Cue Grams

The BBC EMT 950/347 (Wide Body) Turntable, by John Shaw

EMT 950
Built with no compromise, the EMT 950 turntables were supplied in two variants. The BBC 950/347 wide body type, (693 millimeters wide) with controls on the left side of the disc, and the narrow line Model 950 E (519 mm wide, 573 mm deep) which had the same controls lined up in the front panel, best suited for self operation studios. Both models were introduced in 1976/7.

These impressive machines were built in Kippenheim, Germany, at the legendary EMT factory founded by Wilhelm Franz.

Both machines could be mounted on their own legs or in a console; the shock absorber frame was built-in.

Start time of the platter at 33 rpm was 200 milliseconds, and, just by pushing the reverse button, the disk would rotate backwards to find the beginning of a track: the operator could monitor the cueing with either headphones or the inbuilt speaker.

The 950 had three speeds (33, 45 and 78 rpm) with automatic selection of 33 or 45 at the raising of the central adapter for the smaller records, an EMT 929 tone arm was used as standard finished in aluminum with brass or black counterweight with bias compensation.

EMT 929 tone arm
EMT 929 tone arm

The cartridge options were either the TSD-15 moving coil or the Shure moving magnet type - modifications had to be made to the equalizer board to accommodate the MC version, with the addition of two transformers. The EMT "9 950 347", or, as it is more widely known, the 'BBC', was one of the final developments of the most formidable professional record reproducers ever manufactured.

The 950 broadcast-quality EMTs were certainly the flagship of the range, they were based on an efficient direct-drive system and very complex electronics that allowed a very quick start-up time and braking facility, essential for cueing in a radio environment.

Sturdiness, stability and overall reliability were the main priority of this professional turntable. Expense was no object; the end result was a 75-Kgs monument to the technique of ultimate record reproduction.

Behind the front panel
Built like a battleship, and painted in the same shade of medium grey, the 950 was and still is impressive. The performance is exceptional.

Wow, flutter and rumble were simply too low to be measured, start-up time of 200 m/sec was appropriate for broadcast cueing as was the possibility of turning the record backwards to the touch of a button to search for the desired cueing point. The superb 929 tone arm was a fitting complement to this formidable machine.

The 950 was undoubtedly way too complex and expensive for normal customers, but it enjoyed immediately a healthy success amongst the main broadcast corporations around the world. They all bought their own versions of the 950.

The ultimate customization of the 950 arrived in the early 1980s with an order from the British Broadcasting Corporation. The BBC had used for years Garrard 301s and 401s, followed by the Technics SP-10, but the overall quality and operation facilities of the 950 made it the natural choice.

The BBC also required some very special accessories for their machines, and this is where the history becomes quite interesting.

Zero locator

Speed selection

Groove meter
A necessary requirement for the 950 machines, was the 'zero locator'. This is a sort of sophisticated digital chronograph connected to the start/stop/reverse functions of the turntable - this digital time counter starts every time that the platter starts turning. It has a reset zero push switch that locates a desired cueing point and another button that uses the reverse of the 950 to take the platter automatically back to that cueing point (where the counter was reset). This was a very useful cueing tool.

Another feature was the 'course and fine' variable speed controls - very rare on a broadcast machine but proved necessary for some non-standard speed disks (like several early 78's that played at 80rpm)

There was an additional facility on the 347, namely a groove meter - this was a very helpful visual tool to see at a glance the remaining playing time on a vinyl LP record.

One other facility in this complex machine is the stylus illuminator, evidently deemed not so necessary by British engineers, but it could be installed anyway as a very useful extra. On the other hand, the BBC found it advantageous to fit several more controls on the front panel of the 347 being a Penny & Giles
BBC front panel
potentiometer and two more switches: one normal-fader start that allows to start the record player from a mixer or from a local button; a normal-pre fade listen switch that allowed the user the monitoring of the program with headphones (the level is controlled via a separate potentiometer); and an on/off switch for the built-in muting.

Lid closed
The signal output from the 9 950 038 MC/MM EQ card is routed to the main preamp, then sent from the standard XLR connectors on the back of the 950 to the P&G potentiometer and then to a large proprietary connector situated under the deck. From this unusual connector the umbilical cord goes to the input of the studio mixer to provide audio and remote functions.

The whole machine is protected by a large hinged Perspex cover thoughtfully incorporating a record-sleeve holder.

Finally, the 347 sits 10 cm higher than the standard Narrowline 950, whose massive metallic legs are 73 cm tall.- with the adjustable feet bringing the total height to 83 cm.

Weight of the BBC 950/347 complete with stand is nearly 76 kilograms.

Rear conncectors
Rear connections on the unit comprise of -
Two balanced line output XLR sockets
Speaker output
Headphone output
Serial port for remote functions
Adjustable multi voltage switch

Both turntables shown in my studio (below) have been lovingly restored by myself and operate beautifully!

John Shaw's studio