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HMV 109: latest toy.

Posted: Thu Sep 09, 2021 12:31 pm
by Paolo_MK68
Good evening to all,

sorry for showing up on the forum again after a long silence, but multiple family/working issues took me away from almost anything gramophonic (and not only), now the situation is turning quieter again.

Here's the last guest added to my sample of acoustic gramophones: an HMV-109, the only internal horn machine I own apart from the portables. Due to overall ignorance and lack of specific documentation (still chasing a copy of "His Master's Gramophone" book without luck), some features of this model are either unknown to me or obscure.
What I know (more ore less):

* made from the middle of the Twenties in either mahogany or oak wood cabinet (mine looks absolutely oak as far as I can understand of wood).

* correct n° 4 soundbox with early stile brass backplate and flush rubber collar.

* correct double springs motor (model n°32?). I did not dismantle the motor board, but the seller wrote me he carefully checked inside the machine, and since he looked serious and knowledgeable I tend to trust him.

* automatic brake capable of stopping the record, but not starting it. Infact it seems the turntable must be put in rotation releasing the lever under it after having swung the tonearm fully to the right. I guess this could be considered the functional limitation of this device: nothing major when playing a 10" record, but it's a little more inconvenient to reach the release lever under a 12" record, especially if you have big hands and fingers!

* no idea about the metal knob in the front-left area of the motor board. It's loose, rotates but does not engage or screw into anything... what's its purpose?

Thank you for any hint or additional thought (criticism also welcome!).

All the best.

Re: HMV 109: latest toy.

Posted: Thu Sep 09, 2021 1:33 pm
by epigramophone
Your 109 predates the introduction of the self releasing autobrake, which later examples have.
The knob on the front left corner of the motor board is to assist lifting it out for lubrication etc.
On removing the motor board you can tighten the screw which holds the knob in place.

Re: HMV 109: latest toy.

Posted: Thu Sep 09, 2021 2:18 pm
by neilmack
Curious - my 109 had a second lifting knob in the opposite corner.

Re: HMV 109: latest toy.

Posted: Thu Sep 09, 2021 2:22 pm
by Inigo
The next model of auto brake added another lever to that arrangement, that allowed to release the brake moving the tonearm to the extreme right.
The knob is simply for lifting the motorboard when unscrewed. It has a screw below the board, which should be tight. If you pull the knob upwards carefully while trying to screw it (clockwise) eventually you could get it tight without removing the motorboard...
This is a marvelous machine with a nice sound.

Re: HMV 109: latest toy.

Posted: Thu Sep 09, 2021 7:17 pm
by OrthoFan
Those were great little performers; part of the "Improved Gramophone" line offered by the Gramophone Co to play the newly introduced electrical recordings. The gradual taper of the tonearm/elongated horn, combined with the #4 sound box, allowed the passage of a stronger mid-range than was possible on the earlier table models. You can also hear a strong "hint" of bass on some records.

Here are a few sites I've bookmarked that mention this model: ... hp?key=156

There has also been some discussion on this forum --

The HMV 109 is listed in the HMV Gramophone Catalogue, accessible as a PDF file, and downloadable from this page -- viewtopic.php?f=11&t=30494


Re: HMV 109: latest toy.

Posted: Fri Sep 10, 2021 5:09 am
by Paolo_MK68
A big thank you for the hints and additional information, much appreciated.

@ Epigramophone noted your explanation, good to know that it's how this version of the brake works!

@ Neilmack Yes, it's curious indeed, but your gramophone's arrangement with two metal knobs seem more practical from a mechanical point of view when lifting the motorboard. On mine there's no provision for a second knob in the rear of the motor board, I double checked yesterday night,

@ Inigo thanks for the hint: I did as you suggested and managed to tighten the knob again! And yes, following some quick sound check I can say the voice of this machine is surprisingly rich and mellow.

@ OrthoFan : great documentation and thanks also for the link to the forum discussions. While searching through the board in the past days I only managed to found the most recent of the three, that about the restoration.

Re: HMV 109: latest toy.

Posted: Fri Sep 10, 2021 6:12 am
by nostalgia
A great machine you have got there Paolo. I am the one who restored the 109 on the photos in the linked post, and here is my second 109, just finished restoring it two weeks ago. Here it is out in the sun, surrounded by flowers. It is a beautiful machine, and I have a hard time departing with it this time, since there are no flaws on the cabinet at all, no veneer problems etc. :clover:
Good luck with your 109, if it starts slowing..or you hear bumps inside the machine, you will need to clean the main springs, and the governor etc. I have this summer serviced 4 machines with 32 motors, and now I am closing a chapter, because next week I will service the last 32 motor that is left unserviced in my collection. The 32 motor is a heavy lad, and maybe not the easiest motor to service, but it is a strong and durable motor with its double spring motor.

Re: HMV 109: latest toy.

Posted: Fri Sep 10, 2021 8:42 am
by Inigo
I have the 127, French version, with same motor and 12" TT, maybe slightly larger horn (or not?), the case more ornate by a curved frieze and raised legs.
A suggestion now...
If you have the chance, try a Meltrope (or equal Decca) soundbox in it, or a hmv 5a/b. You'd be surprised by the difference! Although I believe these soundboxes are a bit too strong for this machine. It makes every bit of it to vibrate and buzz! :D but the sound is astounding!
You'll need an adaptor. But the red rubber collars sold for Meltrope soundboxes are ideal, they fit snugly into the brass neck of the backplate of hmv no4 and 5 soundboxes, and Meltropes, but you have to remove the tiny screws and the original rubber and collar they carry. They sell several inner diameters. I bought two, one for the thin swan-neck hmv tonearm (101, 103, 109, 126, 127 etc) and other for the later greater bore (102, 130, 145, 157 etc etc). They are supple and they fit snugly also on the tonearms, so you don't need the tiny screws in the collar. As these don't have the inner brass insert (with a locating pin) you can adjust the soundbox angle as you want, which improves tracking, together with the needle length. The sound is marvelous, and I use them both exclusively for all my hmv and Meltrope soundboxes.

Re: HMV 109: latest toy.

Posted: Wed Sep 15, 2021 8:51 am
by Marco Gilardetti
Hello Paolo, nothing to add to the previous messages - it seems to me that your questions were already answered in full - but welcome back to the forum! :)

Where did you buy it? Machines like these are not frequently seen in Italy!

Re: HMV 109: latest toy.

Posted: Thu Sep 16, 2021 8:35 am
by Paolo_MK68
Hi Marco,

as for the majority of my portables acquired in the past, once more I relied on Ebay! This machine in particular was on sale from an UK vendor I've been following for some time since he had been listing various items coming from the collection of a friend, and therefore in apparently very good condition. I trusted him and was not disappointed: from both an aestethical and functional point of view this gramophone is almost perfect, and does not need any further restoration or repair work, apart from a not urgent disassembly/cleaning of the motor to take cure of a sporadic thumping noise when winding up the spring. I was told that the machine was thorougly serviced in the eighties when entering the collection and very seldom played, so may be after almost forty years the grease has turned thick.

Regarding the italian market for vintage gramophones I must admit my experience is fairly limited. Finding an antiquity shop that sold also gramophones in my hometown was a very rare occurrence (I suspect that collecting gramophones is something quite distant from the average italian guy's taste!), nor I have ever been a frequent visitor of flea markets. May be it was laziness or just bad luck but what I normally saw around irritated me no end, either for being overpriced, disgustingly false, or in pitiful condition. Now I live in a small countryside town, and at the local flea market last spring I spotted what looked like an HMV 130 on sale for 80€: the cabinet had been painted blue (impossible to say when, but not recently) and in any case full of wooden worms, metal parts were either rusting or missing, and in the end the only salvageable part was its 5A soundbox: I do not have the skill to carry out a complete restoration, so I left it where it was!

Your opinion and experience on the above would be of much interest!

p.s.: I do not know what the quotation of an HMV 109 like mine is, probably I paid it more than the price a British collector would accept, but as I said there are no additional restoration works to carry out or pieces to find or replace. Moreover I do not see any other attractive option on our country local market! Furthermore shipping costs and custom duties have become a conspicuous burden, prices seem to have skyrocketed since last year (especially those of my beloved portables), so I'm more than happy to have fulfilled my desire to add one internal horn machine to my modest collection. What's around the corner for the future of this hobby, I would not dare to imagine!