PLEASE NOTE: The waiting list for console repair is very long - it's unlikely that I would get to you in 2022.
Before you pick up your phone to call me about repairing your console, please read the following. It will save you time and money.
I am a repairman, but my real job is to help you play records, not to discuss arcane electronic and mechanical functions. Believe me - there is nothing more boring than discussing arcane electronic and mechanical functions.
Let’s start at the beginning.
What is a “console?” A console is a piece of furniture containing a record changer, amplifier, and speakers. Some include a radio and later models may feature a tape deck. Millions of these things were sold from the late fifties through the seventies. Please glance at illustration #1 for clarification of what is and is not a console.
A record changer is a turntable that allows you to play multiple records one at a time. They are an engineering marvel and very delicate.
I understand the allure of consoles. Some sound amazing. Some have classy mid century design elements. Some have high quality tube electronics. Some are family heirlooms that are packed with records and memories.
Unfortunately, there are drawbacks to consoles. They are old. They are heavy. Some don’t sound very good (many reasons for this.) Some are fire hazards. Some will not play your favorite record.
Will a console be a viable way for you to play your records? Maybe, maybe not. Just because it was manufactured to play records doesn’t mean it’s your best avenue to vinyl bliss. Space and size can be an issue unless you live in a palatial estate. I once spent a lot of time on an expensive repair only to find out later that the console never got used because the only place it would fit was right next to the TV and the TV always won.
Most record changers manufactured before 1966 or so will have a hard time playing modern “micro groove” records unless we install a different cartridge. I hesitate to elaborate because we are veering off into boring tech talk. It’s better that we discuss cartridges and such on the phone.
Here are some actual questions/statements from actual customers that may help us NOT reinvent the wheel, eeeeerrr, reinvent the console when we talk.
“The salesperson at the antique store said it worked.” They may have a different definition of “working” than I. Since your potential or consummated purchase is at least 40 years old, it’s reasonable to expect that it has been serviced over the years. Record changers are complicated and have parts that disintegrate with age. If you are buying a console always ask when it was serviced and who did the work.
“All it needs is a needle.” Maybe. If it doesn’t have a needle it’s impossible to know if it plays at the correct speed and if the auto functions work. All the functions of a record changer have to be in concert or it won’t be any fun playing records.
“One of the speakers doesn't work.” Maybe. We won’t know if that is correct or why it sounds that way ‘til we investigate.
Now’s a good time for me to impart the golden rule of console repair. THE CONSOLE CONSISTS OF TWO DISTINCT PARTS. 1) THE AMPLIFIER AND SPEAKERS. 2) THE RECORD CHANGER.
There are many things that can cause it to sound like one of the speakers doesn’t work. Maybe your uncle was playing his guitar through it in 1969 and “forgot” to plug half the record player back in when he was done with the seventy ninth chorus of Inna Gadda Davida.
I only work on the record changer part but can sometimes help with simple amp and speaker diagnostics. I know several immensely talented amp and speaker guys, but they are reluctant to take on this type of repair because consoles are heavy, take up a lot of space and are difficult to move.
“I’ve got it in the back of my uncle’s truck, where are you located?” Sorry, you can’t bring it in. I do everything by appointment and can only schedule jobs after I ask some questions. If after talking on the phone we decide to proceed with your project we can schedule a house call. Get it out of your uncle’s truck immediately after you read the section about moving a console.
“How do you move a console?” Lock down the tone arm with a twist tie. Most record changers have a couple screws that tighten down the springs. This keeps it from being damaged and eliminates the sproingy sound when you hit a chuck hole. Moving blankets are a must.
I never thought I would have to say this -- “DON’T TURN IT UPSIDE DOWN AND STACK IT ON TOP OF OTHER FURNITURE.” True story - a moving company here in Indianapolis recently completely ruined a Zenith Console by doing this!
“May I bring you just the record player?” No, sorry. I used to encourage customers to do this! It’s too easy to damage the changer and I felt bad scolding the customers for not packing it carefully. So the answer is: NO. Sorry. Really!
“What do you need to know about my console?”
1) Brand name. This is important because some brands are easier to work on and some are impossible. Model numbers or names may help but the part of my brain that is supposed to remember model numbers is filled with Dave Clark Five songs.
2) Symptoms. What is wrong with it? “My uncle played his guitar through it and now everything is wiggly and it smells like burning rope, I think the number four capacitor on the crossover is bad and the guy on Audio Karma says it needs a Grado.” While this is entertaining it’s not the SYMPTOM. Well -- “it’s all wiggly” is kind of a symptom.
3) Texting me two pictures will help (two, not more not less.) After or while we talk about your project on the phone I MAY ask for a picture of the whole console and another of the changer. Please don’t send me pictures until I ask. Thank you!
“How long will it take?” Maybe a week? Maybe a year? Depends.
“How much will it cost?” Most record changer repairs are $150 to $300. This includes a new needle and a warranty/guarantee. House calls are $65 each trip and are limited by geography.
“I want to replace all the stuff inside it with modern stuff.” OK, we can do that but it’s hard to find stuff that fits and this transaction is subject to all the regular costs and time constraints. Nine times out of ten it is not very satisfying for the customer.
“How many consoles have you worked on?” Hundreds, but I learned to not take on every repair that came along. Of the forty or so inquiries I get a month maybe one results in an actual repair. Many folks decide on an easier way to enjoy records but some persist. I do work for a few collectors (they have a lot of room, let me tell you.)
“Is there anyone else around here who repairs consoles?” After you read this entire page please go to the RESOURCES tab for a list of other repair companies and what they do.
“OK, if I want to venture into the mod console lifestyle what is the process?” First, leave it alone, don’t force any of the controls or grab the tonearm to try and correct its travel. I see so many record changers that could have been easy to get up to speed that are ruined by “well intended fiddling.”
UNPLUG IT. Call me weekdays before 5 at 317-209-5838. I understand that a lot of my customers hate to talk on the phone but it’s the easiest and best way for me to ask important questions to determine if your project is a good fit for me or vice versa. We can text after that. The first question I’m going to ask is: “Is this the only thing you have to play records on?” Playing records - after all - is what it’s all about.
PS. SAFETY FIRST! Since these consoles are old we are always concerned with safety. Inspect the power cord for cracks and bare wire. Leaving it unplugged until diagnosis is not much fun but it’s better than an electrical fire. Since 99% of all consoles are switched on by the record changer it’s possible for it to not complete its cycle and stay on while you go to Bermuda or Muncie or wherever for a month. SO -- UNPLUG IT!
Will a console be a viable way for you to play records? Maybe, maybe not. Please read this Primer and then give me a call.