Columbia 109a sounds distorted

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Cont0rt
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Columbia 109a sounds distorted

Post by Cont0rt »

So I was given a Columbia 109 and I noticed the sound was extremely distorted when playing records. Can anyone help me out on this?

https://youtu.be/YWy0mqoArt0

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Marco Gilardetti
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Re: Columbia 109a sounds distorted

Post by Marco Gilardetti »

First of all: was the needle new (=never used before) and shiny, and most of all a real gramophone needle? (Please excuse the very basic question, but I see you're quite new on this forum and I ignore your level of experience with gramophones).

If positive, there may be one or more thing that need to be changed / rehauled in the soundbox: possibly hardened gaskets that need to be replaced, a cracked diaphragm or loose needlebar, a loose or anyhow unadjusted needlebar, or a combination of these. Did you do any soundbox maintenance before recording the videoclip?

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Re: Columbia 109a sounds distorted

Post by OrthoFan »

I agree with Marco. If it's not the needle causing the distortion, it's the sound box (reproducer). I've listened to a couple of restored 109a's and they sound more like a small electrically amplified gramophone than an acoustic one, so investing a little time or money to have the sound box overhauled is a good investment.

IF the sound box has already been overhauled with fresh gaskets, etc., then you might check the adjustment of the needle-bar pivots. The needle bar should be free to track the record's groove, but there should be no side-play. This simple illustration shows what I mean:
Needlebar movement.jpg
HTH,
OrthoFan

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Re: Columbia 109a sounds distorted

Post by Inigo »

Be careful, the free movement of the needle is with the diaphragm attached! Don't push too hard or you will kick the delicate aluminium diaphragm. Sometimes it has oxidizes and has small holes in it. It sounds as you have to overhaul the soundbox. If you don't have mechanical abilities, send it for repair to an expert, you'll find convenient links in the links section.
You could do it yourself, but be prepared to work with many delicate and small parts, and a dozen micro-bearing balls!
Nevertheless, there will be no harm of you, delicately, extract the soundbox from the tonearm, remove the four screws at the front, and examine yourself the aluminium diaphragm. It should be well shaped, with no kicks or abnormal creases, no holes, no oxidised areas, etc. Send us a good photo of it, so we can judge.
Inigo

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Re: Columbia 109a sounds distorted

Post by Cont0rt »

Marco Gilardetti wrote: Mon Oct 25, 2021 8:04 am First of all: was the needle new (=never used before) and shiny, and most of all a real gramophone needle? (Please excuse the very basic question, but I see you're quite new on this forum and I ignore your level of experience with gramophones).

If positive, there may be one or more thing that need to be changed / rehauled in the soundbox: possibly hardened gaskets that need to be replaced, a cracked diaphragm or loose needlebar, a loose or anyhow unadjusted needlebar, or a combination of these. Did you do any soundbox maintenance before recording the videoclip?
The needles are new.

No, I haven't done any maintenance since I don't know anything about gramophones and I don't want to ruin it.

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Re: Columbia 109a sounds distorted

Post by Cont0rt »

OrthoFan wrote: Mon Oct 25, 2021 11:37 am I agree with Marco. If it's not the needle causing the distortion, it's the sound box (reproducer). I've listened to a couple of restored 109a's and they sound more like a small electrically amplified gramophone than an acoustic one, so investing a little time or money to have the sound box overhauled is a good investment.

IF the sound box has already been overhauled with fresh gaskets, etc., then you might check the adjustment of the needle-bar pivots. The needle bar should be free to track the record's groove, but there should be no side-play. This simple illustration shows what I mean:
Needlebar movement.jpg
HTH,
OrthoFan
As far as I know, the gramophone hasn't been overhauled or maintained since it left the factory.

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Re: Columbia 109a sounds distorted

Post by Cont0rt »

Inigo wrote: Mon Oct 25, 2021 11:59 am Be careful, the free movement of the needle is with the diaphragm attached! Don't push too hard or you will kick the delicate aluminium diaphragm. Sometimes it has oxidizes and has small holes in it. It sounds as you have to overhaul the soundbox. If you don't have mechanical abilities, send it for repair to an expert, you'll find convenient links in the links section.
You could do it yourself, but be prepared to work with many delicate and small parts, and a dozen micro-bearing balls!
Nevertheless, there will be no harm of you, delicately, extract the soundbox from the tonearm, remove the four screws at the front, and examine yourself the aluminium diaphragm. It should be well shaped, with no kicks or abnormal creases, no holes, no oxidised areas, etc. Send us a good photo of it, so we can judge.
I would definitely try repairing it myself, if my mother trusted me. Of course, she doesn't want me doing anything technical with the gramophones I currently own, even though I feel like I should.

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Re: Columbia 109a sounds distorted

Post by Inigo »

Then one advice: if you do it yourself, I wouldn't disassemble the needlebar from its fulcrum unless absolutely necessary. It's very tricky to reassemble, as the pivots at both sides rest on 5 or 6 tiny bearing balls each, then adjusted with a screw pivot and a nut, which you can see at each side. This is the most difficult part to adjust. If you look under a strong light, through the small gap at each end you could even see the balls inside. This only needs a drop of oil, and if too much side to side play, loosen the nuts and moving slightly the screws until there is no play, but still the needlebar is free to oscillate under its own weight when you turn the soundbox up and down. Then readjust the nuts without moving the screws (this is also difficult, you may need three hands, or the soundbox firmly fastened in a vise or something).

But all this is the second thing. The first one is to examine the diaphragm and its gaskets at both sides. You Will probably need to substitute them for new ones. You can do this by carefully removing the cover and the back plate (four screws each, keep notice of the position of each screw, as they are theoretically equal, but it's better to replace each screw on its exact place). Be careful, as you'll need force to unscrew them, and the screwdriver could slip and pierce the delicate diaphragm, which is a thin aluminium corrugated foil. Use a screwdriver that fits well on the screw heads, or it will marr them...
Judge by yourself, but send us photos to help you!
Inigo

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Re: Columbia 109a sounds distorted

Post by Lucius1958 »

A good start would be to get a copy of The Compleat Talking Machine: plenty of helpful restoration tips.

If you don't feel up to rebuilding it yourself, search around to see if there are any restorers in your area. I don't know if there are many in NZ, but you might try. Worst case, you might have to send it overseas to AU or elsewhere... Good luck! :clover:

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Re: Columbia 109a sounds distorted

Post by gramophone-georg »

It almost sounds to me as if the stylus bar is rubbing against something. While playing a record, try to put just the slightest of pressure by hand against the front and then the rear of the soundbox and see if the sound improves one way or the other.
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