Empire began producing turntables in the early 60’s and over a span of almost 20 years produced roughly 6 main models the 208, 298, 398, 498, 598 and 698. Here we have the Empire 398 which is based off the 208 but has the Empire 980 tonearm and was introduced around 1963. Empire offered two color schemes with their turntables. The stock offering was a satin chrome or silver anodized aluminum finish while a gold colored finish was optional. The gold colored finish was denoted by the “G” designation on the model number. The gold finishes have not held up over time and many that you see today show quite a bit of wear.
The 398 sold for around $174.99 which was a decent sum of money back in the early 60’s. Empire TT’s used the German made Pabst motor which is a great motor and will get the platter to full speed in 1/3 of as turn. These motors are exceptionally quiet and smooth. Thorens also used the Pabst motors at one time.
There is a great thread over at AudioKarma.org for anyone that loves Empire turntables. It’s a long read but well worth it and covers technical aspects of the TT as well as the history of the company up until about 1980. You can read it HERE. Here are some of the other specs on the Empire 398:
- Speeds: 33-1/3, 45 and 78.25. RPM +/- 0.3%.
- Rumble: Exceeds broadcast and laboratory requirements (Amplitude of rumble vibration is less than one millionth of an inch).
- Turntable 12? Diam.: 6 lbs. cast aluminum individually balanced.
- Turntable recovery: Less than 1 RPM @ 33-1/3 RPM.
- Wow & Flutter: Less than 0.15% RMS.
- Power requirements: 105-125 V.A.C. 60 cycles only.
- Motor: Hyteresis Synchronous ? 4 pole-Dynamically balanced.
Empire turntables are very popular for both their performance as well as their place in audio history. A properly working 398 will match the performance of modern day TT’s that are much pricier. Plus the retro look of the Empire makes for unique decor and is a great conversation piece. The 398 sells for around $350.00 on up to $800.00 depending upon condition and accessories.