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MMD > Archives > March 2000 > 2000.03.10 > 10Prev  Next

Victor "Orthophonic Credenza" Phonograph
By Mike Knudsen

The Credenza was the top of the line in Victor's "Orthophonic" line
of acoustic players of thin, lateral-cut 78 RPM disc records.  Yes,
the overall design was by Bell Labs.  Orthophonic records were recorded
and mastered electronically, and play much louder and with stronger
bass than the earlier acoustically recorded discs, but the earlier
records also sound fine on an Orthophonic.

Some collectors feel that earlier records sound brighter on earlier
machines, since the Ortho records use pre-emphasis of the treble,
and the players were designed to roll off the treble to compensate
(a technique later and still used in FM radio).  But I like the way
an Orthophonic cuts down the scratchiness of early records, although
a vocalist does sound farther away.

Many Orthophonic models (and there were many size and case variations)
could be ordered with a conventional wind-up spring motor, a synchronous
AC motor, or a universal AC/DC brush-type motor.  I have an "8-4"
model, which looks like a Credenza but is slightly smaller and has less
bass response; it is synchronous electric.

The Orthophonics are real works of engineering art, mass produced at
reasonable prices.  The reproducer, the mostly wooden folded horn, and
the electric recording all make them the ultimate acoustic phonograph.
I still remember one swap meet at Union, IL, where many vendors were
set up outside with no power.  One vendor had a wind-up Credenza, which
totally drowned out the music boxes and organettes at the other tables,
except for a 20-note monkey organ.  It serenaded quite a large area.

I also have a much smaller Ortho, spring powered, side by side with the
phonos worst enemy: a Radiola 20, the original "home entertainment
center."  What's interesting is that the Orthophonic horn is also used
by the radio: you slide an acoustic valve lever to couple the
loudspeaker driver into the neck of the horn.  Even this small horn
really fills a large room with a records sound -- the reproducer does
the work.

The one thing Victor and Bell Labs did nothing about was to retain the
old steel needles that had to be replaced after two plays.  Edison had
long since gone beyond that with his Diamond Discs and Blue Amberol
cylinders.  The two concepts didn't really join forces until the LP
records of 1948.  Edison's vertical modulation was melded into stereo
records in the late 50s.

Anyway, take good care of your Credenza -- three years ago they were
selling around $700 and up.  Usually the only repairs required are to
cabinet veneers and the reproducer, whose body is made of the dreaded
pot metal.

Mike Knudsen

(Message sent Fri 10 Mar 2000, 18:33:28 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Credenza, Orthophonic, Phonograph, Victor

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