Friday, October 14, 2011

Zenith All-Speed Record Changer

[Life, August 28, 1950. Click for a larger view.]

There’s something poignant about the prepared-for-all-eventualities mindset that this turntable is meant to satisfy:
First and only changer that plays any speed record now made or yet to come, 10 R.P.M. to 85 . . . with two simple controls a six-year-old can operate.

Record lovers— here is the changer that sets you free forever from the nightmare of speeds, sizes, attachments and adjustments!

Zenith engineers, who revolutionized record reproduction with the world-famous Cobra® Tone Arm, have now brought you an automatic changer — the new “Cobra-Matic” — so unbelievably simple that you simply won’t believe it until you operate it yourself!

You touch one control knob — and set it for any size record — 7, 10 or 12 inch! You touch the other control knob — and set it for any speed! Yes, for 33 1/3, 45, 78, or any speed from 10 R.P.M. to 85 that the modern world may dream up! You can play them all — with one marvelous new Super-Cobra Tone Arm — not even a needle to adjust, not even one single attachment to fuss with!

And what a glorious outpouring of tone will greet your ears! Zenith’s new Super-Cobra, resting a mere 1/5 of an ounce on the record, brings out new tonal beauty against a background of velvety quiet. Reproduces music on a Radionic wave like no other method you have ever seen or heard!

Now — at last — you can buy a phonograph without fear that it will be obsolete. You can be sure that in a Zenith® you possess the last word in tonal magnificence and the simplest way ever devised for automatic record playing. See you Zenith dealer today, and see for yourself!

New “Cobra-Matic” Changer Now on All Zenith Radio-Phonographs and Television Combinations
Poking fun at this ad’s assumptions — that while speeds might vary, records would always come in three sizes; that an analog control knob would allow for precision in choosing a speed — seems tactless. I’d rather admire the mid-century confidence that a turntable would be forever. And in a way, it would be: there are still (for practical purposes) just three sizes and three speeds. The changes that the Cobra-Matic was meant to accommodate never showed up, though disruptive technologies did.

comments: 6

Geo-B said...

It bears noting that the different speeds, for instance 33 1/3, 45, 78 rpm, were the result I believe of proprietary and competitive actions on the part of manufacturers to make their products exclusive, on the order of beta vs. vhs.
Edison sued any competitors and when a rival won the right to sell a record player, the Edison company wouldn't even allow them to use the word grammaphone, and so the victor called theirs the victrola.

Geo-B said...

As I just checked on this story to be sure I remembered it correctly, it turns out the gramophone--victrola change is a more complicated story, but still the result of proprietary-competitive battles (should have checked first).

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for the background, George. Wikipedia’s Gramophone record article has some interesting background on the speed wars.

Adair said...

The amazing thing is that if the Cobra-Matic were made today, it would sell spectacularly well in a niche market. Many people, such as myself, collect records in the major speeds and would love an automatic machine that could play all three. New production, though, would probably not employ the sturdy materials and construction of the 1950's version. Most of the new turntables made today are largely plastic and flimsy-looking.

Michael Leddy said...

Flimsy indeed — I’ve had one fail and am waiting on the current one to do follow. How I wish I had the Sony receiver-turntable of my college years. It played all three speeds, and the stylus flipped over to play 78s.

Michael Leddy said...

Oops — “and am waiting on the current one to do the same.”