Delmonico International

Back over Christmas when Tina and I were up in the frosty North, we stopped into a consignment store that was having a going-out-of-business sale. Among other finds was this gem you see above, marked down from its original price to the ridiculously low sum of $32.50.

I’ve no idea when it was manufactured; judging by the 16-33-45-78 RPM record settings and the fact that Frequency Modulation seems to have been an afterthought, I’d guess sometime in the early 1960’s. I had a few hours to kill today since the weather was dreary, so I cracked the back cover and decided to try to get the thing working.

Tubes. Oh my freaking God, honest-to-Jesus Vacuum tubes. Point-to-point wiring, exposed solder on loose wires…this thing is a cornucopia of old-school Heath Kit style electronics. I pulled all the tubes, cleaned them off, cleaned out the sockets, cleaned all the potentiometers and gave the entire inside a good dusting and a blast with my air jet, put it all back together and she fired right up. I’ve got her tuned to 103.3FM right now, a new favorite of mine- a local, non-Clear-Channel-owned private station that seems to oscillate back and forth between old country music and 50’s and 60’s rock. The Delmonico set puts out that nice, big, quasi-hollow sound that just sounds right when listening to that old music.

The most amazing thing to me, though, was that I found all of the original literature intact inside- wiring diagrams, owners manual, warranty certificate, everything. Apparently Delmonico was a sort-of “Sharper Image” of the 1950’s and 60’s; the turntable in the unit was manufactured by JVC and the tuner and amplifier is a Victor of Japan unit. The literature is hilariously poorly translated- apparently Japanglish was the Chingrish of its time: “When the power is on, “rabbit eye” lamp on the front grill will light”.

Uh, I think my rabbit eye is blind.

2 Responses to “Delmonico International”

  1. matt says:

    Sweet find. I wish there was a decent radio station, _any_ decent radio station, around here somewhere. It’s all homogenized Clear Channel crap.

    On the subject of tubes — there was actually a motherboard manufacturer a few years back who did tube-based onboard audio for one of their models. It was more of a publicity stunt than anything, but it sure did look cool sitting inside of a computer like that.

  2. Pitt says:

    I think I heard about that tube audio computer card. Seems like the heat generated might not be too good for the rest of the system. Ah, the price we pay for audio quality. I like what you told me one time, that you’d been “Blessed by what they call a ‘tin ear'”.

    I like old electronics, probably for the same reason I like old cars- easy to work on, cool aesthetics, and they do fairly well without all that crap that gets tacked on the modern appliances. The Delmonico has a TONE knob- not even separate Bass and Treble, and the speakers are actually pretty small- a pair of front-firing 4″ paper cone rounds and a pair of side-firing 3×6 paper cone ovals. Open baffle, so the frequency response is pretty flat. Probably pushing a whole 2.5W per channel judging by the tubes used (and yes, I have an old RCA receiving tubes manual from the 60’s!), but its an honest 2.5 watts, and even cranked full volume it has that pleasing, analogue type of distortion.

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