Sunday, 20 May 2012

Some Empire Solutions And A Problem

The first of the Empire tuntables I worked on is in very good shape now. I should replace the stylus, the tonearm drifts as the cuing lowers it, and I am still waiting for the light bulb but it plays well. There are Gregorian Chants in the background right now on the big sucker.

Empire # 2 is also a 598, this time version II. It's also not yet mine but on loan for diagnosis and repair. It comes with the same tonearm, the 990 I think it is called. It's kind of hard to tell the models as the pictures I see of the 980 and 990 arms both have the VTF adjustment on the inside of the pivot are and these are both outside. The 2 I have here are identical though.

The latest Empire has other issues. It's missing a belt and they are not the most common or inexpensive thing. The length should be about 31.5" but the width can also be a factor as it affects the speed adjustment if it is too wide. I've yet to order one due to the other problems.

The connector on the base of the tonearm for the cartridge leads is an odd one and this table does not have that cable. I've heard of people paying $100 to buy one or have it made. I've got a cheaper solution.

Universal connector

Yesterday I came across this universal connector at Main Electronics. It's designed for the power connection to car stereos and comes with 5 pins that can fit in any of 10 holes in the end. Choose your layout, insert the pins, screw it together. I will either solder and heat shrink this to a an RCA cable, or perhaps add panel jacks so I can use any cables. Cost about $4 plus some wire.

Alternatively I could also use the thing I found in the next pic. It was a random find at a thrift store today, a wire remote control for a Kodak slide projector. Remember those? With digital, they are getting rare but parts still show up. It has exactly the right 5 pin layout I need and also would just need to be wired to some other cables to do the job. That's it plugged in the bottom of the tonearm.

Kodak slide projector control

The 598 II also came with another Empire cartridge. I have not yet conclusively identified either of the ones I have but will work on that. The only obvious difference in design between the II and the III is the 45 RPM adaptor in the II is a twist and pop-up thing and the III has an insert that you remove and turn upside down. Both designs are ingenious and simple and I am kind of surprised more manufacturers did not try similar thing. Cheap plastic doughnuts are usually the way.

Pabst Motor from Empire Turntable

Other than some cosmetic problems and the missing parts as described, the major problem on the 598 II is the motor. It won't run.

I have tested it in almost any way I can think of and even though it will spin nicely by hand I can get it to turn under power. It's not a common design either so this could be the deal breaker. It operates in a 3 phase sort of mode, with a capacitor used to trick the motor into see what looks like 3 phase power from regular line current.

The motor is German made by Papst. I don't know if anyone used them other than Empire and they are quite different than most around. This motor is one of the reasons the turntables have as much respect as they do. These motors are smooth and steady and are supposed to last forever... until they don't.

I'm not giving up on this one yet though.


  1. Is there a part number for the plug? I am trying to order one or two. Thank you!

    1. There are 2 numbers on it:

      C.T.C. 44-1086-6

      It's described as a "universal power connecting cord assembly", and for car stereo applications. This one is packaged by Lenline.

      Let me know if you can't get it. The shop I got mine at probably has more.

  2. I believe Thorens used them in some late marks of the 124.