Friday, June 13, 2014

First Adopter, Last Responder

The Zaxcom Nomad one of the latest devices offered for production sound mixers. It offers multi track recording and mixing, in about the same footprint as a traditional 4 or 5 channel mixer. It is not a collection of afterthoughts, like the Sound Devices 788T/CL8. Nevertheless, it is new, and does not have many hours racked up in the field. Its also a complex device, and new-gear bugaboos are inevitable. 
The Zaxcom Nomad
Following a popular sound mixer discussion group, a few reactions become evident.
1. Many newer sound guys who've had a mixer-only package are upgrading to this device.
2. There's still a few tweaks and quirks in the device that are being discovered while on the job.
3. Those who have problems quickly detail their production horror story on the discussion group.
4. The good or uneventful experiences go un-documented.  

I've never been a "first adopter." Why would anyone bring a 1st-generation device, right out of the box, to a paying client's job? The producer is not paying me to experiment with new gear. My gigs are not beta-test sites for new equipment.   Granted, equipment issues happen on the job, even with time-proven gear. That's why its important to have an intimate knowlege of how your gear works, and even some ability to fix it. Which I do. Also back-up gear is important to bring along if ever things get really nasty.

Back when DAT became the standard recording device, many mixers continued to roll their analog Nagras as a backup. Two recorders on the cart. It was cumbersome, but the peace of mind of having a backup was sublime. Those DAT machines were quirky animals, so much as an errant speck of dust could shut them down. When they were finally obsolete, we sound mixers built a huge bonfire and threw all our DAT machines on it. Not really. But I still have my DAT machine, so if you ever want to have a bonfire, I will be the first to throw mine on. 

There will never be a Nagra bonfire, because they are just too beautiful a machine to trash.  As a hobby,  I restore and sell Nagras to audiophiles.  Nagras are the ultimate refinement of the analog recording medium. 

So, if your soundman comes to the job boasting of a new piece of gear, raise an eyebrow. Make sure your production won't be featured as the next dirty-laundry story on a popular sound mixer discussion group.

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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Collins 200 Broadcast Turntable Restored

I had the chassis floating on silicone blocks to isolate from plinth, but later found the rumble excessive. Rumble reduced dramatically when chassis bolted to plinth (the manual confirms this need)
The Micro-Track is a simple tonearm. the base is oil filled as an anti-skate device. The pivots are isolated from the gimble with rubber. It will  track to 1/2 gram. The weight adjustments are made from the headshell. The tracking with the M91ED is set to just under 2 grams. 

This turntable was sold under various labels. The shifter housing is a separate aluminum piece. Some versions reveal the seam between housing and chassis, but Collins filled the gap with a Bondo-like material.
Bodine Motor. New idler and motor shockmounts from
signal ground is isolated from chassis ground
3 speed shift, neon indicator and standard bat switch
MicroTrack tone arm is unusual, all aluminum. Most have wooden arms

Front Collins Emblem was a nice find.
Brass wafer weights under cartridge. Heads can be interchanged without adjusting rear weight.

signal wire internal RCA connections.

internal power connector
Original Condition
Original Condition

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Collins Broadcast Turntable goes under the knife

I have quite a few vintage turntables awaiting restoration.  This is a 70's vintage Collins model 200 with a MicroTrack tonearm. The tonearm is completely aluminum, which is unusual for MicroTrack, as their arms were typically made of wood. This has been lots of fun to restore. It brings me back to my college radio days.

 For some reason, these idler-wheel broadcast turntables are very desirable among collectors. Turntable collectors/audiophiles are also very picky and temperamental about their vinyl reproducers. They love the idler concept, but the buyer also wants the specifications of a direct-drive/belt drive. On these behemoths,  the best rumble isolation you can hope for is about -40db.  Anyway,  I think perception of sound quality is biased by how much money is spent.  Maybe part of the attraction is the ability to "slip-cue" records, as radio DJs did in the 60-70's.  The powerful motor maintains speed even if you hold the record still against the felt.

The platter rides on a single ball bearing packed in grease.    I built the massive plinth, rebuilt the fractional horsepower motor, and installed new rubber dampers and idler. The frame rests on four large silicone bumpers to isolate it from the plinth.  Currently waiting for the paint to cure before buttoning it up. I'll sell it with the popular Shure M91ED cartridge. The felt is from JoAnne's.  January's been quiet for location sound, so I'll post some pics/video soon, as I should finish this up in a few days.
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One-of-a-kind Ristaucrat 45 rpm turntable restoration, recently sells

About a year ago, I restored this Ristaucrat M-400 commercial record changer. A collector in Utah recently purchased it. This device plays both sides of a stack of 45 rpm records. Then, it lifts the stack back to the top of the spindle for replay. Originally designed for background music in restaurants and department stores. It behaves like a pinball machine while functioning. Lots of clacking, abrupt sequencing and high torque motors. I have only seen 1 other example of this device in the 20 years I have been building/restoring electronics.  There is a video demonstration on youtube (below)
Ristaucrat M-400 as found at a swap meet

Friday, August 30, 2013

IDX NP-7LS Battery- Back From the Dead

    It's a shame when a high quality Lithium-ion rechargeable dies. Throw one away, and there's a lot of sophisticated charging technology you're throwing away with it.
    NP-1's are popular rechargeable batteries for location sound applications. They were originally created for powering professional cameras and VTR's.
    Today, a Lithium-ion NP-1's costs about  US$ 180 to $225, depending on brand.  In the Li-Ion category, chargers and batteries are typically not compatible across brands.
    New cells for the NP-1's can be purchased individually for about eight dollars each. But creating a reliably-soldered series-parallel pack for an NP-1 is probably more trouble than its worth.
    I picked up a couple of VariZoom brand NP-1's before realizing they are not compatible with my IDX chargers. The IDX will charge them partially before exhibiting a fault condition. So the VariZooms collected dust on my shelf.
    Then I was given some IDX NP-7LS NP-1's that had been purchased but never used. About 8 years old, they would not accept a charge. So off to the shelf they go.
   What follows is a happy marriage between the two brands, and a couple of like-new IDX NP-1's for me.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

"Porter Ridge" latest in Redneck Reality wave, impresses!

New reality show -Porter Ridge (Discovery). In the steaming-pile-of-shit category (my professional milieu), Porter Ridge fares well. The dialogue, fed line-by-line to the cast from behind camera, appears almost natural and un-parotted. The lead cast member, entirely boom mic'd (due to lack of a shirt), sounds almost as good (or bad) as the lavs on the remaining ensemble. Lots of explosions. Recommend.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Time lapse Deva Fusion Multitrack breakdown, repair assemble

After a recent rainy shoot, fader #3 started behaving erratically. The fading action would jump around, regardless of the fader's position. I ordered a new pot and replaced the fader, but this did not cure the problem. Going back in, I re-soldered the new pot and also re-soldered a past repair on fader #3, which was probably the issue,a Surface mount resistor. I don't have a proper SM soldering iron, so I had to wing it with a pinpoint soldering tip. Normal soldering tips can obliterate an SM component and the surrounding traces. 
by Pete Verrando