Just got a Grado wooden tonearm for my TD-124

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by action pact, Oct 7, 2017.

  1. action pact

    action pact Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I won an early '60s Grado Laboratory Series tonearm on eBay for what I think is a very good price.

    I'd been wanting one of these for a while to mate with my 1961 Thorens TD-124, which originally had one before I owned it; I still have the original armboard that will fit it.

    This what the listing showed:





    After I received it, I freshened up the wood with some Howard's Restore-A-Finish, and the walnut looks like new again. It's in superb condition, with no wear or scratches on the wood. I also polished and cleaned the pivot, and drizzled some sewing machine oil on the shaft. It moves very smoothly.

    I hooked up the wires to the terminal with the original 1961 interconnects, and it produces sound but there's a bad hum. I plan to next trim the frayed bare ends of the tonearm wires and expose some fresh metal, but if I have to totally rewire it, I will. Chances are that would sound better anyway.

    I took it for a brief test drive last night with an M97xE, and it tracked fine and sounded pretty good even with the tired, old, humming wires. I think this will be well worth giving the necessary TLC.

    I haven't decided yet on which cartridge to use with it once fully restored. It's a lightweight arm, but I wonder how well it would do with a DL-103 if used with the auxiliary lead weights on the rear and a 3gr insert plate under the cartridge?

    Stay tuned...

    PATB, Gary, Simon A and 12 others like this.
  2. Fishoutofwater

    Fishoutofwater Forum Resident

    Looking forward to the updates!!
    action pact likes this.
  3. action pact

    action pact Forum Resident Thread Starter

    OK, so if I go ahead and rewire it, what would I connect the ground wire to inside the arm? (I haven't yet examined how Grado did it.)
  4. action pact

    action pact Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I clipped the frayed ends of the tonearm wires and reconnected them to the turret board. Still hummed.

    I next went ahead and connected a ground strap wire from the turret plate to the TD-124's chassis, and NO MORE HUM!

    Well, I'll be doggone.

    I'm listening to it now... very smooth with rich bass, but a bit 2D and veiled - which could also just be the M97xE. I'm guessing the arm wires may be OK to just leave. My inclination is to start with replacing the ancient interconnects with something a little nicer. I still think this arm has a lot of potential.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2017
    cat9 and SandAndGlass like this.
  5. action pact

    action pact Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Doing some more reading about these arms, it seems that I am best advised to leave the original hair-thin tonearm wires intact, since such superfine wires are no longer available and replacing them with new wires could impact the arm's litheness. I definitely want to upgrade the interconnects though.
    KT88 and SandAndGlass like this.
  6. KT88

    KT88 Forum Resident

    That's a funky arm. I can't imagine that it'll provide the sound quality of some newer, lighter arms, but it is funky, so rock on! Probably needs to be gently disassembled (yeah, don't F with the wires) and clean the bearing surfaces and re-oil if they took any oil. At this point in time, even if they didn't a super thin oil might help.

    What I find to be super-cool is the stylus force gauge! It took pennies to balance it out. Simple and effective design. Not the last word in precision, but perhaps in NYC cheap! The new Clearaudio looks almost exactly the same but operates in reverse. I have several old stylus gauges and other tools and find them very cool, more just nerdy displays than useful tools these days, but they will not see the inside of a waste basket as long as I am around.
  7. Jimi Floyd

    Jimi Floyd Forum Resident

    Congrats!!!! This was my TD124 as I bought it. I immediately sold the arm, armboard and plinth for the same money I spent for the whole kit, so I got the turntable for free. Now it has a heavy plinth and an SME arm but the original look was so good I sometimes regret selling the Grado arm.

    moonshiner, markc2, sberger and 6 others like this.
  8. action pact

    action pact Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Well, color me impressed.

    I spent yesterday evening running the Grado arm through its paces, and it was overall extremely enjoyable.

    It was plain to me that there was more dynamic energy coming from the Grado Lab/M97xE combo than from my Jelco/DL-103, which came as a surprise. The PRaT was exceptionally good. I listened to a 1967 Duke Ellington LP, "The Far East Suite," and the orchestral dynamics were extremely vivid and powerful, and the midrange bloom was lovely. This is a surprisingly lithe, musical arm!

    Imaging was pretty good, but I could detect some closing-in of the soundstage, and there was an overall veil of top-end congestion. Some of this I attribute to the M97xE, but mostly it demonstrated to me the limitations of the 1961 "Shinko" interconnects. I could sense that the arm was not enabled to demonstrate what it was capable of.

    This morning I went ahead and placed an order from KAB for the following:

    KAB / Cardas SpiralAir Low Capacitance All Litz Coax
    Cardas all Litz coax is the only cable, to our knowledge, that uses litz conductors in the shield as well as the center conductor. Having an outside diameter of 0.180". This very special Cardas cable features golden ratio litz copper center conductor insulated with 0.015" of FEP and double braided cotton filler and a Litz spiral shield. Final jacket is 0.025" Blue PVC. By using litz wires in a fully wrapped Reussen shield ensures that the return path matches the center conductors in every way for bandwidth and signal purity. 33pF/Ft.Terminated in high quality RCA Plugs on one end, stripped and tinned conductors on the other. Cable is 3.5 Ft long.

    Brass Terminal Board
    5 tin plated brass terminals staked on a phenolic board. Commonly used for point to point wiring in tube gear, these terminal boards make a great interconnection point between fine tonearm wires and the exiting cable.

    Original SL-1200 Ground wire
    45" long terminated in a spade lug.

    I heard a lot of the same attributes that I like about Grado cartridges in this arm; I look forward to eventually setting this arm up with a nice Grado Signature 8MR cartridge. I expect that they will complement each other very well.
    Simon A and Dennis0675 like this.
  9. action pact

    action pact Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Still waiting for the new interconnects, but I couldn't resist mounting my DL-103 on the Grado. I have a 3gr insert plate at the headshell, and I'm using 3 lead washers at the counterweight end. It sounds very open and dynamic, but the bass is a bit leaner vs. on the Jelco SA-750D and the top end is slightly more aggressive. This doesn't surprise me, I was expecting it. It does sound pretty good anyway.

    I'm going to increase the mass with second 3gr headshell insert and another washer, and we'll see how that works out. I can always go back to using a cartridge with higher compliance.

    I also need to tweak the VTA - it's slightly tail-up right now.
  10. action pact

    action pact Forum Resident Thread Starter

    OK, I just added some more weight to the headshell and counterweight, and the the top end has been tamed and the bass has filled in better.

    I'll make a final evaluation once the Cardas interconnects are installed.
  11. action pact

    action pact Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I decided to remove the DL-103 and go back to my low-compliance M97xE. Why force a round peg into a square hole?

    The M97xE sounds unusually lively on this arm/table.

    I'm going to order a new stylus for my Grado Signature 8MR!
  12. action pact

    action pact Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I was just reviewing the owner's manual and noticed that the headshell wiring configuration doesn't match today's standard:

    RED = R+
    BLACK = R-
    GREEN = L+
    WHITE = L-

    In other words, the ground wires for each channel are reversed.

    IIRC, AR-XA headshells have the same configuration, and those date back to same era. Was that the standard wiring in the early '60s, and if so, I wonder why/when it was changed.

    At any rate, I can't really hear a difference...
    Simon A likes this.
  13. H8SLKC

    H8SLKC Forum Resident

    Boston, MA
    Love this thread on the Grado tonearm. It makes me wonder about some of the technology discussions had on these forums as well.
    Simon A and action pact like this.
  14. action pact

    action pact Forum Resident Thread Starter

    You're welcome to come over and have a listen! :)
    Ntotrar and SandAndGlass like this.
  15. action pact

    action pact Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Oops, I listed the wiring wrong.

    This is what the owners manual directs:

    RED = R+
    BLACK = R-
    WHITE = L+
    GREEN = L-
  16. Ntotrar

    Ntotrar Supper's ready

    Keep us updated.
  17. action pact

    action pact Forum Resident Thread Starter

    You betcha.

    The stylus for my Grado cart has been ordered!
  18. Sneaky Pete

    Sneaky Pete Forum Resident

    I have the same combo. It's just a back up table so I kept it original. The grado arm is high mass but it is totally retro-cool and I didn't want to scrap it.

    Mine needs some work. Do you have any suggestions for servicing?
  19. action pact

    action pact Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I'm not so sure that it's high mass. Not at all.

    What exactly is wrong? It's a pretty simple design, I might be able to advise.
  20. Sneaky Pete

    Sneaky Pete Forum Resident

    It works but it's been mothballed for a long time. I'd like to have a proper "tune up." I'd like to change the power cord too.

    It was part of a custom built in stereo cabinet so the "plinth" is the old drawer. I found an PDF owners manual for that tone arm on-line. Finding the entire nos unit is a nice score!
  21. action pact

    action pact Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Oh, you're talking about the TD-124! I thought it was the arm that was problematic.
    I can recommend Jim Campbell in the Philly area. He offers TD-124 refurbishing services via eBay (handle: jec965). He did.a little work on mine, and his service and rates were excellent.
    Thorens TD-124 Rebuild Service | eBay

    BTW, the Grado arm I have wasn't NOS per se, but I suspect it was boxed up and stored away a long time ago, because it's in excellent condition. I'm really pleased so far!
  22. Sneaky Pete

    Sneaky Pete Forum Resident

    Great. Thanks for the lead.
  23. action pact

    action pact Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Good luck! It's well worth getting spruced up!
  24. action pact

    action pact Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I think that correcting the orientation of the ground leads on the carrier sled has made a difference after all. Imaging seems better, and the tonality of the M97XE also is more 'lifelike.'

    Or maybe it's just my imagination!
    markc2 likes this.
  25. Ntotrar

    Ntotrar Supper's ready

    Perception is reality...

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