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 Post subject: Califone Record Player opinions please.
PostPosted: Jan Sat 19, 2013 8:28 pm 
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Location: Gatineau/Ottawa. Canada.
Hello,
I was wondering which models or which era of Califone record players were considered to be the best. Also whether a tube or a transistor model was the better?
Regards.
David.


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 Post subject: Re: Califone Record Player opinions please.
PostPosted: Jan Sun 20, 2013 9:16 am 
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Location: Central PA 16801
over the past 25 years i have acquired a very large amount of the standard "classroom" audiotronics, newcomb, and califone record players.

i would repair and restore, all electronics and mechanics and sell them. i still do this when i occastionally see some at the flea market as long as i can get them for a song.

i have noticed that any of the above listed brands have their good models and their weak models. some are built like a brick outhouse and will work forever, some are cheezy and are barely parts sets. some really pound out the sound with great fidelity, some sound like a tin can, regardless of the speaker size. some have a powerful amplifier, some do not--regardless of the 6x9 or outboard 12" speaker size.

i have none left to compare nor do i remember any model numbers -but- i could not believe how incredible some of those classroom record players were, in all aspects of fidelity, power, and basically everything. then you had the other end of the spectrum. but on average, they all were good.

if you get yourself a few, it will not take long to see and hear the difference between them. but on the average, i think you will be pleased. go for one that has a 6x9 speaker or one that has the outboard 12" speaker, or perhaps one that has two 6x9 outboard speakers. the smaller players with the 4x6'ish or the 4x10 speakers will come up short in fidelity compared to a player with the 6x9 or larger speaker in it. the ones with separate "bass" and "treble" controls will yield a better player. however, many who have the single "tone" control will knock your socks off with fidelity and power. whichever one you acquire, make sure it has a new needle to protect your records and to give the best sound.

if i had to make a quick pick, Audiotronics record players have better sound compared to the others.

hope this helps.

however, it is just my opinion based on a lot of experience(s) with them.

steve

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 Post subject: Re: Califone Record Player opinions please.
PostPosted: Jan Sun 20, 2013 6:50 pm 
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Location: Boston, MA USA
I have three Newcombs, a large TR-1625M with separate 12" speaker, and two classroom types with internal 6x9" speakers, one solid-state from the 1970s, one tube-type from the 1960s. The 1625M and the tube-type classroom model are excellent, but the solid-state classroom model has a nasty case of crossover distortion. I'm not sure if it's endemic to this model or just a component failure in this unit. Haven't tried to fix it yet.

-David


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 Post subject: Re: Califone Record Player opinions please.
PostPosted: Jan Sun 20, 2013 7:43 pm 
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Joined: Apr Sat 09, 2011 11:53 pm
Posts: 428
Location: Gatineau/Ottawa. Canada.
Steve and David. Thanks for the replies.
Steve you have obviously had a lot of fun with these units. I do like the offerings of Newcomb especialy some of the early models like the TR16-AM second and third production with their 6V6 push pull amps.
Problem here is that I only see the occasional ad for Califone units. It does not seem that Newcomb and Audiotronics did much to penetrate the Canadian market. I could of course go the ebay route from the USA but the shipping is a bit prohibitive.
I will just have to keep my eyes open and see what pops up.
Regards.
David.


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 Post subject: Re: Califone Record Player opinions please.
PostPosted: Jan Sun 20, 2013 9:42 pm 
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david,

glad to be of help.

on average, the solid state audiotronics from the 60's to 70's were the best sounding ones that crossed my bench, imho, those being the single 6x9 self contained suitace type.

the larger detachable speaker players with two 6x9 or 12" fullrange speaker(s) were just over the top in sound from all of the brands. they are impressive.

they are like pizza. they all are good and you will be satisfied, but some are just better than others. the room filling quality sound was amazing for a simple "record player".

no matter which one you get, you will be happy as long as it is in top shape restored condition, or one that can be put there.

yea, i had my share of pickup truck loads of them. i was in the field of education back in the late 80's and 90's when piles (and i do mean piles) of classroom record players were thrown away, sold at school sales, or aucrtioned off for chump change right into my shop. i would re-cap, tear down and clean the motor/tire, repair any other problems, give a rigorus bench test, and put them up for sale. i had quite the advantage in being at the right place at the right time.

steve

steve

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 Post subject: Re: Califone Record Player opinions please.
PostPosted: Jan Sun 20, 2013 10:10 pm 
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I too have messed with a lot of classroom record players by several different companies that were made over many years.

Here is my take on Califone: They had their good and bad models; but, they were the cheapest to purchase when new and that's why a lot of schools bought that brand. They made self contained models that would play up to 12" records and they also made models with seperate speaker(s) that often will play the larger 16" transcription records. The old tube type transcription players from the '50's and '60's were decent and the higher end models used a GE variable reluctance magnetic cartridge. Most of their self-contained tube models consisted of a two or three tube amp and did not use a power transformer. The output stage was usually based on a 50L6 tube and was good for 2-3 watts of output. When I was in elementary school in the '80's, they had a bunch of older Califone 1410 and 1440 tube models that dated from the late '60's-early '70's and were among the last tube models produced. They used a 6X9 speaker and had controls for volume and tone. The build quality and sound quality was OK; but, there are better options available. If I found one of these for a reasonable price, I'd probably get it just for sentimental reasons.

Our school also had some of the newer solid state Califones in the blue, brown, or grey case and these were the models with the little light at the end of the tonearm. The 1430K was the most common model and sounded decent. I think there was also a 1450K that had variable pitch and a mic input. There was also the cheaper 1420K that had a smaller amp and smaller rear firing speaker. If I were to go with a solid state Califone, I'd get one of the blue or brown 1430K's from the '70's or early '80's. They started getting more cheaply built by the time the grey cased models came along in the late '80's. The newer models often had plastic turntable platters and DC drive motors that were more failure prone. The older ones had AC drive motors that usually only need lubrication and the platters were made of metal.

I'm not crazy about the later Califone 1000 series record players that date from the mid '90's to the present day. They are not nearly as well made and they don't hold up as well.

I've had a few Hamilton branded units, as well as some other off brands, and they usually have low powered IC-based amplifiers and cheap speakers that don't sound the best.

The Voice of Music AV series are, for the most part, good machines that are well built. There was one cheap model (270AV, IIRC) that was not much better than a kids record player.

My favorites are a close tie between Newcomb and Audiotronics tube models. I have a Newcomb AV10 that uses an EL84 based amp and seperate bass and treble controls that sounds good and is very well built. Newcomb made top quality record players in both tube and SS forms; but, the tube models are much easier to work on.

I like most of the pre-1980's Audiotronics models. My biggest complaint with the later Audiotronics models is the cheap plastic tonearm that they used. I've had problems with these skipping, regardless of what stylus was used; but, the same records would play fine on older machines with a metal tonearm. Some of the later Audiotronics tube models used an interesting amp in that it used a single 6T9 compactron tube that contained both the driver and amp stages in a single tube.

The majority of these players used an Astatic 89T powerpoint plug-in cartridge/needle assembly. If you get one of these players, it would probably be best to check the tonearm tracking pressure. I think these cartridges are designed to track in the 6-8 gram range; but, I've seen them tracking at much heavier forces. Excessive force and cause premature record wear.

I've also found that the quality of new 89T's to be all over the place. Some sound great and don't grind the record. Others sound bad and can wreck a record with just a few playings. I've literally seen them turning the grooves white as the record playerd.

Also, make sure you're using the right size stylus tip for the record being played. The older 89T's were dual sided with a tip for LP/45 and a larger tip for 78's. Most recent 89T's are dual LP tipped and they also make single sided LP and single sided 78 versions.

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 Post subject: Re: Califone Record Player opinions please.
PostPosted: Jan Tue 22, 2013 2:43 am 
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Joined: Apr Sat 09, 2011 11:53 pm
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Location: Gatineau/Ottawa. Canada.
Hello,
Another load of info from radiotvnut. Thanks alot. Also like the link to youtube saw an interesting demo of a 4 speed Newcomb TR-16AM. I think you gentlemen have giving some good insite into the world of school/college record players. They seem to have built a lot of quality and good bells and whistles into many of them. They are rugged but at the same time I get the impression that use was probably restricted to responsible teachers and the units were probably not over stressed. A lot of the advertised units appear to be in good condition. I think they were the Fender/Gibsons of the record players. I like them!
I just finished up servicing an RCA Victor suitcase player with BSR changer circa 62. The quality was not great. Stereo, using only one tube per channel and 2 small speakers. No comparison to the school products.
Again thanks for those inputs.
Regards.
David.


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 Post subject: Re: Califone Record Player opinions please.
PostPosted: Jan Tue 22, 2013 4:52 am 
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That RCA like what you describe uses a common design in where they use a 3 volt crystal cartridge to directly drive the output stage. This design is basically the same as what was used in child's record players and was used in the lowest end models. The biggest problem with these is that the original cartridges are usually either weak or dead by now and replacements that are still good are often hard to find.

The portable home record player line ranged from the cheapest "one tube blunders" all the way up to expensive models that used power transformer based amplifiers with push-pull output stages.

I don't think I've ever seen a true "one tube blunder" school record player. The Audiotronics models that I mentioned above used a single tube; but, it was actually two tubes in one.

Years ago, I had one of the last Newcomb tube record players from the early '70's, a model ED10. This was an entry level player for it's day and used a 6V6 based five watt amp; but, it sounded really good. I ended up loaning mine to a friend and eventually told him to keep it; but, I wouldn't mind finding another one.

A long time ago, I used to buy a lot of non-working school record players on ebay, fix them, and re-sell them on ebay. That was back when I could get them for a few dollars and the shipping wasn't insane. Also, I had a source for idler wheels for around $6. Now; shipping cost have gotten insane and the prices on ebay prevent me from buying any. Also, KMR (the supplier of those cheap idler wheels) went belly up; so, my only option is to have the wheel rebuilt at a cost of $30. I used to buy the needle/cartridge assembly for around $5-$6; but, now, they are over $20. Today, I'd go in the hole trying to refurbish one of these players with the hopes of making a profit on one. Every once in a while, I'll spot a school player that's local that I can get for a few dollars and that's about the only time I'll buy one.

By now, all of these will need a mechanical cleaning/re-lube. I also find that the idler wheels have either hardened or have developed a notch in the rubber from being left "in gear" for an extended period. Also, the capacitors in the amp usually need to be replaced and the needle/cartridge assembly is often worn.

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 Post subject: Re: Califone Record Player opinions please.
PostPosted: Jan Tue 22, 2013 5:10 am 
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I just looked on epay at the three major brands of classroom record players and all I can say is that I'm glad I got the few I have when I did. Now, it seems these greedy sellers think they are worth big money. Not many of them actually have bids; but, that still doesn't stop these sellers from asking stupid prices for these things.

If you attend your local school district auctions, you can likely pick up one (or, a whole load) for a few dollars. You might also check out the local flea markets and junk stores. Unrestored, these things shouldn't be priced over $10-$20. Anything higher, IMHO, is overpriced. Several years ago, I called someone I know who works for the local school district. He said that they use to have loads of record players; but, they were all trashed after no one bid on them at the last auction.

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 Post subject: Re: Califone Record Player opinions please.
PostPosted: Feb Mon 04, 2013 6:16 am 
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I found a Newcomb at a flea market last year that will play 16 inch records, has a GE VR cartridge with flip around needle and push pull 6BQ5's. I didn't get the matching pair of 12 inch speakers that it came with. After a recap and servicing of the turntable I'm using it to play my Mono LP's and 78's. I've got it hooked up to a Magnavox speaker cabinet with a 15 inch woofer and it's quite impressive. Here's the thread I started back when I got it with a picture

viewtopic.php?f=9&t=201647&hilit=Newcomb

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 Post subject: Re: Califone Record Player opinions please.
PostPosted: Oct Thu 10, 2019 2:58 pm 
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I think this topic is great. I have a Hamilton, plays good but won't fill a room with sound. I have a Califone, all blue, white trim, model 1430c. Arm and platter made of metal. This one sounds really good even with the one tone control. My best is the Audiotronics 304A. Not much different than the Califone physically or in the electronics but it does have an edge on sound. My secret is I bought then from "Shopgoodwill. All are like mint condition and all I got for less than 14 bucks. Warning check the shipping. Some have high shipping fees others are very reasonable. My Audiotronics only cost 9 bucks and 14 dollars to ship. I think the biggest problem is replacing the 89t when time comes to replace. :D


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 Post subject: Re: Califone Record Player opinions please.
PostPosted: Oct Sun 20, 2019 3:31 pm 
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I have an 1865A that seems to be older (1960s?) that I put a Shure SC35C cartridge on and rewired, totally bypassing—and also completely removing from the case—the internal amp. The tonearm wire just hangs out of the back of the tonearm and goes into a separate preamp. I LOVE this for transcriptions and for 78s, using the correct styli for either. Especially for 78s, despite the rumble, it's still my favorite way to play them.


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