Empire 498

Hi all - I have an Empire 498 turntable I inherited from my grandfather years ago that has been collecting dust in my crawlspace...I've been all digital with no analog for years.

Cleaned out the crawlspace for some home repair and came across it.

It's in great shape, if dusty, and I'm curious as to whether this is they type of turntable to begin collecting vinyl around or if I should just put it up for sale.

I have no clue what to ask for, and thought I'd begin my research with you guys. I read an article online about Empire turntables, and it appears the 498 is the 'rare' model of the bunch, but I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing! :)

Anyway, any knowledge you may have about these turntables would be appreciated. It has sentimental value, but if it's worth a few bucks, I may sell it, particularly since I don't own one LP.


- Dan
If you are interested in owning a turntable at all and like Empires, this would be THE one for you to own. Your Grandfather would probably be very happy knowing that you are now enjoying it as he did. I myself would keep it and have it restored and heavily tweaked by an Expert. Should give very good performance. Research an Expert and find out the costs involved. Can't hurt. I would be interested in your results and hearing of your decisions.
Contact Ralph Karsten at Atma-sphere. He is a connoisseur of Empire TT's and can advise you on what you might want to do to return yours to good operating condition. Very worth the effort, as far as I know.
As noted above, you've got a potential winner here, depending on condition. The platter and bearing and motor are all exceptionally fine, even by modern standards. The tonearm is not well-loved, however as a real heavyweight arm it is a very good match for a Denon 103R cartridge. And Empire made some very fine cartridges itself which should work well.

You should definitely check out the big Empire thread over at AudioKarma. I believe the Empire 498 is a suspended model, and was made at the height of Audio Empire's production.

There is much that can be done to ensure that the Empire is brought back up to snuff. Specifically, you should get the right belt (Turntable Basics probably has it), plus you should replace the three rubber grommets that suspend the motor, since they are likely to be dried out and stiff. With fresh grommets you should not hear any motor noise when setting the needle down.

I don't know anything about setting up the suspension on these, but the 498 used the same heavy weight platter (I think) as the earlier 208/298/398 models, and it is a beauty. Exceptionally well machined & balanced. It does have a tendency to ring however (mine used to ring for 30 seconds after tapping it with no mat on it). There are several methods one can use to dampen the platter, but perhaps the best is to get one of the thicker Herbies mats, which can be custom-cut so that the center hole is correct for the Empire platter.

The motor is an exceptionally robust 3-phase unit, and is well-known for its speed stability. You might need a little lubrication in the motor well, and a few drops of light oil in the main bearing and you should be good to go!

Best of luck and happy listening!
I would also appreciate any info on techs who work on empires. I know ralph offers full What looks like full 208 restores at prices to match the work involved. But imtalking about something a little more basic. Like speed checks, dyna lift repairs etc.
We can service a lot of that stuff- we even got the correct motor mounts re-manufactured.
Well, a contrary view. I've been in the hobby since the early 60's and I drooled over the Empire TT's at the time. My first cartridge was an Empire 2000 EIII.

Restoring one of these is like restoring a 60's sports car; you gotta have a love for it.

I don't think of it as a candidate for starting a record collection. A brief look at Ebay shows values today between $100 and $750 for Empire turntables of various hues in various states of repair - but no 498's. If you can find a local hi fi repair shop of the vintage type and someone to advise you you'll learn if you have a treasure or not.

I wouldn't do anything other than sell it.

Just my two cents.
Joe in Seattle. Your candor in the post is admirable. But care to elaborate on you opinion in greater detail. Are you saying maintenance is finnicky? Are you saying the table is too expensive to be repaired etc.
Ralph -thank you for your post. I have a 598 i am fooling around with. I may have to call upon your service when the some of the issues get too complicated.

Probably makes more sense to consider obtain and perform work on a 208 given the easier arm replacement, but -- heresey to the audio elite --I love the dyn-alift!

Another audio elite heresay, but I also think looking at a 598, if the metal and bulbs are in condition
The reason we stay away from the suspension models is that it is very difficult to do anything about the arm. The platter/motor setup is great on all the machines, but IMO the arms always leave a bit to be desired (although the later arms were a lot better).

The big problem on the 498 arm is usually the cartridge clip, which is fragile and rare. If you have that, a cartridge of moderate compliance should work OK. I have seen cases where some people got Jelco arms to work in the machine; the problem is that you are locked into the geometry of the original arm with the suspended models (498 and later).

Now if you decide to stick with the 498 arm, a nice tweak is to get a machinist to make a new counter balance weight- one that puts most of its mass below the arm tube. This improves the bass and traceability of the arm.
FYI I bought a modded Empire 208 from Ralph with TriPlanar arm. His restoration and modifications are incredible.
I am about to start restoring an Empire 498. does anyone know what arms are a drop in geometry wise? I already have a restored 208 with solid aluminium plinth and SMEIV arm that is exceptional, so I am trying to get comparable sound out of a suspension Empire.
The newer AR arm from when AR came back about 20 years ago is pretty close, but you have put your finger on why we don't mess with the suspension models. Its tricky to find an arm that works with the geometry. Once you have done that, mounting it can be a challenge too.
Anything that you know of of more recent vintage. I believe the original Empire arm has an effective length of 228.5mm so is there any reason an arm of similar effective length would not work?
If you can make it mount up then you are in business :)