1929 Edison Needle-Cut Portable Model P-1



Check out these Videos recorded on the Victor Edison P-1:

Albert Spalding, Edison’s premier Violin Virtuoso, with Andre Benoist, piano, during their sabbatical from Edison
On Januar 1925 late acoustic Brunswick record
Moszkowski: Guitar – compare the sound quality of the Brunswick records to the Edison Diamond Disc recordings

Dick Rose and His Band (pseudonym for Charlie Kunz and and the CASANI CLUB ORCHESTRA)
Gold Diggers of 1933 "Remember my Forgotten Man" Homocord London 1933


http://a.imageshack.us/img72/8681/hpim0868v.jpgEDISON Model P-1
 1929 – 30                                   Price $35






18 lbs


17 5/8"




7 5/8"




Sound:     http://a.imageshack.us/img208/8603/3stars.jpg    Design:    http://a.imageshack.us/img208/8603/3stars.jpg


Edison was in deep trouble in 1929 – sales of phonographs, cylinders and Diamond Discs were sagging, and in a last-ditch effort, it was decided to switch from the vertical to the lateral needle-cut format. That meant that all of Edison’s phonographs all of a sudden became obsolete, and no players for the new records were available. Edison invested huge efforts in electrically amplified, expensive radio-phono combinations, but no simple wind-up machine was available at a low price point. This led to the creation of a small number of wind-up portables, which – launched in July 1929 – became the last acoustic phonographs ever offered by Edison.

All attempts were futile, Edison closed its doors for good in October 1929.


To get a better understanding about the Edison Portables, I quote directly from George Frow’s seminal book “The Edison Disc Phonographs and the Diamond Discs”:


The need for an Edison designed portable disc phonograph for needle-cut records was expressed at a meeting between Theodore Edison, C. S. Williams Jr., Arthur Walsh and others on January 13th 1928 to discuss future products. Purchasing these from The Prime Manufacturing Company of Milwaukee was considered (…) A light portable was hoped for in this competitive field, where the term ‘featherweight’ could be used in advertising. The machine took longer than anticipated (…)

The Prime designed portable was just like these supplied to other American “78 record” companies, and was offered until the Edison company made two new models to its own design in August 1929. These were advertised as “the little portable with the big console tone” (…)


P-1 Needle Type Portable

Horn: Of new design with an air-column length of 53 1/2 in. from soundbox to mouth and claimed to be the longest horn in any portable – ‘the new principle reflex horn”. The ball bearing tone arm had an exponential characteristic.

Soundbox: The body is usually found in ‘pot-metal’, the diaphragm of aluminum with a wire screen at the inside of the connector joint (…)

Motor: Double-spring playing three records without re-winding. Automatic Stop

Case: Wooden, covered inside and out with Dupont fabrikoid, blue or green Spanish grain being reported. Record holder in the lid. The metal parts finished in gilt (…)

Price: 35$


From looking at the Edison P-1, it is pretty clear that it was designed as a knock-off of the successful Victor 2-60 and 2-55.


http://a.imageshack.us/img705/5613/260h1.jpg http://a.imageshack.us/img412/6940/hpim0912.jpg



So, this is the marketing slush, let’s check the facts:


-        The P-1 is a generic portable, of rather cheap manufacture. Actually quite pleasant to look at, though the details do not quite bear out:

-        The gilded hardware is a mix between gold painted parts, and lacquered brass.

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-        The “automatic brake” is actually an old-fashioned manual set brake, and very unreliable, as it tends to engage in the middle of a record.

-        The motor is a generic OkeH single spring “Flyer” motor, rather old fashioned by 1929. The author has not yet seen a double spring motor.

-        Since the old fashioned motor did not have an angled crank, the horn could not be wrapped around the motor.

Edison P-1

Victor 2-55




-        Instead, an awkwardly routed horn, going back in itself was concocted, which aimed to achieve the required length, but totally destroyed the exponential shape in the process.

-        When the horn is measured in the middle of the profile, one comes up with 45”, which is comparable to other high quality premium portables.The lid stays vertical during play, thus diminishing the "horn extension" effect of a slanted lid.

Edison P-1

Victor 2-55




-        A particular problem is the tone arm, which – an imitation of the successful design used by HMV - is nice in itself. However, photos of the pre-production Prime Portable show that originally a fat tone arm was used, similar to the Victor 2-55. The horn end has a large diameter, and the soundbox also has a wide flange. For unknown reasons, Edison was forced to replace it with the thin tone arm. This means that the tone arm base does not match up with the horn opening, leaving a significant gap. But even worse, the flange in the soundbox was not designed to handle a thin arm: There is no limiter that would prevent the arm being pushed against the diaphragm, in fact most surviving P-1s had the diaphragm squashed and punctured at one point by the tone arm.



-        Last but not least the soundbox, which transforms mechanical energy in to sound. The Edison soundbox was a cosmetically modified Prime soundbox, which is of rather low quality. As usual, Edison's signature was added to the back to give the semblance of authenticity.
This soundbox is of a cheap design that was common in the 1930s (it was also used on some late RCA portables).
The soundbox does not have a needle bar pivot. Instead, the needle bar is simply mounted on a flat spring. While this is cheap, and certainly does not require any servicing, the flat spring adds its own resonances ito the sound, and also – being less compliant – wears records.


In conclusion, the Edison P-1 was a nice 20$ generic portable offered at a premium price of 35$. The lack of sales success and the short production life have made these Edison Portables valuable collectibles.


After having said all that, when properly sealed and serviced, the P-1 actually sounds quite decent, with the horn effectively muffling the resonances of the soundbox. The motor has a good amount of flutter, which can be annoying with certain kinds of music.



On one hand, the P-1 one is sturdy and well constructed, with good cover material. There is little that can break.
On the other hand, the mis-matched parts make it difficult to get a decent performance. The sound box is often very cracked and in danger of falling apart, and it usually cannot be opened.
Here are some steps that were taken with the present portable:

-        Repaired the diaphragm through the flange hole.

-        Manufactured a new rubber flange and fit it to the thin tone arm.

-        Tightened the sloppy gooseneck joint with several layers of Teflon tape.

-        Sealed the tone arm base with grease and caulked the base plate to the motor board to close the air gap.

-        Adjusting the brake is a minor nightmare, and was not successful.

-        Despite cleaning and oiling, the motor still kept a noticeable flutter.


I always welcome your comments and thoughts:

        sgimips1 “at” yahoo “dot” com