The Audio Technica AT91 is still being made…

I saw these for sale on Trademe and promptly bought one – from Ali Express. It took a dog’s age to get here, but it did.

These are branded as “Leory”, which is a Chinese outfit selling all sorts of turntable-related stuff.

It looked like they’d just bought all the tooling for the AT91, a perfectly good budget cartridge which I’ve used for years.

It has recently been discontinued by Audio Technica and replaced with the AT-VM9E series, which is a tad more expensive even in its basic form.

I tried the Leory cartridge out and was impressed with the results. A smooth-sounding cart with no obvious vices or deficiencies.

The stylus even has the Audio Technica logo printed on it!

So if you’re looking for a budget cart, look no further.

I think this was about NZ$15 including shipping, which is ridiculous – the AT91 used to sell here for NZ$49 – $60.

That makes this cartridge cheaper than most stylus replacements for whatever is currently fitted to your turntable.

Highly recommended!

Nokia 8 Half Screen Static Issue

I recently bought a used Nokia 8 fairly cheaply on Trademe. The seller said it had an intermittent issue where the screen displayed static on its left half, but this could be fixed by tapping the back and home buttons repeatedly. I bought it anyway, thinking it would just need a new screen. Further research indicates this is a common problem with this model, and was dealt with under warranty by HMD Global offering a 7.1 or 8.1 as replacement.

There is some speculation that this is a logic board issue, and I’ve seen the same problem dealt with in Samsung and Google Pixel phones by reballing the display chip.

After using the 8 for a few hours I experienced the worst incidence of ghost touch I’ve seen on a phone, so opened it up and tried flexing the cable near where it exited the display, successfully replicating the problem. So I’m assuming it’s the cable and not the logic board. The cable makes a sharp turn where it exits the display, and passes close to the home button so I’m guessing the display flexing from presses on the home button area has damaged the cable. I found that I could bring the display back to normal(ish) operation by pressing down just above the home button.

Incidentally, the screen would not only produce static when faulting, but would also split, with one half scrolling and the other not, or one half displaying an app and the other stuck on the home screen. Weird!

I did try putting a piece of Kapton tape across the display cable right at the base of the screen, to see if that would hold the cable in place and remedy the problem, but no dice.

Although this is quite a nice phone, very slim and slick in the hand, and I set it up with Launcher 10 so I could have a familiar Windows 10 Mobile – like UI, I don’t think I’ll keep it. I’ve ordered a new screen from eBay, will replace it and move the phone on. Hopefully the new owner will get a couple of years use before the problem re-emerges! And, don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll mention all this when I list it.

Despite fairly successfully replicating the Windows 10 Mobile experience with Launcher 10 (top marks to the developer!) there were a couple of things I didn’t like about the 8. The camera app just seems clumsy compared to the one on my 930 (I downloaded a version of GCam, but it didn’t seem much better). And I honestly think the 930’s camera itself is better than the 8’s! The Outlook app is better on the 930. The 930’s AMOLED screen, despite being 100 PPI lower in resolution than the 8’s, is so much more vibrant. And the Contacts app is streets ahead on the 930.

While there’s an infinity of downloadable apps for the 8, including a much better Facebook app (I actually did a couple of video calls!) I wonder if I really need them in my life. I’ve found Windows 10 Mobile meets pretty much all my needs. Sure, it’s a dead ecosystem, but I’ve made it my own and use my 930 pretty much to its limit. I like to keep using things and not just throw them away. I like to use appropriate technology. I still think the Metro UI is the most elegant and intuitive one I’ve come across.

But I did splash out and buy a new screen for the Lumia 1520 I bought a couple of months ago on Trademe for $2! I think I’ll have fun using the 6″ beast, and have probably even more fun trying to cram it into a pocket.

Hopefully the Microsoft W10M store will still be going when the screen arrives, so I can get the one or two apps I need from there.

Oh, and Shazam from AppXforfun.

Thrills, as we say downunder, for Noddy.


Technics SL-DD20 Cartridge Issue

I bought a used SL-DD20, was fairly cheap because it didn’t have a stylus or dustcover.  Seemed like a decent budget unit, and sounded pretty good after I fitted a good-condition used stylus I had lying around.

I did some work on it and listed it on Trademe. A buyer came to look at it and I demonstrated it and two other turntables, which involved swapping P-mount cartridges.

After replacing the original cartridge in the Technics I noticed the left channel had dropped out. An inspection showed the left ground clip in the headshell had been pushed in so wasn’t making contact with the cartridge pin.

I thought about how to go about remedying this. There’s an access plate on the underside of the headshell which is held in place with one screw. I couldn’t get enough leverage to turn the screw using a small screwdriver, so opened the turntable up and removed the motor and mechanism so I could get better access to the underside of the tonearm.

(Note: If you just remove a turntable’s platter and swing the tonearm across towards the spindle, there’s often a recess or cutout in some plinths which will allow you a bit more elbow room underneath a tonearm, for instance to undo the screws which hold a lot of headshells in place).

The screw came out easily, the headshell insert which held the cartridge clips came out easily, I was able to easily push the wayward clip back into place and reassemble everything.

Not so easily – I found the arm lifter was stuck in place so disassembled things again, found a return spring that I hadn’t attached correctly, took the opportunity of refreshing the silicone oil in the arm damper and put it all back together.

Thankfully it worked properly.

Haven’t encountered this with P-mount headshells before. First time for everything!

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(Photo of the motor and mechanism, which need to be removed to access the underside of the tonearm)

Royce Spectrum Turntable

A bit of a rarity from the early ’80s. My friend Mike brought it to me. The owner, his customer, had messed with the suspension adjustment and now nothing worked. There is zero information about these on the internet, I don’t think they were made for that long a period of time, or were very successful. I opened it up, found that the plastic washer at  the base of one suspension spring had worked its way up the long stainless bolt, so it wasn’t possible to get the platter level. I put some oil on the bolt and worked the washer down the shaft, then went about levelling up the platter. This was fairly straightforward: there are three bolts with locknuts which are used to tension the springs providing the suspension and raise the platter. A bit of trial and error and everything was looking good. I had to wind the bolts quite a long way up to get the platter above the plinth and spinning freely. I put a record on and heard scraping, so adjusted the bolts until it went away. This unit had a Linn Basik tonearm with Asak cartridge. The tonearm was mounted to an arm board which was bolted to the suspended part of the turntable, along with the spindle and platter. Seems odd, I thought you’d want to isolate those parts. Anyway, the arm and cart produced a pleasant sound, fairly quiet because I’m guessing the Asak is a high output moving coil. The top of the arm board was a few mm above the plinth by the time I’d got through adjusting, but the arm looked level when the stylus was on the record so that seemed fine (and I just noticed it was at about the same height as the arm board in this picture!). Didn’t know anything about this, my work was possibly not according to Hoyle, but seemed to do the job. The turntable had that made-in-the-shed-by-Uncle-Bob look common to a lot of audiophile turntables I’ve seen (don’t get me started on the Roksan Xerxes) but I have to say it had the most effective suspension of any turntable I’ve worked on. I could basically pound the table next to it without effect. My $0.02 worth…


(Picture is from the internet)

Can’t Update Eligible Windows Phone 8.1 Devices to W10M? Here’s How!

A customer sent me their Nokia Lumia 930 for battery replacement. I noticed it was still on WP 8.1, asked them if they wanted it upgraded to W10M. They agreed, so I tried to search the store for Update Adviser. FAIL! The WP 8.1 store is dead, so HOW?

Microsoft have an Over-the-cable updater tool available here:

Very simple, just download it to your PC, plug your eligible WP 8.1 phone in and follow the steps.

After that you’ll need to check for updates, the first time you do the phone will download 10.0.14393.1066, and the second time 10.0.14393.2551, which is the last available update for the 930 (not strictly true, my friend Alex has a later version installed, but he was on the Insider’s Ring and hasn’t reset his phone).

And now the customer’s 930 has a new lease on, well, er…slightly less restricted functionality for an unspecified period of time, going forward…


Measuring Cassette Tape Speed

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, have been fixing up a couple of cassette decks. I usually just put in a familiar tape and adjust speed until Sade sounds neither like a man nor a chipmunk. I don’t have a test tape – the ones I’ve seen for sale are hideously expensive. Someone suggested just playing the same track on YouTube and using that as a reference, but I have patchy internet reception in my workshop so that’s not usually practical. What I was thinking about today was measuring tape movement. If cassette tape should move at 1 7/8″ per second, it should theoretically be possible to use an old tape, mark a point on the leader, position it correctly in relation to the head, start the tape and measure the distance it has moved in one second. Could mark the tape at 1 7/8″ (calculation would probably be easier if I converted this to mm!) from the datum point and adjust speed until it hits the head at the desired moment. Just an idea…will experiment and let both my audience know…

JVC L-E600 and THOSE hinges…

A customer brought me a JVC L-E600 which needed a new drive belt. I noticed that the lid wouldn’t stay up, and there was some resistance to opening it. I dismantled the unit and found that the plastic part of the hinges had crumbled. A design flaw with this model – the lower hinge is pressed steel, then there’s an extremely strong spring and metal rod which fit into the plastic upper hinge. Over time the spring tension apparently breaks the plastic and the hinge fails. I tried glueing, wiring and zip-tieing the plastic parts back together but the next morning they had failed again. I go to an excellent local engineer for little jobs like this – he’s extremely capable, quick and inexpensive. Long may he live! He fabricated some really quite beautiful replacements for the plastic parts out of aluminium and I got the complete hinges back a couple of days later. Unfortunately the parts he’d made were slightly too big – to be fair, trying to replicate parts without seeing what they fit into is probably a recipe for difficulty, if not disaster. Luckily they slid off the springs and rods easily and I spent a couple of hours filing them to size, and had to cut away a couple of small pieces of the turntable body to make everything fit. But it did, and this turntable is now ready for many more years of use. I’ve seen various solutions to this problem online, this one worked for me.






Using Windows 10 Mobile in 2019

Tor’s Galaxy S7 which went through so much with me has met its Waterloo. Literally. He was working outside in the rain and had it in a zipped pocket. He discovered water had run in through the zip and pooled, and the phone was sitting in a puddle. Soooo…overheating, screen flickering, buttons not working etc. He gave up on it and got a Galaxy S10 for $1299.

Meanwhile in Windows 10 Mobile land, I got a Lumia 950 for $52 including shipping, plus $30 for a new battery, a 930 for $16.50 including shipping and a Lumia 830 for $6.50 including shipping! Why? At those prices, why not? Support for W10M ends officially on December 31st, so we’ll see how long the app store keeps functioning. Not that there was a lot there to begin with. The great thing is, apps can be sideloaded, unlike WP 8.1, where you had to have a developer account to root the phone. I’m also wondering how long the Lumia Recovery tool will keep working for reinstalling the OS. Hmmm.

What do I like about these phones?

Great cameras – the 950 and 930 have 20 megapixel shooters with rich capture and 4K video. The 830 has a perfectly respectable 10mp unit.

Wireless charging on all three phones.

Removable batteries and SD card slots on the 950 and 830.

Hardware – the 930 and 830 have slim, stylish metal housings with polycarbonate rear covers. The 950, not so much – quite a bland plastic affair. The 930’s screen has a nice water-under-surface-tension look to it.

Glance screen on the 950 and 830. This shows time and notifications on the display so you don’t need to wake the phone to see what’s going on. Strangely left off the 930.

Live tiles – tiles display information so you don’t need to wake an app to see what’s going on.

Continuum on the 950, Miracast on the 930 and 830 – connect your phone to a display, and with Continuum you can connect it to a display, mouse and keyboard and use it like a mini-laptop

Customisable screen layout with resizeable tiles, transparency and colour options. I like to make it look nice, y’know? I still think this is the most pleasing and user-friendly UI of all.

Double-tap to wake. Such a great feature. I have seen it on Android phones but not iPhones, which also have that stupid raise-to-wake thing.

The downside is, of course, end-of-life.

There was always the app gap with WP and W10M. It’s only gotten worse. No FB app, and Slim Social which I’ve replaced it with has started acting weird – you have to type a couple of letters when making a post, they won’t appear, you click away from the app and back again. There they are and now you can type your post. This also happens in Edge browser, and any of the other FB clients in the Microsoft Store.

For Instagram, 6tag won’t let me post photos, and the Edge browser won’t let me watch videos so I have the shortcuts side-by-side for doing both easily. It’s a work-around!

There is still one app that’s being actively developed, the excellent myTube. Chris keeps being fucked around by Google and YouTube but hasn’t thrown in the towel. Yet.

I guess I wonder when I’ll switch to another platform. Not for a while yet. Apart from some minor inconveniences, W10M still meets all of my (admittedly modest) needs.

Footnote: So Tor spent $1299 on his new phone. My three Lumias cost me $105. Can’t help feeling that, even in 2019, that’s a killer deal.

PS I’ll also be keeping an eye out for a bargain 1520, that 6-inch phablet beast. Just ‘cos.

The Last Flight of the Vulcan

I’ve watched this a couple of times and always enjoy it.
Guy Martin getting the chance to see off the last flying Avro Vulcan.
Ironically, created to bring death to millions, XH558, the last flying Avro Vulcan, ended its days bringing pleasure to thousands. Designed by A.V. Roe’s Roy Chadwick just 5 years after his WWII Lancaster bomber, the Vulcan represented a quantum leap forward in aircraft technology. A delta-wing four-engine jet, it was part of Great Britain’s V-Force, which was intended to deliver their nuclear arsenal in the event of, well, the end of the world. Retired in 1984, when the Royal Navy took over that business via Polaris missile, it was returned to flight in 2007 after the most complex aircraft restoration to date. It flew at airshows and displays until 2015, when the companies maintaining its airworthiness withdrew their support. Sad but understandable, I guess – it was an extremely complex machine full of 1950s technology and couldn’t be flown manually if the avionics failed. An impressive sight, by all accounts, with its trademark “roar”, and a reminder of a time when Great Britain was a world leader in, well, something. 

Beogram 4000 Speed Fluctuation – Fixed

A pretty turntable, this, one is in the MOMA permanent collection.

This 1974 model belongs to a customer, Ian. About six months ago I got it going for him – his uncle had died and left it to him and it needed some basic servicing and alignment.

He brought it back to me recently because it had started not changing to 45, and would slow down on 33 after about half a side.

I replaced the belt, lubricated all the potentiometers, set the speed and tried it out. Everything seemed fine so I gave it back to him.

After a couple of days he let me know it was still misbehaving.

I thought the culprit could be the main filter capacitors, so removed and tested  them. After 40 + years they were within spec, so probably not causing the speed fluctuation.

I remembered B&O expert Beolover recommends servicing the motor’s Oilite bushes in cases like this.

This involves drilling out the rivets which hold the motor together, dismantling the motor and using a vacuum jar to reinfuse the bushes with oil.

He can supply 3D-printed parts which replace the rivets and enable reassembly of the motor and correct adjustment of its height and angle.

I’d emailed him a couple of times without reply so didn’t want to take the motor apart unless I could get it back together again.

Anyway, it seemed to spin smoothly and both coils tested at the same resistance so I just ran some oil into the bushes and left it at that. It did seem to fix the slight knocking at 45 rpm.

I also  went through the speed control board and tested all the electrolytic capacitors and replaced one which was leaking.

I checked and set the motor voltage and frequency on 33 and 45 as per Beolover’s instructions. Still slowing down!

Ian had recently epoxied the motor capstan in place because it was no longer fitting tightly to the spindle. He’d just put a blob on top of the spindle and it wasn’t really doing anything, so I removed it.

I put a mark on the top of the spindle, then slowed the capstan by hand and noted if it slipped in relation to the mark. It didn’t, so I looked for other causes.

After re-fitting the capacitors and motor I noticed that the platter spun up to speed very slowly. Apparently whatever I’d been up to had made the slipping worse! – maybe I’d got a bit of oil on the shaft or capstan when lubricating the bushes.

Finally the penny dropped. I thoroughly cleaned the capstan with isopropyl, then epoxied it to the shaft, being sure to get a decent amount of epoxy in the bore (with no overspill onto the top bush!).

This seems to have solved the problem.

I’d told Ian that recapping may have been necessary to fix the speed issue, but it seems not at this stage.

Live and learn!

I heartily recommend Beolover’s blog as an invaluable resource for all things B&O:

Adventures in old tech…until your mind reels…