Refurbishment of the Acoustic Research XA turntable


So a new friend & fellow audio geek and I were talking about turntables while we sat listening to music on his VPI Scout. As an antique dealer, he comes across quite a bit of antique audio equipment - HK, Fishers, Altec and the like. In talking about turntables the conversation went to discussing the pros & cons of un-suspended vs suspended tables. Both of us seem to prefer un-suspended tables, but he mentioned that he had not one but two old AR turntables and asked if I wanted them. Well, I'll take a look sometime, but I have enough projects for now, thanks.

A few weeks pass and I'm taking a break at work, and I remember the AR XA conversation. Well before the discussion, I knew a little bit about the XA - they often had broken headshells that were difficult to come by and no reproduction parts were available - a complete unit (especially for a collector) would be preferable so as not to hack up the sub-chassis to fit a different arm. But lo!, I am a tweak-head so why the hell shouldn't I hack into these tables? ...ok let's see those ARs.

Roy opened the garage door and I was surprised to see a complete AR XA with dustcover, headshell, tonearm and everything except the AR badge! This thing had to be seriously abused....right? Anyone who has moved a turntable without the correct shipping materials knows that turntables were not designed for the tremendous seismic activity in transport and that something will surely be broken, bent, or spilled (if you're moving a WTT) on the way. I live four miles away and there are at least 10 bumps per mile. Consider the oscillations of a suspended table on a bouncy passenger seat and that the magnitude of oscillation is concurrent with the magnitude of the bumps factoring in the frequencies of the non-linear seat springs plus the weight of the table and the pitch of the seat divided by the damped spring rate of the car itself and you have a formula for.....oh, what am I worrying about - this table could be junk anyway.

None the less, I gingerly carried the XA from the car, into the house, and to the dining room table, uh, I mean workbench, to have a better look...

 

Yeah, I suck at timely picturetaking. This is the XA prior to complete disassembly. This is an early example complete with solid walnut base, Haydon motor, and original armrest. AR made tables with a gray, black, or brown painted top plate. The brown painted top plates are known to degrade over time such as this one has. Pure speculation, but my best guess is that the brown textured paint had flocking material mixed in that absorbed moisture as all the brown "goo dots" in the above picture correspond with slight rust pits under the paint.

 

Time to strip the paint. Top plate, brake cleaner, Zip-Strip, rubber gloves and what once was a very expensive paint brush... AR used a locking screw for transport in the later models but this top plate does not have one, nor does the sub chassis.

 

The newly painted top plate. I tried several times to get a flat brown surface, but the spray cans were not in agreement. The quick and dirty solution was to use a roller to apply the paint - not perfect, but it works for now. The base was re-oiled with pure Tung oil and new small rubber grommet for the tonearm lead was found at the local Harley Davidson dealer.

 

1/2 polished outer platter & fully polished outer platter. Mother's Mag & Chrome polish works wonders on turntables as well as it does on motorcycles!

The platter mat was cut from a yard of felt from the local craft store. At the same store I also found Singer sewing machine oil which was used to lubricate the platter spindle and the arm stem. Everything here is original except for the paint and the grommet. I used a chunk of mastic paper under the top plate to protect the tonearm wire from the subchassis.


 

<--Ye olde Blaupunkt

The new 'Punkt-->

 

A few months after completing the turntable everything changed:
  • The gloss brown enamel that I used (without primer) started to degrade as the top plate began to rust.
  • The Blaupunkt console became a 'Punkt.
  • Found what may be the ideal paint.
  • Started modifications to the other XA.
It started with having the Blaupunkt console (my wife found it for $10 at a yard sale) that looked retro-cool, yet served no purpose. For me, mere decoration holds less eye-appeal simply because it serves no other function. The Blaupunkt was nice to look at but really needed to be useful, especially since I decided to set up a full second system. Simply gutting the unit was not an option as there was no logical or convenient arrangement of shelves or doors. I decided to cut it in half, remove the right side panel, and reattach it with one new shelf. Since the unit was made of 1/2" chipboard and not terribly strong, I also added 3/4" & 1/2" MDF on the sides & top to reduce resonances and make the unit more sturdy. I left room to reattach the doors at a later time. All that was needed now was paint that would match the color of some of the parts that were removed.

I went to Home Depot and looked around for a house stain that was watery and came in the dark brown color, but I ended up getting Glidden Padre Brown flat interior latex. Applied to the MDF with a foam roller, the latex dried quickly and evenly. "Hmmmm, I wonder what else I could use this paint on?", I thought as my eye fell upon the AR XA.

 

For the second time, I disassembled the XA. After stripping the paint and sanding to remove the oxidization, I put several light coats of Rustoleum Grey Primer. Experience with the brown enamel taught me that a foam roller was not the way to go as it left a trace of bubbles and craters. I needed something like a regular paint roller but with less nap. I found a 3" velvet/velour roller that seemed like it would do the trick. I applied 5 coats of paint with the roller, letting each coat to dry (between 10min to 1/2hour) before the next coat. The end result is about as close as I've seen to the original finish - it's flat but has texture and closely approximates the original paint.

This table eventually found a good home with Mr. Vinyl Nirvana himself! My breast swells with pride as he has deemed the table "Gorgeous"!


Visit Vinyl Nirvana, an excellent repository of Acoustic Research turntable info & pictures

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Page created by James L Woodley © 2004, 2005 Page last updated 08 August 2005