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BIC 960 Turntable

69.254.22.222

Posted on December 14, 2011 at 08:26:54
Nadguy
Audiophile

Posts: 63
Location: S.E. Michigan
Joined: April 16, 2005
I have always felt for a modest inexpensive turntable that the BIC's where underrated. I say this as I own a Linn Sondek as well as other turntables like Pioneers and Technics. Several years ago I attempted to refurbish the BIC with new grease etc, and it worked perfectly for two years. Now it began having issues with it's auto-return. After some frustration in attempting to fix this I just started to gut out the entire auto-return system. As it turns out there was a lot of hidden areas of hardened grease I never got to originally. Since the unit is probably 40 years old I decided to make this a completely manual table and left out all the auto-return parts(but saving them if I change my mind.) Now it's like my Linn(almost.) I reckon its got a few more years left now and that the KISS principle will prolong it's life.

 

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RE: BIC 960 Turntable, posted on December 14, 2011 at 11:37:46
DavidLD
Audiophile

Posts: 4744
Joined: May 29, 2002
I have the 980 version here. It has grease issues too..seems to run ok otherwise.
Had it since new..have all the original manuals that came with it and salse brochure.

The grease issues mainly affect the auto pickup of the arm at the end of the record.

A nice turntable.

 

RE: BIC 960 Turntable, posted on December 16, 2011 at 11:05:17
Doug G.
Audiophile

Posts: 910
Location: Upper Midwest
Joined: September 21, 2005
The original BIC 900 series tables are excellent and yes, these days, underrated.

Auto return issues are almost always caused by the parts on the big red cam getting contaminated by lubricants which gradually migrate there from other areas.

These parts MUST be absolutely clean and unlubricated to work correctly because the whole thing relies on friction.

Other issues are the tonearm landing in the 7" position all the time instead of at the 12" position when desired. This is, indeed, caused by hardened/gummy lubricants.

Any turntable, not just BICs, of that age will require cleaning and relubing to restore proper operation.

Doug

 

RE: BIC 960 Turntable, posted on December 17, 2011 at 06:08:14
Swiller
Audiophile

Posts: 123
Location: Northern Minnesota
Joined: October 6, 2009
I too am a fan these TT's. I have an excellent 981 and it is both cosmetically excellent, it functions flawlessly. I run a GradoGold and it amazes me with its tonal quality and all around solid build. I agree these are very underated. Good luck.

Swiller

 

THanks, posted on December 18, 2011 at 14:57:40
DavidLD
Audiophile

Posts: 4744
Joined: May 29, 2002
you have helped me uncover the cause of the issues with my 980.

 

RE: BIC 960 Turntable, posted on December 25, 2011 at 00:44:16
Richard Steinfeld
Industry Professional

Posts: 79
Location: San Francisco Bay area
Joined: May 25, 2011
I can't imagine how they managed to do this in the first place, but BIC's engineers specified precisely the wrong Anderol grease for these machines. Anderol said to avoid using it on these surfaces and mechanisms.

That's why the mechanisms seize up. If you follow the instructions in the repair manual, your turntable will fail.

You have to clean every bit of it off thoroughly: dismantle the whole machine. Isopropyl or methyl alcohol usually does the job. Silicon grease is excellent for the plastic-plastic and plastic-metal interfaces, but do not use it for metal-metal. Be very careful not to trash the teentsy rubber donut on the cam gear. Properly cleaned and lubed, these machines should run forever, but I sometimes have nagging thoughts about the motors. There's a fix for the BIC "sick motor syndrome," but I'm concerned about accumulated wear on the motor sleeve bearing (there's only one!).

These are no-way audiophile turntables, but I have to confess that I have a real soft spot for them. It's a unique sort of "chewing gum and rubber bands" American design. It's clever, and works better than it has any right to.
Richard Steinfeld

 

RE: BIC 960 Turntable, posted on December 26, 2011 at 13:15:23
Doug G.
Audiophile

Posts: 910
Location: Upper Midwest
Joined: September 21, 2005
I am curious as to why you say they "are no-way audiophile turntables".

If they are quiet and let the music through, I would definitely classify them as audiophile turntables.

I hope you're not just saying that because of their low cost or just because they are automatics.

Or because of some preconceived notion about BIC turntables in general.

Doug

 

RE: BIC 960 Turntable, posted on December 26, 2011 at 16:05:19
Richard Steinfeld
Industry Professional

Posts: 79
Location: San Francisco Bay area
Joined: May 25, 2011
Answering DougG,

Please understand that I am fond of the first generation of BIC changers. How fond? I have one complete 960 machine plus more than one carton of new and used BIC parts. That complete 960 needs servicing, and I've never gotten around to it. I could probably make two more machines just from the parts. I have worked on a number of these machines, as well as the repair-hostile monstrosities that British Industries Corp. replaced them with.

But I also have a few Thori, a Rek-O-Kut, and even a Weathers, Lencos, and three Dual 1019s.

Made by VM, the BIC changers were well-known for workmanship defects. The tolerances were just not to the level of precision of, let's say, the best changers from Dual and ELAC (Miracord). If you want to see how good a changer can really be, let me recommend that you just feel the platter bearing play of a (non-abused) Dual 10nn or a Miracord. Then feel the BIC's bearings, and you'll understand where I'm coming from. Platter bearing quality is audible. Sight across a Miracord's platter for flatness.

So, my remark was simply about its quality as a turntable, compared with other changers that really were capable of audiophile performance in their ordinary build quality.

A BIC's build quality could be critical. The finish of the aluminum strutwork could be so poor that a coarse cam follower could, and did, slice through the plastic pin on the cam gear. When I removed all these parts to clean and relube them, I would file this cam follower smooth so that it would not eat that pin. Otherwise, you could be required to search, like Diogenes, for a new BIC cam gear.

BIC came up with a truly revolutionary motor, and some day, if he's still alive, I'd love to meet the engineer who conceived the thing. It's unique, brilliant, and cost-effective. Pull one apart and you'll marvel. But you'll also see how BIC cheaped out on excellence, by eliminating the bottom bearing. Let me be clear: this motor has only one bearing; even a kiddie phono has more class! That's just unconscionable. And, with all the belt torque pulling against that lonely single bearing, it wears eccentric in normal use (frequent lubrication may help!).

Dual's 10nn-series motors are virtually the best classic motors I've ever seen. They're so finely machined, balanced, and quiet, that I have had to put my fingernail against them just to see if they're actually running! So, here's a case in which the changer's motor is actually better than its manual turntable contemporaries.

So, as you can see, I'm not being a "snooty audiophile," but writing from solid knowledge and workshop experience, comparing the BICs with other, finer changers. My tendency is to be practical about sound reproduction.

Now, here's the good part. Despite what I just wrote, I want to emphasize that it's possible to have a good BIC. The arms, although the headshells are a bit "bendy," are lower in mass and more stable than most Duals and Miracords, so that's a plus. You can tweak them. I don't know what to do about the ratty platter mats; there's probably a decent solution for that. Haven't put my brain to this yet.

I hope that this clears up any misunderstandings.
Richard Steinfeld

 

RE: BIC 960 Turntable, posted on December 27, 2011 at 17:21:25
960 manual


 
I appreciate the thread; it's been helpful.

Although my 960 has the disc size problem, I can probably deal with that based on the info here, but I've got another one.

Regardless of the selector/program setting, when it comes time for the unit to cycle off, it places the tonearm on the record. It will never return it to the support. In general, it behaves as if it's operating properly, but out of phase.

I'd like to fix it, but I'm not sure it's worth taking a chance on messing the unit up. I can live with manual operation (it does pick the arm up at the end of play; it just won't put it in the rest).

Thanks.

 

RE: BIC 960 Turntable, posted on December 28, 2011 at 17:23:45
Doug G.
Audiophile

Posts: 910
Location: Upper Midwest
Joined: September 21, 2005
That is caused by basically the same thing as the arm not landing where it belongs on records.

The two metal cam followers or levers are gummed up and can't move freely.

One of the followers controls whether the arm lands at the 12" position or the 7" position and the other one moves into position at the end to stop the arm at the arm rest.

Doug

 

RE: BIC 960 Turntable, posted on December 28, 2011 at 17:30:10
Doug G.
Audiophile

Posts: 910
Location: Upper Midwest
Joined: September 21, 2005
OK and I think we have discussed BICs before.

One thing, though. I believe the bushing (bearing) in the motor is of sufficient depth that there is enough control of side-to-side thrust to avoid excess wear.

My 980 is 35 years old and there doesn't appear to be any wear in that bushing. I can grab the pulley and it doesn't really wiggle at all.

Doug

 

RE: BIC 960 Turntable, posted on December 28, 2011 at 21:53:42
Richard Steinfeld
Industry Professional

Posts: 79
Location: San Francisco Bay area
Joined: May 25, 2011
You've made a good point, Doug.

And now that you mentioned it, I just remembered that BIC used more than one motor type. In fact, I've seen two, maybe three. So, we may not be talking about the same motor. One style, in particular, seemed to suffer from a slipping rotor, giving a characteristic "sick pitch syndrome" as it slipped on the shaft. This is fixable. The motor must be pried apart.

I don't have enough experience with the other one or two types to be able to comment on them. By the way, a woman once came into my shop with a version of this machine that was a manual player without the changer mechanism. She told me that she'd assembled it as a simple kit. I wish that I could remember more about it, but my mind is blank beyond this. I remember that I liked the thing. I did something to it, and I can't remember what that was, either.
Richard Steinfeld

 

RE: BIC 960 Turntable, posted on December 29, 2011 at 22:34:05
Doug G.
Audiophile

Posts: 910
Location: Upper Midwest
Joined: September 21, 2005
The earlier 960s and 980s had that weird motor setup with the three legs sticking down from the motor and a triangular piece on the end of them. There was what BIC called a stop link mounted on one of the three legs and this supported the lower part of the motor shaft.

This coincided with the original solid platter mat rather than the segmented one. I think it was just the first year of production.

Then they changed to the simplified (and better) arrangement with the lower support just stuck on the bottom of the motor.

Of course, the two models used motors of different voltage since the 980 motor is controlled by the Oscillator on board and is a lower voltage motor than the 960 which runs right off the 110 volt current.

Motors in later models had even more variations what with the VIA and Z series using expandable motor pulleys to vary the speeds and so there was a shaft with the expander on the end which went right through the motor shaft and was pushed up and down by a mechanism.

That manual kit story sounds really strange although I don't doubt you.

BIC did sell a couple of manual tables. I think they were the SP65 and SP85. Z series tables.

Doug.

 

RE: BIC 960 Turntable, posted on December 30, 2011 at 01:02:57
Richard Steinfeld
Industry Professional

Posts: 79
Location: San Francisco Bay area
Joined: May 25, 2011
I like your knowledge of these machines. How do you happen to know them so well?

As I wrote, the kit machine walked in in the hands of a woman customer who said that she'd put it together. It was a 900-type design, not one of the late models that were difficult to service. I'm in California, and the customer said that she'd bought it at the other end of the US; I recall her saying "Boston." This was 25 years ago, and memory is a little dim. Now, you're getting me interested in turning out one of these machines to work nicely. I know where I can get my hands on a 980 (scheme, plot). But a Rek-O-Kut, this ain't.

By the way, I never had to replace a belt in one of these. I've seen black belts, but mostly reddish-brown silicon rubber that's been vary stable. The presence of replacement belts in the old belt catalogs indicates that some poeple's belts had been dying. Sure enough, a friend of mine n the hot deep American south reported that in his region, the BIC belts self-destructed. I'm in the San Francisco Bay Area, with a more temperate climage, and this difference in ambient temperature may explain our different experiences with the same belts.
Richard Steinfeld

 

RE: BIC 960 Turntable, posted on December 30, 2011 at 01:07:01
Richard Steinfeld
Industry Professional

Posts: 79
Location: San Francisco Bay area
Joined: May 25, 2011
Anyone got an idea about how to substitute for the tiny rubber friction ring on the cam gear? I recall that this rubber sometimes deteriorated.
Richard Steinfeld

 

RE: BIC 960 Turntable, posted on December 30, 2011 at 05:28:22
Doug G.
Audiophile

Posts: 910
Location: Upper Midwest
Joined: September 21, 2005
Thnaks you for your kind words and I apologize for my rather rude tone in my first response.

Anyway, I have just always liked the original 900 series and have had a 980 since 1976 and have bought several other models in the intervening years through eBay. I have also acquired most all of the service manuals and have read them several times. And, I guess taking them apart many times helps too.

The 1000 is even more incredible.

It really isn't out of the realm of possibilities that some company got BIC to supply them with parts to make up a turntable kit. Of course, maybe that lady's idea of a kit was installing the headshell and spindle. \:^)

The original orange belts are excellent. My original one from my 980 is still in use in a 60Z I bought as the belt in that had been shredded by the variable diameter motor pulley coming apart. I had put a new belt in the 980 as the original had stretched a bit but I really would not have had to.

They are made of some compound other than rubber, silicone as you suggested or some other polymer.

I live in Minnesota and it's anything but temperate. \:^)

Doug

 

RE: BIC 960 Turntable, posted on December 30, 2011 at 05:33:27
Doug G.
Audiophile

Posts: 910
Location: Upper Midwest
Joined: September 21, 2005
There have been a couple of guys on the Audio Karma site who have substituted little neoprene o-rings from a hardware store and have reported they work well.

I have never had to replace one as I have never run into a bad one. Just oily. Others have said they have seen hardened ones, though.

Doug

 

RE: BIC 960 Turntable, posted on December 30, 2011 at 05:58:42
Nadguy
Audiophile

Posts: 63
Location: S.E. Michigan
Joined: April 16, 2005
Richard: I am impressed with all of you guys and your knowledge of the BIC's. I am still quite a novice about these things so excuse my ignorance but how do you lubricate the bearing in the motor--do you need to tear it apart or do you just put a drop of light oil( what kind?) on the motor shaft? Thanks.

 

RE: BIC 960 Turntable, posted on December 30, 2011 at 06:27:49
Richard Steinfeld
Industry Professional

Posts: 79
Location: San Francisco Bay area
Joined: May 25, 2011
It's been a long time since I've done this, so memory is a little dim. You have to come in between the pulley and the bushing with oil on a toothpick or something even thinner. Don't overdo it because excess oil will seep down the motor shaft and may loosen the cup magnet, which will then slip intermittently on the shaft. It may be easier if you remove the pulley with an allen wrench.

This defect is maddening because the motor may seem fine until it warms up. The slipping magnet is an endemic failure on many BICs, and it can be repaired.

I can't recall what oil I used to use. I favor synthetics for staying in place longer than natural oils. The bottom of the motor shaft just sits on a leaf spring: there's no lower bearing, so the fact that the motor is semi-sealed is not critical as it is in the sealed motors of hundreds of Japanese cassette decks. If I have the motor apart to fix the slipping cup magnet, I'll give the bottom a clean and spot of new oil.
Richard Steinfeld

 

RE: BIC 960 Turntable, posted on December 30, 2011 at 17:22:38
960 manual


 
I've done some work, and the tone arm and levers now appear to be working correctly to some extent. In the manual mode, the speed, set down, pickup and shut off all function correctly, as far as I can tell.

However, in any automatic or multiple play operation [and with either spindle], something is going wrong as the last record begins.

For example, with the tonearm in the support, if you select '1' and press play, the stylus is positioned above the record as the indicator moves to 'manual', but as the tonearm is lowered, the indicator moves down to the bottom of the range, and the machine shuts off with the stylus on the record.

I can't tell for sure what the cause is, and all help is greatly appreciated.

 

RE: BIC 960 Turntable, posted on January 2, 2012 at 13:39:29
Doug G.
Audiophile

Posts: 910
Location: Upper Midwest
Joined: September 21, 2005
The way that works is the plastic pins that stick down from the big red cam operate the programing cam (which is also red plastic and has the teeth on it.

As the cycle is occurring, the programing cam gets pushed over and the programing extension (the metal rod from the program control - this is beginning to sound more and more like Monty Python \:^) moves one notch down in the metal base plate. The spring pulls it down one when the red programing cam tooth moves out of the way.

What SHOULD happen on the last record is the arm should move to the record edge first and then the control should then move to "MAN"

There was a production error with some of the big red cams. There should be two pins sticking down but they made some of them with three pins and that can cause the problem you're having because the third pin pushes the programing cam over an extra time and the program extension can then move down an extra notch each cycle.

Look to see how many pins are on your cam and get back to us.

Doug

 

RE: BIC 960 Turntable, posted on January 19, 2012 at 14:51:33
960 manual


 
Sorry for the delay, Doug.

The unit was purchased new and had a three-pin cam gear. Basically, it worked fine until the original drive belt [orange?] broke a long time ago.

At some point, I got a replacement belt, but I didn't realize the one I had been given was incorrect, and it wouldn't change speed. I thought something else was wrong, and the unit didn't get used much, so the changer mechanism got gummed up. Recently, I realized I'd been given the wrong belt, got a correctly-sized one and started trying to clean the unit up.

Sometime prior to your above post, I discovered the program rod was getting kicked out of the 'manual' position, but I wasn't sure why.

In the past, the unit had locked up several times and been forced free, and the rod looked bent. When I supported it manually, the assembly worked correctly, but I was unable to find a way to rig a permanent support that didn't interfere with the rest of the mechanism.

I thought I'd try to straighten the rod, but while I was doing that, either the turntable slipped, the gear turned or the levers flopped, and one of the pins was sheared off. So I had two-pin gear, but apparently the wrong two pins.

I've got a replacement cam gear (the two-pin type), and, at some point, I'm going to attempt to switch the trip pawl assembly from the original gear, install the new gear and try to make it work.

However, I have no idea what the fundamental cause is/was, and it still works manually, so I'm not overjoyed at the prospect. I've also got a bit of a rumble issue (one per rotation) that needs to be sorted out, so I'd like to do that at the same time. It may be related to the missing O-ring, collateral damage or something else entirely. I haven't got that far.

A brief aside- what is the right oil for the lever mechanism? I've used some 3-in-1 oil, I doubt it's optimal.

I sincerely appreciate the help.

 

RE: BIC 960 Turntable, posted on February 6, 2014 at 09:25:12
ellaudio
Dealer

Posts: 1
Joined: February 6, 2014
Doug is right. If your BIC sets the arm on the record and then shuts off after the last playing you must comepletely disasemble and clean and lubricate the post with the levers and red plastic sensor plate. Reassemble and you will have cured the problem. Dennis

 

RE: BIC 960 Turntable, posted on April 15, 2014 at 11:03:40
Posts: 6
Joined: April 15, 2014
You all seem so knowledgable maybe you can help me.
I have a BIC SP-65, Series Z, Serial number 551963-673-4979 changer. I removed the snap ring from the center of the turntable but I can't pull it off no matter how hard I try! I sprayed some WD 40 in the area but no help! Am I missing something or is there another way to get into the guts of the machine so I can free everything up, possibly change the belt, etc.

Thanks,

Harris

 

RE: BIC 960 Turntable, posted on April 21, 2014 at 15:48:16
Posts: 6
Joined: April 15, 2014
Can you tell me how to completely disassemble the BIC SP-65, Series Z, Serial number 551963-673-4979 which I assume is basically the same as the 960 in that regard. I need to get in there to fix a problem of the arm setting down at 7" rather than 12". I just don't know what to do to get into that area.

Thanks.

Harris

 

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