Show off your AR XA tables

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Post by pivot » 14 Dec 2008 14:29

Compared to the other mats I've tried, this one seems most lively in sound......the audioquest sorbothane mat i have sucks the music out of an album. It might work on a different platter than my AR....dunno. I also think metal platters have an overall better sound than glass or acrylic. Must be why i like the sound of a Linn too.

....I still have an original XA mat too.
Which begs the question - "What mats have you heard"

Currently I have an old, 1980s period I think, Osawa Mat OM-10.

Considering both the lead MS mat from from our buddy at Vinyl Nirvana and/or something from Herbie's Way Excellent.

So what is your experiance?


Post by MuZak » 15 Dec 2008 03:44

Hey Marc!
Thanx for the WB and the offer!

I'm up to my ears in projects right now so I'd
best pass.
Auditioning mats just ain't in the cards at the moment,
but I'm always interested in the topic.
Maybe I'll just get a whole mat from ya down
the line, as well as a few other assorted goodies.
(gonna need thrust bearings one o deze daze)

I'm also battling a bout of kidney stones, so
getting anything done is hard enough without
adding more to the pile lol..

I'm soon to begin tearing into the Merrill XA
for a full re-do.
I should shaddup about it, since I keep threatening
to, then not get a round tuit.
This time I'm committed though... Even ordered
the new motor last night.
Youze guyz provide way to much inspiration for
my own good! :crazy:

Its true, those gel mats do suck the life outa...

I can't really see how it is from your small
"avatar" pic, maybe you could post a larger
pic to the gallery?
I see you've learned how to post pics.. ;-)



Come to think of it...

Post by MuZak » 15 Dec 2008 03:55

Marc... since you're mat experimening..
Why not try the File-folder mat.
Cut a large (new) file folder to mat shape and
see what results you get.
You've already established a baseline for comparison.

You're best able to know what kind of platter to
try it with, but its usually used with a metal
platter damped underneath, so as to have the
advantages of
the Sorbo-type mats without the drawbacks.

The idea is, a minimal mat thats just a thin interface.
Adds little, takes away little, but gives a bit of
de-coupling yet retaining the basic character
of the platter type.

Been meanin to try it forever, but for my scarcity
of round tuits.

Just a thought.


Here's mine! (finally)

Post by MuZak » 07 Jan 2009 03:09

Well, I finally got a digital cam.. for Xmas.

I took the table out of service for a total re-do.
Fix little niggling issues, and a major cosmetic upgrade,
motivated almost totally by the awesomely amazing
workmanship by the good folks on VE.

The confluence of these 2 events has given me a chance
to take some pix.
They didn't come out all that great, but I'm just learning
to use the cam... and more importantly they'll just serve
as before pics anyway.
I'll post the after pics down the line, when I have some
results from the re-do.
The main changes (apearence-wise) will be a new
base and refinished top-plate.

For now... here's my Merrill Modded (begun 1987)
All the mods available at the time.


Plz click on the pics below for a larger version.

Thanks for looking!

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Post by snfrosten » 07 Jan 2009 21:48

Nice looking table Greg, I'm sure it sounds great too :D

Good luck with it and keep us updated.



Post by MuZak » 07 Jan 2009 22:26

Thank you Steve!

You know, nobody has ever given me a compliment on
it before, and it feels very good... especially comming from
You are among those who have set the bar VERY very
high for the rest of us to aspire to (and work towards).

I think it actually will be nice looking when I get done
with it.
More to come over time.

It does sound pretty good.
I was very surprised when I first played an LP on it.
I was expecting a relatively modest improvement.
I can only imagine what it would be like with a truly great
arm and cart... along with a few other improvements
to compliment them.

Incidently... its hard to tell in the underside shot, but the
entire underside of the top plate is covered with so
called "asphalt based dampening material" aka
"bitumenous" sheets. (aka: Dynamat original)
Makes it very dead.. just a minor dull thud when tapped

Thanks again!

PS: Thanks for this thread Steve!
It gives up the opportunity to show our prized
tables and indulge ourselves in showing off our
hard, often challenging work.

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Post by lumendog » 07 Jan 2009 23:08

Muzak, Very nice Table. How does the clamping ring effect the sound? I always wondered if it was worth the dough? It looks awfully cool though.


Post by MuZak » 08 Jan 2009 00:19

Thanks much lumendog!

The clamping ring definitely does affect the sound.
Weather its worth the dough...
Well, in part it depends whether you HAVE the dough.
If you don't have that much to spend... the TT sounds
good enough without it.
Its one of those things that make for a real nice upgrade
if its possible for you.

Kinda like... a Ferarri is definitely better than a Mustang.
Either you can afford it or you can't.
If you can but its a bit of a stretch... you gotta ask yourself
if you can justify it.
That much $$$ for a certain degree of improvement.
Like all perf improvements, you reach a point of diminishing returns.
Past a certain point, each gain costs more for less degree
of improvement.

Bear in mind also, that it can always be added later.
You can build your basic table... put in all the good stuff
that you gotta do to complete it... making a great table,
then see if you want to spring for more.. a further
The ring only works with the M/S platter though, IIRC.

When I bought mine, it was MUCH cheaper... back in
the late 80s.
I don't think I'd spring for it at the current prices.
Look at the price VPI charges for it... its absurd.
I think we should acknowlege that Mr Merrill invented it.
Not VPI or others who've copied it of late.

I don't remember how much I paid though I have the paperwork
packed away somewhere.
I think it was in the neighborhood of $150 but I really
could be wrong.

I think it should be understood that its part of a system.
Mr Merrill said the greatest gains are when its used
in that way.
I had thought about not getting the ring, but he convinced
me that I should.

As for what exactly the differences/improvements are...
I don't remember in detail, as I briefly compared many
years ago and memory is foggy on that.
The ring is very heavy... enough so that you have to
readjust the suspension to use without.
Hence, its hard to make a direct A/B comparison.
I did do that at one time early on, and all I remember is
that I prefered it WITH... and by a large margin.
It also completely nullifies any minor warps.

There are downsides too though...
Apart from the added hassle of having to put it on each
time... which isn't really that big a deal.....
The main downside is that it doesn't easily clear cartridges
with rectangular bodies.
Moving coils with non-replacable styli are particularly
at risk.
Putting the needle down requires great care each time.
You gotta go slooow.. and do it in good light, watching
as it goes down, so as to move it over a bit if nescessary.
With some records, you have to sacrifice the first few
grooves of music.
There are some carts with which this isn't a problem
at all.
It limits your choices though... or go through the above
mentioned hassle.

It does look kinda cool!



Post by MuZak » 16 Jun 2009 06:32

Well the total re-do is complete.
Here is the result... the after pix.
I'll post a new thread on the full project when I have time.
Turned out to be way more than just new base and
top plate refinish.
Lots of changes "under the hood" too.

Top plate refinished in Hammered charcoal/black.
Black is hard to photograph well, and didn't come out to
well in these.
It looks like all the other hammered finishes in person, only
black with charcoal tones.

The sound of this table absolutely blows me away!
FAR far better than I could have ever immagined.

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Post by solex » 16 Jun 2009 13:11

Very Nice Greg, thank you for sharing

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Post by pivot » 16 Jun 2009 14:09

Looking good Greg.

I am particulary interested in your full report as I have a XA with Merrill mods and SME arm. You have more of the mods then I do.

Interesting that you removed the bottom plate of the motor and added extra damping on the TT top plate.

Look forward to your detailed description.

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Post by despotic931 » 17 Jun 2009 05:11

snfrosten wrote:OK, heres another table, I use this as my #2 table since it has a removable shell, makes listening to different cartridges easier.

I started this table in 1981, building a very heavy/ridged plinth and adding a Merrill sub chassis I bought from Underground Sound for about $100.

Recently added the inner plater stainless steel spindle, co-polymer pulley and replaced the Linn springs with the heavy duty springs from Dave's Vinyl Nirvana.
The tables sporting a Pioneer series 20 arm and Grado Sig 8MZ. ... 4859-1.jpg ... 4848-1.jpg ... 4850-1.jpg ... G_4849.jpg
This is my favorite XA plinth mod I've seen yet! I can totally see myself going this direction with my XB, thanks for the inspiration! (reminds me of a Pioneer Pl-41)

- Justin


Post by MuZak » 17 Jun 2009 06:34

Hey Dan and Kevin...
Thanks for the kind compliments.
Means a lot comming from the members here!
thank you for sharing
Thank YOU for letting me, and taking the trouble to have
a look!
I am particulary interested in your full report as I have a XA with Merrill mods and SME arm. You have more of the mods then I do.
Actually, I've been thinking of PMing you to ask some
things about the SME.
Specifically about arm cabling, and how you delt with
the fact that the arm RCAs are so close to the base corner.
Also wanted to mention how amazing the AT-15 sounds
with this combo! (I'm blown away)
The other question would've been in regards to your VTA
adjustment findings with your (later model) AT cart.

Incidentally.. speaking of Merrill mods, the feet I used
are Mr Merrill's latest offering.
GEM dandy feet, he calls them.
While I do like how they perform, I'm not thrilled with
the asthetics.
Doing something else for feet is one of two remaining
issues to be solved later on.
I just badly needed to conclude the project for now, due
to other pressing current obligations.

The other issue has to do with the aforementioned arm
I'll describe the issue when I do the full writeup.

Meanwhile, the feet are very heavy. They have a low
durometer (soft) top/mating surface.
The weight really helps I believe.
Its hard to describe... but it seems like they "ground" the table.
Not electrically of course.
Just help to give it a solid low center of gravity type feel.
Its become a very heavy solid table.
I also DID wind up using an MDF bottom cover, with
holes drilled for spring adjustment.
The hugely increased overall weight, combined with the
heavy feet makes it a very different table.
I'm convinced these things contribute largely to my amazement
with its performance.
I need to listen more to be able to verbalize it better.
For now, suffice to say... its immensely more "solid" sounding..
Big stable and solid... yet very light, lithe, and lively.
The bottom is sprayed with Cascade CAE spray dampening
in case anyone was wondering. ... -250_s.jpg ... er=268-250
When you rap with a knuckle anywhere on this table, it
makes a very slight dull thud with no sustain whatsoever.
Seems like you're striking a soft material rather than hard
wood or metal.
Interesting that you removed the bottom plate of the motor and added extra damping on the TT top plate.
Theres quite a story to that. The motor cover that is.
The damping, not so much. Its merely the "asphalt based"
stuff, aka: original Dynamat, that I applied way back in
1987 when first doing the mod, and before there was dynamat.

The motor cover story goes as follows:
I took it off to see if it could be repaired.
This is the original Merrill Mod motor with the bent spindle
I posted on long ago.
Got bent trying to get the pulley off after it went on crooked,
preventing me from using the table for years till I finally
figured out how to get it off.

Several months back while preparing for this re-do project and
lining up parts and assorted fixes, I happened
to be speaking to Mr Merrill... regarding other things, such
as the feet and his record cleaning device.
In the course of talking I mentioned my old motor mishap,
and he said he might just happen to have 1 or 2 brand
new Hurst motor rotors laying around from a case he'd bought
back in the day (when they still sold parts).
Turns out he did.... phoned me back a couple of days later
to say he had ONE remaining, and I could rehab that
motor with it.
I asked him if I could just send it to him, so he could also
re-do the mod, making it an authentic Merrill Mod motor
again. :D
(mostly cuz I was affraid to do it)

He graciously accepted and I sent it back to him.
(after all these years)
He had it back to me in a few days, good as new, and
sold me the rotor at his (1980s) cost... and said it was
now dead quiet.

The motor had always had a lovely gold Merrill badge
on the bottom.
I'll photograph and post it here with an edit asap.
I removed the bottom cover about a year ago to see if repair
would be possible, and ordered a new Hurst motor since
it didn't seem it would be.
I don't now recall for certain, but I believe the badge
was glued to a cover (rather than just by itself), and the
cover went inside the motor housing, as opposed to outside
as with the new Hurst bought this january.
I didn't see a reason to put the cover back on to send it
to Merrill, and I've since misplaced it.

So it came back with no cover, and I asked him if its ok
to run without.
He said yes and it'll run cooler that way.
The badge he said, was developed to make it disipate
heat and dampen, not just for asthetics.

The other reason its now without cover, is that I've made
a "pod" for it, which I'd planned to add during this re-do
process, but I don't like how it came out.
I made it from a sheet of lead from McMaster Carr, hammered
into the shape of the motor, using a round piece of wood
the size of the motor.
It came out cobbled up badly... I'm ashamed to post a pic
of it and don't want to use it, BUT... I DID learn how to
do it, and what not to do.
I'm going to get another sheet of lead and do it again
when I have a chance, and add it later.
I also wanted to hear what the table would be like before
adding it, to compare with after.
When I get around to making another and fitting it, it will
contain oil... Mr Merrill still sells his motor pod oil, btw.
Look forward to your detailed description.
Its likely to be a while.
Please feel free to PM for specifics meanwhile!

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Post by pbda » 17 Jun 2009 14:26

AR-XA with Steve Frosten modifications.

(Linn Basik LV-X arm, external power supply with Hercules II board, etc.)


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Post by snfrosten » 17 Jun 2009 14:53

Hey Greg, great looking table, beautiful plinth. Terrific wiring solution also, shows you put some hard work into this table!

On the cabling, I would wire up a pair of 45 degree RCA plugs so yo get better clearance between the arm and plinth.


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