Fairchild 440 Turntable Part 1 & 2 / 3

I picked this up at an auction to flip, but when I got it home, it was just so luscious… I really don’t want to get rid of it. Regardless of what I decide though – it needs some fixing up and basic care. There are two major problems to start with – It needs a belt, and the tonearm needs to be rewired. These are both very minor issues, but as I dig in I realize there are additional problems. Part 1 and 2 focus on

  • Replace motor mounts
  • Treat wood
  • Replace belt
  • Don’t fucking lose the bearing, because when you do your life will suck



Unresolved problems:

  • Record speed – unsure if belt is correct size
  • Platter is tipping, I need to tighten up screws on one side
  • Tone arm: solder wires together, possibly replace tonearm wiring
  • Ensure headshell is mounted properly


Time spent: -10
Times shocked: -1
Critical Piece lost: -50
Critical Piece found: +20
Core Fixes Applied: +100
New Fixes Required: -50

Score: <blink>Frenziful</blink>





Battle: Keyboard. [Roland 77 Keyboard Repair/restore]

Battle: Keyboard

Setup: 8 Roland 77 Digital Pianos. Purchased at auction. Were previously teaching pianos. Were left in sun and many melted. I was an idiot and did not inspect these before bidding. I thought they were high end Roland’s which could fetch $500 each. Off by a factor of 10.

Pass: Earn more than $100.
Win: Earn more than $200

I should be able to sell these for $50-$100 each, so I only need a few working ones to make this happen. Should be “easy”.

Skirmish 1: Success.

The first keyboard is cake. Mostly it is just dirty. I have to swap out a speaker, which is relatively easy. relatively because I had all sorts of issues trying to crimp the fucking speaker wires together. After like 30 minutes of messing up strips/crimps I just twisted the damn things together, electrical taped it, and called it a day.

I have 1 piano with stand that could sell for $125.

Skirmish 2: Strip and clean

Encouraged by the easy win, I decide to go deeper. I could just walk away right now, donate the extras and move on with my life. Determined to avoid failure, and a firm believer in the sunk costs fallacy – I move forward.

After an hour of trying to pry off stickers and clean in little grooves, I remember to “work smarter not harder” – words of capitalist exploitation I learned at the knee of my rich uncle.
I rip off two of the keysets ( what I’m calling the keyboard unit inside the piano ) and two of the frames and throw them in the shower. Yep – the shower. As long as I let them dry properly, the electrical circuits wont’ get damaged, and it will get them looking nice and clean, which will help them sell. And I’m really tired of trying to clean these things the hard way.

3 days later I’m convinced they are nice and dry, and am back to work

Skirmish 3: Failure and more sunk costs fallacy

With the lowest of hanging fruit plucked, it’s time for the next rung. Easy Fixes. I’m going to start with one that has a warped frame, but otherwise is working. This warp has made some lower keys stick.

pull out the 40 goddamn screws in the bottom, pull out the keyboard ( only 4 screws… it comes out super fast ) and start moving it to a less melted frame.

Here I am halfway through. The new frame is the one above, the older frame is below. I’ve moved the left speaker and jacks into position. The rest follows pretty easily. I did try and jam some “long” screws into short screw slots, but let’s not dwell on this.

Now – I have 2 nice and clean keyboards from the shower the other day, so I’m going to drop those in. I’m pretty surprised when I find that the keyboard STILL has key sticking. How is this even possible!?! Easily answered, the keyboard really has to be forced into position – doing so stretches out the frame to allow for keys to work. NICE. All that’s left to do is test it out.. and…

some of the keys don’t play. shit. maybe the whole washing thing wasn’t so smart after all. So I pull out clean keyboard 1, drop in 2. Same issue, different keys. NOTE: This is another great place to walk away from this project. NOTE: I do not.

Skirmish 3b: fucking fuck

I’m really tired, so I’m gonna just skip through a bunch of crap. Basically I wasted 2 hours cleaning out the contacts to the boards. I did the best I could and while all keys are playing, they are not playing uniformly. For example, some of the keys will play at full force no matter how lightly they are struck. I know in general what the problem is, but I’m just too tired to work on it more, and I’ve already put in too many damn hours on a keyboard I’m maybe going to sell for $40.

Interesting part : here are the contacts, and you can see how they are a bit .. clogged.. for lack of a better word. I found some of the kid stickers covering part of one, but mostly the bad keys looked like this, and were “fixed” by just licking my finger and wiping off the contact. I thought they were fixed, but some are still playing at full velocity, and unsure how to address that. I have ideas, but.. yeah. it’s 4 am.

Roland 77 Keyboard PCB. Looks just like a regular computer keyboard, except there are two connectors. This allows the keyboard to time the difference between when the two connectors are depressed. by playing them at slightly different heights, it can interpret the speed at which you hit the key and convert this to a guesstimated velocity / loudness.

You can see some residue on the … not sure what to call this. “connector” maybe.

So, I just jammed the original dusty nasty keyboard unit in from the old frame. I’m too tired to even listen to it.

Skirmish Score:

  • Time wasted: 2 hours
  • Stuff learned: +3
  • Keyboards working: 1/8
  • Real work avoided: Lots. -20
  • Money made: $-100

SCORE: Scrotum Slammed



Straighten bass guitar neck

Nope, I don’t play the bass, but I picked one up as part of a deal. Opportunity: l2Fix bowed neck.

I started with this video, showing how to straighten the truss rod on a vintage guitar. This one has a slight up-bow ( towards the strings ). This appears to be a common problem as the strings pull on the guitar neck over time. The truss rod is designed to counter this. The more you tighten the truss rod, the more the neck will bow backwards ( down-bow ). This way you can keep the neck straight. in theory.

I followed his instructions:

  1. loosen strings and loosen truss rod nut
  2. put wood blocks on neck

    1. cut blocks to fit between frets. Tried to cut a fret line into a block and almost chopped into my finger. can’t wait to get video camera set up, so you can see all these near mangles on future projects
    2. mark blocks before cutting. this makes sure the same side is used as “up” and keeps width consistent.
  3. clamp.
  4. gently tighten truss rod nut. I’m not sure how tight it should be. so I just did it to where it felt snug without too much torque.
  5. let sit for a few hours



RE256 Part II: The Searching Continues

Continued from Part 1


Modern monitors have a much higher refresh rate than in the old days, by a factor of 10. What I needed was something that could handle 15hz ( or so – I didn’t know the exact refresh rate, since technical manuals are hard to find ). This is where I found a bunch of useful information from people who are into retrogames. If you are REALLY into old games like streetfighter for your NES you don’t roll with some shitty “modern” LCD/LED screen. You go oldschool CRT, where the scanlines are the luxurious background texture of your nostaglia fix.

edit: WTF happened to my re256 links! Maybe I deleted them all in a rage fit or something, but man. I’m really missing that folder right now

OK, so I basically need a 80s era monitor, or one of the specialized NEC Multisync monitors. ( cool, now I know why it said Multisync on the side of my monitors all those years ago ). I’m also competing with people who want to run their old AppleII and need a monitor. Some of those old CRTs are literally selling for $500+ on ebay.

Now, the time is ticking on my ability to return this thing… so I need to know if it even works beyond powering on. I hook up my oscilloscope hoping I can see something useful.


I don’t know why, but I was sort of hoping the CRT would just.. magically work and I’d see text. (It isn’t that easy… you can watch this video if interested in converting your oscope to a monitor..) Instead I get this. This is encouraging, since that looks like a waveform – though I have no idea wtf it means. However, the top looks like a TTL signal ( I think? )

and the rest seems like a composite video signal.

Not sure what to make of it… but at least the RE256 is putting out something on the video channel.

Well – shopping / hunting for old computer shit is my idea of fun, so I’m going to put this on slow burn and wait for a monitor to show up.


So I’ve realized at this point that using this block of metal is going to be a challenge. The more I know about it, the better I can fix it, and how fucked up is that I’m trying to fix a piece of gear that I know next to nothing about, so I can then maybe learn how to use it. Why not just dump it? I wish I knew, and I wish I had. But at this point I have a fantasy in my head of fixing this, and having this awesome distortion analyzer and I’m like already a “RADIOMETER ELECTRONICS” fanboy. They are my BRAND motherfucker.

I’m hurting to recount this because I am missing a folder of 20+ solid links, including discussion of these products on audioforums. But one of the terrifying things I came across was this review of the 201 Audio Analyzer. I take that back there are several terrifying things going on here:

  • IEEE controlled interface, using a custom piece of hardware. RE901 Keyboard with 16 push buttons. This means I probably can’t just hook in some keyboard. I’ll need to find a way to send specific commands to the RE256. No idea if there is a command-line feature, but assume (! ) there is.
  • “The Tape test program does a comprehensive evaluation including.. ” Tape based? Fuck. Odds of acquiring original software just plummeted. There must be hard copies of that stuff somewhere though maybe in a manual
  • “The length of these programs give some idea of the time required to program the RE201 – the tape and tape recorder program consisting of 3229 lines of BASIC and the REPLOT program which simply allows plotting of functions occupies 2400 lines of BASIC”.. haha ha. yeah I’m completely fucked here. Even if I get this POS working, I’ll have nothing I can do with it.

Not Terrifying, but useful info gleaned:

  • Monitor is not RGB ( not surprising ) but rather TTL
  • RS232 interface for printing results
  • Overall a pretty bad-ass piece of machinery


When you can’t do … buy! I think this is probably great advice for business acquisition or something. For me it means I can obsess about gear, instead of learning how to use it. Well I guess I’m buying this gear SO I can learn to use my other gear – but same basic shit. After another week or so of hunting I have acquired:

  • Manuals for the RE901 keyboard, the RE201, and some other RE audio gear. Some of them are programmable, so I hope that their chapters on IEEE interface will contain something useful.
  • Practically NIB IBM 5150 monitor. I probably should have just stuck with a smaller TTL security monitor or something, but this showed up on CL, and only had to drive an hour to get it. And I’m always hoping I can sell this shit at a later date. Plus, you know. It’s cool vintage computer shit. Oh it came with a keyboard – which are also in demand for gaming.


update: August: no update. Monitor is sitting in a box in the garage. Listed keyboard for a stupid price online, just to see if anyone bites. I guess I could probably just check real quick to see if I get a signal from the RE256 on the Monitor. But you know – lots of other stuff going on.



Radiometer Electronics / RE: Technology / Confusing Dutch Company / Distortion Analyzer

This happened like a year ago, but I’m trying to get through my long ass list of projects. Most of them are small and trivial, and I hesitate to even post them here. Wow, you cut a cord, flipped the polarity and now your power supply is negative-center! Huzzah! I mean I was pretty proud of that, but yeah – not really “post worthy”.

Oh, but this one is.

So I like to pretend I’m learning about audio electronics. I read some stuff, try and pick out the gist of it.. sort of like reading an abstract of a paper instead of the whole thing. About 2 years ago I decided I want to build speakers, or repair amps, or some stupid shit. Why? dunno. But it seemed like a cool hobby, with lots of smart people, and I desperately want to be smart.

So while I bungle my way around an oscilloscope, and trying to trace circuits ( and failing mostly ) – I see this beauty on ebay: an RE:256 Distortion Analyzer. Distortion / Spectrum Analyzers aren’t really important for basic audio electronics – but past a certain point they matter a whole lot. And the good ones remain expensive – vintage HP’s are in the $500+ range. So when I saw this RE256 at like $150… I was excited. Now, do I need a distortion analyzer? well no. But it seemed like it would be great to have. For example, I could test the distortion on an amp, make some changes, and see if I had improved it or not.

Researching the re256 was not easy. I mean – look at the search terms here:


I seriously don’t know how I got my first break, but I came across an audio forum talking about the RE204 Distortion Analyzer, and how it was super well made, and awesome. Hard to find, and replacement parts were non-existent. I don’t know why, but it was like the hooks were in. Because if there is one thing better than owning a useful piece of equipment – it is owning a super rare, hard to find version. Well, you might say the latter impacts the former, and you’d be right! But the heart only knows what it wants. And I wanted it.

In my mind – the 256 was just a “better” version of the 204. I don’t know why I thought that – but sadly, it is a common mistake i make. So of course I bid, and of course I won – and of course things went down hill from there.

The Monitor

So when it showed up, I was excited – and immediately disappointed. See, other analyzer like the hp 8903 have a digital display on it.

I thought I saw one on the RE256. I was wrong. I also quickly realized there aren’t even any buttons on this fucking thing. It is just a big black box with some jacks on it. Well, no worries – I can plug in a monitor, and sure it needs an older 5pin keyboard, but no worries. I have adapters. Note the unrealistic optimism here, and the beginning of the Sunk Cost fallacy. This is an ongoing theme in my life, along with the “cut twice, forget to measure” thing. So I get my plugs and my monitors, and hook it all up, and nothing happens. No signal, etc. Now I’m not too worried, because I didn’t buy this “as-is” this fucking thing is supposed to work. So I must be making a mistake here. So I started on a quest for a user manual.

The Search

I also relish a good “search”. Fun to obsess about you know?:It took a while, but this is what I found out:

  • RE stands for “Radiometer Electronics” a dutch company. At some point it split in half with Audio on oneside, and medical tech on the other. The medical tech is still being made – the audio died out.
  • Parts are beyond impossible to find. There are a few replacement boards floating around on ebay – each priced $600+
  • Manuals are hard to find
  • I was able to find out some stuff about the RE204, and 500 series gear… but not much on the 256.

And then I had a breakthrough – look at this beauty.

Thank you “Test & Measurement World” magazine! Look at all that shit it does! I’m excited again. In a short period of time I realize I need

  • Vintage monitor
  • Vintage keyboard
  • Programming manuals

So one of the many twists here is that the RE256 is designed as an automated tester – like I read about the RE204 (link) there is programming done in BASIC ( woo! ). But I’m hoping I can find the actual programs out there somewhere. I set this in the back of my head as I race to Goodwill.. surely they will have what I need. I come back with an old keyboard, some adapters, but no monitor.

As I try and read up on what kind of monitor I will actually need – I fall into a deep deep rabbit hole.

Next time: Scanlines.