Parlophon gramophone

The 1920s were an extraordinarily exciting time in Germany. Experiencing democracy for the first time, Berlin developed into a modern cosmopolitan metropolis, whilst scientists and artists burnished their international reputation. It was also the heyday of the gramophone and explains the presence in the Deutschlandmuseum of an original Parlophon gramophone made in Berlin. Es war auch die Blütezeit des Grammophons, daher zeigt das Deutschlandmuseum im Epochenraum „Weimarer Republik“ ein originales Parlophon-Grammophon aus Berlin.

Technological advance brings the music hall into the living room

Invented in 1887, the gramophone soon advanced to stunning international popularity. The state of the art in terms of sound and price, the new technology was clearly superior to rival forms of sound reproduction like phonographs; the development of the shellac gramophone record in 1895 only enhanced the device’s dominant position.

The main elements of a gramophone are the sound box and a funnel, the shape and material of which have a decisive effect on sound quality. The pickup uses a needle to trace the grooves of a spinning record; the movements of the needle are converted into sound waves by a membrane inside the sound box and transmitted to the funnel via the tonearm.

The material and shape of the funnel play a major role in the character of the sound produced. For example, funnels with hard, smooth surfaces reproduce high tones better, whilst a wooden funnel produce a warmer sound. The model on display in the Deutschlandmuseum is an impressive specimen: 40 cm in diameter; 55 cm in length.

The spring drive for the disc plate was wound using a crank mounted on the left-hand side of the device. The elegantly grained wooden housing features ornate inlays and contributes to the prestige that ownership of such a device was intended to confer. The gramophone is still in perfect working order and produces an impressive sound.

Carl Lindström: a Swede in Berlin

The gramophone on display in the Deutschlandmuseum comes from the workshops of Carl Lindström AG, one of the leading European manufacturers of records and gramophones at the time. Opening a mechanical workshop in Berlin in 1897, the Swede Carl Lindström initially concentrated on the manufacture of phonographs, an early form of audio recorder; he later diversified into the production of records and gramophones under the brand name Parlophon. The modified brand name Parlophone was used for the international market.

Das Parlophone-Symbol

The Parlophone symbol adorned the company’s gramophones and is still used today by the Parlophone record label Trademark, UK, design variant from 1993 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Parlophone record label still exists, and its trademark “£”, standing for Lindström, is still in use. The company has changed hands several times and is currently owned by the Warner Music Group. Some of the most successful artists released on the Parlophone label include the Beatles and Tina Turner.

They were never played on a gramophone, which was increasingly supplanted after the 1920s by record players using electrical pickup and amplification. With the obsolescence of sound boxes and funnels, the era of the gramophone was at an end.

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