Monthly Archives: November 2010

The Walker CJ-55 Turntable

Back in the early 80s, I took a huge jump in LP sound by upgrading my cartridge to a Shure V15 Type V, which originally had the “HE” (hyper-elliptical) stylus. When the Micro Ridge stylus became available, I replace the HE with it. That cartridge tracked anything I threw at it, even 45s that sounded like crap with my earlier cartridge with its lowly elliptical stylus.

As I had it mounted on an older direct drive turntable, I shopped around quite a bit for a replacement. As a birthday gift one year, I bought myself a Grace G707-II tonearm, which was clearance priced at Absolute Sound. It took me months of looking, but I finally settled on a turntable made by a small UK company called Walker. The model (which may have been their only one at the time) was the CJ-55. The “CJ” were actually the initials of the owner and his wife: Colin and Janet Walker. Colin went on to another audio manufacturer after Walker folded.

I’ve always liked the sound of this turntable–it always had a warm, inviting sound that took away some of the clinical hard edge I noticed in other turntables.  This is due to its construction.  It is based on the same type of design as the Linn Sondek, with a floating subchassis. As you would expect, isolation from room movement is very good. The difference is that the design of the CJ-55 is essentially all wood, or wood by-products. The enclosure and subchassis are fabricated from wood. The plinth is high-density MDF covered in a black vinyl veneer. The platter and subplatter are made of a material called Tufnol, which is very similar to Bakelite…another wood-based product.

One thing that plagued me for years was the speed of the turntable. Not only did it run fast (which, to a person with perfect pitch, will drive that person completely insane…trust me), the speed was not very stable. A new belt from the importer helped things for a brief spell, but it always suffered. As CDs were “the next big thing” in the early 80s, I ended up retiring the Walker for awhile, not playing it very often. Finally by 1995, I got so disgusted with the speed issues that I found a used Denon DP-1000 turntable and mounted the Grace arm and Shure cartridge on it, and have used it for the past 15 years that way.

I was determined to get the Walker back up and running in recent months, and tackle its issues. It was not all smooth going. First of all, checking the motor, the pulley slipped on the shaft, and finally came off. I noticed that they had used an adhesive, so I repaired the pulley with some adhesive I had on hand. In addition, the belt was shot. I stole the belt from the Music Hall MMF-2.1 on hand, which is 1½ inches shorter in length than the Walker’s original 21 inch belt. It is a little too snug, but the torque is there. Being tight, the belt tends to hop around a bit on the motor pulley, so I’m hunting down a slightly larger belt.

How did I solve the speed issue? Surprisingly, using something very low-tech and readily available! I managed to find some wide rubber bands, and put three of them next to each other on the subplatter. I haven’t checked with the strobe yet, but to my ears, it sounds like it is accurate. Stability is pretty much cured, but with a looser belt and an oil change in the bearing, we may have it tweaked as much as possible. A few weeks of listening should reacquaint me with the sound of this setup.

The turntable system is comprised of the Walker CJ-55 turntable, Grace G707-II tonearm, Shure V15V-MR cartridge, and a “tacky” rubber mat called “Music Mat.” (The vinyl clings to the mat when it is clean, dampening vibrations in the vinyl.) For clamping records, I have a plastic “tripod” clamp which grips the spindle. I’d hate to think what this would cost in 2010 dollars, but back then, it probably retailed in total for about $700-$800. The worst part of this whole trip down memory lane is that I originally put this system together 27-28 years ago!