Going old school – Restoring an AR XA Turntable

As if I don’t have enough audio stuff already, I got curious about trying old school records and asked my father in law for his old one(s). The first he gave me was a reasonably modern Technics. Works fine. Kinda boring though.

The next one though… probably a 60’s era Acoustic Research turntable. Didn’t work, a little water damaged, and in need of some TLC for sure.

You can see it’s a pretty basic unit:
AR turntable

A little research showed a bit of a cult following though with a number of folks showing how they had restored their own turntables. So parts are available and upgrades ripe for the picking. Yay! Project!

Here’s the bottom:
AR turntable

The T-Frame is a stamped steel unit that makes up the sprung portion of the turntable. (The platter bearing and tone arm bearing as well as the motor assemblies are suspended by foam-damped springs.

You can see two motors actually. The left one is actually a starter motor that helps get the platter up to speed from zero rpm. It also makes sure the primary motor spins in the correct direction as it doesn’t necessarily do that on its on. Other things to note are that the really rudimentary shielding on the motors as well as the wire nuts. Did not expect to see those outside of a wall outlet.

AR turntable

Here you can see there’s some water damage (or maybe just humidity) on the bottom plate thing. It’s really just some dense cardboard.
AR turntable

Here you can see that there are actually two platters. An outer one that simply sits on top of the inner one that is driven by a belt.
AR turntable

This is the inner platter with the drive belts as well as the starter motor belt.
AR turntable

And the inner platter upside down to show the bearing and the shaft. Notice the spherical ball bearing at the end of the shaft. The bearing and shaft just needed a little cleaning/buffing plus a few drops of oil to spin smoothly again.
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You might have noticed that the plates were both fairly pitted and not exactly smooth. I actually ended up using a headlight polishing kit with pretty good results:

Pieces strewn apart but with the top plate painted black.
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Top plate stripped and ready for priming and painting.
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Solid walnut! Sanded and tung oiled. And here you can see some pretty intricate joinery.
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Here’s the tonearm after I had already polished up several of the pieces:

This is the pivot bearing for the tonearm. It’s a nicely machined brass piece:
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This is the really cheapy and shot head shell and cartridge:
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This is my favorite piece (dorky, I know.) It’s a stepped aluminum pulley for the drive motor. The steps are for either 33 or 45 rpm. Also, the steps are crowned.
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Here’t the original (totally shot) RCA cable directly soldered to the tonearm wires:
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As a result, I ended up drilling recessed holes for RCA jacks:

I also ended up ripping part, cleaning, and reassembling the on/off switch. It’s pretty crappy but I wanted to keep it as close to original as I reasonable could.
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I bought a new Shure M97x cartridge along with new tone arm wire to finish off that part of it. Also, I milled a hole for an IEC so it would be easier to plug in and out. Also, the power cable was pretty old and ratty anyway.

Unfortunately, I messed up one of the pogo pins in the tonearm while soldering in one of the new wires so had to order a new one. Once that comes in though, it should be quick work to get this thing working and playing music! Now… just need to find some records to actually play!

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8 Responses to Going old school – Restoring an AR XA Turntable

  1. Rich says:

    Nice work! I am restoring an AR XA turntable too, and my platter and sub-platter have about the same amount of corrosion on the top surface as yours had. How did you manage to get that beautiful polished surface finish on the platter and sub-platter?

  2. jason says:

    I just sanded it down starting with 80 and going slowly down to 400. Pretty straight forward actually.

  3. Dan says:

    Hi- were you able to find a source for pogo pins?

  4. jason says:

    I wasn’t… I just reused the old ones.

  5. Jeff says:

    Where can I purchase the starter motor belt for the AR XA.

  6. jason says:

    I got mine from ebay.

  7. Ronald McNutt says:

    Hi Jason,
    I just received my AR XA from an e-bay auction and it is in fairly good condition. I like the way you refinished yours especially with the new power cord attachment and the recessed RCA sockets. Nice work !
    Despite it’s fairly good condition, either the primary or start up motors make some noise. Question: Is there a way to “oil” them which may work or do you suppose they need replacing? They seem to rotate well but after leaving them run for about 1/2 hour I still hear the rotational noise. Also, any tips on restoring the plastic dust cover?
    Thank you for your attention. Ron

  8. jason says:

    Sorry for the delay… haven’t been checking the blog much lately. I don’t know if you can oil them or not. I suppose if they’re bad, it’s worth a try before getting new ones. I would use a light sewing machine oil or something similar. The dust cover could probably be improved with something like a car headlight restorer. I haven’t tried it, but that seems like a good option.

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