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1937 radio - McMurdo Silver "Masterpiece VI"

Discussion in 'Radio' started by RetroToday, Jul 3, 2009.

  1. RetroToday

    RetroToday A-List Customer

    I recently took some better photos of a console tube radio in my collection, thought I'd share some of them here.
    You can see them all and more in my Flickr gallery here

    This is the highest quality radio that I have. McMurdo Silver certainly put a lot of nice touches on their sets. Chrome is the nicest finishing touch here, not many radio companies did that. (Makes it tricky to get a good photo of it though.) I love the nice clean lines, not quite Art Deco, more like Art Moderne?

    The radio uses 17 vacuum tubes in the receiver and 4 in the power amplifier, quite a high count compared to other mid to high-end radios of the era.

    The wooden cabinet below the receiver is named "The Clifton" and apparently it's a tricky cabinet to find. They were given away for free by the McMurdo Silver company to people that purchased the receiver. Not many survived. Neither did McMurdo Silver, the company went out of business the year this radio was made.

    Sadly, 'McMurdo Silver', the actual man who started this radio company, committed suicide in 1947. His life was ruined by its closure.

    With large dust shield box on

    Closeup on the receiver

    With large dust shield removed

    Top view, the smaller chrome cans house the vacuum tubes.

    Rear of the radio. Speaker to left, power / amp to right.

    The 18" Jensen "Super Giant" speaker that came the radio

    Clipped from Radio News magazine, Dec. 1937 -

    The cabinet featured on the radio in this ad is the same as mine, but the actual radio is from a year earlier.
    McMurdo Silver offered the Clifton cabinet on both year's models.

    *btw: I haven't plugged it in since I bought it in 2007, but am always very tempted. It's more complex than most radios so I want an expert to give it a tuneup before I turn it on. As you may already know from older threads here, you can blow more expensive components if you don't replace the capacitors first - and there's a lot of them under the chassis of this one. For now it just sits quiet, looking nice.

    Hope you enjoyed seeing these. :)
  2. kpreed

    kpreed Guest

    Great Looking Radio! Well Done. :eusa_clap
  3. Looks a lot like the Scott radios of the time. I have a 10 tube Zenith that I use all the time, with my SSTran AMT3000 low power transmitter. I would love to hear the sound quality on that set. What is the highest frequency response it's capable of? Radios with over about 16 tubes were called High Fidelity back then, but I often wonder what the quality really was. What was the frequency range of the broadcasts? Not much above 7,000 hertz, right? Hard to get real Hi Fi that way. Maybe there are other dimensions, like accuracy, that would be audible.
    It's a really gorgeous radios.
  4. That's a real beautiful radio, RT! Thanks for sharing!
  5. RetroToday

    RetroToday A-List Customer

    Thanks guys, glad you enjoyed the pics.

    E. H. Scott was McMurdo Silver's primary competition in the high-end market.
    They didn't like one another very much at all. Fiery articles were written by both of them in radio magazines telling of how horrible their competitor's radios were.
    In the end Scott won, but even his company's days were numbered as the TV crept into the spotlight.

    I haven't really delved to much into reading up on the audio capabilities of the components of the radio yet, but I know that for the time it was one of the best out there commercially available that was actually meant to be a 'living room' radio. I'm also still learning how radios work (when I can find the time), so most of it is still 'over my head', especially with a more complex radio like this.

    This might help, the dial is divided up into 5 bands:

    A. 150 - 400 Kilocycles (Unlabeled)
    B. 550 - 1800 Kilocycles (Police bands)
    C. 1800-5500 Kilocycles (Amateur bands)
    D. 5.75 - 19 Megacycles (Regular Broadcast bands)
    E. 17 - 70 Megacycles (Broadcast and "Apex Broadcast")

    I don't believe true High Fidelity radio broadcasts emerged until the 1950s when the FM we know today was put into popular use. AM broadcasts aren't quite capable of delivering a Hi Fi signal, are they?[huh]

    I was also told this radio is equipped with a line in for a phonograph. A record may use the high capabilities of the speaker more than a radio broadcast could at that time.
  6. The "Apex" band was a special AM broadcast band set aside for High Fidelity experimental stations in the late thirties, high fidelity in this case being about 30-15,000 cycles. Most regular AM radio stations could go as high as 8,000 cycles for local programs -- there was no legal bandwidth limit on AM broadcasting until the 1980s, but most network programs were limited by the telephone lines used to transmit them to a high end of about 5,000 cycles.
  7. Very interesting

    So a high end radio would have been pretty much useless outside of the biggest cities? I tested my hearing once and it dropped off at about 13,000 hertz, way below the 20,000 modern Hi Fis have.
    Then again, there are many other factors in sound quality. I remember a columnist in Audio Magazine many years ago, who described a "High Fidelity" broadcast from the late 30's. They didn't understand room reverberation in those days, and thought that an orchestra should be broadcast from a totally dead room. The great NBC Orchestra, under Toscanini, used to broadcast from the same studio the Saturday Night Live now originates from. It was lined with sound absorbant material and had no resonance or reverb. The result was a totally lifeless sound. So even if they were getting the high frequencies, the sound must have been awful.
    That makes me wonder about the frequency response of my AT3000. I wonder what a Hi Fi signal from that into a 22 tube Scott or McMurdo would sound like.
    Gotta get me a high antique end tube radio, just gotta.
  8. That is a really an amazing looking radio! Wow!
  9. You are what you do.

    Fantastic radio!

    As to the owner committing suicide, it is often the way of men that have invested so much in their own dreams that when the dream crashes so do their lives. For men especially, we define ourselves by occupations a lot, we are what we do.
  10. :eek:fftopic: "I know, but came across thsi Elegant Crosley Nocturne


  11. Flivver

    Flivver Practically Family

    The Masterpiece VI certainly was capable of high-fidelity performance...as were many high-end radios made from 1934-1938. The VI has a high-fidelity amplifier and speaker as well as variable selectivity in the tuner section.

    In order for a set from this era to be able to receive high fidelity broadcasts, it has to have variable selectivity; a feature that allows the user to widen (for hi-fi) or narrow (for high selectivity) the IF (intermediate frequency) bandwidth of the receiver.

    In layman's terms, a set with a wideband IF tunes broadly but can reproduce the full audio frequency range of the broadcast. As the IF bandwidth is narrowed, the set will tune more sharply but the high audio frequencies will be cut off. With the bandwidth narrowed way down, the broadcasts will sound very frequency-response-limited...almost like a telephone.So by offering variable selectivity, set manufacturers allowed the lucky user to widen the IF bandwidth for high-fidelity broadcasts or narrow it when "fishing" for distant stations adjacent to strong locals.

    I believe Philco was the first to offer variable selectivity on their High-Fidelity 200XX console in 1934. I have one of these that I have electrically restored and can report that this feature works exactly as intended. Too bad there's so little music left on AM today!

    Other manufacturers that offered variable selectivity on their high end sets in this era included E.H. Scott, Hallicrafters and Stromberg-Carlson.
  12. Variable selectivity

    Now THAT's interesting.
    What I also find interesting is that the really high end sets of the era also seem to have cabinet designs that have a more timeless elegance to them as well.
  13. Flivver

    Flivver Practically Family

    In the 1930s, radio manufacturers were each striving to create the "ultimate" radio. This was similar to what was going on in the auto industry at the same time. In the auto industry it yielded the great classics like the Duesenberg, Cadillac V-16 and Packard Twelve.

    In the radio industry we have the E.H. Scott Philharmonic, McMurdo Silver Masterpiece and Philco 37-690XX. The nice thing about the radios is they are still affordable by mere mortals...with a bit of luck!

    The cabinet designs on the great classic radios usually exhibited a bit more restraint than was shown on the less expensive models...probably to allow the radios to fit more easily into the decor of the wealthy homes they were aimed at.
  14. RetroToday

    RetroToday A-List Customer

    Interesting explanation Flivver,

    I definately need the laymen's terms at this point in the game, as I said before, much of the technical side with more complex radios is 'over my head'. Now, it's a little more in my reach because of your post.

    Thank you. :eusa_clap

    I also agree with you, dhermann1. The look was certainly ahead of its time, but something about the subdued yet elegant styling of these radios transcends the barriers of all eras.
  15. True, compare a $500,000 Deusy with one of those radios, which, if you can find them, can be had for under $2,000, usually closer to $1,300.
    For example:
  16. radiomuseum.org

    Hi RetroToday, That is the most beautiful and impressive radio I've seen. :eusa_clap

    I'd like to ask your generous permission to use your photographs as illustrations of the Masterpiece VI on radiomuseum.org in their radio encyclopedia section. We are a non profit group of radiophiles who share information from accross the world who are building an ambitious base of radio equipment information. Thanks so much for considering this request.

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