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Commonwealth Electronics turntable and tonearm help please


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Hi everyone. I'm looking at what appears to be a Commonwealth Electronics turntable. It is four speed and the platter diameter is 15 inches. Not 12 inches or 16 inches but 15 inches. I've researched the web and can't find any info on a Commonwealth tt like this. It has a tonearm with it which has an Ortofon SPU-A headshell and cartridge. The headshell has a green Ortofon label which I think means the cartridge is for 78 rpm. There is a number on the cartridge which is 8696. Can anyone identify the model of the turntable and/or the tonearm? The tonearm doesn't have a makers mark. Unlike most similar Ortofon tonearms I've seen on the web it doesn't have a spring between counterweight and arm mount. The tonearm does look pretty rudimentary. I believe the TT and arm combo are from a broadcasting studio possibly from the 1950s. Any help please.

Commonwealth TT pic 1.JPG

Commonwealth TT pic 3.JPG

Commonwealth TT pic 2.JPG

Ortofon SPU-A cartridge.JPG

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The Ortofon pickup cartridge is the Type A and the green badge indicates it is intended for  78 RPM recordings.  The numerals on the base plate is  for the serial  number and as  it a moving coil , when a stylus became worn, repair  was by way of a factory refurbished replacement from Denmark. Items in the past had to go through  H .M.Customs and different rates applied to  brand new and repaired goods.

 I am not  familiar with that particular  CE turntable  and I suspect that the  15'' diameter  would allow a cueing arrangement to be fitted to the platter  to enable  an  instant start for a specific  purposes  such as advertising  transcription discs  . 

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The Commonwealth turntable you are looking at appears to be the 16A from 1955-58 (the 12A was the 12" version).  It pre-dates the 12B, and the final model 12D 3/4.    There is probably info on the O'Neill Assoc webisite via Internet Wayback machine (it was temp. closed for maintenance when I looked)  https://web.archive.org/web/20200201000000*/http://www.oneillassociates.com.au

 

Here is a two page advert from Radio & Hobbies, Nov. 1956: 

CE 12A 16A.pdf

 

The Commonwealth turntables were built for radio use, which is why it looks simple and rugged.  Many had "industrial" use as well, which is why your plinth looks like a portable.  If this is put into a solid plinth and restored it should sound wonderful.  Never, ever, underestimate a Commonwealth. 

 

Your arm looks like a long version of the 7" Ortofon that came with my CE.  It would be a very early model, and I haven't been able to identify the exact model.  When I removed it from the plinth Ortofon could be seen embossed under the base.  It's not on the Ortofon historical products page, but has some similarities to the SMG/SKG arms.  I suspect that the arm was not sold retail, which is why there isn't much info on it.

 

 

I'm thinking the 15" platter is for 16" records, with a bit of an overhang to allow quick radio station record changing. 

 

I forgot to ask - what's the story behind it (how did you get it)? 

 

 

 

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Thanks everyone for the information. I noticed the stylus on the cartridge is at a slight angle. There appears to be a screw which might allow it to be realigned. Do you think that might work? The cantilever seems okay.

 

I'm  hoping to acquire the turntable shortly. It has some 16 inch radio station discs which also look interesting. The turntable restoration would be my next big project. Any ideas on a suitable plinth?

 

I saw on the web that some of these transcription broadcast turntables can play from outside to in, and from inside to out. How is that possible???

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1 hour ago, lencoloony47 said:

 

 

I saw on the web that some of these transcription broadcast turntables can play from outside to in, and from inside to out. How is that possible???

 

Easy,  just cut the record that way.  Start the cutting lathe in the middle, and turn the feed screw the opposite way to normal.    The  turntable playing it back won't care, it'll happily track it inside to out.

 

1 hour ago, lencoloony47 said:

I'm  hoping to acquire the turntable shortly. It has some 16 inch radio station discs which also look interesting. The turntable restoration would be my next big project. Any ideas on a suitable plinth?

oooh sell me one you don't like.   I'd love one to play on my Rek-o-kut

 

1 hour ago, lencoloony47 said:

Thanks everyone for the information. I noticed the stylus on the cartridge is at a slight angle. There appears to be a screw which might allow it to be realigned. Do you think that might work? The cantilever seems okay.

 

It's probably worn anyway, but yeah maybe

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3 hours ago, lencoloony47 said:

...I'm  hoping to acquire the turntable shortly..... The turntable restoration would be my next big project. Any ideas on a suitable plinth?...

These old idlers are suited to heavy, multi-layered (hardwood) ply.  Don't take shortcuts, otherwise you will be compromising the potential. 

 

Because the arm comes with the mono cart used to play transcription disks, it will be wired for mono.  I'm not sure, but the tip of the stylus may not be suited to microgroove LP's.  In any case, one should always assume that when acquiring a cart of this age that they styli is worn.  The arm can be converted to stereo, but would need a different headshell attachment.  I don't know if the stereo attachment will be compatible with the mono headshell.  I would think that it would be cool to have the mono arm as a second arm with the restored cart, and have a second long arm to play microgrooves. 

 

You will notice that the speed control is diagonally opposite to the arm base.  This is to keep the motor as far away as possible from the tonearm. 

 

 

 

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55 minutes ago, audiofeline said:

These old idlers are suited to heavy, multi-layered (hardwood) ply.  Don't take shortcuts, otherwise you will be compromising the potential. 

 

 

In general, yes,  but i discovered, because of the sheer mass of the Rek-o-kut itself,  that there is another mode of installation that works well.   I kept the simple 'box' plinth and suspended the whole turntable above it on strips of that Whites rubber vibration pad from Bunnings,  all around the edges between the turntable motor board and the plinth edge.    It leads me to think, a skeletal plinth, with rubber vibration damping might be another valid option.

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4 hours ago, lencoloony47 said:

Thanks everyone for the information. I noticed the stylus on the cartridge is at a slight angle. There appears to be a screw which might allow it to be realigned. Do you think that might work? The cantilever seems okay.

 

 

 

 

 The  cantilever assembly is held in place by latex  strips at the top and bottom of the vertically set coil armature. These perish with age. The stylus material  for this model would  have been sapphire. 

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Thanks to everyone who provided input to this topic. I was hoping to get this at auction but was seriously outbid. In case anyone is wondering, and perhaps to give an idea of the value of the TT and arm combination, it sold for $2,100 plus 16.5% buyer's premium. The provenance of the TT was very sound. It was originally part of the collection of a prominent SA radio announcer and then part of the collection of a SA film production company owner. So probably well looked after. The only caveat to price/value is the buyer wasn't able to check whether the unit powered up prior to purchase, so a little risk there.

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The latter model 12" 12D (3 or 4 speed) come available periodically.  Best to get the one with the solenoid attachment which protects the idler from flat spots (it can easily be seen when the platter is removed).

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The solenoid is a cylindrical tube, like a piston. 

This is what it looks like on my 12D

 

There are many without this option, that are still worth considering.  If it doesn't have the solenoid you should check if the idler has flat spots. Also be careful that you stop the turntable with the speed selector before removing the power (normal good use).  I believe that @cafe latte has been able to refurbish a CE idler wheel if required, so don't pass up a bargain! 

Solenoid.jpg.548c25355bde3a90d04920707c180d05.jpg

Edited by audiofeline
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