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Big Blue

"Austral Argo" Transcription TT

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Hi All, 

 

I have 2 x "Austral Argo" 16" Transcription Turntables. I'm just interested in finding out some info on them. These particular two were originally used by the ABC in radio broadcast.  They are very sturdy and well built. A huge motor contacts a rubber rim driving the enormous platter. You move the "gear shift" looking knob to engage different sections of the motor shaft to the Table rim. The bearing is very smooth, when you push it, it just keeps on spining. It plays 78's, 33's and 45's. 

 

They look very similar to another american TT I have researched called a Presto 10-B. However these say nothing about Presto on them, perhaps the Aussie company licensed the design from the yanks?

 

I have 2 Audio Technica arms with them. I'm looking forward to a project to build some plinths for them and get them back to their former glory. Any info to help me out with the resto is appreciated. 

 

Thanks 

Lachlan. 

 

 

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Wow what a great find. With two of them you will be able to do a bit of DJing , scratching and beat mixing:)

 

I am interested to see what information members can provide and look forward to seeing them in plinths and running.

 

 

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Ha yes, do some DJing with 78's! 

Amazing mate. They will come up very nicely. But you only need one. Send the other one down to me!!!![emoji13]

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I have 3 Byer turntables ( 1940-1950s) . Two 16 inches ( one with S/N 1 ) and one 12 inches. They share a lot of similarity to yours, eg rim drive, same motor and motor shaft by looking at your photos. All 3 of mine are working well . Trust me , go ahead with the restoration and u will not regret with the result and will be rewarded heaps. All these are great tables and IMO will not shy in front of Garrard 301/ Thoren 124 . I own a 301 but only sitting at the back bench atm. Some audiophiles referred these huge tables as “big boys” , of course including the great Commonwealth electronic tables.
You have scored well. Congrats!

IMG_4533.jpg

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Hi Kittiong that's a beautiful turntable. I like how you've done the plinth and the nice clean perspex cover. What tonearm are you using?

 

Yeah I did have one the the Argo's working just in a quick and dirty MDF plinth. But the arm I have ( an audiotechnica broadcast one) isn't quite long enough. So the two Argo's are basically the same, one just does 45s and 33s, while the other does 45s 33s and 78s. The third one I just got is a 16" commonwealth electirc. So gonna be interesting to see the difference. 

 

 

 

 

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Kittiong by the way...a 16 inch Byer with serial number 1? Wow congratulations that is pretty cool. 

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That’s S/N 1 on display ( photo ). It is fully working but the plinth is only good for display purposes only . The plinth is a piece of solid wood approximately 2 inches thickness. [emoji37]Not Good Enough! When I installed a SME 3012 arm on it, it hums due to the noise from the motor. Some audiophiles suggested it has to be at least 10” or more in thickness. So that will be my next project. Anyway , I have also acquired a piece of slate material and according to my mate Rob , it will be good for the purpose. Will see.
Commonwealth 16”. You are a lucky man Big Blue!. Drooling !
Well! As for the arm, it definitely has to be a 12” arm . I am happy with SME 3012. But if you can an Ortofon 12” with it’s cartridge , you are on top. Yeah !

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Yeah cool. I had similar hum issues with my Argo. Mine has a thick foam gasket about 1cm thick between the Turntable and the Plinth. That I think helped a bit. How thick is the slate you are using? 

 

Also did you do anything to lubricate your byer motor and centre it properly? And i assume you have a smoothing capacitor of some sort external to the motor like the one in my pics above? 

 

I decided the best course of action was to try to smooth the motor out a bit and try to improve the capacitor situation. 

 

Here's a bit of inspiration for your Slate plinth project: Oswald's Mill. 

 

https://oswaldsmillaudio.com/others

 

Yeah cool I had planned on getting a 3012 

 

Cheers. 

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The hum / noise issue is pretty sure no matter what we do ( if the plinth is not thick enough , wrong material or we are trying to place anti vibration material in between) it will almost certainly feel the noise from the motor. Hence, correct material and thick ness has to be perfected. I’m in the process of trying out. If I have any luck in the future, I will post it. Anybody out there having the experience ? Really appreciate for the advice if you will.
I have done the lubrication to the motors ( 3 Byers) myself and I have ordered one identical capacitor from NZ. All work out fine and quiet. While servicing the motor, all cautions need to be observed ( stupid suggestion[emoji16] really , everyone knows).IMG_5553.jpgIMG_5665.jpg

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Interesting. Would like to know more about the process of servicing that byer motor. e.g. what lubricant you use. Any details would be appreciated. My motors on both my Argos hummed more than I'de like. Wasn't sure if it was due to lack of lubrcation, centering of the motor spindle to ensure clearance all around, or the smoothing CAP not doing it's job. 

 

Interesting setup you have there. I can understand the appeal of Slate with such a weighty materials it would be a tough job for an vibrations to excite this thick slab and transfer through to the tonearm. Although I wonder even if there is perfect islolation of the tonearm from the motor vibrations and mechanical vibrations of the motor to platter, we must still reduce vibration to the platter as this will just get transferred into the vinyl then into the needle. 

 

I think when I experiemented with my Argos I got it to the point that there was no audible hum when the tonearm was not engaged with the vinyl (i.e tonearm isolated successfully from motor and platter). But never got it to the point where, when engaged with the vinyl, there was no hum. 

 

Interestingly the condition of the rubber rim and roundness seems to be cruical. My pair of Argos were originally A.B.C and later owned by a guy with a home studio. Several years ago he had them serviced. A man cam out to his house and painstakingly adjusted the rubber rim on the platter, stating the importance of this. As I'm sure you know any flat spots on that rubber rim would be a showstopper. i think the rims on both my Argos are pretty good. But as per my recent post I'm looking for anyone who knows how to service these things professionally. I assume you dont know anyone Kttiong? 

 

In my experiments, achieving the lightest contact of the motor spindle with the rubber rim that still maintained the speed of the record was the the key in reducing hum. 

 

Glad to find a like minded person passionate about the "Big boys" of vinyl. Will takes some pics of the Commonwealth when it arrives.  :) 

 

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Will write more this evening. Working at the moment. Thanks for all info given. Appreciate all. Cheers

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Are you saying this is a rubber rim drive - i.e. there is rubber all around the rim of the platter, and not an rubber idler drive?    If so, then maybe, despite not having flat spots, the rubber may have gone hard.  This is what happens with idler drives as well, and could be transmitting more vibrations from the motor than it should.  I also wonder, does the table have any speed adjustment?   The rubber may have also changed diameter if it has shrunk as it hardened and that may alter the speed.

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13 minutes ago, aussievintage said:

Are you saying this is a rubber rim drive - i.e. there is rubber all around the rim of the platter, and not an rubber idler drive?    If so, then maybe, despite not having flat spots, the rubber may have gone hard.  This is what happens with idler drives as well, and could be transmitting more vibrations from the motor than it should.  I also wonder, does the table have any speed adjustment?   The rubber may have also changed diameter if it has shrunk as it hardened and that may alter the speed.

Very interesting. Yeah it's a rim drive, not idler, Rubber around the platter. Yeah the rubber is kind of hard probably harder than the sole of a shoe, definetly harder than car tyre rubber. Speed sounds ok, I'm going to get a strobe thingy to check speed properly. No means to adjust the speed. Nah reason I think the issue is mainly the motor is there is a reasonable amount of vibration comming off the motor even when not engaged. More than I think even a really soft rim could manage with. Regardless the softening of the rim is probably a good idea. There are various ways to soften rubber, I wonder if anyone has done this successfully in a rim drive?

 

Edited by Big Blue

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17 minutes ago, Big Blue said:

. Regardless the softening of the rim is probably a good idea. There are various ways to soften rubber, I wonder if anyone has done this successfully in a rim drive?

 

Many theories exist and have been applied to idlers, but I don't believe any are really successful in softening old rubber.  Best bet for an idler is a rebuild.  They remove the old and replace with new rubber stock and cut/machine it down to correct size I suspect.

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Could be quite the job. Will try to sort the byer motor out first and see where that gets me. 

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...and here's the pics of my Commonwealth electric that just arrived. Seems to be complete and in good condition. Just needs a clean, some lubrication of the mechanism to get that Idle wheel biased in. Idle wheel looks nice and soft and in good condition. 

 

 

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7 hours ago, Big Blue said:

... I can understand the appeal of Slate with such a weighty materials it would be a tough job for an vibrations to excite this thick slab and transfer through to the tonearm. Although I wonder even if there is perfect islolation of the tonearm from the motor vibrations and mechanical vibrations of the motor to platter, we must still reduce vibration to the platter as this will just get transferred into the vinyl then into the needle...

My understanding is that stone plinths are extremely rigid, so no flexing, etc.  The extra mass is good. 

Slate is composed of layers, so vibration energy which goes into the slate is dissipated horizontally through the layers, which is why I believe it's regarded as a good plinth material. 

In comparison, marble looks great, but is formed volcanically and has a dense crystalline structure.  So vibration energy tends to bounce around inside the stone and back to the tt, rather than being dissipated. 

 

Of course, the plinth is only one part of the system.  Reducing motor noise and mechanical vibrations within the TT means there will be less energy for the plinth to deal with. 

 

The Argo TT looks like it's built like a tank.  With a good restoration and plinth I would anticipate that it would produce a sound that would be very hard to beat.  Good luck with the project, and please keep us updated here.

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yeah the argos are tanks. The platter on them spins so freely. I do wonder if the idle wheel of the commonwealth will be inherently more quiet though. Will be fun to find out. 

 

Interesting about the slate. Shouldn't be too hard to source a big thick bit that was intended for some home application and get it waterjet cut to what I need. 

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Hi big blue
It’s me back again.
As for lubrication, I have used those shown in the photo. I have found them good for my purpose
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The engine cleaner, foamy type, is good to clean the metal surface. It came out brilliant on mine.
The grease is for all moveable parts
The engine oil I used it to lubricate the shafts and bearing balls.

Motor servicing -

When you have unscrewed the bottom screwing cap ( don’t lose any ball bearing inside please) and the four bolts and nuts of the motor, gently twist and pull open up the top motor cap and bottom motor cap to expose inside. Clean the rotor and lubricate the shaft with motor oil. Easy job . Don’t forget to lubricate the bearing balls and any movable parts) . The pulley can be unscrewed open using plier if too tight.( if no locking screw presence). Make sure don’t scratch the pulley and shaft
Putting it back all together could be a little pain as you must make sure the rotor is turning as freely as possible before locking the 4 bolts and nuts. You can hear how the motor is running after locking and also you can adjust the running noise to the very minimal by adjusting the bottom screw while releasing the bottom screwing cap ( not the bottom motor cap).. once you have achieved the optimal setting ( minimum noise while motor is running ), lock the bottom screwing cap and tighten it by hand
Above was my experience and not necessary the right way. Servicing with caution and diligent is required. DO Not rush as these tables are so precious. Spare parts??? Almost NIL....

As for the noise/ hum reduction issue and if you want to enjoy the table before you come out with a proper plinth , a temporary one like the photo below and using a stand alone arm will hear no hum at all ( make sure you servicing your table well )IMG_1522305980.355706.jpg

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Thanks very much for those detailed instructions kttiong! This sounds like a very good plan. Will let you know how it goes. 

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Oh! Cleaning also involves using alcohol solution ya... enjoy servicing, it’s absolute pain yet fun[emoji37][emoji16]?

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On 06/02/2017 at 7:10 PM, Big Blue said:

I have 2 x "Austral Argo" 16" Transcription Turntables. I'm just interested in finding out some info on them. ...Any info to help me out with the resto is appreciated.  

How is the restoration on these turntables progressing? 

 

I've found some info on Austral Argo (but unfortunately not on their turntables)-

 

http://citycollection.melbourne.vic.gov.au/austral-argo-taximeter/

The City of Melbourne Art and Heritage Collection has a 1930s Austral Argo taximeter in their collection.  From the online description - "Located on Exploration Lane in Melbourne Austral Argo Engineering Co. Pty Ltd. imported taximeters from Germany and adapted them to the local market. Established by Thomas Seymour Sharman, the business was taken over by his son Phillip. The company went into voluntary liquidation in 1943."

 

https://sciencefiction60s.wordpress.com/capri-theatre/used-technology/

In a blog on technology used at the Capri Theatre…

"Ken Novell, a worker at the Argosy during the 40s to the 70s wrote in his article The Argosy Theatre Murrumbeena in the Cinema Record 40 about the technologies used in theaters in the early 40s. At this time, two men were responsible for the cinema: Ron Dudgeon and Tom McMurtrie. They also administered an engineering company called Austral Argo Engineering Co. It was a business that sold projector equipment as well as service."

The blog included this advert from the company:

bildschirmfoto-2012-01-29-um-17-10-21.pn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks for this info audiofeline, very intersting. I still have the turntables but haven't done anything too them yet. My problem is I just keep adding to my collection, so now I have 2 garrad 301s and a commonwealth 16a.l and the two argos :)

 

This is a great lead will be interested in following it up. As I said before this paor were formerly used by the A.B.C in melbourne. They have BSR motors I think. I showed them to a former ABC audio technician who is very knowledgable about ABC gear, as well as a couple of other experts. Nobody has ever heard of them. So very great to finally find some info, very keen to find further info. Thanks. 

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Your Commonwealth is an early model, I've recently acquired a 12D, so will plinth-build soon.  The Argo motors look similar to the Commonwealth/Byer style, so should be excellent to drive the tt.  If the Argos were at the ABC they should be good quality.  Just build a heavy stacked hardwood ply plinth, if there is some noise isolate the tonearm, and make sure the motor mounts rubber etc is ok (if they have it).  They should sound wonderful. 

 

Have you done any more research on the Presto - eg. similarities to the Argo?  The speed selector looks similar to the Byer, but was also probably used on US transcription decks of the time.  It is feasible that the Argo is a re-badged overseas turntable, as Austral seemed to be more of a cinema equipment and other manufacturing (found another site which suggested they made wood-working planes).  So they are definitely not an audio-focussed company.  But your photo has their name embossed on the bearing mount.  Could some of it be imported, and some locally-made?  Who knows?

 

 

Edited by audiofeline

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