1929 Edison Needle-Cut Portable Model P-1
PICTURES WILL TAKE A FEW SECONDS TO
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
EDISON Model P-1
1929 – 30 Price $35
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.
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 (…)
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.
So, this is
the marketing slush, let’s check the facts:
P-1 is a generic portable, of rather cheap manufacture. Actually quite pleasant
to look at, though the details do not quite bear out:
gilded hardware is a mix between gold painted parts, and lacquered brass.
“automatic brake” is actually an old-fashioned manual set brake, and very
unreliable, as it tends to engage in the middle of a record.
motor is a generic OkeH single spring “Flyer” motor, rather old fashioned by
1929. The author has not yet seen a double spring motor.
the old fashioned motor did not have an angled crank, the horn could not be
wrapped around the motor.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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