It didn't take long to set up the Decca SC4E in the Garrard A70...just for a quick play to see if it was worthwhile setting it up in the main system.
I had the Decca mounted up in a matter of minutes, after removing the Stanton 500 and the extra weight in the headshell. The Decca is a three-wire hookup with common ground, so I just let one of the ground wires remain disconnected, tucked up under the headshell. In the garage I found some flat washers that I glued together with contact cement, then secured to the counterweight with electrical tape. That was sufficient to counterbalance the cartridge, so I did so and dialed in two grams on the Garrard's built-in spring for tracking weight.
Yes, this was a quickie!
I had moved the Garrard A70 to where its signal cables would JUST reach the phono input on my preamp. Plugged it all in, turned on the system, and loaded a record. I didn't want to trust the automatic mechanism, so I played the record manually.
It didn't sound very good.
There was a spitty distortion on the music, getting worse as the sound got louder. I rechecked the tracking weight with a separate gauge and confirmed it at 2.1 grams (the Garrard's scale is a bit off, but not THAT much so it would matter). I tried lighter, to 1.5 grams, and heavier to 2.5 grams. Nothing helped. In fact, things got steadily worse.
Then the music stopped entirely and the arm started to skate across the record.
I knew this was bad.
Demounting the headshell and taking a close look, I hoped that perhaps there was a giant dust ball.
But no...the stylus was gone. There was no visible armature and the tieback string just lay there, attached to nothing. In fact it was a bit frayed and rusty-colored where it had wrapped around the armature!
I took a photograph. The armature that was clearly visible previously (although that prior photo is a bit defocused) is definitely gone.
It was not fun, taking the Decca back out again and knowing the worst had happened. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I pried off the thin plastic cover plate from the bottom of the cartridge (where the serial number is). Then pried out the cartridge's guts from the plastic body, which is much thinner than I had thought, and also brittle (a small piece of it broke out). That gave me enough access to see what had happened: the steel armature had cracked and was broken.
I've heard that's the usual failure mode for Deccas that break; the armature breaks at the near-right-angle bend that it makes just below the vertical-sensing coils. Since I had not yet broken a Decca before this, I hadn't seen it myself.
Unlike my Decca Londons which I have examined before, the SC4E had evidence of rust on what was left of the steel armature inside, so all I can figure is that the armature had rusted over the decades, and the process of playing a record was enough to finish it off. This episode has been a reminder: as per the manufacturer in response to an inquiry I made when I got my first Decca London, do not clean Deccas with any liquid. I can only imagine that water or anything aqueous can only worsen any rusting. I don't know how this one had been stored, but a damp environment obviously wouldn't have helped, either. I also don't know if the tieback string is of a material that is damaged from getting wet.
To soothe my feelings, I'm playing some Haydn on the Decca London that's in my Garrard 301. It's an expensive affair to have a Decca rebuilt, and that's what this one needs now. With three Decca Londons, I'm not going to get it done. I guess it's headed for the dustbin...