When Theo Braakman was 12 years old, he got a turntable "just to demolish," but he was so fascinated by the machine's inner workings he spared the turntable's life. He put a mirror under it to get a better view of the automatic record changing mechanism's gears, belts, and levers that lifted the tonearm and the end of a record side, moved the arm to the rest position, dropped another record to play, and gently lowered the "needle" into the grooves. Braakman played records on that first turntable until he fully understood how the mechanism worked. But that just led to more turntables!
Theo and his wife recently celebrated their 25th anniversary. Braakman told me his wife had one request when they first got married: she wanted him to limit his collecting habit to only one kind of collectible, and the choices were typewriters, tape recorders, or turntables. Braakman now has more than 230 turntables, and lives in the Netherlands.
Some work, some do not. Braakman tries to restore them as much as he can, but parts are hard to find, especially for the really old ones. If during restoration he discovers a vital part is defective or missing, he'll try to find a matching model to cannibalize for parts. That's why he doesn't usually start a serious restoration until he has at least two of the same model. However, some models are so rare it can take years to find another one.
Judging by the photos on Brakkman's Web site, he does superb work. These machines may look simple on the outside, but their intricate mechanisms are something to see. Braakman's clear photography documents many of the turntables' insides and their exterior beauty. I've included just a few here, but there's a lot more on his Web site. You can see the turntables playing records on Braakman's YouTube pages.
Braakman's collection focuses on specific brands that manufactured automatic machines and record changers. I see a lot of familiar names like Dual, Garrard, Thorens, and Philips among brands I've never heard of, such as Luxor, Jobo, and Perpetuum-Ebner. Most of the turntables are stored outside his house, along with his large collection of 78-rpm records.
He's not an audiophile. I gather it's not the vintage sound that interests Braakman; it's the technology. When I asked if there's an end point to his collecting he said he would like to find just the right Thorens TD124 Mark I from 1957. It's an audiophile turntable classic, and Mark IIs, from a decade later are easier to find.
If you have an exceptional hi-fi collection, tell us all about it in the comments section. TVs from the 1940s or 1950s? Share the news with us.
More turntable photos after the jump.