Monday, April 08, 2013

The HMV portable Gramophones 88, 101 and 102. The best sounding of the batch.

The idea of a portable phonograph or Gramophone was in the works from the earliest days of the new invention. The earliest cylinder machines with horns could be portable to a degree but you still needed to carry the horn with you. Not to mention the cylinders. The first portable disc machines were available around the time of the start of WWI. During this time Decca had a great machine that was used in the trenches. 

After WWI the world was very different and Jazz was in the air. Plus everyone wanted a Phonograph, Victrola, Graphonola or even Amberola. The Amberola was for cylinders and the Amberola 30 was smaller but not that easy to get around. While you no longer needed to carry a horn around, you still had the bulky cylinders. 

The Victor Talking Machine Company of Camden, New Jersey came up with the first really good portable in the United States. It was called the Victor Victrola 50. It was followed by the VV 35 and others. Columbia came up with some shortly after, followed by Brunswick and other smaller companies. By the later 1920's there was a massive amount of portables on the market. Many were of dubious quality and many were trying to be cute. Small phonographs like Cameraphones were cute but hardly gave any quality of sound. 

His Masters Voice in the United Kingdom started to make some serious portables and soon were major players in the field. From here on I will just use HMV.  This was the Gramophone Company that had been born from Emile Berliner and was the leading company in England dealing with gramophones or what is called in the USA, phonographs.

 By 1926 HMV really started to corner the world market with portable gramophones. Also while the Victor and Columbia companies in the USA were doing a good deal of sales on portables they would lag behind HMV.

  HMV ruled the market in this field for decades. Producing a large number of portable and some not too portable gramophones. In tonal quality the Gramophone portables were the best on the market. And while the Columbia and Victor companies made some good portable Graphophones and Victrolas respectively. They were never quite as good as the HMV's. Although there are a few that were near equal to them.

What was important about the HMV's was that they were mathematically figured to produce the best quality and sound. Of coure all of this was influenced by what had been the Orthophonic Victrola and electrical recording. The Orthophonic Victrola had been scientifically and mathematically designed by Bell Labs to produce the best possible acoustic reproduction of recordings and it did very well. In the design of the HMV's after 1925 this would always be a factor. To make the machines sound as good as possible using this principle. Most other portables save for a few at Victor and Columbia did not follow this guide and sound rather weak when compared to the HMV's . 

I am going to show you 3 different models that were the best available over the times of 1926 to 1950. Now there were a few models that were larger and portable, but, they were bordering on being a little too large.  So these are the perfect examples. Quite lite to carry, great sound, and lastly good quality that would allow it to work for years without mishap.

These three models were the best produced by HMV One thing that is interesting is that each machine has a special quality the others do not have. Be it bass, or highs, or great mid range. .

The HMV 88A Gramophone Portable. This late machine from the late 1940's is a bit more uncommon than the other two. But what it has is amazing sound. I find this machine to be one of the finest playing Gramophones I have ever heard. It was made mainly for the export market and is a copy of a Columbia portable. Even down to the sound box. The sound box is called a HMV 23. This is a late copy of  Columbia Viva-Tonal reproducer. It was one of the more inexpensive machines. But it had amazing sound for a smaller price. I have listed this machine as #2 in sound of the three. This machine has better bass than the 102

The HMV 101 Gramophone portable was introduced in 1926 and was designed mathematically to play recordings better than any other portable of the time. It packs a loud and powerful punch. It had a #4 reproducer that when restored properly gives some amazing  performance. As good as this machine is I have to say that the HMV 88A sounds better. But this is #3 on sound in this batch. Nothing to be ashamed of as it left many a large machine in the dust. One thing the HMV 101 has over the other two is more bass. Since the #4 reproducer did not have the aluminum diaphragm it gave off more bass through it very long horn than either of the other two.  

The HMV 102 Gramophone portable. This style of machine was introduced in 1931 and was looked at as a replacement for the 101 that really did not have the sound and reproduction that was needed. It was designed with an amazingly long horn that gave superb sound.  The HMV 102 was called and marketed as "The World's Greatest Portable".  It has some amazing sound for a machine of its size and clearly blows away the 101.  But, it is not that much better than the 88A. In fact I think the 88A could give the 102 a run for its money in the way of sound. But the 102 is a little better so it gets named #1 in sound of these three machines.

All of these machines except the 88A were greatly popular and were sold all over the planet. I have been to Asia and I see them, I see them in Europe and of course also in the USA. They were great players in their day and still highly prized by collectors. Specially if they can be found in various colors. Those are more rare.