Saturday, February 15, 2014

How to get the best results from HMV products

The assembly and operating instructions leaflet that originally came with the HMV 102 gramophone was fairly brief on the actual use. It includes winding instructions and how to place a new needle, but funnily does not mention actually placing the needle on the record. By that time this would be common knowledge of course, so the oiling diagram is probably better use of the leaflet space.

On the entirely other end of the spectrum, a record sleeve for HMV classical records from the 1920-ies contains a most detailed description of how to play a record. (Dance records came with another sleeve text, on the marvels of creativity of the modern dance band.)

In detail; points to get the best results and properly play a record on the His Master's Voice gramophone.

About the pushing in; most records up to the thirties don't have a run-in spiral groove on the outer rim to 'catch' the needle when it is lowered on the outer rim. Most are just plain flat on the outer rim, so the needle can be pushed into the first groove. Some records have a thick ridge on the outer diameter, so the needle at least cannot drop off the record. This ridge seems to be mainly on older (before 1920) German-made records so far.

The run-out on early records is very varied. Some have no run-out at all and just stop, some have a very thick-ridged spiral to a smaller circular track or even just to pretty much launch the needle onto the label. Most do have some sort of spiral or oval to move towards the label quickly, so the auto-brake usually works on these.

Took a while for 'standard practice' to settle in. A fun area to discover :)


  1. I have a cabinet-style Victrola that has an assortment of bamboo needles with a needle cutting tool. The bamboo sticks are triangular in cross-section, and the cutter cuts them at an angle, forming a point on one end. I usually recut the needle after each play.

    1. Yes!, know about them, have seen them in pictures and the cutters as well. Myself now have some thorn needles and a sharpener also, but mostly use steel needles now. Can still buy new steel needles and they're easiest to use (and with decent sound too).
      The thorn/fibre does have the softest and still full sound. Steel is a bit loud comparatively.
      (Have been looking at some awesome cabinet models, won't be able to sneak one of those into the living room though :- )