Crosley Cruiser Sound Improvement

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ntsc525
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Crosley Cruiser Sound Improvement

Post by ntsc525 » 19 Oct 2019 05:03

This post is only for those of you who are gluttons for punishment, or like a good challenge. I bet at least someone has made some improvements to a Crosley Cruiser just for the challenge of it, and didn't spend a lot of money to do so.

I've read several posts about the Crosley Cruiser and similar small suitcase players, but I had no idea just how bad this could sound.

I did not set the bar too high: I wanted something lighter than my school players, stereo capable, and I was hoping it sounded at least better than my Califone school player. It should have been a no brainer for 78s to sound better on the Crosley than a wind-up acoustic Victrola (steel needle, mica reproducer, 110 grams tracking). To paraphrase Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear: "How bad could it be?" Well it be pretty bad!

What attracted me to it, is I like to mess with a lot of different changers and portable players, which I find great for playing 78s and thrift store records. People hate ceramic carts, and people hate the relatively heavy tracking force, but the records I would play on this have been played on ceramic carts at 6 to 10 grams for decades before they found themselves unloved, naked (no inner sleeve) falling out of half split jackets on a Goodwill store shelf or in a dollar bin. There have been lots of decent sounding ceramic cartridge, idler driven players over the years, and even my all plastic Garrard back in the 70s wasn't too horribly horrible. So, just how bad could the Crosley be?

I liked the fact that it is light weight and comes in a nifty suitcase player. I did not expect a tremendous amount of bass, but I did expect some. I have Bluetooth speakers that manage to get bass out of smaller speakers. I expected the belt drive plastic table to be quieter than my idler driven plastic tables (Califone) by virtue of the belt drive.

So, I found one used, for less than the cost of a new idler from V-M Audio Enthusiasts, and went for it. (I would NEVER advise anyone to buy one new and pay full price for it. This is an under $30 toy that deserves no more than $12 spent to upgrade the cartridge (Banpa BP2ATC for the flip needle), and I expected that would be all I had to do to it to get what I wanted: Something lighter and better sounding than my Califone, which would play stereo records as well.

What I found:
I was shocked at just how crappy it sounded, because I think it's shrill, even for the 2x3 speakers inside. Styrene 45s sound like crap. 78s are about intolerable. If it just had a tone control, it might be a little more tolerable. LPs don't sound all that great, but on my potato chip warped test record (Ruffles have ridges!), it rides the "whoops" as well as any plastic tonearm can!

Tracking force is around 6 grams, which is about right for the Banpa cartridge, and about the same as my remarkably good sounding GE portable stereo changer. Age of Aquarius, indeed! (Six grams was considered light for that type of player, as many tracked at 8 to 10 grams. Yes, people actually LIVED that way! Playing their records on those things. Barbaric, I tell you!

What I already improved:
New Banpa ceramic cartridge with BSR style flip needle (a must if you play 78s)
Pulled the table and slathered on the white lithium grease to quiet the bearings. (Bearings? No, just a plastic washer!)

Problem isolation for the sound:
Here is my scale:
"Not bad!" (Better than expected, like a GE portable stereo from the 60s),
"OK" (What I expected from the Crosley, should sound better than my Califone school player),
"Meh" (Passable, but nothing to write home about, like my Philco one tube wonder),
"Aargh!" (I understand why people set these things on fire.)

It sounds much more OK through headphones than the internal speakers, at least on a half decent LP, so the cart is not the worst thing about it. The amp is "OK", which is an improvement over "Arrgh!". There is more treble coming from the cartridge, based on tests using Bluetooth. (Bluetooth through the speakers sounds "Meh", but most records sound more shrill, so "Aaargh!")

Conclusion: The speakers suck most of all! That should be fixable!

As for the speakers, they're really just tweeters, as it doesn't sound like there's a woofer anywhere near there! (Again, I know somewhere there are tiny speakers that can push out at least SOME bass!)

So the goal is to upgrade to "OK" sound, but settle for "Meh" if I can't quite get there. I intend to improve the sound on this Crosley or destroy the case trying!

I just want passable sound from a nice ceramic cartridge that won't hurt records any more than the RCA's, GE's and plastic Garrards they were played on through the 50s, 60s and 70s. (Ceramic carts tracking at 6 to 8 grams aren't nearly as destructive to records as poor care and not replacing the stylus. Party records get ruined because they are party records (mishandled, dirty, smoke stained, scratched, left out of their jackets, etc.), not because they were played at heavier tracking force than 1.5 grams. While I'd never play anything of value on this, it should be able to play (a) a vintage copy of "Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida" without doing any more harm than what it was played on in the 70s, and (b) any 78 RPM record should feel like it's on vacation compared to the heavy needles that played it back-inna-day.

I don't believe in wasting any technology. So, a trebuchet, lighter fluid, sledge hammer, etc., are unacceptable answers. I just want to upgrade the sound to "OK" if possible. This is not an audiophile setup. If it can sound as good as an Anker Bluetooth speaker, I'd be happy. No, I don't want to add a battery powered BT speaker inside my Crosley, nor do I want to tape it to the outside of the case.

To those who say "get a better turntable", I have already, several. I want a decent "toy" to play my thrift store records on, and not worry if I'm too lazy to wash and vacuum my 78s or 45s before auditioning them the first time. Small and easy to stash when I want it out of the way. (The school players, by contrast are 3x the height and weight of the Crosley, and they're mono.)

I'm not afraid to drill, cut or add hot glue to this thing if I think I can improve it.

The challenge, to those who would accept it:
How to improve the sound for the very least outlay of cash possible, mainly aiming at the speakers and case. Extra points if anyone has a schematic or knows the chipset and can suggest where to bodge in a high cut tone control like most players of yesteryear. (They used to use a capacitor, like .047 to .1 with a pot at the output tube to ground.)

So, I'm thinking about finding 2x3 speakers with better bass response. (I think mine are overactive in treble, and roll off at 150 Hz, but I'm looking at a set that goes down to 90 Hz here: https://www.parts-express.com/visaton-s ... mPEALw_wcB)

I'm thinking about cutting port holes in the back to improve bass response.
I'm thinking about maybe adding capacitors across the speakers if still needed to cut some of the treble, or maybe adding a tone control if I can figure out where to tap in. (I'm used to tube stuff, not so much op amps and such.)
Maybe even finding a cheap, small subwoofer (or woofers) if I can squeeze it in on the bottom.

If I get desperate, I may take apart my Anker Bluetooth speaker to try to discover the secrets to its surprising bass response.

And if all the above fails, then off to the swap meet it goes, or maybe give it to an 8 year old, though I don't think it's as tough as an Emerson Big Big Portable Phono I was going to give.

Anyway, that's my idea, and a request for those of you who like a good challenge. Has anyone squeezed better speakers into a Crosley Cruiser? Anyone tried cutting or drilling port holes into the back?

Why, you ask? Mainly because I like to tinker, and mess with cheap stuff. Plus, I thought I'd poke around inside something from the 21st Century as a break from the stuff usually work on from the 1930s to the 50s.

Dan

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Re: Crosley Cruiser Sound Improvement

Post by chgc » 19 Oct 2019 06:19

I’m pretty sure this is not the answer you’re looking for, but I suspect that better speakers will need to be separated from the turntable to avoid feedback problems. Integrating good speakers into the case might require some pretty serious tinkering in order to get around this inherent limitation. I would just run a cable from the headset output to some decent powered speakers if improved sound is the main goal.

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Re: Crosley Cruiser Sound Improvement

Post by ntsc525 » 19 Oct 2019 07:13

The goal is to keep everything self contained in the case, and my goal is at least OK sound, not necessarily "good" which would require upgrading everything.

Anyone played around with small speakers and ports in the cabinet? I suppose next time I mess around with the Crosley, I'll try taking off the back connector panel and see if the bass improves any, and if it does, I'll see about cutting a couple of holes back there.

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Re: Crosley Cruiser Sound Improvement

Post by ntsc525 » 19 Oct 2019 07:20

I just got a plastic "De Jay" record player working (had to take a heat gun to the tone arm to take the twist out of it). Still the original stylus and decades old crystal or ceramic cart, and a little 2 inch speaker with no tone control. All plastic, idler driven kids player. Still sounded better than the Crosley! For shame!

If I'm going to invest dozens of my hard earned dollars in a modern record player, I expect it to sound better than one I saved from the trash!

(Adventures in Lo Fi)

chgc
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Re: Crosley Cruiser Sound Improvement

Post by chgc » 19 Oct 2019 16:18

Hey, some pretty fine stuff has been saved from the trash. But good luck on your adventure. I hope you will report any interesting discoveries.

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Re: Crosley Cruiser Sound Improvement

Post by Copperhead » 19 Oct 2019 16:48

ntsc525 wrote:
19 Oct 2019 07:20
I just got a plastic "De Jay" record player working (had to take a heat gun to the tone arm to take the twist out of it). Still the original stylus and decades old crystal or ceramic cart, and a little 2 inch speaker with no tone control. All plastic, idler driven kids player. Still sounded better than the Crosley! For shame!

If I'm going to invest dozens of my hard earned dollars in a modern record player, I expect it to sound better than one I saved from the trash!

(Adventures in Lo Fi)
We all have to start somewhere in order to gain some experience. You can buy a reasonable 80s Japanese deck for less than a Crosley sells for, just avoid the trendy ones like the Pioneer PL12ds and get something similar instead. At a certain price point the differences are negligible.

Some 80s Akai budget decks perform very well and often sell for peanuts, sometimes Sansui turntables such as the 212 or 222 sell for just as cheaply. Both quite good performers and it would take quite a bit of cash to better either.

All of the above decks are sturdy and built simply, as long as you check motor, arm and platter bearing all should go well. Of course there are others, I just gave an example or two.

The Crosley, just shoot it and put it out of its misery. Euthanasia is sometimes the only path.

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Re: Crosley Cruiser Sound Improvement

Post by lenjack » 19 Oct 2019 16:54

You're a glutton for punishment.

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Re: Crosley Cruiser Sound Improvement

Post by circularvibes » 19 Oct 2019 18:03

Without adding to the flames, I say experiment and see what happens. You've already spent money, don't add to the cost if possible. Learn from it then add it to the pile under the Crosley Crusher. If you need a decent all in one portable, find an old Philips. They can be had in mono and stereo, battery and AC operated and sound far better than any Crosley I've heard without uprades past a fresh stylus and belts/idler. They track about the same weight but won't kill records of the same era and older. If you are actually gonna put some cash into a portable solution, consider building yourself a better unit with modern electronics and scavenged vintage turntable parts and a purpose built case. One day as the need arises I'll be doing the same.

ntsc525
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Re: Crosley Cruiser Sound Improvement

Post by ntsc525 » 20 Oct 2019 00:05

Hi, everyone:
I do have fine turntables, but I just got on a kick of trying to find a lightweight portable that wouldn't mangle my thrift store finds any worse than the run of the mill players of the past. Something I wouldn't be afraid to put a cracked 78 on, just to hear what's on it before I toss it, that album that looks too warped or dirty to get near my favorite ELAC 50H.

Really, for this deck, the bar wasn't set very high at all, and it still struggles! My best portable is a GE Trimline 500 Custom stereo with a transformer tube amp. With the power transformer and two fairly large output transformers, that thing is a tank and extremely heavy to lug around, but it sounds amazing for what it is.

I have an RCA 3-tube luggable (including the rectifier tube), but it's also a little heavy, the sound is not that great (still better than the Crosley), and it tracks at about 10 grams with its Sonotone mono cartridge. Plus that metal turntable with less than perfect idler makes that ringing noise reminiscent of the cable cars in San Francisco, and I'm not up to spending another $30 at V-M Enthusiasts for a new idler. (Not yet, anyway.)

Then I have a Philco "One Tube Wonder", that is extremely light weight, with a nice plastic and metal BSR changer, but it has an even smaller speaker and sounds worse than the RCA (but still better than the Crosley). A nice but plastic tone arm, wired for stereo, because they did use those in stereo players too.

I mean, when audiophiles tell you a Crosley sounds like crap, I figure it's the same as telling me my GE stereo sounds like crap. (The GE is what they called "High Fidelity" in 1962 because it has 2 way speakers. It's not audiophile quality, but it really is not bad at all.) Well, there's crap, and there's C-R-A-P!

A tone control (the most basic high cut style) would greatly improve the Crosley and make it sound at least as good as the Philco, though I'm trying to set the bar higher than that. (I actually thought modern speakers, even small ones could rival the GE.)

So, yes, I'm a glutton for punishment, and I am in a bit of denial and refuse to let the Crosley win. I've bought cheap modern electronics before, and while not stellar, they have usually been at least of minimal quality and sometimes better than expected for the price. I know that China can produce cheap small speakers better than the ones in my Cruiser.

So, my question now is: Can a Crosley Cruiser be saved? Can it be upgraded to "Meh" performance or better? Well, read on for the latest update!

Update:
On removing the back connector panel, it seems like there's slightly more lower mid-range (I wouldn't call it "bass"). Also, placing a .1 uF capacitor across each speaker seems to tame the shrill trebles a bit, and 78s are now tolerable. (The problem with older shellac 78s is the constant surface hiss because the shellac is actually pretty abrasive. If you haven't listened to 78s in a while, they're worse than styrene 45s. Vinyl for records was a MAJOR advancement I find amazing to this day!)

Also, one thing that makes the Crosley mechanism worse on records than a plastic BSR changer from the 70s is the auto stop switch, which puts a noticeable outward pressure on the arm when it comes against it. (Those older changers used a more sophisticated method to detect the runout and not cycle early, while minimizing pressure against the tonearm.) Switching auto stop off does NOT solve that problem because you're still hitting the switch. One solution is to adjust the auto stop lobe out so the switch engages well into the runout, but it will still push outward against the stylus, and you risk harm to your $7.00 stylus (if you upgraded). That's still better than pushing against the side wall in a music section of the record, but not much. One could adjust the auto stop cam far enough out that it doesn't engage at all at the end of a record, and still use the switch to start/stop the table when the arm is at rest. (Different lobe, same switch.)

I would not give a Crosley to anyone without addressing the auto stop switch, just on the chance a record worth more than $2 accidentally ends up on that platter.

Anyway, based on the audiophile adage that you should spend most of your money on the cartridge and speakers in a system, and I've already sunk about $12 into the cartridge, I'm gonna plunk down about $16 for some speaks!

I'll keep updating my progress and findings. If anyone has goofed around with these and made improvements, please chime in! Especially if you find some really rockin' 2x3 speakers that may be better than the Visiton SC 5.9's I'm about to splurge on. (That will make the cart and speakers more than I invested in the player.)

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Re: Crosley Cruiser Sound Improvement

Post by beat_truck » 20 Oct 2019 05:17

I'm not an electronics expert, but I would look at the amp board and see if there are resistors and/or capacitors across the + and - of the cartridge inputs. Ceramic cartridges like a high input impedance.

Example: I have a Hamilton classroom record player. It sounds OK, but lacked bass a little for having a 6"x9" speaker. I also replaced the cartridge with one that has slightly less output voltage, which did not help matters. It had a ~100k ohm resistor and a capacitor (I forget the exact value) across the cartridge input in the amp. With the resistor replaced with a 470k ohm and the capacitor removed all together, the bass and overall tone is greatly improved.

Hope this helps some.

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Re: Crosley Cruiser Sound Improvement

Post by ntsc525 » 20 Oct 2019 07:08

Hi, beat_truck... I really like your avatar.

The reason I'm mainly taking aim at the speakers is because this particular Crosley is the Deluxe model with Bluetooth, and I can run music from my phone through the same speakers, and while not quite as shrill as a record, it still does sound like crap, and worse than the amp through headphones. This means the cartridge is not the weakest link, though I'm sure it could still be improved. (I'm just trying to reach "OK" sound quality with minimal effort.)

Also, if I play records through headphones, the sound from the amplifier does rise to "OK". It's still not audiophile quality by a long shot, but I would call it passable. I like how the power LED dims under the load of pushing a whole 3 watts out to the speakers when I crank it up!

I'll find out when I get my new speakers if a Crosley Cruiser can even compete with a school player in that tiny little case. If I can get it to where the cartridge is the weak link, I'll see if I can find a BSR cart that'll snap in there. I'll also see if I can figure out how the cartridge is wired to the amp board.

Maybe someone will happen across this post that knows what kind of op amps this uses, who can share some info. I mainly work on tube stuff, and I know this doesn't have output transformers, so I don't know where a tone control (or just tone capacitors) would best be wired in. (In tube gear, a simple tone control is usually connected at the plate of the output tube ahead of the output transformer.)

Dan

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Re: Crosley Cruiser Sound Improvement

Post by Mr Pig » 20 Oct 2019 22:41

The best sound you could possibly get from a Crosley Cruiser is the one it would make as it hits the bottom of a wheely bin.

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Re: Crosley Cruiser Sound Improvement

Post by PioneerFan » 21 Oct 2019 13:04

It can be done, on the cheap. I added some wheel balancing weights on the end of the tonearm, as a counterweight. Swapped out the stock sapphire stylus for a diamond tipped, with a metal cantilever. Filled up the inside of the cabinet with foam. Sorry, but when I plug it into my system, it sounds pretty darned good.

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Re: Crosley Cruiser Sound Improvement

Post by ntsc525 » 21 Oct 2019 19:29

While I can appreciate Mr. Pig's advice, that a wheely bin does have better bass response and a better soundstage than the stock Crosley Cruiser, my goal is to make it sound better than a DeJay SP20, which currently it does not, and play junk records on a player that has the defect mellowing, forgiving features of a ceramic cartridge.

A high end table with an elliptical stylus will skip from any junk my Spin Clean / Disk Doctor process doesn't catch, and is so sensitive, you can tell the gender of the dust mites in the groove, whereas a good 6 gram ceramic will just roll over such defects and give you more of the music and less of the detail that is unpleasant on bargain basement records.

I'm just trying to bring it up in sound quality from the bottom of the following list of competitors:

GE Trimline 600, tube powered "portable" stereo player. My best portable, but H-E-A-V-Y!
If you get the early one with the huge looking "Custom" tone arm, that's some funky coolness!
Low end Hi Fi in a 5 tube luggable, it pulls amazing sound from thrift store records.
Age of Aquarius, Let the Sunshine In, folks!
No Crosley can touch this except in weight and portability.

Audiotronics 304E School Player. My current best sounding light-ish weight player.
Mono, so I don't trust it with stereo records, though the ones I've played sound better than on the Crosley.
This has a large speaker with surprising mid-fi sound perfect for 78s and 45s.
Idler drive, so there's a little rumble but the bass is not low enough to notice it.
The Crosley Cruiser would have the same imaging and soundstage (ie: none) as a mono player because of the speaker placement.
The Audiotronics player is much more durable, and is heavy and large because the cabinet is made of real wood.

Califone 1010AV. This is a newer one with an IC amp and DC "servo" style motor, similar to the Crosley.
Switchable speeds: 33, 45, 78. All plastic tone arm and platter.
This player picks up more noise on less than perfect 78s, and has poorer bass response than the Audiotronics.
This is idler driven on plastic platter, and there is no way to disengage the idler when powered off.
Speed control is electronic, so no gear changes, and no "Neutral".
Rumble would be an issue if it had the bass response to pick it up.
I thought this was a pretty low bar for the Crosley to beat, and I'm hopeful I can make it do so.

Emerson Big Big Portable Phono: This is a kids player from the mid-1970s.
People actually use these to play records the way I'd hoped to use the Crosley.
Snap in crystal cartridge that cost me more to replace than I spent on the Crosley, and I felt stupid for doing it.
Of course, it has a plastic table, idler driven, but has a mechanical speed selector with Neutral.
Plays 33, 45, and 78, but no flip stylus, so one needle does all.
Sound quality is what you'd expect, but still less offensive to hear than the shrill Crosley.
Surely, I thought the Crosley would sound better than this out of the box. (It doesn't!)

DeJay SP20: Kids player from the 1980s, I think. Basic cardboard motorboard in a PVC plastic clamshell.
Mine was free with the Audiotronics.
Full sized induction motor for the table.
There are several versions out there, including ones with the same deck as the Big Big above.
The all plastic tone arm was warped, and I straightened it with a heat gun.
Plastic idler drive with 33, 45, and N mechanical speed selector.
Amazingly, I was shocked to hear that even THIS sounds better than the Crosley!
It has a surprisingly nice and working Astatic N76 cartridge that's probably worth more than the whole player!

Victor VV-VI Victrola, wind-up. It's the small table top and because it's self contained, I included it here.
Plays 78s only. Mechanical speed governor and spring motor cause lots of rumble.
Tracking force is 110 grams, and it uses a steel needle with mica Exhibition 2 reproducer (cartridge if you will).
When the big EM pulse comes and takes out all electronics, this will still play, powered by whatever you ate before you cranked up the spring!
This can only play acoustically recorded 78s, and with those, it sounds better than the Crosley.
The Crosley Cruiser beats this in weight and variety of records it can play, but not much else.

Crosley Cruiser: Small suitcase player with tweeters for speakers and the cheapest plastic ever seen on a record player.
Plays 78s, 45s, 33.
Has a space for the 45 adapter but the adapter doesn't fit.
Uses snap-in ceramic cartridge like some BSR players of old.
Needs Banpa flip cartridge to play 78s. Maybe a BSR cart would sound better.
Sound through built-in tweeters is shrill and harsh. 78s and older imperfect 45s are intolerable.
Would benefit from a simple tone control.
Crosley has engineered a belt drive system with more rumble than idler drive.
You need headphones to hear the rumble. Internal tweeters not responsive enough.
Highly recommended for young kids to take apart and learn the basics of how stuff works.

Never pay full retail for any Crosley. Get them cheap and hack away!

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Re: Crosley Cruiser Sound Improvement

Post by ntsc525 » 21 Oct 2019 19:54

PioneerFan wrote:
21 Oct 2019 13:04
It can be done, on the cheap. I added some wheel balancing weights on the end of the tonearm, as a counterweight. Swapped out the stock sapphire stylus for a diamond tipped, with a metal cantilever. Filled up the inside of the cabinet with foam. Sorry, but when I plug it into my system, it sounds pretty darned good.
I'm not sure if you were kidding or not, but:

Mine tracks at about 6 grams which is right for the ceramic cart I have in it. I did upgrade the cart to a flip needle type with metal cantilever. Since I bought it used, the original plastic needle was broken, so I still don't know how bad the original cartridge sounded. (The original cart will probably end up with a new stylus in an RCA 45 player or some kids player I'm going to steal an Astatic cart from.)

If you're plugging it into your system, why did you fill the inside with foam? Do you ever listen to the built in speakers? Have you tried upgrading them?

Since I want to use it with the built-in speakers, the idea of foam interests me, but I'm not sure if that works better than port holes out the back to improve bass.

I'm still waiting on my new speakers before I decide what to do with the case, but I am thinking of cutting port holes in the back to relieve back pressure on the speakers.

I'd also like to add a tone control (high cut), and I'm trying to decide if it should go at the speakers or at the cartridge input. Something like a dual pot with .47 uF cap across.

Someone else suggested adding a resistor in series with the cartridge output to increase the impedance and maybe get more bass from the cart itself. If I get to the point where Bluetooth and Aux In sound decent and the player still sucks, I'll look into that.

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