Monday, April 10, 2006

8-tracks and repairing my parent's stereo

Ah, yes, the butt of many jokes, the much maligned, long forgotten 8-track tape. Okay, let's face it, no matter what you do, the 8-track is never going to have the sound quality of digital music. We are talking a format that pretty well died out 25 years ago and was certainly not designed for long lasting play but for some reason has caught the fascination of a dedicated group of folks scattered across the country.

I've been collecting the things for a long time now and have somewhere around 200 in my collection. I've been through several players during that time. I started with my parent's old Magnavox console stereo which eventually got tired of me and the motor started giving out! I bought a Soundesign player/recorder for $15 at a now defunct flea market but after a few days, the motor quit on it. Later, I bought both a GE and Magnavox deck at a flea market for like $5 apeice or so, along with gospel tapes by Tennessee Ernie Ford, Jimmie Davis, and The Inspirations for $1 apeice. The GE deck was shot, so it hit the garbage rather quickly. The Magnavox deck had a good sound but had a horrendous amount of noise (more than what would normally be expected of a player playing at 3 3/4 IPS, lol!). A few years ago I bought a Panasonic deck at another flea market. It played but it was too slow. It had to do though, lol, as by this time 8-track players were becoming more of an expensive premium thanks to eBay!

Last year, Dad called me and asked me did I want the old aforementioned console stereo. If for nothing more than sentimental purposes I agreed to take it, but really thinking it was a piece of junk by now. He and Mom bought it when I was like 2 years old. They had a Sears Silvertone before it and I "worked" on it for them one day, lol! They took it to John Dale at Dale TV in Caruthersville, MO who basically thought it was beyond repair. He gave them $100 trade in toward a new Magnavox stereo which brought the bad boy down to $280.

I got it home and as I remember, the 8-track player was going south. The motor made a wobbly sound and would not play right. If you left it running for a while it would eventually line itself out and play right until you removed the tape. When it started doing this in the late 80's/early 90's, I had no one to turn to. Now I had the Internet! Someone suggested cleaning the shaft of the motor with alcohol thinking the belt was not making good contact. I did that and WOW, it worked! Thinking very highly of myself I came back a few days later to play a tape-wobble, wobble wobble........ I sought help again and was told to oil the motor lightly with machine oil. Lightly didn't do the trick, so I used 1/3 of a bottle, lol! It got it back running, lol! My system was this-whenever I wanted to play it, oil it, lol! That finally stopped helping and I contacted a gentleman named Dan Jobin for repair work, as recommended online. For $27, he fixed the motor, put a new belt on, soldered on two new capacitors (the programs weren't switching right), cleaned it, and re-hinged the door. It took a nasty hit on the way back or something and I had to re-align the head, but other than that, all systems were go!

Tonight, I'm sitting here listening to a tape of the Inspirations doing some good ole Southern gospel music. I have a messed up volume control on it so I'm running the line outputs to the computer but I'm still enjoying it! I have to get the turntable fixed next. The tone arm is bent or something and the arm that holds up the records is broken. It also needs the standard things such as oiling and new stylus/cartridge. I'll let y'all know how that turns out when I get it done.

I've also been recording my 8-tracks to CD. I invested last year in software from Polderbits that allows you to record to your computer from external sources. Once you filter out the noise and use the equalizer, these dreaded little tapes that people laugh at don't sound too bad. I loaned a co-worker some CD's of Ronnie Milsap that I had burned off from the player and she said that if she did not know it came from an 8-track player, she never would have known!


Post a Comment

<< Home