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AR XA tonearm wire troubles

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AR XA tonearm wire troubles

Postby danieldust » 27 Feb 2006 15:59

It's been a while since I posted anything about my AR XA, but expect to hear more from me now. I just sold my daily driver (Technics SLBD 20) to a friend of mine. I am pretty much turntableless until I can get my AR XA up and running. :cry: I was having problems with my motor chattering like crazy because I had removed/replaced the belt pulley one too many times. I was inspired to try adding a little oil that came with a beard trimmer I have, and presto!, the motor is now back to normal.

So, I excitedly put the whole TT back together and was anxious to spin some new records I bought this weekend. Unfortunately, that was not to be, as my tonearm wire has finally become too frayed at the point where it passes through the plinth. I am getting full sound in one channel and almost no sound in the other with a moderate hum.

A study of the tonearm wire revealed that it is a braided ground wire surrounding four hair-thin different colored wires. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I started unraveling the ground wire from the point where it frayed back to the point where it connects to the wiring post attached to the wooden base. I found that my green wire had broken.

I twisted my ground wire together and soldered a new wire from the frayed point to the wiring post. I then attempted to re-attach the green wire, whcih was much more difficult. The wire is so tiny, that it does not hold any solder. I did manage to get the wires to stick together though, and I tested it. There was absolutely no difference.

So, why didn't this work, and what should be my next plan of attack?

Can the AR XA tonearm be completely rewired?

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
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Postby bauzace50 » 27 Feb 2006 17:54

Hello Danieldust,
After living with two AR XA for about 20 years, and now havning one on a loan, I stumbled on precisely the same situation you have. But my situation was caused by an accident, where the turntable was set on the working table to look underneath. So I placed its front surface down on the table, and Murphy took care of letting the tonearm slip from its well, and dangle from its fragile signal cable.
Now, the ground braid is broken from its mooring, and one signal wire is broken. My initial solution is to purchase a working used tonearm. but now that I will have two tonearms, I will experiment with re-wiring the original tonearm.
One situation with rewiring is that the replacement cables will probably NOT be original AR wires! So, the proposed new cables will occupy more space, and will probably NOT go through the turntable's top deck.
Perhaps one solution will be to place a small junction box on top of the deck, just like the VPI turntables, with phono plug outlets, enabling experimentation with phono cables to the preamp.
I suspect that many AR XA units will be having the ground braid breaking just about now. Those miniature metal braids are 45 years old now, and are getting rusted and brittle, just ripe for beginning to break right now...horrors!
So, if many AR XA owners begin to have this problem, solutions will have to be invented. It all starts with a slight "unexplained" hum showing up...really, the braid starting to fray and stop making the ground path by simply breaking up physically.
Now that I will have one old tonearm, and one newer one, I will begin experiments to see how a total re-wire is possible and effective.
If you find solutions, please share. I will do likewise. Thanks.
Regards, bauzace50.
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Postby danieldust » 27 Feb 2006 18:32

Thanks for the comments, Bauzace. I'm glad I'm not in this boat alone! (Incidentally, was that your letter in the current issue of Stereophile? I recognized the name immediately as a Vinyl Engine name.)

I am sure that many AR XAs are having this problem. I know little about electronics and such, but it seems that this whole system could have been designed to be less prone to damage. Of course, it's easy for me to say that 45 years after the fact, isn't it?

I have condisered buying a working used tonearm, but they don't seem to be easy to come by, and any that I do find will likely have wires that are also in need of repair.

It seems the biggest obstacle to totally rewiring an AR XA arm is connecting new wires to the headshell contacts at the front end of the tonearm. I haven't figured out if there is any way to take apart the assembly at the front of the arm, but I will take a close look at it tonight. It seems once that is figured out, the rest is doable. Anybody have experience in taking apart that end of the tonearm?

I'm also anxious to know what kind(s) of wire to use. I have never seen wires so tiny, and I am curious if it is necessary to use something similar for performance reasons.
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Postby bauzace50 » 27 Feb 2006 19:32

Daniel,
Really, the AR XA is a magnificent product which was well received and acknowledged in its time. Compare with two of its contemporaries, the Rek-O-Kut, and the Weathers turntable with the wooden tonearm and "seismic" suspension. The AR lives on in legend, but the other two are virtually vanished...despite their being good products.
To have an environmentally exposed miniature metal braid, with no maintenance effort whatsoever, begin to fail 45 years later is truly admirable! How many cars from 1962 are still working without any, mind you, any parts replacement? How many spark plug cables were replaced long before the initial five years?
Hats off to Edgar Villchur, Henry Kloss, Roy Allison, and the other original AR partners! They broke new ground, creating solutions with hardly any precedents to go on...true pioneers who made trails where none existed, and, more significantly, at truly popular prices, totally free from taking financial advantage of their clients. The original XA sold for $58.00, remember?
Regards.
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Postby danieldust » 27 Feb 2006 20:36

The original XA sold for $58.00, remember?


No, I'm not old enough to remember (not even close), but I see your point. I'm not knocking the AR XA at all. The more I learn about it, the more respect I have for how revolutionary it was. Even though I hope to get a newer, better turntable soon, I really want to keep my AR XA and get it running.

Still, I wish they'd put some heat shrink or something on those wires!
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Postby bauzace50 » 27 Feb 2006 23:43

danieldust,
When my new (used)XA arm comes in, in about a week, I will start exploring ways to deal with the old arm. Maybe there are effective solutions. One main consideration is for the new wiring to be flexible. One does not want stiffness here, at all. We'll see. If you come unto other solutions, please share. Thanks.
Regards,
bauzace50 (yes, the letter in Stereophile was written by me).
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Postby danieldust » 28 Feb 2006 01:29

Well, impatience got the best of me. Fortunately, it worked out pretty well!

I decided the only way to access the wires inside the tonearm was to remove the plastic headshell receptacle at the front ofthe tonearm. The trick is to remove it without damaging it. It is made of thin, flexible plastic, and could tear or get too bent out of shape.

Here's how I did it:

I placed the blunt end of a 5/16" drill bit in the hole where the headshell would normally go. I lifted the collar into the position where it would normally go when tightened around the headshell. I then used pliers to gently pull the plastic receptacle out of the tonearm tube. The drill bit and collar protect the receptacle from damage. The pliers must be wrapped around the collar, not the receptacle itself.

The receptacle is held in the tube by a small dimple on either side of the tonearm tube. You will be pulling the recepticle about 1/2 an inch, and the dimples in the tube will cut a groove in the sides of the receptacle. I believe this damage is not serious and can probably be rectified with some glue later if necessary.

Once the receptacle is pulled free from the tonearm tube, the wires are there to be unsoldered from the headshell contacts.

I have posted some pictures of the end results and the tools involved below.

Now the question is what kind of wires to use for rewiring the arm and whether to rewire it the stock way or whether to install RCA jacks.

I am actually really excited about this, and I am looking forward to getting this fixed!

http://www.geocities.com/danieldust_99/tonearm1.jpg
http://www.geocities.com/danieldust_99/tonearm2.jpg
http://www.geocities.com/danieldust_99/tonearm3.jpg
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Postby bauzace50 » 28 Feb 2006 06:55

Danieldust,
You are a pioneering hobbyist! Congratulations on the status of your investigation. It looks promising. For wires, the only source I have yet found is through eBay. You can go to http://www.ebay.com, and go to their search "window" writing "tonearm" and clicking "search". There you will see a few options, including one offer for silver/teflon 32 awg wire. Another source for internal tonearm wire might be Origin Live, whose web address can be obtained by writing the name in a search engine.
If you rewire this way, you would have to invent your own "screen", maybe wrapping another wire around the four leads, and holding it in place with some kind of paint adhesive (?). The only question after that would be the stiffness of this new wire assembly, as it might influence the tonearm's freedom of movement. Then again, it might not be necessary to wrap the screen around the four leads. Just routing the ground wire coincident with the four leads might be effective without wrapping around.
The other situation might be to replace the plastic receptacle on the arm, maybe with epoxy (?), making sure of aligning with the correct azimuth.
And, the possibly most critical situation would be the actual preparation of the wires for soldering. That takes a sharp razor blade and VERY good eyesight and hand control.
Thanks for your pioneering exploration!
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Postby danieldust » 28 Feb 2006 13:44

Thanks for the suggestions, bauzace50. Here's what I've found so far:

http://www.welbornelabs.com/cardasarmwire.htm

http://tinyurl.com/qy687

I know Cardas wire is supposed to be good stuff, but I have never seen or heard of this Welbourne Labs place. Are they legitimate?

I saw nothing about wire on the Origin Live website.

I know absolutely zero about different kinds of wire and why one would be better than another for certain applications, so I need all the input I can get.

It does seem to me that the ground wire need not be wrapped around the signal wires as before, but perhaps there is something I don't know about this.

I may take this question over to Vinyl Asylum or another forum here for greater audience participation.
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Postby bauzace50 » 28 Feb 2006 15:24

Great idea, to get wider participation! Of course, there is http://www.vinylnirvana.com which may be the ultimate place for after-market AR TT information. I am purchasing the used working tonearm from them, but they do not yet offer a rewiring service. Our own Vinyl Engine Forum moderator "ddarch" is the entrepreneur at Vinyl Nirvana.
The Cardas products look quite attractive, also! Thanks for sharing.
Happpy hunting!
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Postby danieldust » 28 Feb 2006 15:38

Yeah, Dave's on vacation right now, unfortunately. I'm curious to see what he has to say about my adventure into what is the unknown (to me) world of AR XA rewiring.

For what it's worth, Cardas also has a neat little "phono interface box" to do what you described with the RCA jacks, but it's $90, which is way too much for this project and my budget. It's on the bottom of the Welbourne Labs page linked above in this thread.

Also, here's the thread at Vinyl Asylum for anyone wanting to follow about the choie of tonearm wires:

http://www.audioasylum.com/audio/vinyl/ ... 08047.html
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Tonearm Rewiring

Postby delcam1n0 » 28 Feb 2006 18:01

You both could try to contact another
VE veteran, J7:

http://www.audioorigami.co.uk/

Johnnie7 there specializes in TA rewires, amongst
other things. His prices, comparing to German shops,
are very reasonable, ranging from around the US$
75 to just over a hundred, wiring & labour included.
Plus postage to Glasgow, Scotland of course!

Not sure whether he'll sell you the 40 by 4 cms of
wire you'll need. But drop him a line, he just might

BTW: 33gge wiring is .17 millimeters. The extra thin
silver wire recommended around here is .07 mm!!

And as they recommend here: one can glue it tothe
outside of the arm first, just to try it out.
(I'd rather not try soldereing that lot to plugs though!)

regards/delcam1n0
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Postby danieldust » 28 Feb 2006 18:43

Thanks, delcam1n0. I may contact Audio Origami to see if they will sell me some wire. They have several different kinds on their website.

May I ask why the thinner wire is recommended? Is it a matter of improved performance from an electronic perspective, or is it simply a matter of better flexibility for the sake of tonearm movement?

Thanks!
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Postby danieldust » 07 Mar 2006 13:43

Just an update:

I've ordered some Cardas tonearm wire from Welborne Labs. Hopefully I'll be able to work with it properly once it gets here!

http://www.welbornelabs.com/cardasarmwire.htm
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my tonearm wire broke also

Postby kellymon » 17 Mar 2006 16:34

Hi, I'm very interested in how your tone arm rewire turns out. My XA has a broken wire also and I am without a turntable until I fix it...
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