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Columbia Viva-Tonal 800
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Columbia Viva Tonal Model 800 for sale


During the 1920s Western Electric conducted experiments involving electric recording, and by 1924 the system was advanced enough to press some electrically recorded records and demonstrate them to Victor and Columbia. Concurrent with this, Western Electric developed the first scientifically designed horn, a horn which was folded over on itself and increased in exponential proportions, in order to harness the increased frequency range of the new records.

The rights were purchased by Columbia and (reluctantly) by Victor.

The new system was introduced by Victor in 1925 as the Orthophonic Victrola, and by Columbia as the Viva-Tonal, and represented a historical advance in the acoustic reproduction of sound, with a hitherto unheard deep and resonant bass, and loud and vibrant reproduction.

The most imposing of Victor's new machines was the Orthophonic Credenza, It sold and survived in relatively large quantities and even today remains a favorite of record collectors who want to hear 1920s music exactly as it was intended to be heard.

The Columbia models Viva-Tonal 800 ($275) and Viva-Tonal 810 ($300) were the Columbia equivalent of the Orthophonic Credenza. Although they did not sell or survive in as large numbers as the Orthophonic Credenza, and were not the recipients of Victor's 1925 advertising barrage, in the judgment of many collectors the sound of the Viva-Tonal equals or surpasses that of its Victor competitor.

There is an added benefit for modern collectors. Except for some very early reproducers, most of Victor's reproducers were cast out of pot metal. Over the years they swell and fall apart, and are not rebuildable. I have seen good Victor brass reproducers sell in the range of $300-$600, which is an added expense you may have to allot toward the purchase of an Orthophonic Victrola. Columbia's reproducers were not pot metal and are eminently rebuildable.

This is a big, big machine. Case dimensions are approximately 31" by 24" by 48", larger than the Victor Credenza. The walnut case looks forward to 1930s modernistic styling. One unique feature of this machine is that the doors fold out, and then fold into the cabinet.

The triple spring motor is working properly and the machine is in good playing condition. The cabinet may look a little dusty in the images (I hadn't touched it much) but should clean up very nicely, and the walnut burl should shine spectacularly with a little polishing. There were some waterspots on the lid that have been stained out. There are some terribly tiny, typical pieces of veneer peel on the door, and a small segment of trim molding missing at the base of the sides (every Viva-Tonal I've ever owned has been this way).

Indisputably the best way to play your 1920s records.

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Lynn Bilton
Box 435
Randolph,OH 44265
330 325-7866


We buy, sell, and repair antique phonographs and music boxes.

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