Restoration of an RCA record player is a time-consuming methodical process. The information in this section emphasizes the many steps involved in transforming a run-down, neglected RCA record player of the early 50s into a shiny, well-oiled instrument of nostalgic sound, worthy of display in your home.

To inform you of my restoration process, I’ve chosen the RCA Model 45 EY2 player, which I consider to be the most popular instrument of all the many models offered by RCA during 1949 through 1956. Figure 1 shows a typical player in need of restoration. Most neglected players like this one have a number of problems, making the player unusable in its present condition and not worth a second glance.

Figure 1. Unrestored 45 EY2 Record Player

The Problems
Ninety percent of the time the electric cord to the player is dry and brittle with the rubber insulation cracked, exposing the dangerous copper wiring. If the player can be plugged in, usually a very load hum is heard from the speaker, indicating problems with the built-in amplifier. The cartridge that holds the needle will always require replacement. The original cartridge in the player has a crystal element which most assuredly has dried up over its 50 plus years of life. Once the crystal cartridge has dried up, no sound is produced.

The changer mechanism which sequentially drops and plays your 45s will be in need of cleaning, repair, lubricating and adjustment as it too has not withered the many years it has endured in a hot attic or damp cellar. Two rubber wheels inside your player, called the idler and the cycling cam, have probably dried up and become brittle and do not function or no longer provide the smooth, no stick, record changing action we expect to see with a restored player. And finally, the grease used in these players has hardened and thickened over the years to the point that it resembles very thick, heavy axle grease. Grease in this form does not provide for smooth, no stick operation for your record changer. So you see there are a number of electrical and mechanical problem areas in your player that require attention during the restoration process. Neglecting any of these will assuredly increase the possibility of additional problems in the near future.

Starting the Restoration
I start the restoration process by removing the two main assemblies of the RCA Module 45 EY2 record player from the Bakelite case. These assemblies are the record changer and the amplifier.  See Figure 2.

Figure 2. The Record Changer (top) and the Amplifier (bottom)

The Amplifier
The main components of the amplifier are three tubes, a speaker, a volume control and several resistor and capacitors. During the restoration, the electric line cord and the amplifier filter capacitors are always replaced. Changing the amplifier filter capacitors eliminates the hum that is often heard when the player is turned on. The tube sockets are sprayed with contact cleaner to ensure positive contact between the tube pins and tube socket. The three tubes are tested in a tube tester and are replaced, if necessary. The speaker may also require replacement if the speaker cone is torn, dry or brittle.  All soldered connections are checked and repaired if necessary. The remaining components in the amplifier are not changed, unless required. My experience has shown that changing capacitors unnecessarily can alter the sound quality produced by the amplifier. The amplifier is tested to ensure it still produces the RCA “Golden Throat” quality of sound.

The Changer
The record changer is completely disassembled during the restoration. Disassembly involves removing the motor assembly, the cycling slide mechanism used for changing records, the turntable and the tone arm that houses the cartridge and needle. The cycling slide mechanism is completely disassembled. All metal parts of the cycling slide mechanism are cleaned in solvent to remove old grease, rust or and dirt that would hinder the speed of the turntable or the smooth, no-stick operation of the record changer. The rubber cycling cam wheel is part of the slide mechanism and is cleaned, sanded and revitalized to ensure smooth operation. Sometimes the rubber on this cam is very hard and brittle and the cam must be rebuilt. After cleaning, the cycling slide mechanism is reassembled to the bottom of the changer where it is lubricated and adjusted for smooth cycling operation. Also, the gold top plate of the changer is washed and cleaned with a tarnish remover and waxed. I do not repaint the gold top plate. Needle blemishes and wear around the OFF/ON slide switch are buffed out, but some evidence of this wear may remain.

The Motor
The motor assembly includes a small ac motor and the idler wheel. The combination of the motor and the idler wheel govern the operation of the changer including turntable speed (45RPM) and the record changing operation. The motor is disassembled and the motor bearings are lubricated. The idler wheel, like the cycling cam wheel mentioned above is cleaned, sanded and revitalized to ensure smooth operation. Sometimes the rubber on this wheel is very hard and brittle and the wheel has to be rebuilt. The rubber motor mounts (3) that secure the motor assembly to the changer are always replaced during restoration.

The Turntable
The turntable includes a small trust bearing that is removed, cleaned and lubricated. The turntable shaft is also cleaned of old grease and lubricated. The intent is for the turntable to experience the least amount of resistance as possible and to rotate smoothly at the desired speed of 45RPMs. The turntable spindle onto which you load your 45s has several small delicate parts within that are not touched unless absolutely necessary during the restore. Proper operation of the spindle mechanism ensures your 45s drop one at a time, on cue, during the record changing cycle.

The Tonearm
Every restoration includes a new ceramic cartridge and diamond needle. I have tried several different brands/models of cartridges and have located a GE cartridge that produces excellent sound through the built-in amplifier and speaker. Installing the cartridge is a very time consuming job as the cartridge must be adapted to the tone arm to ensure a proper fit. Also, the replacement cartridge is much lighter than the original metal crystal cartridge so that the tonearm must be adjusted for proper balance, weight and tracking characteristics. The pivotal arm onto which the tonearm is mounted is completely disassembled cleaned and polished to ensure the tonearm encounters minimal resistance as it plays your valuable 45s.

The Bakelite Case
The Bakelite case that houses your player is washed and waxed. I have tried several types of waxes and have found one that provides the ultimate shine. Cracks, scratches and blemishes cannot be removed from Bakelite, so the condition of the case before restoration should be very good to excellent to ensure good results with the cleaning and waxing.

Once all the above procedures are completed, the player is re-assembled. The changer and amplifier are installed into the Bakelite case. The player is turned on and now begins the process of adjustment and fine-tuning. Your player has no less than six changer adjustments. They include pickup landing adjustments, pickup height adjustments, tripping adjustments, mounting bracket adjustment, muting switch adjustment and an adjustment to ensure the records do not hit the tonearm when they drop to the turntable.  I won’t detail these adjustments, but as you probably expect these adjustments define the actions that take place when your records automatically are dropped and played. One must remember your player was a mechanical marvel in its day. Proper adjustment is critical to ensure the player continual plays your records without malfunctioning.   During this stage of restoration I also ensure the speed of the turntable is 45RPM and I check to ensure the tonearm is balanced and not putting excessive weight onto your valuable 45s.  A complete restoration takes me approximately 8 to 10 hours.  Figure 3 shows a restored RCA 45 EY2 player.

Figure 3. Restored 45 EY2 Record Player