? FAQ and Restoration Tips
Q1-1: I have a V-M product. What is it worth?
A1-1: Your Voice of Music®, V-M Professional® or V-M Educational Series® product was built in Benton Harbor, Michigan by hard working people who really cared about what they were doing. As for value, I would say its priceless! In terms of cash exchanging hands - well, that’s hard to determine because condition, presentation to the seller, the economy and other factors come in to play. I do not know prices. Go to the resale web sites like eBay or etsy and search on completed auctions for equipment with similar features to yours. Consoles show up more frequently on local websites like craigslist.org. Some of the audio forum websites also have classified ads. These resources will give you some idea of current value.
Q1-2: I have a V-M product. Where can I sell it?
A1-2: If the product you have is small enough to ship then a resale site such as eBay or etsy is a good avenue. It is a selling point that parts, service and owner’s manuals are available from V-M Audio Enthusiasts, so be sure to mention that in your listing.
If you have a console, then your best bet is to find someone local. Use your social network at work, church, etc to find a buyer. Local websites, classifieds by community like craigslist.org, and merchandise publications are other options. Where Can I Buy a Used V-M?
Q2-1: I am looking for a model like I used to have. Where can I find it?
A2-1: There are some resellers listed on our Links page with restored equipment. Other suggestions include auction sites like eBay.com, classified ad sites like craigslist.org, your Grandma’s basement, garage sales, flea markets, and thrift shops. Some communities have old radio/ham/antique audio clubs and many have swap meets or flea markets at their gatherings. Finally, there are still some schools that have not cleaned out some of their V-M “educational series” phonos and tape recorders so be on the alert for school auctions.
Q2-2: I am looking for the V-M demonstration (tape, record) that came with my old (recorder, phono). Where can I find it?
A2-2: The best answer here is eBay. These do show up for sale from time to time. I’m a New Owner
Q3-1: I am now the owner of a vintage audio product. Should I plug it in?
A3-1: This is a very difficult question to answer! I can only provide some considerations: If you and the previous owner do not know when the last time it was plugged in and operating, doing so now could seriously damage any vintage electronic product. The older the equipment is, the higher the risk. With older tube type equipment having large transformers, the risk involves shorted power supply capacitors which can cause the transformer to overheat and start smoking. Transformers are expensive to replace if they can be replaced at all. To avoid the risk, replace the electrolytic capacitors first or seek professional help before powering up. If you do plug an amplified product in and start to hear a loud hum, immediately shut it off. With all electrical products, inspect the power cord first to make sure it is in good shape.
Q3-2: I am now the owner of a vintage V-M product - what information is available to get it / keep it working properly?
A3-2: I recommend starting with the technical literature! Service manuals are available for all V-M products. They have important trouble shooting tips, illustrations, schematics, and lubrication information. From the service manual, you can determine what parts you may need and inquire with the correct V-M part number! Owner’s manuals are available for almost all V-M products. Manuals may be original or reprints depending on the model. Click on Contact Us and email with the V-M Model number of the unit you have and we will quote price of manuals with shipping and handling! Also read the Record Changer and Phono FAQs, Amplifier and Speaker FAQs, and Tape Recorder FAQs for important information on what maintenance your model is likely to need. I Need Parts!
Q4-1: I need an idler wheel - or needle, stylus, or cartridge - or other part. How should I proceed?
A4-1: Please click on Start Here! where this question is answered! We have an enormous variety of parts for V-M equipment and commonly needed items for non V-M products as well. Commonly needed items can now be ordered directly. Emails are answered promptly and we will advise for any items that are not orderable on-line. Please remember to put our email address on your “safe list” or you may not receive our reply. Check your “junk mail” first and call on the phone if you didn’t hear back in 36 hours (most emails returned within a few hours). Record Changer and Phono FAQs
Q5-1: What is the difference between a record changer, turntable, phonograph and record player?
A5-1: A record changer (sometimes also called an automatic turntable) can stack and play multiple records automatically. A manual turntable (or turntable) has capability to play one record at a time. A third classification is a “semi automatic turntable”, which may pick up the tone arm at the end of the record and shut itself off after the record has played. It may also have a similar capability to move the tone arm over and lower it to play a record once it has been manually placed on the platter. Unfortunately, the term “turntable” can also refer to just the platter that spins the records. All of these variations require an external amplifier and speakers to hear sound. A combination of a record changer, amplifier, and speaker all in one unit may be called a record player or phonograph.
Q5-2: What is the difference between a needle and a cartridge?
A5-2: The needle or stylus is the device that fits in the record groove and moves according to the impression of the music made in the vinyl. It typically consists of at least one tip (usually synthetic diamond or sapphire), a cantilever that the tip(s) is mounted to, and either a plastic or metal lever or needle body so that it can be attached to the cartridge. Please see examples of various types of needles on the Needles/Stylli page. In general, the needle is a separate, serviceable item and if all you need is the needle, best to only buy that. Please see the Needle Help! page for more information on needle tips, life expectancy, and replacement identification.
The cartridge is what the needle is connected to, and its job is to take the vibrations resulting from the travel of the needle tip in the groove and translate them into electrical signals that can then be amplified and reproduced as sound through a speaker. Most cartridges are either of the crystal, ceramic or magnetic types. The ability to substitute one type for another is limited. Please see examples of various types of cartridges on the
Cartridges page (there you will see cartridges with needles installed as this is how they are sold). Please see other FAQ’s below about how to tell if you need a new cartridge, along with information provided on the
Cartridge Help! page.
Q6-1: What are the keys to maintaining good vintage amplifier operation?
A6-1: There is really only one key! Healthy capacitors – especially the electrolytic capacitors in the power supply! If these parts fail, they can short out the transformer (on units so equipped) and burn it up. The transformer may not be replaceable and is very expensive if a replacement can be found. Capacitors are like bread – they become stale if they sit around. So replacements should always be of recent manufacture as these parts have a shelf life.
Purchasing capacitors may at first appear to be a problem as the values made today are not the same ones as 30+ years ago. Fortunately, it is not a problem as long as the following three rules are observed:
1. Capacitance values should be close. For example, a 33uf will work where the original is a 30uf.
2. Voltage should be the same or greater. For example, a capacitor rated at 250 volts can be safely replaced with a capacitor rated at 350 volts, but not one rated at 125 volts.
3. Make SURE that you are buying the right type of capacitor. There are electrolytic and non-electrolytic types used in most amplifiers. Electrolytic capacitors are polarized and must be connected with the correct polarity as shown on the schematic.
Another difference between yesterday and today is that multi-section capacitors are no longer in high volume production. Your amplifier may have an aluminum “can” or brown wax covered tubular capacitor that is really 2 or more capacitors in one. If the exact replacement is not available or affordable, these components can be effectively replaced by replacing each element with an individual capacitor. Often, the original is left in place (for authenticity) and the individual replacements wired in underneath. If the original is left in place, it is only there for looks – it must be unhooked electrically from the circuit and the new ones wired in its place. Shrink tubing is a good idea to prevent the leads on the capacitors from touching something they shouldn't.
The normal priority order for replacing capacitors is 1) power supply and any other electrolytics. 2) older style non-electrolytics with wax coating. 3) others – usually the newer sealed capacitors are OK. With healthy capacitors, the status of other components can be more readily assessed. Tubes and transistors are often thought to be the culprits of poor sound – and these components can fail – but often it is bad capacitors that are really responsible.
Q6-2: I think I need new tubes. Can you help?
A6-2: We try and talk people out of buying new tubes unless they are sure they are needed! New old stock tubes are getting expensive and in our experience, may not be needed. Tubes being manufactured today in Russia or China are a lower cost alternative. The quality of these tubes varies. As it says in A6-1, the most important consideration is to get the amplifier rebuilt with new capacitors and other parts as needed. Then the health of the tubes should be assessed. Output tubes and rectifier tubes are worked the hardest and may need replacing. In our experience, the others are usually OK and we don’t replace them in our own work if not needed. For tubes that do need replacing, we are happy to quote price with shipping.
Q6-3: The volume or tone controls cut in and out or produce “static” when I move them. How do I fix it?
A6-3: Your volume or tone control probably just needs a good cleaning. If you are mechanically inclined, you can remove the back of the console or access the amplifier and carefully disassemble it until you can gain access to the controls. Places like Radio Shack sell "control cleaner" or "tuner lube" that is in a spray can with a thin red snout for spraying it in tight places. You need to gain access to the control and stick the snout into the slot where the wires are soldered and spray a brief while - and move the control back and forth. One or two applications should take care of the problem. If that does not do the trick, and if your unit is a tube unit, it is possible a tube is making poor contact with the tube socket. Remove each tube and use a pencil eraser or other mild abrasive to clean the tube contacts. Reassemble and check to see that the problem has gone away.
Q6-4: My speaker has a rattle/tear/poor sound. Can I get a new one?
A6-4: Certainly Contact Us with the V-M model number of your model. The part number of the speaker is in the service manual or may be printed on the speaker itself (look for 4 or 5 digit number). We may advise that this part is not available. If so, yours can be rebuilt. We use The Circuit Shop, link on our Links page.
Q6-5: I need new grill cloth for my speakers. Where can I find it?
A6-5: It used to be that reproduction grill cloth was only available for old radios. Lately, “hi fi” era cloths have become available for vintage guitar amplifiers. One source is Antique Radio Supply, link on our Links page. Best to use your favorite search engine to see what else is out there.
Q6-6: My amplifier’s transformer (power or output) has failed. Can I get a new one?
A6-6: Certainly Contact Us with the V-M model number of your model. The part number of the transformer is in the service manual or may be stamped on the top or side of the transformer itself (look for 5 digit number). We may advise that this part is not available. If so, try Hammond Manufacturing, link on our Links page.
Q6-7: My V-M phonograph, console, amplifier has “tone-o-matic®” and “acoustic contour®” controls. What do these do?
A6-7: Our ears do not hear all frequencies the same at all volume levels. The “tone-o- matic®” control boosts highs and lows at low sound levels. Beyond the mid point of its rotation, this control operates as a volume control only. More modern equipment with a “loudness” control also has this same functionality built in.
The “acoustic contour®” control has settings of S (small), M (medium), and L (large) room sizes. According to the sales literature, it shapes the music to fit the room, to solve the problem of decreasing fidelity at increased volumes. The Owner’s manual explains how to use the control. Tape Recorder FAQs
Q7-1: I have this V-M tape recorder, but when I turn it on and push PLAY, nothing happens?
A7-1: If the tape recorder has not been used in a long time, read Q3-1 before proceeding. Your V-M tape-o-matic® tape recorder may contain an automatic shutoff mechanism that is activated when you push PLAY if no tape is threaded past it. First, make sure that the STOP button is fully depressed in its LOCKED position. Then, turn on the power and the pilot light (if present) should light and you should hear the motor run. The instructions for threading a tape are included in the lid of most models - if the unit has power but the reels fail to move in other modes (PLAY, RECORD, FAST FORWARD, REWIND), then a faulty belt or wheel is most likely the cause. Click on Contact Us for more information – V-M tape recorder parts are in good supply!
Q7-2: What should I do to maintain my V-M tape recorder?
A7-2: A tape recorder has both mechanical and electrical needs. For the electrical needs, especially if you hear a loud hum when recorder is on, please see the first item in the Amplifier and Speaker FAQs. For mechanical, it boils down to clean heads, good lubrication, and good rubber parts. Tape recorder heads, guides, and rollers should be cleaned with cotton swabs and isopropyl rubbing alcohol, at least 90% pure. Tape recorder heads may need to be demagnetized if used often. Click on Contact Us for a quote on the VM 32026 Tape Recorder Maintenance manual. Good lubrication involves taking the recorder apart, removing all the old, sticky lubrication and replacing it with fresh lubrication per service manual instructions. Rubber parts (wheels, motor mounts, belts) should be inspected and replaced as necessary. Click on V-M Tape Recorder Repair Kits to order the most needed parts and manuals, or Contact Us for a quote on all needed V-M parts and manuals.
Q7-3: I have this tape recorder that needs work but what I really want to do is digitize some old tapes.
A7-3: Here you have a decision to make. Spending money on fixing up a tape recorder for a one time use – versus paying for an audio transfer service. Our interest here is clearly in helping tape recorder owners refurbish their machines to be used for their intended purpose – as high fidelity tape recording and playback instruments. Fixing up a tape recorder with the intent of selling it when done may not be worth the investment. Additionally, the old tapes may be in bad shape and this you will not know until you have invested in fixing your old recorder. For transfer services, use your favorite search engine to find current businesses
Q7-4: When I play my old tapes, they slow down. What’s wrong?
A7-4: First make sure all the tape transport parts that are in the tape path are clean. Use isopropyl rubbing alcohol, highest purity you can find and cotton swabs to clean the tape guides, tape heads, capstan and pressure roller. If the condition persists, its probably the old tapes! The binder that holds the oxide formulation to the plastic tape breaks down with time and this increases friction and drag as the tape goes through the tape recorder, slowing the machine down. If you search for “old magnetic tape” or “magnetic tape deterioration” on line, you’ll find more information, including a “baking” process that is supposed to reset the binder and make the tapes usable again. We have not experimented with this process and cannot advise further.
Q7-5: I have a switch on my V-M tape recorder with two positions called “Stacked” and “Staggered”. What does it do?
A7-5: First, a little history. The very first stereo format was on reel to reel tape! V-M Corporation offered a conversion kit for the venerable Model 700 in 1955 - some three years before stereo records and five years before stereo FM broadcasts! The first format? Very simple - take a second half track monaural head, turn it upside down, and mount it to the right of the existing monaural head. Connect it up with another pre-amp and you have the “staggered” stereo tape format! The tapes were recorded with the starting points of the “L” and “R” tracks “staggered” so that both signals would be in sync when picked up by the playback heads. This format is also called “offset”. In 1958, as magnetic head manufacturing capabilities improved, the “stacked” or “in-line” format was invented - and remained the broadcast standard for many years - the so-called “half track stereo” format. The V-M Model 714 was a hit because it had a switch to play both the newer “stacked” and older “staggered” formats. In November of 1959, V-M brought out the Model 720, one of the first on the market to play the new “quarter track” stereo tapes.
Q7-6: I have “Add+A+Track®” on my V-M tape recorder. What is it?
A7-6: This feature allows you to play one track while recording on another. For example, you can play an instrumental piece recorded on one channel, and listen to it while you sing the words and record them on the other channel. When the tape is played back, you will hear both. An early form of “sound on sound”. A more involved explanation is included in the Owner’s manual, available from us!
Q8-1: The fabric on the case of my V-M product is dirty and dull. What should I do to clean it?
A8-1: To clean the leatherette, we recommend waterless automotive hand cleaner. Gentle enough for hands but tough on dirt. Actually helps "feed" the leatherette and prevents it getting brittle. Rub it in and wipe clean with a soft dry cloth. A fine bristle (not stiff) toothbrush can be used to "get in the grain". Repeat procedure if case is heavily soiled. Of course, always test on a small surface first to make sure the leatherette is color fast! Get the plain hand cleaner – not one that contains pumice or other abrasives. Loose and frayed fabric can be glued down by applying wood glue on a toothpick to the underside of the fabric for a much neater appearance. The leatherette should be allowed to dry for two or three weeks after which a polish may be applied. Shipping
Q9-1: I am going to ship this unit - what do I do to ensure safe arrival?
A9-1: The BEST insurance that your prized V-M will get there in one piece is GREAT and AMPLE PACKAGING!!!
• Unit should be double-boxed. Inner box about the size of the unit, and the outer box being big enough to allow for at least 5 inches of packaging on ALL sides - that means, outer box is 10 inches longer, 10 inches wider, and 10 inches taller than the inner box.
• Use bubble wrap, especially for electronic items as it is the best for absorbing energy and protecting your model during shipping.
your model contains a record changer