So about two weeks ago I bought a vintage portable record player on eBay: a Fidelity HF45, built in 1971. It's a great little machine; very reliable, running smoothly, recently serviced and fitted with a new earthed plug (and cleaned with an awful smelling sort of formaldehyde!). I was very pleased with my purchase when it arrived, but it wasn't until long before I got this yearning feeling for a bigger, better, louder and more beautiful example (my Fidelity is very boringly grey). The search on eBay was on again!
I spotted a beautiful hot pink/salmon colored Dansette Conquest Auto. Dansettes were a very popular brand of portable record players in the UK in the 50s and 60s, famous for their stylish designs and colors. There were many different models, and the Conquest was somewhat more advanced because it has control knobs for bass and treble and two speakers.
This beauty was 'pick up only', which was good because it usually means the price is lower. It was located about a 2-hour drive away, so not too ridiculous. I don't have a car, but when I showed it to a friend of mine she loved it so much she kindly offered me a ride - I am eternally grateful and forever indebted to her!! As it would be a bit of a pain to pick it up I didn't bid too much. It made the bidding process absolutely nerve wrecking, because I really wanted this gorgeous object to be mine! And it was!!
The Dansette turned out to be with an elderly couple in the petite village of Kinver. They had bought it in the early 60s and it had been in their loft for about 40 years! Oh they were so adorable and so disappointed we didn't stay for tea and biscuits. I'm ashamed to say we went straight off to MacDonalds. Then again, in our defense: we were on a proper road trip!
I am absolutely smitten with my Dansette. I can't stop looking at it! Cosmetically it's in excellent condition, just some slight wear due to its age. After these pictures were taken I've painstakingly cleaned it with a toothbrush and some toothpaste (!!), so it's no longer a dirty shade of salmon.
∧ Look at that grill!
As you might expect after being stored in a loft for 40 years it is in need of a little bit of TLC. Still I'm amazed at how well it operates, clearly this has been made in an age where things were made to last. It has a valve amplifier, which produces a beautiful sound and a characteristic hum. It even has a certain smell, that lovingly reminds me of my vintage Quad amplifier (another piece of quality British hi-fi equipment). It has an auto changer, so you can stack multiple records and it will automatically play them one after the other. It's all so nifty! ∨
There are some slight crackling noises when you turn the knobs, and the volume is a bit temperamental. And it runs a tad slow, especially on 33⅓. I've been scouring the net for advice on how to service a record player and to whether or not replace the stylus, and found a wealth of information on the UK Vintage Radio Repair and Restoration Discussion Forum. Probably the grease has gone all gooey, so one of these days I'm going to open it up and carefully clean it and grease the parts that need greasing. Oh yes the geek inside me has been unleashed!