Author Topic: 1961 Zenith Console Restoration  (Read 2652 times)

Pat L

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1961 Zenith Console Restoration
« on: November 21, 2014, 09:39:42 AM »
Hi all, I am going to share my latest project with you today. It's a gorgeous 1961 Zenith that I'm restoring for my brother and his wife. It's their top of the line model for that year and features a very nice set of heavy magnet woofers and a set of Jensen horns. The amplifier is a 6BQ5 push pull unit that puts out 30 watts. There is also a separate reverb unit and amplifier.

These Zeniths are real sleepers as far as consoles go. First, they are relatively common and don't cost much. Their quality is very high, the styling is second to none, and I think they may be the prettiest tuner/preamps out there. They also sound great.

Here are some preliminary pics of the project. Oh yea, I've got to finish it in the next 4 days as I'm delivering it to their home in Alabama on Wednesday. Pat

MagnificentMagnavox1959

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Re: 1961 Zenith Console Restoration
« Reply #1 on: November 23, 2014, 06:39:49 AM »
Pat nice zenith
I have the same unit only mine was a 63 it was the top of the line set for 63
It has the fist series micro touch 2g with the pop up 45 adaptor. Has the same speakers as yours with the horns. Stereo fm as well
Thing is though the highs to me don't seem high? I like a lot of tremble high frequency
It seems having the horns I'd have more than I do
The set was fully recapped and restored by a guy I use who has been doing this many years
I use it but not as often as I should because the sound is un comparable to my Magnavox from 59 or fisher ambassador.
I mean what could cause that? Or maybe it's working fine but I'm just used to the others
I tested all the tubes, they seem fine
Not strong but good at least. Maybe 55-65 %
What else would limit the highs? I replaced the cross overs to

Pat L

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Re: 1961 Zenith Console Restoration
« Reply #2 on: November 23, 2014, 09:06:10 AM »
Interesting problem, do you think it's possible the set isn't wired exactly right?  What I'm referring to is the multiple speaker connections. With this unit there are countless places to make a polarity mistake or worse. I restored a 59 model Zenith with very similar components last year. I fought and fought connection issues. The sets won't even play right without the shorting plugs across the external speaker jacks.

Another quirk I noticed is that the bass overwhelms the treble on these and must be dialed back to less than center. The treble did sound great on that one though.

I'll see today how this one sounds and let you know if I learn more.

electra225

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Re: 1961 Zenith Console Restoration
« Reply #3 on: November 23, 2014, 10:48:24 AM »
Perhaps one of you guys who own both Zenith and Magnavox instruments could come up with a "Zenavox."  Use Zenith's overwhelming bass with Magnavox's overwhelming treble horns and come up with a balanced instrument.
If it ain't broke, call me.  I can break it....

Harbourmaster

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Re: 1961 Zenith Console Restoration
« Reply #4 on: November 23, 2014, 11:16:30 AM »
Which tubes test "low"?  If they are the preamp tubes then that might account for some of the tonal imbalance?
-- Aloha, Ken

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MagnificentMagnavox1959

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Re: 1961 Zenith Console Restoration
« Reply #5 on: November 23, 2014, 11:37:46 AM »
Thanks guys. The wires are hooked up right
I bet it's the weak tubes. I'll recheck those today. I think they are 6bq5's and 12ax7 in the power amp

Pat L

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Re: 1961 Zenith Console Restoration
« Reply #6 on: November 23, 2014, 12:20:00 PM »
It could be the tubes, the originals in the unit I'm working on we're some of the most worn out I've ever run across. All the 6BQ5's were weak as were the 12AX7's on the amp. But the worst were the 12AT7's on the tuner/preamp. They were just plain used up. The tubes on the reverb amp were bad as well. The 6X4 was dead and the 12AX7 had already been replaced. Pat

MagnificentMagnavox1959

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Re: 1961 Zenith Console Restoration
« Reply #7 on: November 23, 2014, 05:46:15 PM »
Pat what's the 6x4 tube control? Also what tubes in the power amp and radio preamp control the highs?
Funny thing I tested the radio and the highs sounds great.mits just the changer they sound a bit full
The cartridge is a nos one

Pat L

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Re: 1961 Zenith Console Restoration
« Reply #8 on: November 23, 2014, 07:45:05 PM »
The 6X4 is the rectifier for the reverb amplifier. You've given me some important information in that you are not satisfied with the stereo cartridge. Perhaps the sound is fine and it's just that particular source. Have you tried it with an iPod, computer, CD player, etc? if you feed the tape input or phono input it should knock your socks off.

I'm listening to it right now and I'm blown away by how great it sounds. The sound just shimmers with the reverb, they really hit a home run with that feature. Speaking of that when I took the reverb unit off to clean the contacts it had a made by Hammond Organ company label inside it. Really first rate quality equipment.

I will be posting pics over the course of the next week along with some videos of the unit in operation. It has exceeded my hopes and expectations. The sound is fabulous.

A quick summary of the work I pergormed this week: recapped the power and reverb amps, recapped the tuner. Restrung the tuner as the string was broken. Tested and replaced all bad tubes. Cleaned every tube socket and and switch. Changed every light bulb. Disassembled front dial glass assembly's and cleaned everything. Removed all old grease from tuner dial indicator slides and regreased. Lubed all bearings and shafts and contact points. Cleaned all three chassis's. Changed speaker crossover capacitors.

I still need to finish the cabinet, I'll be going over it with Howard's. I think I'll also repaint the silver knobs, as most of the metalized finish is worn off the plastic. I'll be giving the record changer a servicing as well although I have high hopes for it as it still works from new. As for the tubes, I installed a set of the Russian EL84's in the amp with a matched pair of GE 12AX7's, sweet.
Pat

Pat L

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Re: 1961 Zenith Console Restoration
« Reply #9 on: November 23, 2014, 07:53:19 PM »
As to which tubes control the highs, I don't think it works that way. The entire signal goes though the 12AT7's in the preamp and of course though the amp tubes. No specific tubes control the highs. I wonder if all your caps have been changed? There were some very hard to get ones in the tuner/preamp tucked under the pots. Had to pretend I was a surgeon to get them. Pat

Pat L

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Re: 1961 Zenith Console Restoration
« Reply #10 on: November 30, 2014, 11:02:53 AM »
The console is at my brothers place in Alabama now. He and his entire family are thrilled with it. I'll post some pics of the work I did on it later today. I will tell you this, the Zenith tuner/preamps are far more involved than those in a Magnavox or most others for that matter. I wouldn't put them on the same level of challenge as say a Fisher or Pilot, but they are more challenging than other mainstream consoles. This unit, like others I've worked on required re-stringing the radio dial pulleys. That is definitely not one of my favorite jobs, but one best learn how to do it to be self sufficient in this hobby.


After the first night of testing one of the 6BQ5's redplated on me. I was worried about it so I pulled the amp and changed all the associated resistors as a precaution even though they tested within tolerance. I think that the problem was ultimately with the tube, which was replaced. The problem never recurred.


As for how the unit sounded, in a word, wonderful. Highs, lows, mids were all good. At 50% or so volume it filled their great room to a level where conversation was hard.


When I left I pulled the VM Cobramatic record changer as it is in need of overhaul and I didn't have time to finish it before delivering the console. I'll be going over it very thoroughly and once I have it in tip top shape I'll ship it back to Alabama. My brother told me to hurry as they're all very excited to play some vinyl.