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Playing 78 rpm records

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  • Playing 78 rpm records

    Hi, folks.

    I have a pile of 78s which belonged to my father. I'd like to be able to play them out of curiosity and for sentimental reasons. Unfortunately, my TD 160 is only a two-speed turntable, so I'm looking for suggestions for a three-speed turntable (I don't really have room for two turntables). I find my Thorens is perfectly adequate on the rare occasions that I use it, so I don't need anything more up-market than that. I would sell the Thorens and add a little more cash if necessary.

    Any suggestions?

  • #2
    I can appreciate your interest in checking out the 78s that belonged to your father. My father left me a fair sized collection of them, too, and it has been a real nostalgia trip listening to them.

    It's a shame you don't have room for a second turntable that could be set up exclusively to play back 78s. Even if you find a reasonably priced, high quality, three speed turntable, you will need a cartridge with a special stylus designed for the groove geometry of 78 rpm records in addition to the one optimized for LPs. Using the cartridge for 78s on the same turntable you use to play 33 1/3 and 45 rpm records will necessitate swapping out the cartridge each time you switch to and from 78 rpm playback. Not saying it shouldn't be done, but it's a lot more "fiddly" than just changing the speed of the table.

    If you do manage to find space for another turntable, Rega's single-speed RP78 is worth a look. They're not cheap, but they work very well. (On new ones, the 78-specific cartridge is sold separately.) It would be ready when you are any time you want to play those 78s.

    If space remains a constraint, at less than half the price of the Rega RP78, the Audio Technica AT-LP120-USB three speed model with built-in phono preamp might be worth looking into. (Although its three speeds are reportedly push button selectable, it would still need another cartridge for the 78s.) It is said to be available from a couple of the biggest online retailers. In addition to the turntable, which comes with an Audio Technica cartridge for LP playback, you would also want a second head shell to mount a cartridge for 78s to facilitate easy swapping.

    Hope you find the right setup for your space and budget, and start enjoying those 78s!

    What you DON'T say may be held against you...


    • #3
      Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Burke. I have only about fifty 78s and they look well worn, so it's not worth spending a lot of money on a turntable for them. On the other hand, I do want something equivalent to my TD 160 for my 33 and 45 rpm vinyl, so it might not be easy finding the right compromise. The Rega seems too good for 78s and the Audio Technica possibly not good enough as a replacement for the Thorens. I'll take a look at the used market, although they might be few and far between. Perhaps I should look for an old wind-up gramophone and really get into the period!


      • #4
        This morning I took a quick look at a Music Hall MMF-1.3, an Audio Technica LP120, and a Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Esprit SB. There's a x2 price difference from the Music Hall to the Pro-Ject, with the AT somewhere around the middle. On the assumption that this is the last turntable I'll ever buy, I'm leaning towards buying the Pro-Ject as a Christmas present to myself. I'll aim to off-set part of the cost with the sale of my TD-160 which I will post on our local classifieds site tomorrow.

        If anyone has any direct experience of the Pro-Ject, I'd much appreciate reading their comments (good and bad).


        • #5
          While I do not have personal experience with the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Esprit SB, it has earned very favorable reviews and appears to offer high quality and desirable features at a reasonable price.

          Since the Ortofon 2M cartridge it is typically bundled with has a removable stylus, and Ortofon offers the 2M78 stylus for playing 78 rpm records with this cartridge, it looks like this turntable and cartridge combo could be your best all-around choice.

          FYI — I’ve considered other Pro-Ject models to replace my aging Rega Planar 3 for LP playback, but so far, other budget priorities have prevailed, and fortunately the Rega is still able to play the records.

          What you DON'T say may be held against you...


          • #6
            You're absolutely correct. The Pro-Ject tone arm doesn't have a removable head shell, so having a second head shell with a 78 rpm cartridge isn't an option. Changing the cartridge each time you switch to and from 78 rpm would be too fiddly, so changing just the stylus is the best option and can be done quite easily. I believe that the belt has to be changed as well. In my case, the vendor has offered to include the 78 stylus in the price of the turntable. Thanks for the encouragement!


            • #7
              i have no experiance with 78's...... sorry....


              Practicing Curmudgeon & Audio Snob
              ....just an "ON" switch, Please!



              • #8
                I've been looking, on and off, for a similar solution (I will soon be inheriting a STACK of 78s from my parents, who are downsizing their living space soon). Some good suggestions here.


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