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Old 9th Jul 2011, 3:39 pm   #1
Darren-UK
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Default Guide to using autochanger record decks.

As time waltzes on we find, understandably, that many are unsure of the way in which autochanger record decks should be used. We have therefore produced this short guide which also accompanies this guide.

Record decks are many and varied, so we've stuck here to a few of the commonest layouts.

Please note that our forums contain much more information on record decks, as indeed does the internet.

This guide assumes all is in good order; stylus, cartridge, deck mechanics and amplifer being all in servicable condition. In connection with that, it is not the purpose of this guide to cover faults; these are well covered in the Vintage Audio section of the forums.

The following two posts are only to explain the layout of the controls. Subsequent posts explain the setting up, operation and what to do when you've got bored and want to pack your record player away again.

Thanks to Kat Manton and Michael Maurice for some of the images (the better quality ones!) in this guide.
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Old 9th Jul 2011, 3:50 pm   #2
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Default Speed and Start/Auto/Reject controls.

The first image shows the speed changer of a Collaro RC456 deck. Typically, but not exclusively to every model, Collaro and BSR decks will have the speed changer at the lefthand side of the deck. Others, such as Garrard, will have it in the righthand side combined with the Start controls - as seen in the fourth image below.

Note the fifth image which shows the dual-concentric type also found on some Collaro decks (See post #7 for more information on these).

The remaining images show three typical Start Control set-ups. Second image is the Collaro RC456, third the BSR UA15.

It will be seen that terminology differs between brands. 'Start' and 'Manual' do nothing but start the motor, meaning to play you need to manually place the tonearm on the record which will be already on the turntable and not on the stacker. The overarm can be placed over the spindle to allow auto shut off at the end of play, or left swung clear to permit auto-repeat (see later image).

The 'Auto' or 'Reject' positions start the autochanger cycle and, if selected during play, will either a) return the tonearm to its rest and shut down the deck if only one record is loaded or b) reject the record being played and load+play the next one when more than one record is loaded.
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Old 9th Jul 2011, 4:33 pm   #3
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Default Preparing and loading the deck.

The deck transit screws must be screwed in, so the deck floats on its suspension, before use. These screws should be screwed outermost to secure the deck for transportation. The first image shows a Garrard transit screw in the transit position, whilst the second image shows the same screw in the operating position. Remember that there will be at least two of these screws present. Normally transit screws are captive, meaning they cannot be withdrawn completely. An odd exception is certain Pye Black Box models wherein ordinary self-tapping wood screws were used, these simply screw directly into the wooden plinth upon which the deck is mounted.

The Collaro is fitted with a turnover cartridge and the letter 'L' is visible on the turnover knob. This tells us the correct stylus for a microgroove record is selected. Sometimes the letter 'M' is used instead. If playing 78RPM records, the other stylus needs selecting. This will be marked either '78' or 'N' (for Normal, as at one time 78's were considered 'normal'). On more modern decks (loosely, 1960's onwards) a turnover stylus is fitted. These have a flag with projects from beneath, and to either side of, the tonearm headshell. The flag will be marked to indicate which stylus is positioned for use.

It can be seen that the metal clip* for securing the tonearm to its rest (for when the machine is not being used and/or in transit) is swung clear to allow the tonearm to lift. All that remains to do now is to lift the overarm up clear of the spindle and swung to the right in order to load the record.

*Collaro tended to use a metal clip. BSR tended to use plastic clips or plastic-covered metal clips. Many Garrards used a spring clip integral with the tonearm rest, meaning that before use the tonearm must be lifted free of the clip.

Reference the fourth image. We now have the record loaded onto the stacking spindle, overarm back in position and sitting upon the record. Note that at the rear and adjacent to the overarm turret is the record size-detecting finger (visible in the first image). More on this shortly. This must be projecting outwards and beneath the record. It's convenient to mention now that certain decks do not have this feature, the Collaro Conquest and Studio decks for example as well as those same decks rebranded for other people (such as Magnavox). The record on the stacker is a 16RPM (actually 16⅔RPM), hence the speed is set accordingly.

Record size detectors. It will be noticed that on the BSR and Collaro decks shown herein, the size detector operates vertically. The Garrard system** differs in that the detector operates horizontally and also swings into position when the overarm is positioned over the record(s) and vice versa The fifth image below, which is an amalgam of two images, illustrates this.

**Certain older Garrards used a detector arm which swung across and touched the edge of the record(s).

Additional information:

It may be worth mentioning that on decks with a size detector the default record size is 7". This means, as will be obvious when such a deck is used, that the size detector only operates when records larger than 7" are stacked, ie 10" up to 12". Records larger than 12" do exist but are relatively rare and cannot normally be accommodated on autochangers. Records smaller than 7" also exist, usually of 78RPM***, and also cannot be played on autochangers other than in manual mode.

***Still to be found are other ancient shellac records of pre-standardisation speeds; 60, 74, 80RPM being just three of them. This subject is beyond the scope of this guide, other than to say such odd-speed records are best played on a mechanical gramophone fitted, as many were, with a '+78-' speed regulator.
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Last edited by Darren-UK; 10th Jul 2011 at 2:41 pm.
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Old 9th Jul 2011, 4:41 pm   #4
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Default Starting the deck and end of play.

Having previously ensured your record player is sitting on a firm, level, surface and that the correct speed and stylus are selected, operate the Start control. Depending on the make of deck, move the control to the 'Auto' or 'Reject' positions. To ensure positive action, hold the control in that position for a moment or two until you hear the mechanism swinging into action and/or you see the tonearm lift off its rest.

Once started, release the control carefully - not suddenly. To release the control suddenly (ie simply letting go of it) may cause it, due to spring tension, to jump right back to the 'Off' position. Releasing the control carefully also helps avoid excessive bouncing of the deck on its suspension.

At the end of play, the deck should appear as per the image attached below. The turntable should stop, the tonearm should return to its rest and the righthand controls should be off. Be aware that on decks such as the Garrard shown earlier, when running the control sits in the Manual position (regardless of what mode the deck has been operating in) and will move to the Off position at the end of play once the tonearm has returned to its rest. The action of this is rather more obvious on Garrards than with rotary controls as per Collaro which tend to be rather 'softer' acting.

As mentioned, always ensure the Off/Manual/Auto control (to use Garrard terminology) is indeed off if you've finished a record playing session. Leaving the controls 'on' will leave the idler wheel, which transmits drive from motor to turntable, prone to damage. How and why on Earth some folk pack a record player away with the deck controls 'in gear' is a mystery but it does happen.
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Old 9th Jul 2011, 7:19 pm   #5
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Default Stacking and repeat play.

This guide has used in its illustrations a single record but, obviously, the point of an autochanger is to be able to play a stack of records and doing so involves a number of factors.

1) All records to be stacked must be of the same speed. Of course, it is possible to change speed whilst the record is changing but it's a bit of an absurd course of action which isn't advisable.

2) The number of records which can be stacked varies from one make of deck to another, as well as on the thickness of the records. However, generally it is six to eight 7" 45RPM records, four or maybe five 12" 33 or 45RPM records and three or four 78RPM records. Total of stacked records depends not only upon what the stacker can hold, but also - and crucially - on the lift of the tonearm during the auto cycle.

3) It is possible, if not a little unconventional, to mix record sizes (diameter wise) in the same stack providing they're of the same speed. A possible exception is the mixing of shellac and vinyl 78RPM's.

4) At one time most, if not all, 7" 45RPM records and some others had a raised ring with a bevel around the label. See the second image below which illustrates this feature. This was to prevent 'skidding' when played in an autochanger stack. Many later records didn't have this ring, consequently skidding when played in a stack is likely, if not certain.

5) Avoid placing warped records in a stack. The warped record itself may well play alright, but the next one which lands on top of it probably won't.

Repeat play. With reference to the image attached below, the deck is shown in Repeat mode. Note the position of the overarm, swung to the right. In this mode the deck becomes essentially a manual deck, but with the difference that the record will be automatically repeat-played until human intervention dictates otherwise. It is, with most decks, only feasible to do this with 7" records. Why anyone would want to do this is a mystery but there we are.

Incidentally, the sharper-eyed people among you will notice the deck in the image is actually Off. This is purely because the picture was a static pose; if the deck were running the control would be in the 'MAN' position.
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Old 9th Jul 2011, 7:47 pm   #6
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Default Tracking weight.

At the beginning of this guide there is mention of the assumption that your record deck is in good order and adjusted correctly. However, a mention of tracking weight might be worth including. "Tracking weight" is the pressure applied to a record by the stylus.

On the majority of vintage record decks, tracking weight is adjusted from beneath the tonearm. This may simply be via a knurled thumbwheel which alters spring tension, or via the cruder and more fiddly expedient of physically moving the spring to a different anchor point.

The Garrard deck illustrated in this guide has a more upmarket tonearm fitted with external means of weight adjustment. See image attached below.

This brief description will suffice for the purposes of this guide. This is because the exact setting must be accomplished using data supplied by cartridge/stylus manufacturers and by using suitable equipment with which to check the weight. Needless to say, you must not meddle with tracking weight just to 'see what it does'. If you suspect tracking weight is wrong, then you should seek advice via the Vintage Audio forum section or search same for pre-existing threads.
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Old 9th Jul 2011, 7:47 pm   #7
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Default The Collaro Conquest in brief.

Mention has been made within this guide of the Collaro Conquest and Studio decks. As these decks are fairly common, a brief description may prove useful.

Setting up and operating is essentially the same as most other autochangers, but with one major difference which may catch out the uninitiated. This difference being the fact that there is no record size detector visible on the deck.

With records on the stacker, the deck operates as follows:

1) Tonearm lifts and moves across to physically touch the side of the stacked record(s). This is the point at which the deck 'finds out' which size of record it's to play.

2. Tonearm then returns to its rest position.

3. Record drops onto turntable.

4. Tonearm moves across for the second time, but at a lower height to clear other stacked records, then lowers onto the dropped record and play begins.

5. The process is repeated for every record on the stacker, after which the deck shuts down in the conventional manner.

The images below show a Collaro Studio deck which is similar to, and operates on the same principle as, the Collaro Conquest. Note the absence of a Record Size Detector; the third image shows how the tonearm touches the records to determine size.
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Old 9th Jul 2011, 7:47 pm   #8
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Default ....and finally.

We hope this guide has been of use to those unfamiliar with the operation of autochangers.

As already stated, we have used examples of just three of the commonest type of deck found on the commonest makes/models of record player. There are numerous others, in fact too numerous to describe herein, but, with a few exceptions, the operation of all follows the same general lines. One possible exception which newcomers should beware of is the antiquated and frequently horrendous Philips decks. These are outlined in another guide linked to in post #1 above.

Please remember that the forums and its members are a mine of more detailed information of a general nature as well as for fault finding and repairs.
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