1931 HMV 102 Portable
“The World's Finest Portable”
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Pls come back soon for some videos of the HMV 102 playing
“The World’s Finest Portable”- HMV advertisement
HMV had been an industry leader in 1926 with their HMV 101 portable, which was the first portable designed according to the new Western Electric scientific principles. With a very compact size, the 101 was able to produce an impressive sound. The introduction of the angled crank shortly later was another great milestone in portable design.
By 1929 however, the HMV 101 had definitely become outmoded: The No. 4 mica soundbox, and the small horn opening could no longer compete with the top of the line Columbia 202, which – using a fully “orthophonic” design – outperformed the HMV 101.
HMV started development of a new portable in 1929, and had Victor portables sent to Hayes for examination. “They were not liked.”
Now, HMV started an incredible process of procrastination: HMV knew that they had to produce a machine that was better than all other machines on the market, but it was difficult.
The first problem was the Orthophonic soundbox. HMV did not like the sound of the original pot metal design, and heavily modified the Victor model: The ball bearing was changed to a pivot design, constant complaints about buzzing and lack of clarity made HMV change the clamped diaphragm to a diaphragm that is loosely held by felt gaskets. (Today’s collectors who have worked and tested both Victor and HMV soundboxes will be surprised by these concerns, as Victor soundboxes usually sound slightly superior to HMV soundboxes)
While the HMV 102 model was ready to go and production orders had been placed in early 1931, the universal brake proved to be a big hold-up. Despite going through design after design, none of the brakes worked as reliably as the simple universal brake of the Columbia 202. Finally in a last-ditch effort, a very complicated design for the universal brake was approved, and the HMV 102 finally hit the stores in July of 1931. In a twist of fate, the Columbia-HMV merger into EMI allowed the portable design team to quickly ditch the original brake, and use the modified Columbia model.
years, Columbia and HMV retained their own lines of portables. However, many
later Columbias were re-badged HMV models, even with a No. 5A or B soundbox,
disguised by a headshell with the fleur-de-lys pattern. It is again ironic,
that some of the very last portables ever produced in the late 50s reverted back
to the venerable Viva-Tonal No. 15 soundbox of 1926. As the HMV No. 23 it was
disguised with a golden nipper in the center.
With the HMV 102, the Gramophone Co. had the luxury of combining all the best features of orther makes. Nothing on the machine is truly new, but the whole package is the best portable possible.
For the horn, HMV could look at the Victor 2-55 and 2-65, which had curved exponential horns with openings much larger than on the cramped HMV 101.
Tone arm and sound box were somewhat inspired by the Victor models, even automatic on-switch, actuated by the tone arm, had been used by the RCA Victor 2-65.
The record tray, which was used to carry records inside the case, had been available on the RCA Victor 2-65.
For the brakes and the arrangement of the motor board, the features were copied from the innovative Columbia 202 model:
Universal brake, which could be disengaged with a separate switch (though much more easier to operate than on the Columbia 202), and a separate manual brake.
By combining all these best features in a single phonograph, HMV created a masterwork of design, a small, superb sounding phonograph of perfect proportions and superior sound.
It is a testament to the HMV designers and engineers, that the HMV 102 was produced from 1931 until 1960, and sold worldwide through the British Commonwealth with no major change or redesign. It still is the greatest portable ever produced.
The sound is superb, it will be among the top performing portables, the motor is smooth and extremely strong, and the automatic brake gives an unequalled ease of use.
As always, HMV engineers paid a lot of attention to the details, and everything is in its place and useful. For example, the tone arm is an air-tight ball bearing design, the wind-in crook is airtight and will never go loose, the fork at the tone arm base meshes with the auto on/off brake and will not disengage. In resting position, the tone arm is kept protected in the horn opening, and the crank is stored conveniently in the lid.
Another nice touch is the needle cup on the outside of the case: It is easily accessible, even when playing 12” records, and does not clutter the motor board.
Materials and manufacture is of exceptional quality: All parts are precision made, and chrome plated for protection. The light-weight wood case is covered with a very tough Leatherette cover, which is very scratch resistant. Attention has even been paid to the rubber feet that keep the case away from the floor: The rubber matches the color of the case.
The HMV 102 was available in a variety of colors and finishes, from different base colors to alligator imitation, and for the de luxe version, gold plated hardware was available in a casecovered in soft red leather.
amusing advertising war between the British Columbia should be mentioned:
Ltd. must have been VERY annoyed with this. How could they counter this claim?
“The World’s Finest Portable”
Maintenance: No Issues at all. It is hard to break
anything in this sturdy and well designed portable
When the machine was stored in very humid conditions, it may be advisable to check the diaphragm: Examples have been observed where the rim of the diaphragm had corroded away.
I always welcome your comments and thoughts:
sgimips1 “at” yahoo “dot” com