Every so often, a customer brings me something that reminds me just how much I love vintage hi-fi. The Dual 1219 idler-drive turntable is just such a piece.
The Dual 1219 idler-drive turntable is a relic from an era when almost everything was made out of metal and wood. The deck is German and old, so this type of solid construction should be no surprise.
The Dual 1219 uses an idler-drive, quite different from most other turntables, which use belt or direct-drive for their platters. Idler-drives use a powerful motor to drive a rubber wheel, which drives the inside edge of the platter.
Idler drives are unlike direct-drive or belt-drive decks, but similar in some ways to both. Some would suggest that they combine the best of both worlds, I’m not sure I agree with that but they certainly can play records very well when correctly set-up and well-maintained.
The downside also relates to set up and maintenance – they typically need more than belt-drive machines and definitely more than direct-drives.
Specifications, courtesy of Vinyl Engine
Power supply: AC, 50 or 60Hz, changeable by changing motor pulley
Voltage: 110/117V or 220V switchable
Drive: Synchronous motor with radial-elastic suspension
Platter: non-magnetic, dynamically balanced, 3.1kg
Speeds: 33, 45 and 78rpm
Pitch control variation: 6%
Rumble: -60db (weighted)
Tonearm: extra long, torsionally rigid metal arm, 4-point gimbal suspension, skeletal head design
Cartridge holder: removable, accepts cartridges from 1 to 12g
Dimensions: 376 x 334mm
There’s a lot to like about the Dual 1219. It’s a very serviceable machine. Those with experience and the correct tools and lubricants should be able to make good progress in many cases. The metal and wooden parts respond well to cleaning and lubrication and there are few plastic parts to fail. If you are not sure though, it might be best to seek out an expert as there’s a lot to go wrong if you are clumsy.
Bearings and metal parts tend to last and everything is quite robustly constructed. There are no belts as mentioned, drive is to the inside of the platter, via an idler wheel. This is almost, but not quite as direct as direct drive, but more direct than belt-drive if you follow me. Idler-drive machines tend to play records very well as a result of the high torque this arrangement delivers, like good direct-drive decks.
The motor is likely to last a lifetime and, speaking of the platter, it’s heavy and dynamically balanced. In fact, the platter makes up half of the total mass of the deck. The 1219 also plays 78s and can repeat play records, great for parties! Automatic start and stop are bonuses which many people enjoy.
The Dual 1219 and other Duals from this era are complex and need regular maintenance. Servicing a deck like this doesn’t take an hour, the 1219 needs several hours of service time, every five or so years. This allows for careful disassembly, cleaning and lubrication of something like a dozen service points. If you are not up for that, this probably isn’t the deck for you.
Some 1219s come in pretty sketchy wooden cabinets, so watch out for that. For more on the Dual 1219, Tone Audio wrote a nice piece about the deck, check it out.
Synthetic lubricants weren’t really a thing back in 1971. The half dozen or so specific mineral oils and greases used in the Dual 1219 don’t hold up well over 40+ years, nor should we expect them to. These are highly mechanical decks and all the points specified in the service manual need greasing or oiling with specialist lubricants. I only use synthetic lubricants these days.
Many owners don’t understand the maintenance requirements of decks like the Dual 1219, with the result that they are often partially or completely seized by the time I see them. This unit certainly was and it took methodical work over several hours to resolve her issues. Is it worth it? Of course, it is, nothing like this will ever be made again.
There are also issues with Dual’s ingenious/ridiculous removable cartridge system. The delicate little fingers and spring-loaded pins can break. If they do, it’s trouble.
Service & Repair
The first thing needed with one of these decks is to remove it from the chassis.
I like this cabinet, but it was looking a little worse for wear when it came in.
If you would like me to service or repair your Dual turntable, get in touch.