Featured Phonograph № 23

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beaumonde
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Featured Phonograph № 23

Post by beaumonde »



Make: Columbia
Model: Viva-tonal portable phonograph 160
Serial # N/A
Year(s) Made: ca. 1927
Original Cost: unknown (however successor Viva-tonal 161 cost $50)
Case/Cabinet Size: similar to 161 (height 8 9/16", width 13 5/16", depth 17 11/16")
Turntable/Mandrel: 12"
Reproducer/Sound-Box: Viva-tonal No.15 reproducer (nickel-plated)
Motor: single spring English Columbia 5A
Horn Dimensions: ?? (cannot fully remove motorboard)
Reproduction Parts: None
Current Value: not sure, likely $150-250, depending on condition
Interesting Facts: Record storage within lid, accessed by a flap in the outer lid which secures by two hinges); the 161 and 163 had record storage on the inside of the lid.
Favorite Characteristics: The earliest of the Viva-tonal portables, this initial offering featured antique bronze finished hardware on the outer case and bright shiny nickel-plated hardware in the interior (these are well-preserved on this example). I've had two 163s, and both showed marked corrosion of the gold plating on their external hardware. The 160, also in contrast, features pretty Art-Deco figures on the outer case fabricoid. I like how all the Viva-tonal portables have an integral crank which folds in for storage. And I love the gorgeous veneer on the inside of the lid on these phonographs.
Less Favorite Characteristics: Very heavy! Though to be fair, I have not lifted a Victor 2-55 for comparison, only a petite 1-5 and medium-weight HMV 101 and 102s. Also, the leather on the handle is invariably thin and brittle and only rarely preserved.

The photos below are in an order reversed from what I intended, but I am too lazy to delete and re-attach them!
Attachments
English Columbia 5A motor
English Columbia 5A motor
Motorboard removed
Motorboard removed
IMG_0464.JPG
The leather handle (or what's left of it)
The leather handle (or what's left of it)
Record storage compartment (open)
Record storage compartment (open)
Record storage compartment (closed)
Record storage compartment (closed)
IMG_0377.JPG
IMG_0375.JPG
IMG_0373.JPG
Viva-tonal 160 next to the contemporaneous Victor 1-5 with No. 4 sound box
Viva-tonal 160 next to the contemporaneous Victor 1-5 with No. 4 sound box
Last edited by beaumonde on Mon Dec 21, 2009 6:49 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Adam

larryh
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Re: Featured Phonograph № 23

Post by larryh »

What a great looking machine, you should be proud of it.. What I am a bit confused about is what do those two different sets of latches do. I can see the normal set of the front, but what does the other set on top do? I too love the wood look.

larry

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beaumonde
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Re: Featured Phonograph № 23

Post by beaumonde »

Larry, the latches on the outside of the lid open the record storage bin (see the 3rd and 4th photos). The later Viva-tonal models had perhaps more elegant storage on the inside of the lid, under the veneer.
Adam

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AZ*
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Re: Featured Phonograph № 23

Post by AZ* »

I can attest that this is indeed a very nice portable, since I saw it in person a week ago.

I own a model 161, which is similar in size and bulk, but with inside record storage. It is heavy - almost 30 pounds according to my bathroom scale.

According to LFTD & my bathroom scale, the Victor 2-55 weighs 24 pounds.
Best regards ... AZ*

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WDC
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Re: Featured Phonograph № 23

Post by WDC »

The sound quality of this phonograph must be quite impressive, especially compared to the period Victor with a mica diaphragm.

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beaumonde
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Re: Featured Phonograph № 23

Post by beaumonde »

WDC wrote:The sound quality of this phonograph must be quite impressive, especially compared to the period Victor with a mica diaphragm.
Actually, when properly rebuilt, the Victor 1-5's brass No.4 soundbox is very impressive. The Viva-tonal reproducer, while having excellent clarity, is not quite as good in the mid-range or bass. However, I have just sent this one off to George Vollema to rebuild with new gaskets, etc. Still, in my experience, the Viva-tonal reproducers are not quite as good-sounding as contemporaneous Victors (No. 4, Orthophonic) or HMVs (No. 4, 5A or 5B), at least on the portables.
Adam

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B.B.B
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Re: Featured Phonograph № 23

Post by B.B.B »

I rebuilt 2 #15, using the same advice that Walt Sommers gives for the Orthophonics.
Meaning:

1) Make sure to take the soundbox apart, every nut & bolt, everything must be cleaned properly.
2) Use NEW ball bearing balls for the pivot points, make sure they are industrial grade, magnetic.
3) Use good gaskets. I found that exhibition tubing gives the best results to my ears. soundgen on eBay have "harder" gasket tubing, some like that better.
4) Apply a thin film of grease around the edge of the diaphragm.
5) There are no available newly made back rubber flange, so either build/mold your own or do what I did, use liquid silicone gasket around the old one.

When properly done, they do have a lot of bass IMO!
I have a 202, a bit later then this one, it sounds very, very good. It actually holds it own against a HMV 102, that has the 5A soundbox.

It has an interesting horn, sort of re-entrant horn, the tonearm continues inside the horn, that has two small chambers, were the tonearm ends, right before the chambers & the sound just bounces back out.
I marked the tonearm with red in this photo, the other is a photo of the inside of the horn, were you see the tonearm end, right before the chambers.
horn_inside_red_marked.JPG
horn_inside_red_marked.JPG (85.75 KiB) Viewed 9375 times
inside_horn.JPG
inside_horn.JPG (60.63 KiB) Viewed 9370 times
Old photos, its black nowadays, thank god :mrgreen:
Do you know what type of horn yours has?

They sure are heavy, mine is almost as heavy as my VV-IV :o
Good thing is that although the handle is brittle, it has a solid metal center, that holds the weight without problems.

Very nice machine by the way, well preserved. Thanks for featuring it!
Searching for The Sound

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beaumonde
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Re: Featured Phonograph № 23

Post by beaumonde »

B.B.B, thanks for the detailed info. The 202 is an English Columbia product AFAIK, I believe dating from before the merger with HMV into EMI. I don't know the shape of the horn in my 160, not having the desire to disassemble it yet (I remember the first 163 I owned was a real pain to take apart, with what seemed like dozens of screws in odd places on the motorboard), as the motor is smooth and silent. I'll bet the horn is cast iron, however, as the phono weighs probably 30 lbs (as AZ said).
Adam

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B.B.B
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Re: Featured Phonograph № 23

Post by B.B.B »

beaumonde wrote:B.B.B, thanks for the detailed info. The 202 is an English Columbia product AFAIK, I believe dating from before the merger with HMV into EMI. I don't know the shape of the horn in my 160, not having the desire to disassemble it yet (I remember the first 163 I owned was a real pain to take apart, with what seemed like dozens of screws in odd places on the motorboard), as the motor is smooth and silent. I'll bet the horn is cast iron, however, as the phono weighs probably 30 lbs (as AZ said).
Thats true, its an english-made model, 1928 or 1929.
Only 6 screws on the motorboard on mine, but dozens of strangely placed screws when you are to take wholly it apart for painting & re-dressing :shock: Very intricate design.
Searching for The Sound

estott
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Re: Featured Phonograph № 23

Post by estott »

I think Columbia put more effort and ingenuity into their portables than into their regular line. It's as if they knew that they weren't really going to compete with the Orthophonic line so they offered portables with a LOT more style than Victor's. The reproducers might not be as good as Victor but I think the Viva-Tonal recordings were balanced to compensate.

Unfortunately in the UK they ended up putting the trademark on rebranded HMV machines.

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