Servo-Arm Turntables from the '80s

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al2002
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Servo-Arm Turntables from the '80s

Post by al2002 » 10 May 2018 15:10

I've been toying with the idea of getting one of the Japanese servo-arm fitted DD tables from the '80s and would appreciate input from forum on the merits of various models.

The short-list is down to the Sony X-75, JCV QL-Y5F and the Denon DP-59L, but I am prepared to consider other models. FWIW, in a few weeks of looking, it seems that the Denon is easiest to find.

High Fidelity reviewed the X-75 and Y5F in 80/81 and while both motor units performed very well indeed,the arm on the X-75 seemed to deal more effectively with the cartridge-arm resonance. Have not been able to find any review on the 59L.

Comments on reliability, durability, user friendliness, service options,cartridge compatibility, etc. would be welcomed.

Thanks in advance.

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Re: Servo-Arm Turntables from the '80s

Post by akimmet » 10 May 2018 17:15

The Denon servo-arm turntables are probably the easiest to come by.
I have a Denon DP-15F, probably the lowest-end servo-arm turntable ever made. The Denon DP-15F has a maximum cartridge mass of 6 grams including screws. This can make finding a cartridge difficult. However, I believe the other servo-arm turntables have similar mass restrictions.

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Re: Servo-Arm Turntables from the '80s

Post by audiopile » 10 May 2018 17:47

I own a couple of the JVC's - four different Denon's ( they are easier to find) and I've had two Sony's over the years -cheap 'cause the arms didn't work (was not able to fix them -so they ended up as pretty darn good decks with conventional tonearms mounted on them) , and the table I use pretty often is a Sony PS-X555ES (which works just fine - once you live with it's limitations -49mm headshell base to stylus limitation and the need for relatively light cart/headshells. My take on these servo arm tables in general is they will work well with pretty much any cart ( the servo driven vertical servo really works) -but they were designed for the carts of the 80's -relatively high compliance MM's for the most part. To play things like DL-103's I've had some pretty fugly wads of bluetack and washers attached to counterweights on my JVC's and Denon's. BTW - this is a limitation with the 555ES -the depth of any add on counterweight is limited by the arm's movement into the base's shroud.

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Re: Servo-Arm Turntables from the '80s

Post by Spinner45 » 10 May 2018 18:11

al2002 wrote:I've been toying with the idea of getting one of the Japanese servo-arm fitted DD tables from the '80s and would appreciate input from forum on the merits of various models.

The short-list is down to the Sony X-75, JCV QL-Y5F and the Denon DP-59L, but I am prepared to consider other models. FWIW, in a few weeks of looking, it seems that the Denon is easiest to find.

High Fidelity reviewed the X-75 and Y5F in 80/81 and while both motor units performed very well indeed,the arm on the X-75 seemed to deal more effectively with the cartridge-arm resonance. Have not been able to find any review on the 59L.

Comments on reliability, durability, user friendliness, service options,cartridge compatibility, etc. would be welcomed.

Thanks in advance.
Having owned a pristine condition DP-59L myself, I can say it's performance was very nice.
However, I couldn't wait to sell it off, due to its overly complex design and known documented issues that come with such things.
Playing a record should be relatively simple and straightforward.
And the DP-xx series isn't in that league.
Perhaps when new, they impressed consumers, having that fancy tonearm design, but they're now decades old, and becoming problematic.
I much prefer a good, solid, old-school design, relying on gravity or a mainspring for stylus control.
Because gravity is more reliable than a bunch of IC's and transistors.

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Re: Servo-Arm Turntables from the '80s

Post by audiopile » 10 May 2018 19:19

My personal take on this is that the Sony's (until you get to the last model -the PS-X555ES)- seem to have a limited lifespan - they worked fine for a couple of decades and then started having parts failures that involved un-obtanium devices. The arms are a marvel -I sold these new back in the 80's and was very impressed with their truly universal cartridge acceptance. In general - look for a unmolested Denon or JVC - if it's been "worked on" then whoever did the work should stand behind the entire table/arm for at least 90 days. As to complexity - ya -the service manual addendum for my 555ES is something like 24 pages long -densely filled with board diagrams and adjustments involving test instruments well beyond a DVM and O'scope on your bench. I serviced this stuff to not make my living - I'm a believer in the Mexican reload stereo system - when something ancient fails - I put another piece in it's place - therefore I'm less concerned with ultimate reliability. Or I'm a hoarder :-) .

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Re: Servo-Arm Turntables from the '80s

Post by akimmet » 11 May 2018 15:22

I think servo arms were an excellent idea betrayed by early digital electronics. There is something elegant about anti-skate, tracking force, cueing, and automatic operation all handled without moving parts other than the arm pivot.

The bad reputation of these turntables is greatly exaggerated by the audiophile irrational fear of anything digital. These turntables aren’t that unreliable, but it is true they can be nearly impossible to repair.

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Re: Servo-Arm Turntables from the '80s

Post by Spinner45 » 11 May 2018 17:13

akimmet wrote:I think servo arms were an excellent idea betrayed by early digital electronics. There is something elegant about anti-skate, tracking force, cueing, and automatic operation all handled without moving parts other than the arm pivot.

The bad reputation of these turntables is greatly exaggerated by the audiophile irrational fear of anything digital. These turntables aren’t that unreliable, but it is true they can be nearly impossible to repair.
It's not so much a fear.
It's a "phase" that manufacturers went though during that period, all trying to "out-do" the other with designs.
So back then we've got a hoard of turntables with "electronic control" of their arms, all with systems prone to the "electronic aging" disease that electronics naturally have.
So.... in keeping with the "simplicity" factor, and using "old school" ways of control, the counterbalance, the tension spring, gravity, all hold up much better over time in comparison.
You never hear about those things becoming an issue, do you?

But of course, it's your choice.... reliability with old school designs, or the fancy electronic way.
Me, I like reliability, and not having to deal with or worry about something going possibly going bad.

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Re: Servo-Arm Turntables from the '80s

Post by audiopile » 11 May 2018 18:18

I will freely admit that I am probably overly influenced as the head dog at Mo's NoKill Shelter for neglected and abused SL-1200's. However - I don't try and rescue damaged/molested tonearms - I replace them. We really aren't comparing similar products - the universal resonance killing aspect of the servo arms is a audible improvement over most cartridges in most pivoted or even linear driven arms. When someone says they don't like a particular model of cartridge - I always want to know in what tonearm ? There are pivoted arms that are pretty close to perfect matches for particular designs/models of cartridges -and some that rate a scratch head -wonder why anyone even tried to run those two together ? The servo driven arms are crazily universal -I've run Denon DL-103's and Shure V-15-IV in my Denon DP-61F . That type of useful utility is AFAIK - pretty unique to the servo arms ( OK - the reason I own a couple of the much maligned SME series 3 is that's the other near universal arm I've ever run into .)And -there are too many evenings when after a LONG day at work - I want to sit on my but -listen/relax and not have to get up to lift the needle at the end of a record -the servo arms give you that too.

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Re: Servo-Arm Turntables from the '80s

Post by Slavikcc » 11 May 2018 20:10

I can attest that my main turntable, the JVC QL-Y5F, is a very robust piece of electronic machinery. I personally had no resonance issues with the three cartridges I use: Stanton 681EEE II-S, Ortofon 2M Bronze, and Nagaoka MP-110. From the observations and web sleuthing regarding the electronic servo tonearms from Denon and Sony, it seems the JVC have the least number of technical issues.

But the issue with these turntables with respect to weapons-grade unobtanium parts and high servicing difficulties, I can understand why some people would be turned off from using them.

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Re: Servo-Arm Turntables from the '80s

Post by al2002 » 13 May 2018 18:38

Hi All,

Thanks for all the replies.

Based on feedback I will look for one of the JVCs in good shape.
Last edited by al2002 on 13 May 2018 18:49, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Servo-Arm Turntables from the '80s

Post by al2002 » 13 May 2018 18:48

Spinner45,

I have several decent 'tables and arms using belt drive, springs, gravity, etc :) . I just want to try one of the servo armed models. The servo driven arm has definite advantages over the traditional approach. A pity that no one makes a modern arm of this type.

Yes, it is possible that some obsolete part may fail causing the arm to become in-operational but it is a risk I am prepared to take.

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Re: Servo-Arm Turntables from the '80s

Post by wolfie62 » 14 May 2018 17:14

I own a Denon DP45F, JVC QL Y5F, 2 Denon DP15Fs, 2 Linear Tracking TTs. Also, several conventional arm TTs.

The servo systems on the pivoting arm tables gave rise to the linear tracking tables: they, in turn, were the death knell to the servo arms, hence the less expensive line of the Denons (DP15F, DP11F, etc.)

The servo arms will spoil you rotten. No more mismatching cart compliance, they assist in tracking very warped records, they assist in keeping the stylus in the groove on very scratched records. They are easily automated, and have front panel controls outside the dust cover. Load, close the cover, push the button, sit down.

I don't see any advantage technology-wise of the JVC over the Denons. Price wise, a working JVC will run you into some serious cash. I paid $170 for my JVC QL Y5F 2 years ago. It was near mint condition, but didn't work. I had to troubleshoot the servo amplifier circuits. The micro processor chips on both the JVC and Denons are still available....but you cant get them programmed. No one has it, that is speaking up about it. The op-amps are easy to get.

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Re: Servo-Arm Turntables from the '80s

Post by al2002 » 15 May 2018 16:46

Thanks for the reply Wolfie62. It is good to know that many chips are still available.

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Re: Servo-Arm Turntables from the '80s

Post by wolfie62 » 15 May 2018 17:44

But my real point is that while you may find the microprocessor chips, they are worthless without the programming. Who has copies of the programs, with updates? Who has the equipment necessary to load the proper programming into them?

That’s why I’m working on a an arduino chipset program for them.

See, the opamps have to know when and how much signal to send to the servo coil motors. The micro processor is what tells them when, and how much.

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Re: Servo-Arm Turntables from the '80s

Post by Spinner45 » 15 May 2018 20:55

wolfie62 wrote:But my real point is that while you may find the microprocessor chips, they are worthless without the programming. Who has copies of the programs, with updates? Who has the equipment necessary to load the proper programming into them?

That’s why I’m working on a an arduino chipset program for them.

See, the opamps have to know when and how much signal to send to the servo coil motors. The micro processor is what tells them when, and how much.
And all that complexity involved should something fail?
You can have it.
I like things simple and fuss-free.

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