VICTOR AUXETOPHONE

Prior to the development of electrical amplification in the 1920's, various mechanical methods of increasing volume were tried. The Auxetophone was the most effective, using air pressure to enhance the vibrations of a specially-designed reproducer valve. Although Edison had toyed with this principle in the late 19th century, the Auxetophone was invented by an Englishman in 1904. An electrically-powered blower inside the cabinet forced air through the tubing along the tonearm and through the special reproducer, enormously increasing the volume. Mechanically the machine is similar to a Victor V, with three-spring motor.

Victor began marketing Auxetophones in 1906 ("the New Pneumatic Victor"), continuing to 1918. Despite the long production run very few were made and only 15 are known to survive in collections and museums today (three others are rumored to exist). One factor for this rarity was the imposing price -- $500, which in 1906 was nearly a year's salary for an average white collar worker. That sum could have bought a dozen Victor III talking machines or five super-luxury Victor VI models! Another reason for the minimal sales was simply that the machine was not suitable for home use. The sound volume is extremely loud -- astonishing for an acoustic phonograph -- and would overwhelm an average home listener. Although Auxetophone sales literature promoted its use in "large residences," the market was largely restricted to commercial applications such as dance halls, theaters and restaurants, which typically hired small bands to entertain diners.

Two styles of mahogany cabinets were produced, of which this 'Queen Anne' model is the earliest (and rarest, with only five survivors). After 1906 a much more ornate 'Louis XVI' version was introduced. Although catalog pictures show the Auxetophone with a brass-belled metal horn, a mahogany 'spear-tip' horn could be had as an extra-cost option. The wood horn seen here is original to this machine, which may well have been used in the ballroom of a large private manor home. This Auxetophone was originally exported to Victor's affiliate in England, the Gramophone Co. Ltd., later known as EMI. It was a part of EMI's legendary phonograph collection for many decades, where it remained untouched until the collection was auctioned by Christies in 1980.

(For the full story of the Auxetophone, with copious photographs, please visit www.auxetophone.com.)

The inside of the large cabinet is entirely taken up by the electric motor and blower assembly (enclosed in the lower asbestos-lined compartment) and the air pressure equalizing tank, leaving no space for storing records. The spring motor of the phonograph itself is accessed by raising the lid, as in a conventional Victor.

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