The Agnew Analog Reference Instrument Type 631 is a high performance direct drive motor, designed for professional disk mastering lathes and turntables. It is usually positioned on the floor under the lathe or turntable, driving the platter directly by means of a long driveshaft, similar to the drive system of the Neumann VMS-70 and several other professional disk mastering systems.
For many long years, J. I. Agnew has been examining, adjusting, repairing and replacing bearing systems of all kinds, from disk recording lathes and turntables to tape machines, high precision machine tools, measurement instruments, industrial equipment and all manners of motor vehicles, from passenger cars to heavy trucks. Over the past few years, he has designed and machined countless bearing units to replace worn or damaged units on a diverse range of disk recording lathes and machine tools. Valuable experience was gained, which along with his solid engineering background, was put to good use in improving his designs further and further, up until the current stage of development was reached.
The Fairchild line of disk recording lathes, first appearing in the early 1930’s, featured a General Electric hysteresis synchronous AC motor, running at high speed, with a worm and gear reduction to drive the platter. While this system in its various permutations in their different models was impressively well made and performed well for its time (see here for a more detailed description and pictures), a direct-drive system with a floor mounted motor is clearly the way to go if the highest level of performance is to be attained.
This Audax cutter head arrived with a fried coil and a completely crusted armature. The damping material had not aged well.
A complete disassembly, cleanup and reassembly would be required, with the renewal of the damping material and drive coil. This was yet another perfect candidate for our feedback modification.
Neumann cutter heads have a rib along the back, for mounting. Presto lathes, on the other hand, together with the vast majority of non-Neumann vintage lathes (Rek-O-Kut, Fairchild, etc.), have a mount with two slots, for cutter heads with two threaded holes on the back (Audax, Presto, Fairchild, RCA, etc).
The second issue was that the original stylus fitting was broken.
We recently had the pleasure of having Symatic over, from Bristol, UK, for a week of training on how to cut (and how not to cut) records.
Symatic runs Cut & Paste Records, a record label attracting some serious attention among skratchers, with high quality releases of skipless skratch samples, lock-groove tones, beats, and relevant music.
In the previous episode, we had a look at taper shank stylus adapters and saw a vintage magnetic monophonic cutter head fitted to the AM44 lathe. The two are not normally compatible. Neumann lathe suspensions do not have the same mount as the suspensions of Presto, Fairchild, RCA and other lathes of the monophonic era, which were originally designed to accept such cutter heads.
But, in fact, almost any cutter head can be fitted to any lathe, as long as there is enough space for it to physically fit, by means of a suitable adapter. The eagle-eyed reader will probably have noticed that the cutter head mount on our prototype AM44 suspension is similar to, but not the same as, the mount used in Neumann suspension boxes. So, the adapter shown here was made specifically for our AM44 suspension unit.
Back in 2015, we started a big lathe project, taking a beat-up Fairchild lathe from the 1930's, fitting it with an RCA cutter head, and eventually going full-on with a stereophonic feedback cutter head, vacuum clamp-down platter and automatically variable pitch.