The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
 Search This Thread  Search This Forum  Search Reviews  Search Gear Database  Search Gear for sale  Search Gearslutz Go Advanced
my "new" lathe - a Fairchild 523! Acoustic Panels
Old 17th December 2010
  #1
Lives for gear
 
Cellotron's Avatar
 

Verified Member
my "new" lathe - a Fairchild 523!

Holiday Greetings Gearslutz!

So - ever since getting to cut vinyl master sides until 5 years ago at the now closed Europadisk I've been wanting to get a lathe again as I really missed getting to do this. After lurking for a few years on various systems for sale (most that were out of my budget - such as the complete systems being offered by Al Grundy - due to the fact that I refuse to ever go in debt to get audio gear) back in mid October I found a Fairchild 523 lathe on ebay and successfully won the auction.



I have never seen another one like this - but it's a precursor to their more commonly known Fairchild 740. It's definitely not as capable as a Neumann or the later Scully's - but it's super hefty (in fact looks based on pics to be a good bit heftier than the 740) and has a number of "pro" features such as vacuum lock down on the platter, continuously variable manual pitch (with a full range of 80 - 500lpi via a single feed screw), chip pickup, 16" platter, 3 speed, inside/out and outside/in capable, built in Spencer microscope, and what looks to me like a decently designed overhead carriage system.

Thanks to Oliver Read's excellent book "The Recording and Reproduction of Sound" (available for download as a pdf - along with tons of other great stuff at - Technical books online ) - which includes a good bit of easily understandable intro on disk recording - I was able to find a few pages of info on my lathe:

http://www.totalsonic.net/fairchild/fairchild523.pdf

Introduced in 1952 - although since mine is 3 speed (and not just 2 speed as described in this article) as well as its higher serial number (#141) I believe this was likely made a few years after this.

I finally took a road trip this past weekend courtesy of my friend Keith who has a mini-van and was extremely generous to help me drive up to Windsor Ontario and bring the lathe back to Brooklyn.

It turns out that the previous owner was Richie Hawtin! (famous among ravers and electronic dance music enthusiasts for his 90's minimalist techno - and more recently for his productions as "Plastikman" - and in fact featured on the cover of this months' EM) - who was using it to cut dub plates for his own DJ sets. Richard has been living in Berlin and touring most of the time - so he stopped using this lathe to make dubplates about 6 years ago, and just had it in storage at his Dad's place in Windsor. His Dad wanted the work shop space back (Richie keeps collecting 80's era arcade games that take up space as well - saw a vintage Pac Man there) and Richie initially told him to "just scrap it." Luckily for me his Dad bothered with putting it up for auction instead!

The drive back home was slightly adventurous in that we got hit with a snow storm in Ohio & Michigan - but luckily my friend grew up in Syracuse NY so was used to driving in this stuff. We made stops in Cleveland the way there and in Clarion PA on the way back - with whiskey and pub& diner food to warm us up at these pit stops. Unfortunately because of the weather we decided to let discretion rule over tourism so didn't get to make a planned stop at the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame - but guess I can do this next time I'm ever up there.

The movers got it up the 2 flights of stairs (the building my studio is in was built circa 1900 and has no elevator) without incident except for a scratch on one of the wooden cases sides (not really a big deal as I figure I'm going to eventually repaint it back to something like the original black anyway).

Plugged it in and did a few basic tests a couple days ago. All 3 speeds of the turntable motor are working, motor is reasonably quiet, pitch control and carriage control is working, even the lamps on the microscope and controls are all good.
Turns out this lathe is truly continuously variable pitch (instead of discrete steps that I worried it would be) - so theoretically it could be converted to automatic pitch (although probably really difficult to do - we'll see).
It came with the chip jar and all the hoses to hook this up and for the platter lock down to the vacuum as well - and doing a quick test this with just my regular vacuum cleaner all the connections seemed to work ok. So just need to get a decent vacuum for this (any suggestions on one - especially one that runs relatively quiet - is appreciated!).

This thing has awesome torque too - it kicks in to full speed after about a second - no need to give it a push like you do on the older Neumann's - and you can push your hand hard against it and didn't seem to slow down.

Next up is that I need to add a tonearm and do some tests for wow, flutter, speed accuracy and rumble. Right now the best bang for buck solution I think I've found are the new Rek-O-Kut Transcribe arms for just under $600 - Tonearms, headshells, headshell wires, headshell clips (although for $150 more I can get their S-260 MK II arm which includes fluid damping - which should make it able to play more difficult passages as well as minimize high freq resonances more - but don't know whether this is actually desirable on a tone arm which I will likely be checking cuts on more than using for archival transcriptions). If anyone has a tone arm that will work well with the 16" platter that they'll let go for less than this please contact me though!

After that the to next things on the to do list is: most likely building an isolation platform (to completely minimize rumble going to the platter from the floor) and also a vacuum for the platter lock down and chip pickup.

Following that I need to decide on whether to source a Gotham amp to work with the Grampian B1/AGU mono cutter head that is already mounted on this so that I can just get started cutting (which I'm kind of leaning towards right now) -
or to possibly delay this and put this cash instead towards sourcing a stereo head / suspension & mount / and either dedicated stereo cutter amps or just a front end of an RIAA encoder/meters/feedback controller/etc. that I can use with my own stereo amp (i.e. I have a 200 wpc Rotel RB1080 relatively clean solid state power amp just sitting around not being really used at the moment that I could possibly use towards this to get started).

Right now possible options for conversion to stereo cutter head are:
* have Len Horowitz at History of Recorded Sound source and restore a Westrex 3D (or if he can locate one - a Haeco SC-2 which might be better for this lathe as the housing is smaller) back to original specs - quoted rate was $2100. I'm leaning towards this in that these are known to be robust and Len is easily accessible if I ever need repairs - but I'm worried with its weight and size that it wouldn't fit on the lathe without serious modifications - and that it might be too heavy for the bearings on the suspension to not end up being worn down really quick.
* try and find an Ortofon DSS 821 or 732. The weight and size of this cutter would probably make it a good bit easier to mount. The 821 would be way preferable as it specs out to being able to handle higher levels than all the other Ortofons - but I still have seen lots of posts that it still is fairly delicate and prone to getting blown out easier than the other cutter heads - and the only one I know of rewinding these is Etec in Denmark - Ortofon cutterhead service and repair. Bass limiter for protection of cutterheads. Ortofon vintage gear. - which I've heard is fairly expensive in their services. I know there is one for sale currently - but they're kind of asking crazy money for this - so if I go this route it would have to be for cheaper than their asking of 8k euro!
* go with a Vinylium SC-99 with a VC-200 - welcome to vinylium gmbh switzerland - which I was quoted at around $6900 - which might mount easier than the Westrex (although again still require me getting a custom mount made).
* wait for Flo Kaufman - flo kaufmann - bricolage universel - goldgasse 3 - 4500 - to introduce his upcoming "Caruso" head - which at last I was quoted $1500 introductory price (including a PCB for the RIAA encoder/feedback controller that I'd have to build into my own chassis) is the least expensive rout - which is supposedly coming out this Spring - but at this point this is still "vaporware" and is unproven in terms of its actual sound quality.

(side note: I'm not considering a Neumann cutter head because the suspension box takes up such a big space which would make mounting extremely difficult - and because of the usual expense with these)

Any thoughts on which rout to take or if anyone has any of these items for sale are welcome. Also - any documentation on the Grampian B1 and the Fairchild 523 are also very welcome!!

Folks can pm me directly at steve at totalsonic dot net

& finally some more pics below for your perusal:











Best regards,
Steve Berson
Old 17th December 2010
  #2
Gear Maniac
 
voodoovox's Avatar
 

awesome thumbsup

Didn't Richie Hawtin help develop the final scratch system? I wonder why he held on to this beauty for so long...
Old 18th December 2010
  #3
Lives for gear
 
Cellotron's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Quote:
Originally Posted by voodoovox View Post
awesome thumbsup

Didn't Richie Hawtin help develop the final scratch system?
I believe he did. He's also helped to develop a hardware controller for Ableton Live.

Quote:
I wonder why he held on to this beauty for so long...
He put it into storage 6 years ago. I think he just never bothered to try and sell it while he was spending most of his time in Europe and touring - until his father bugged him that maybe it would be better to have the space and the cash rather than it just sitting around.

Best regards,
Steve Berson
Old 18th December 2010
  #4
Lives for gear
 
beingmf's Avatar
 

Beautiful, Steve! Congratulations! And keep us updated please!
Old 18th December 2010
  #5
Gear Addict
 

The pictures look really cool! Everyone's jealous, I'll bet.

But where do you plug the mouse in?

I will get one too, if they do 192kHz.

What kind of dither options does it have?

You know, I always liked Fairlight, and I didn't even know they made one like that.

congrats!
Old 18th December 2010
  #6
Lives for gear
 
taturana's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Wow.... i like that very much ...
Old 18th December 2010
  #7
Lives for gear
 
Cellotron's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Quote:
Originally Posted by editronmaximon View Post
The pictures look really cool! Everyone's jealous, I'll bet.
Well considering there's a number of posters here who get to regularly work on VMS-70's and 80's I'm sure the jealousy is not as big as you might imagine. But for me it's super fun to finally have a lathe of my own even if it's not as cool as the ones the "big kids" have got!

For longer sides this lathe will definitely not be the best option - but for things like 7" singles (which is the bulk of what I get inquiries for these days) I think it will do just fine.

Quote:
I will get one too, if they do 192kHz.
Well the current cutter head on it can't even do more than 15kHz (in glorious mono at that). So I guess you're out of luck.

Quote:
What kind of dither options does it have?
surface noise - or more surface noise!

Quote:
You know, I always liked Fairlight, and I didn't even know they made one like that.
An original CMI would actually probably be way more of an obsolete boat anchor than this actually! heh

Quote:
congrats!
thanks!

Best regards,
Steve Berson
Old 18th December 2010
  #8
Registered User
 
Rick Sutton's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Steve,
Looks like great fun!
Curious as to what the cabinet is made out of. I had a similar but somewhat simpler, Fairchild back around 1972 (I used it to cut low-fi jug band records!) and I was told when I got it that it was from the 1940's. Anyway your lathe's cabinet looks like a very close cousin to the one I had but mine was made of wood......very heavy wood! So being the 70's of course we refinished it to look like furniture!
It sure had an "Old Timey" sound to it and it was a lot of fun. Oh yeah, mine came as a "kit" due to some very rough motor freight shipping from Georgia to California. Luckily the lathe parts were in decent shape but the electronics including a McIntosh MI-75 amp were in pieces.
I still know where the lathe is and may find the model number some day just for fun.
Old 18th December 2010
  #9
Lives for gear
 
Cellotron's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick Sutton View Post
Steve,
Looks like great fun!
Curious as to what the cabinet is made out of. I had a similar but somewhat simpler, Fairchild back around 1972 (I used it to cut low-fi jug band records!) and I was told when I got it that it was from the 1940's. Anyway the cabinet looks like a very close cousin to the one I had but mine was made of wood......very heavy wood! So being the 70's of course we refinished it to look like furniture!
It sure had an "Old Timey" sound to it and it was a lot of fun. Oh yeah, mine came as a "kit" due to some very rough motor freight shipping from Georgia to California. Luckily the lathe parts were in decent shape but the electronics including a McIntosh MI-75 amp were in pieces.
I still know where the lathe is and may find the model number some day just for fun.
Yup - the cabinet is very heavy wood - the lathe table itself is metal.

If your lathe was a "portable" one (similar to the Presto 6N) it most likely was a Fairchild 539.

The cabinet is painted battle ship gray right now (looks like this was done somewhere down the line to cover the original paint) but I was thinking of maybe having a faux finisher make it look like green marble or something similar. But having it refinished to look like furniture might be fun as well. Come to think of it if I could get it done in a cherry stain that matches my B&W N802's would be awesome - but all of this aesthetic stuff will likely be a good bit down the line after I get the more important steps of getting it all working first happening.

Best regards,
Steve Berson
Old 18th December 2010
  #10
Registered User
 
Rick Sutton's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cellotron View Post
If your lathe was a "portable" one (similar to the Presto 6N) it most likely was a Fairchild 539.
Portable maybe for a couple of Eastern Bloc weight lifters!
I found a pdf of a radio yearbook from 1948 that has a Fairchild ad about 12 pages down. It shows the full cabinet which I had (and probably the same as yours). Your top plate just looks to be more sophisticated than the one I had but it was almost 40 years ago so I may be remembering incorrectly.
Anyway, this is pretty interesting.
http://www.davidgleason.com/Archive%...k%201948-6.pdf

edit: now that I look back at the pdf in your original post the 523 seems to be what I had. I'm pretty sure I had the stock 541 cutterhead shown in the ad.
Old 18th December 2010
  #11
Lives for gear
 
Cellotron's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick Sutton View Post
Portable maybe for a couple of Eastern Bloc weight lifters!
I found a pdf of a radio yearbook from 1948 that has a Fairchild ad about 12 pages down. It shows the full cabinet which I had (and probably the same as yours). Your top plate just looks to be more sophisticated than the one I had but it was almost 40 years ago so I may be remembering incorrectly.
Anyway, this is pretty interesting.
http://www.davidgleason.com/Archive%...k%201948-6.pdf

edit: now that I look back at the pdf in your original post the 523 seems to be what I had. I'm pretty sure I had the stock 541 cutterhead shown in the ad.
Cool! I've actually found a few other former owners of these 523's - unfortunately no one seems to have documentation for it beyond the couple of pages I've found. The 541 was limited to about 8kHz on its top end - so kind of explains the "old timey" sound you got cutting with it!

Best regards,
Steve Berson
Old 18th December 2010
  #12
Registered User
 
Rick Sutton's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cellotron View Post
Cool! I've actually found a few other former owners of these 523's - unfortunately no one seems to have documentation for it beyond the couple of pages I've found. The 541 was limited to about 8kHz on its top end - so kind of explains the "old timey" sound you got cutting with it!

Best regards,
Steve Berson
Yeah, this thread brings back a lot of fun memories for me. The 541 was definitely the limiting factor on my lathe. 8K on a good day, more like 4-5k in my grubby hands,,,,,,but hey, it sounded waaaay coooool to us stoned "roots" musicians!. I took the lathe on pretty much as a learning process in my early days. I was so green then that I would pretty much plunge into anything and figure I'd either find a way or find someone who could figure things out for me. Too young to know fear or realize how little I actually knew! Sometimes it would work out, sometimes it was .....well, a learning experience!
Post Reply

Welcome to the Gearslutz Pro Audio Community!

Registration benefits include:
  • The ability to reply to and create new discussions
  • Access to members-only giveaways & competitions
  • Interact with VIP industry experts in our guest Q&As
  • Access to members-only sub forum discussions
  • Access to members-only Chat Room
  • Get INSTANT ACCESS to the world's best private pro audio Classifieds for only USD $20/year
  • Promote your eBay auctions and Reverb.com listings for free
  • Remove this message!
You need an account to post a reply. Create a username and password below and an account will be created and your post entered.


 
 
Slide to join now Processing…
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Similar Threads
Thread
Thread Starter / Forum
Replies
outoftune / Gearslutz Secondhand Gear Classifieds
2
toneguru / Gearslutz Secondhand Gear Classifieds
3

Forum Jump
Forum Jump