On Saturday Dustin Ellis and Dismuke made an out of town trip to pick up a rare 1928 Edison C-2 Radio-Phonograph that is being very generously donated to Early 1900s Music Preservation. Here is a video of Dustin trying the machine out after we got it to its temporary home (with Dismuke, once again, forgetting that he has to turn his phone sideways to correctly record video).
This machine was very high end – in 1928 it sold new for $495 (about $7,300 in today’s currency) and that price did NOT include the vacuum tubes which also had to be purchased and were not cheap.
What is special about the machine is it reproduces the records through a speaker rather than an internal horn as was still standard at the time. Not just that, it is able to play both Edison Diamond Discs as well as conventional 78 rpm records. By default the pickup head features a diamond styli for playing the vertical grooved Diamond Disc records. But one can twist it to the side and insert a single-play steel needle to play conventional lateral grooved 78 rpms.
Edison introduced this machine at a time when sales of its Diamond Disc records had fallen to very low levels and was planning on releasing its own line of conventional “needle type” 78 rpms. But those did not hit the market until July 1929 and were in production only for a few months before Edison abandoned the phonograph and record business altogether in October of that year. Those “needle type” Edison records are rare and we have a number of them that were given by the same donor, including some additional records we brought back with the machine and which will soon be regularly aired on Radio Dismuke. On the turntable in the video is an electrically recorded Diamond Disc from April 1928. Electrically recorded Diamond Discs are also quite rare due to the degree that Edison sales had fallen by the time they began to record electrically.
And the machine features a high-end radio set. By 1928 the popularity of radio was hurting sales of phonographs and records. Why buy expensive records when one could hear the top dance bands playing the popular tunes of the day for free through live broadcasts from glamorous big city hotels and nightclubs? These radio phonograph combinations were an attempt by the record/phonograph manufacturers to cash in on the radio boom and revive record sales.
The sound quality of this machine is simply breathtaking – the audio capture here by the dot size microphone on Dismuke’s phone simply does not do it justice.
Our long-term hope is for Early 1900s to have its own physical facility where the machine can be displayed. In the meanwhile, we are working to place it on loan to a museum so that other people can have an opportunity to see a rare example of musical and technological history and where we can hold occasional vintage record “concerts” that will be open to the public. And, for those who are unable to come to Texas to see it in person, our plan is to find a way to improve the audio quality of our videos so that audiences around the world will be able to enjoy the machine through its own YouTube channel.