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A seldom seen, 16" Transcription turntable manufactured by RCA in Camden, NJ from the late 1940s thru early 1950s. Known as the 16" Deluxe Transcription, this one's tag says MI-12800B.
In fair condtition, complete looking and restoration ready. Despite many blemhishes, it presents well and is generally good looking. It should make an excellent, quick, late summer or fall project.
The outer cabinet needs some mild sanding and varnish or leave to enjoy the nice 1940s era pine wood. The motor is good & strong and fired right up turning the platter briskly at 78 and 33 rpm. The platter turns easily and smooth -- with little effort, and continues to coast nicely for a long time with no power, as it should. The idler wheels look OK, no flat spots-- but they do need to be readjusted to make proper drive contact, to engage more firmly with platter. The original mounts look OK. For a brief test, a temporary line cord was attached, though for safety -- it should be inspected, and rewired when you finish restoration. The platter is nice and flat (see photos), the thick 1/2" shaft also looks nice and straight (see photos). The platter top is nice and shinny, though it does have a few minor pits and casting marks, which are normal from it's time of manufacturing, and the center has a tiny rasied spot, which does not affect use -- records lay nice and very flat, even without a mat. You should add a felt, rubber or cork mat to complete the restoration. The switch panel is intact, but needs wiring -- lots of possibiltes for you to add your custom phono section or preamp in the spacious area underneath. The original arm is included -- and needs total restoration -- it has some minor oxidation, needs cleaning and needs a cartridge and wiring.
The platter spins nice and smooth, quiet and the bearing and shaft seem nice move in a buttery, reassuring fashion with no shaft play. The motor is strong, and turns both idlers OK. The idlers need readjust to make contact to engage the platter, (otherwise it can slip), otherwise seems to function OK. The runout (levelness) is very good, though not totally perfect. With will be even better after cleaning.
Line cords, switches and start caps are original from mid 1950's -- they should be cleaned and rewired for safety. The speed change mechanicals are free and operate smoothly, though they will benefit from cleaning and adjustments.
As the broadcast markets boomed in postwar america, these large tables, thanks to their superior durability and quality, became the reproduction standard in station studios all over the world. Studio audio for radio stations and recording studios nationwide ... RCA was the market leader of broadcast at this time -- selling the most well known and famous designs for recording and playback of commercial audio. Their products were over engineered, and quite uniquely designed -- scrutinized by the Camden, NJ research braintrust for superior audio quality. RCA built these in house (other mfrs, like GE, Raytheon, Collins, etc, did not make tables themselves, selling others , made by companies like Fairchild, Presto and Rek-O-Cut, and later Gates and QRK). Of the big audio outfits, the only other company that was this serious about design, was Western Electric / Westrex -- they were fading out by the 50's. Diring RCA's reign, they nurtured this field, and they were more ambitious about cutting edge design -- RCA's golden age was during this time. Taking a que, from ideas coming out of Europe ... by the late 1950's it became clear to RCA, that a more reliable, streamlined and ultimately great sounding transcription table did not need a heavy steel cabinet, or ultra expensive geared transmission mechanisms.
RCA introduced the heavy studio BQ-2 series, and this portable, lighter portable unit sometime in the early late 1940s. About the same time they it was one of the first of it's generation, by the 1960s, all manufacturers (including the Gates CB-500) would be built with rubber idler / rim drive wheels -- this MI 4814 / 12800 and it's bigger brother the BQ-2 were someof the first. RCA's early design put allot of emphasis in a super heavy solid, cast aluminum aluminum billet platter, with thick 1/2" shaft -- all this riding in a oilite (sintered bronze) bushing, with nice and large 5/16" thrust bearing at the bottom. Instead of a single idler pushing against a shaft, these RCA's used (2) wheels, moving along a complex mechanism in tandem...
This model, was sold as the " RCA DeLuxe 16" Turntable, MI 4814. This machine is from the early 1950s, it's about the same, though is clearly marked MI-12800B.
Being so nicely overbuilt, RCA also offered a cutting arm attachment, allowing these large, portable machines to make field recordings. This machine was not equipped with a cutter -- so once restored, it will be ideal for playback only as it is.
Large shafts and heavy platters are the secret behind the sound of these early transcription tables. Other early tables had big platters and some have nice shaft designs... however these old RCA models stand out with superiority in platter design -- some of the thickest the in industry ... (see exhibit photo)
Over the course of nearly 50 years, RCA made and consequently perfected some of the best heavy transcription size tables the USA ever produced, out designing everybody else -- only Western Electric, Fairchild made such high quality. Other companies also made nice tables Rek-O-Cut, Presto, QRK .. also popular with diy audiophiles -- who scour the USA for these, then restore them -- they're rugged, simple and killer sounding -- and have huge, heavy, quiet platters, the biggest shaft and bearing and other special designs not seen in other makes (like the "quiet" smooth rocker switch, and reinforced platter structure). Well suited, and surprisingly compact for home use, when mounted to a plinth (original cabinet is not space efficient, and difficult to ship, so not recommended) -- these are a dream to use -- they are frequently used with the now highly collectible Gray Research arms, among others.
Here is an example of of how nice these can be when restored... (this is *not* this table, this is LAJAzz audio, a professional West Coast dealer (if you seek a restored, perfect one, you should contact them, you will pay more, but his service is well worthwhile if you wish to avoid a project). This unit was sold off for top dollar years ago.. of course this one can look just as good after refinish! -- and this one has an arm!)
All-in-all, this is a real find... is the real McCoy, and you don't see these early 16" tables much... Clean it, oil it, install some fresh rubber, make adjustments, and install fresh wiring and fix the arm... perhaps something else -- and you will have a solid, killer sounding and deluxe turntable of a rare breed and bygone era. Sounding as fine as many of the most expensive new types. Only really serious audiophiles set these up. Quite a bit of work, and well worth it. The effort shows and plays -- listeners leave not talking about your amp and speakers...but your turntable. They were expensive -- Gates built to a very high standard, solid as can be, using the best machining and bearings that 1950s USA could produce.
Once you see and hear one of these in action, you too will lust after the silky smooth, sprawling 16" platter spinning with authority...that's why they are so sought after. If you are looking for a cool late summer / early fall project, and are in need of a real table built in USA, during the 40's and 50s -- this is the one -- Buy Now to avoid a bidder's war, will sell quickly.
The outer pine case measures 27" (683mm) x 21 3/8" (543mm) x 13 1/2h with lid closed (345mm) The factory table and wood are removable, from the cabinet... the top measures approx 25 1/4 (640mm)" x 19 3/4" (503mm) x about 7" (180,, deep ( counting the motor of course, which adds another depth -- all ready to fasten to your custom plinth or cabinet). Packed dims are 28 x 22 x14, weight with cabinet will be about 72lbs.
Will be carefully prepared, double boxed, platter removed and cushioned for proper, guaranteed safe delivery. Shipping ASAP after payment received,see my 100% feedback. We know how to properly pack for safe arrival, it requires a large box -- please see these photos for our careful service...
Description and Photos © HiFiTown 2017