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Just wanted to share...
I recently pulled an AR XA out of storage and got it going - it was a thrift find from a few years back, and it needed some TLC. I had put it aside, as I was already using a Philips 312 (with a Shure M97xe), and I was content with it for a looooong time. I was curious about the XA, so I decided to give it a go.
So, I did some basic maintenance, got a belt, new cart (AT95E), and I commandeered a "new" armrest from another thrift table.
All I can say is... WOW. I wish I knew what I had been missing. The Philips was a good table, but this one is definitely a step up, even though it is not the most user-friendly table out there - and sure isn't pretty.
Photo in the link:
Shot a pic in better light.
There are a couple of fellows who perform some nice updates for the XA. Marc Morin or Steve Frost. Of course George Merrill made a career of doing this also.
I enjoy my Marc Morin updated XA. I added an Ortofon Hi Jack to it so I did not have to hand cue. It is a remarkable table for what I have wrapped up into it.
I love my XA. Bought it in 1985 modified with a Sumiko MMT arm. Currently running on a mid 80's Grado Sig8 and a current production MCZ stylus. Other than the lack of an auto lift I have never felt the need to change it. I know there are better decks out there but I love the simplicity of it and it has provided music to my ears for over 30 years so... :-)
It's tonearms that introduce more or less complexity to the tasks of set-up and play. The AR-XA tonearm is very simple indeed, but at the price of very little adjustability. As I recall, no VTA, AS, or Azimuth adjustments. (But it was my first "hi-fi" turntable back in the 70s.)
For about 25 years I have been listening to an XA I picked up at an estate sale for $5. It was cosmetically perfect and complete with dust cover and manuals. It had an arm wiring problem that led to an early and careful retirement.
Over the years I have replaced cartridges (currently a Shure V15Vx/Jico SAS) and experimented with platter mats. I alternate two carefully maintained original belts.
At times I read a turntable review and think, well, maybe for about $1500 - $2000...
Then I play a record, enjoy the music and leave the money in the bank.
You're absolutely right, but on the used market that $1500-$2000 can easily be bettered for about $350 often with a cartridge worth the asking price if patient.
...but concerns with condition, shipping, etc. complicate a used turntable search beyond what is reasonable in my position.
I know it is not very audiophilic of me, but I am quite happy listening to what I have.
The AR XA is a great table, no apologies needed, as mentioned it was my main deck for more than twenty yrs, even over my Thorens. It would take serious green to surpass on the new market, and with modifications even harder to beat.
That said, as for worries about shipping, I've purchased four decks on eBay in the past couple of yrs and all were fully functional, and survived the trip to me intact. If not Ebay's buyer protection plan covers anything that could go wrong so what's to worry.
That was my first suspended belt drive turntable. It beat the pants off of my Denon direct drive. Until then I didn't know that here was sound stage and separation of instruments.. You've got a good one....
I've been selling a few TT from my collection. They needed TLC and i didn't ask too much for them. haven't got the time and the energy anymore to work on them.
I found a Thorens TD160, dirty and dusty. Took it downstairs. The motor shaft had a wobble, bent axle. A few drops of oil and the motor was running OK. Cleaned the main bearing, new oil. Set it up quickly with an Ortofon Super OM 10. Hooked it up to my main stereo.
I was suprised in a positive way. Nice wide and deep stereo image. Nice relaxed presentation. They really asking silly prices these days for cleaned up Thorens TT. But they do play nice.
Then i played the same jazz record on the Thorens, and on my Sony PS-2250 DD TT. Suddenly i could hear WHAT the bass player was playing. Timing, details all the way down to the bottom register. That's the weak point of Thorens IMHO. For pop, rock, jazz i stick to DD or idler wheel drive (Lenco). Thorens is great for classical though.
"The torture never stops"
The little TT that could was my main table for a couple of decades, it deserves more than a $50 cartridge.
Agreed on the cart - I didn't want to spend much just to get it up and running, as I wasn't even sure if I wanted to keep it.
Do you recommend anything in particular?
Many great choices out there, and if you ask, just as many recommendations. That said, I liked it a lot with my NOS Pickering XV15 1200E/D1200, but it really sounded nice with my Grado Platinum wood body. Never tried my Grado Blue/8MZ combo but I'm sure it would have been better than the AT95E. I'm not knocking the AT cart, I have one, it punches way above its asking price, but the extra Benjamins for the Grados better get you something extra.
Do you have any hum issues with the Grado and the XA?
The AR now belongs to my son. The Grado wood body was taken out by the maidinator before I gave the table to my son, but no I never had an issue with any hum.
I did eventually change the arm, not a botique arm but definitely an improvement over the stock arm, and now with the ability to set VTA. The change was made still allowing the original arm to be reinstalled if desired.
Now, take it apart, clean up the wooden base, strip and re-paint the metal plinth, and she'll be good to go for 30-40 more years. A fun table that responds well to tweaks and just keeps on goin'!
Just chuck the spindle in your electric drill and spin that platter against 0000 steel wool dripping with Mineral Spirits then Never Dull.
I refurbed this one from an Ebay beater out of nostalgia back in 2002.
The AR XA was my first real turntable after my Magnavox portable record player. I bought the AR XA just after returning from Vietnam in December 1970. It was a very simple machine but it sounded quite nice. Unfortunately, I couldn't mount a different tonearm without significant modification so I upgraded to a Thorens TD-125 in 1971 so I could mount the SME 3009 Series II tonearm that I'd purchased through Pacific Mail Order System while in Vietnam. I suppose I had the AR XA for about 6-months to a year before buying the Thorens TD-125. I was 22-years old.
Good luck with your AR XA.
think how happy you will be with a SOTA Sapphire. mine is old enough to be considered vintage.
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