style Duals were also quite durable. My buddy has a direct-drive Dual that he bought used in the late 70s and that thing was fantastic for the price.
 

Stevenj

Well-Known Member
Those oldies are built like tanks! And I just saw the price of an L75--$550 and up. There were some flimsy mass-market turntables throughout the years, but a lot of those non-mainstream brands that cost a few bucks more are still around. And as you know, it's worth investing in upgrades.

Dual made some workhorses also. I owned one of their CS (?) models briefly but wasn't all that enthused about it, but it was a cheaper consumer line of theirs. The older style Duals were also quite durable. My buddy has a direct-drive Dual that he bought used in the late 70s and that thing was fantastic for the price.
Jean Nantais refurbishes and modifies Lencos. They are priced like Garrard 301/401 and some are so gorgeous. Jean Nantais Ultimate Lenco
 

Rudy

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Wow, that's quite a setup! Some of those 301/401 rigs can cost into the five figure range--I've seen some in custom exotic wood plinths that cost $12K.

The idler drives and the more powerful direct drives have a certain "drive" to the music that doesn't happen with other types of turntables. There's something to be said for speed stability. Those old Technics SP10 series direct drives used the same motors used in the mastering lathes, and were made for rugged, daily abuse in commercial applications. And I've seen those similarly priced into the upper four and lower five figure ranges.

I mean, something like a Linn Sondek, a classic floating subchassis turntable, can sound excellent under the right circumstances. Absolute Sound was a big dealer of theirs back when they were still around, and I can't even think of how many times I'd heard that 'table at the Royal Oak store...
 

Steven J. Gross

Well-Known Member
Thread Starter
I'd say Audio Technica has pretty much captured the BSR Garrard market. I have their x60 table. It is a cheap, low key table with a Bluetooth option. For me it's decent and gentle on the vinyl. The interesting thing is there are no changers at all being made..
 

Stevenj

Well-Known Member
I'd say Audio Technica has pretty much captured the BSR Garrard market. I have their x60 table. It is a cheap, low key table with a Bluetooth option. For me it's decent and gentle on the vinyl. The interesting thing is there are no changers at all being made..
I don't need changers but find them interesting. I do like auto lift, though. It saves me from the rush to save me stylus.
 

Rudy

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Audio Technica, decades ago, used to sell a little device that lifted the arm at the end of record sides. There are a couple of similar lifters today--haven't looked into them, though, but being handmade, they are a bit pricey. Clever, though!

Coincidentally, I just did a 10 hour drive today to trade in my existing turntable for another one...very long story behind it, but now I'll be redoing a lot of my needle drops. Again. 😐 (Drove to Chicago and back, and did a trade-in deal with Music Direct.)
 

Mike Blakesley

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I always enjoyed when we'd get a cool new turntable into the store. There was one, I can't remember the maker now, but it had a row of buttons across the front and you could program the songs to play in any order. It had a light beam in the bottom of the tonearm that would read the "gaps" between tracks. They eventually made a changer model that would actually play a stack of records in any order you wanted. I never saw one of the changers in person but it looked too gimmicky to me.

Not in the realm of changers, but definitely unique was Technics' line of tables that did away with the standard tonearm. The cartridge instead moved on a metal rod across the surface of the record, so there was no compromising the alignment of the stylus to the grooves. Since the stylus pressure and all wasn't dependent on gravity, you could set the thing up on edge, carry it around the room or whatever your pleasure without skipping. We sold a few of those, they were about $600 so they were more of a novelty than anything but they did work well.
 

Electroliner

Active Member
That was the linear tracking series from technics. The idea was a cutting lathe made the master this way, there would be no errors in tracking if vinyl was played back in similar fashion. I purchased an SL-5 in 82. I called it the close n play.

the concept was great. Closing the lid presented one minor problem. An echo chamber ensued if you played music at reasonably loud levels. The lead out groove between tracks is most annoying.

The unit that you referred to being able to stand up vertically was a model made by Sharp. I think it could play both sides of a record as well. Sharp even incorporated one in a very large boombox. I think there was another manufacturer that sold a vertical playback unit as well.
 

tomswift2002

Well-Known Member
That was the linear tracking series from technics. The idea was a cutting lathe made the master this way, there would be no errors in tracking if vinyl was played back in similar fashion. I purchased an SL-5 in 82. I called it the close n play.

the concept was great. Closing the lid presented one minor problem. An echo chamber ensued if you played music at reasonably loud levels. The lead out groove between tracks is most annoying.

The unit that you referred to being able to stand up vertically was a model made by Sharp. I think it could play both sides of a record as well. Sharp even incorporated one in a very large boombox. I think there was another manufacturer that sold a vertical playback unit as well.
You talking about something like this?

 

Rudy

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There was one, I can't remember the maker now, but it had a row of buttons across the front and you could program the songs to play in any order. It had a light beam in the bottom of the tonearm that would read the "gaps" between tracks. They eventually made a changer model that would actually play a stack of records in any order you wanted. I never saw one of the changers in person but it looked too gimmicky to me.
You might be thinking of the BSR XL-1200.

1656774951212.png

But, I do remember a BSR changer where the records rested on a wide center platform, and the records would rise up to retrieve the next one in the stack, vs. dropping the next record onto the pile. I can't find a picture of that one, but I believe it may have been programmable as well.
 

JOv2

Well-Known Member
About five years ago I upgraded to a Sota with a complimentary cartridge: it kicked me into high gear for collecting '50s/'60s LPs that had been lost to time... Best TT I've ever had.
 

Steven J. Gross

Well-Known Member
Thread Starter
Audio Technica, decades ago, used to sell a little device that lifted the arm at the end of record sides. There are a couple of similar lifters today--haven't looked into them, though, but being handmade, they are a bit pricey. Clever, though!

Coincidentally, I just did a 10 hour drive today to trade in my existing turntable for another one...very long story behind it, but now I'll be redoing a lot of my needle drops. Again. 😐 (Drove to Chicago and back, and did a trade-in deal with Music Direct.)
I'd like to hear the story!
 
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