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Thread: Acoustic Research XA

  1. #1
    Join Date: Jan 2009

    Location: Medmenham, Bucks.

    Posts: 399
    I'm MYLES.

    Default Acoustic Research XA

    I have just bought an AR-XA turntable on ebay, which needs a little bit of cosmetic work. Im not necessarily concerned about that, but anyone that knows this TT knows that it needs the original headshell only, due to the connection between it and the arm. They will also be aware that the thread can go, which makes the head loose in the tonearm, rendering it useless. Mine has this problem. I plan to give it a service, overhaul, perhaps change the springs, and a new cart. Does anyone have any tips on working with the XA, especially the headshell?

  2. #2
    Join Date: May 2008

    Location: Lancaster(-ish), UK

    Posts: 16,962
    I'm ChrisB.

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    Hi Myles,

    I'm sorry but I can't say I have any particular wisdom to give you on the headshell.
    What I do know is that you've snagged yourself an absolute classic (in the true sense of the word) turntable. I've played about with a couple of these quite a bit and there are an awful lot of people who've made an awful lot of money by selling their take on the old AR.

    The Grados are a particularly good match for the original AR arm - if you can overcome hum with the careful earthing that George Merrill suggested.

    The usual trick is to get yerself a new subchassis that'll allow you to stick a different arm on it, or saw off the old tonearm bearing housing & drilling it out so you can mount a new one - then add some damping to it. Next, sort out a 1/2 decent power supply. Match the sub-chassis springs to the weight of your arm and try out some different materials for arm boards.

    Cosmetically, you usually need to remove the horrendous 'mock flock' finish on the top plate. .....Oh, and a decent clamp / weight does a fair bit of good.

    I found out most of this stuff by a combination of mistakes / fumbling / trial & error and talking to folk! But nowadays, there's plenty on the web about them - you may even find a few odd photos of my old mod jobs!

    This turntable can be taken a looooooooong way into the high end with more torquey motors different platters etc.

    It will take a very exotic arm & cartridge combination.

    http://www.vinylnirvana.com/ar_models_xa.shtml

    Pay special interest to the pdf's about George Merril's mod's.

    Also, this month's HiFi News has an article by Ken Kessler about this very TT, one that he has great respec for, both historically & as a piece of audio gear per se.

    I also had, for a long time, the resurrected version of this TT, eventually ending up with it mounted with the Zeta arm I still use & a Koetsu Black - it made a very credible combination.
    Last edited by The Grand Wazoo; 13-04-2009 at 10:51.

  3. #3
    Join Date: Jan 2009

    Location: Medmenham, Bucks.

    Posts: 399
    I'm MYLES.

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    Many thanks, a lot to digest there!

  4. #4
    Join Date: May 2008

    Location: Lancaster(-ish), UK

    Posts: 16,962
    I'm ChrisB.

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    No problem. Let us all know how you get on with the daddy of the sprung chassis belt drives!

    Anything else I can help with, just give us a yell - I'll see what I can do.
    Also...........there may be well be more to come from others - I can't believe with the breadth & depth of the combined knowledge of the folks on here, that I have the sum total of experience with this turntable!

    Just don't let the folks with the Scottish, Japanese or cuckoo clock turntables tell you that you've invested in a piece of junk & that their way is the best!! There is no best - just the best for you.

  5. #5
    Join Date: Jan 2008

    Location: Wrexham, North Wales, UK

    Posts: 100,184
    I'm AudioAl'sArbiterForPISHANTO.

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    No chance of that, Chris. The AR is 'proper'.

    I'd rather have one of those any day before the fruitbox copy!

    Got any pics, Myles? We wanna see some pron

    Marco.
    "Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears” - John Lennon.

    "When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace" - Jimi Hendrix.

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  6. #6
    Join Date: May 2008

    Location: Lancaster(-ish), UK

    Posts: 16,962
    I'm ChrisB.

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    Myles,

    Which version is it?
    Do you know how to tell?

    The very first ones had two motors. A main motor to drive the platter, & a 'donkey motor' intended to start up the main one in the right direction. If you remove the platter, you can see the smaller drive pulley offset from the main one, connected by a belt.

    The most obvious differences between later versions were mainly in the plinth.
    The originals had beautiful solid American walnut. From there, it went to ply with walnut veneer - chipboard with walnut veneer - chipboard with vinyl veneer.

    Under the bonnet, the older ones had substantial webbing running up and down the 'wings' of the sub-chassis.



  7. #7
    Join Date: May 2008

    Location: Lancaster(-ish), UK

    Posts: 16,962
    I'm ChrisB.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marco View Post
    No chance of that, Chris. The AR is 'proper'.

    I'd rather have one of those any day before the fruitbox copy!

    Marco.
    It's great to see how so much could be made so fundamentally correct on a product designed to be cheap enough to be affordable to the masses.

    I guess this is a hallmark of a true classic - VW Beetle, Fender Telecaster, Zippo lighter, Remington 700 rifle.............

  8. #8
    Join Date: May 2008

    Location: A Strangely Isolated Place in Suffolk with far away trains passing by...

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    I'm David.

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    I came along to serious audio in 1973, many years into the AR XB's lifetime.

    The arm isn't anything like as bad as you'd think and a box style headshell is just right for low mass and reasonable rigidity too I think.

    Look on the vinylnirvana/ar_models website for details on AR decks and their mods... You may be able to get a headshell from one of these people. They have pdf's of the instruction manuals too.

    The best cartridges for one of these decks in the mid-seventies were the ADC XLM II which sounded lovely and the Shure M91ED, which was better to me for some reason than the 75ED which is supposedly mechanically identical.

    Today, an Ortofon OM series cartridge would be worth looking at, along with the AT120E I think and possibly the Shure M97XE. As the only bias correction is composed of horizontal bearing friction coupled with careful cable dressing, you can't use too low a compliance artridge needing up to 2g playing weight. Something medium to high compliance tracking at a gramme and a quarter would be ideal.
    Tear down these walls; Cut the ties that held me
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  9. #9
    Join Date: Jan 2009

    Location: Medmenham, Bucks.

    Posts: 399
    I'm MYLES.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marco View Post
    No chance of that, Chris. The AR is 'proper'.

    I'd rather have one of those any day before the fruitbox copy!

    Got any pics, Myles? We wanna see some pron

    Marco.
    I am waiting on delivery, damn Easter and all that it stands for! Here is the link for the auction though.......may not be as prono as you hoped!
    http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.d...m=120393431568
    I also got a few spares with it! Spare arm, spindle, motor, and AR badge!

  10. #10
    Join Date: Jan 2009

    Location: Medmenham, Bucks.

    Posts: 399
    I'm MYLES.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by The Grand Wazoo View Post
    Myles,

    Which version is it?
    Do you know how to tell?

    The very first ones had two motors. A main motor to drive the platter, & a 'donkey motor' intended to start up the main one in the right direction. If you remove the platter, you can see the smaller drive pulley offset from the main one, connected by a belt.

    The most obvious differences between later versions were mainly in the plinth.
    The originals had beautiful solid American walnut. From there, it went to ply with walnut veneer - chipboard with walnut veneer - chipboard with vinyl veneer.

    Under the bonnet, the older ones had substantial webbing running up and down the 'wings' of the sub-chassis.


    Chris, the link on the post above has a couple of pics, you may be able to enlighten me! It looks like a walnut veneer to me, and Im sure its not old enough for the double motor setup.

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