ESOTERIC SOUND'S "VINTAGE" TURNTABLE - Almost identical to the new VINTAGE II
Richard Giaccio
APM Magazine  1985

Do to the age of the original article the following is an extraction:
 

"To hear a vintage record played on an antique phonograph of the same era is surely a great pleasure, but such playback eventually causes serious wear on the record and poses an inconvenience for taped transcription. Playback through electronic equipment does offer some advantages in sound processing through the use of graphic equalizers, notch filters, transient noise eliminators, and the like. The collector who wishes to play his vintage records through modern equipment however is faced with one immediate and basic problem, namely finding a turntable that can play 78 rpm records. Most audio stores now do not carry such equipment, and what is available....  tends to be prohibitively expensive. The only other alternative has been to use an older turntable or record changer, which may suffer from rumble or mechanical problems. Furthermore, most older turntables are not equipped with variable pitch to accommodate discs that were recorded at other speeds, e.g. 80 rpm for Edison Diamond Discs or 70 for some early Berliners - even Victors and G&Ts vary greatly."

".... the Vintage turntable recently introduced by Esoteric Sound (4813 1608 Hemstock Ave., Wheaton, IL 60189) appears to answer many of these needs at an affordable price. It is an attractive unit in ,basic black, measuring approximately 17 by 14 by 3.5 (with dustcover down). It has not been built from scratch, but appears to be a Technics turntable that has been specially modified, such that it is capable of playing at six selectable pre-set speeds: 33-1/3, 45, 71.29, 76.59, 78.26, and 80 rpm - each of these has a variable pitch of "8%, allowing further fine tuning. A built-in stroboscope allows precise setting for the 33 and 78 speeds (which are selected by a rotary switch mounted on the turntable platform to the right of the tonearm. Cueing lever and return/shut-off controls are conveniently mounted on the front panel outside the dust cover. Additional specifications as provided by the manufacturer."

"Bringing the tone arm in toward the turntable automatically turns the unit on, and it comes equipped with auto-return and shut-off, which for an additional fee of ... can be disabled if one wishes to also play center-start records. The basic turntable ...., is virtually half the price of its nearest competitor It may be ordered with either s Stanton L500AL cartridge which comes with 0.7 mil LP and 2.7 mil 78 styli and tracks at 3.75 grams ...; or a Grado PZF3E+ cartridge which comes with an elliptical ALP and 3.0 mil 78 styli which track at 1.50 grams ..). I ordered the Stanton cartridge for this review since it is (with slight modification) compatible with various styli available from OWL Audio Products; and also because I intended to use the turntable exclusively for playing 78's. However, if you intend to play LPs as well, the Grado cartridge (with its lighter tracking weight) would probably be advisable."

"Since 78's were either vertically cut (Edison, Pathe, etc.), or laterally cut (Victor, Columbia, etc.), the output of a modern stereo phono cartridge must be appropriately wired for each. Since most collectors are likely to have both types of records, this is most conveniently accomplished by a switch that allows one to choose easily between the two. If one has some basic skill at soldering electrical components, this is not difficult to build oneself (see APM, Vol. [U, No. 7), although Esoteric Sound offers an optional vertical/lateral switch ...mounted at the rear of the turntable platform for the purpose (using it requires either an amplifier that can be switched to mono mode or an inexpensive AY connector to join the two outputs from the turntable). It may also be mentioned at this point that since acoustic and many early electric recordings were not made with the nonstandard R.IAA equalization, they will not be accurately reproduced if played through the phono preempts of modern equipment. One needs a primp with a flat response for acoustic recordings (I used an old Dynamo primp with a specialí setting for this purpose). More sophisticated options available on the market currently include the OWL I primp and the Phono Equalizer by Esoteric Sound (the latter connected through the amplifiers tape loop)."

Now back to the turntable. It arrived from the company via UPS promptly and quite adequately packaged, and came with complete and easy to follow instructions as well as the necessary connecting cables and a 45 rpm adapter. Set-up involved removing some packing spacers and slipping the drive belt onto its pulley, placing the rubber mat on the turntable, attaching the Amount cartridge, and installing the dust cover, all of which took about ten minutes. The correct tracking weight is preset at the factory for the phono cartridge chosen. I tested the turntable with both vertical and lateral cut records, which it played with equal fidelity. It ran with the smoothness and quietness one would expect of a modern turntable, and aesthetically its clean lines and flat black finish allowed it to sit comfortably amongst its spring powered ancestors. The optional vertical/lateral switch proved to be a convenient feature (avoiding the need for another external switching box). What was surprising was the very audible difference it made playing Edition Diamond Discs at their correct speed. On paper 78 may not sound that different from 80 rpm, but in real life, you can readily hear the difference! Short of spending a small fortune for a continuously variable speed turntable, this is (to the best of my knowledge) the only turntable on the market, at any price to offer such a wide selection of speeds, and this is a clear advantage, if not a necessity, to the serious record collector. In short, Esoteric Sound appears to offer a new quality turntable of exceptional versatility, specifically designed for the antique record collector, at a price that beats any equivalent competition......

Readers interested in this subject are referred to Ray Wiles outstanding research. In addition, Jim Smarts introduction to the locos 1977 Centennial Publication of A Wonderful Invention provides additional interesting background, as well as his article in the Quarterly Journal of the lc (Summer Fall 1980). My thanks as well to Sam Brylawaki and Lynn Math's of the Recorded Sound Section of the Library of Congress for their generous assistance, as well as the visiting Peter Maryland. The author is interested in obtaining additional data surrounding the 7 celluloid Berliner, brown and black, and collectors possessing them are invited to write him directly or through AMP. It is only through the dedicated efforts of collectors and institutions that the pieces of this puzzle can be assembled, and the full story of the birth of the American disc recording industry can be completely known.
 

Esoteric Sound, 1608 Hemstock Ave., Wheaton, IL 60187; voice! fax: (630) 933-9801.

Return to Turntables

Return to Magazine Reviews