Design Details: Brake Designs and Soundboxes:
The earliest Victrolas used an external Bullet Brake to stop the turntable, identical to the system used by the external horn Victor machines. This design appeared on some Victrolas up until 1912, but was replaced with the tab brake on the more expensive Victrolas as early as 1908.
The next iteration of brake design was the Tab Brake, which remained in use (with and without automatic brake designs) through the late 1920's. The tab brake had the leather "stop" mounted inside the turntable rim, invisible from the operator's view. The tab brake was introduced on the Victrola XVI in late 1908, and eventually became standard equipment on all models.
In 1913, Victor deployed a new Semi-Automatic Brake design, which allowed the user to manually preset a shutoff point at the end of the record, so that the brake would be engaged by the tonearm extension rod when the record had ended. This feature became standard on all but the least expensive models by the late 'teens. It can be readily identified by the adjustable brake mechanism under the tonearm. The tab control (shown at bottom) continued to be used with the semi-automatic brake system for manual control of stop/start functions.
An advanced Fully Automatic Brake system was introduced in 1925 with the new Orthophonic Victrolas. This system required no user settings, relying on the eccentric end groove of the record to trigger the brake. Note the slotted brake actuator that follows the tonearm extension rod and triggers the brake mechanism. The brake tab control continued to be used for manual control of start/stop functions.
Important Note: Soundboxes were sold in either nickel plate or gold finishes. It was common for customers to purchase later version soundboxes for use on older model phonographs, as the later designs had improved sound reproduction. This "updating" of soundboxes was encouraged by Victor dealers as well. Consequently, it is common to find an early Victor with a later-vintage soundbox installed. Most soundboxes are interchangable, although the sound quality may not be enhanced much if the horn system is not well-matched to the soundbox.
All Victrolas used the Exhibition Soundbox design from 1906 until January 1918, when the No. 2 Soundbox was introduced on some of the more expensive models. The Exhibition is always identified by the script on the side of the soundbox, and is of smaller diameter than the No. 2 design. Some of the lower-priced tabletop Victrolas continued to use the Exhibition Soundbox through the 1920's. Exhibition Soundboxes were produced in either gold or nickel plate.
In late 1917, the larger No. 2 Soundbox was introduced on the Victrola XIV, XVI, and XVII models. Within a year, it became standard equipment on virtually all Victrolas (except the lowest-priced table models). A "fatter" tone arm was used for the No. 2 Soundbox than had been used on the earlier models. This fat-arm design was actually introduced on a limited basis in April of 1917 (still using the Exhibition Soundbox), but became standard issue on all floor model machines within a short time. No. 2 Soundboxes were produced in either gold or nickel plate.
In 1925, the Orthophonic Victrola was introduced, and an entirely new Orthophonic Soundbox design was used for use in reproduction of the new electrical recordings. These soundboxes have a distinct appearance, using a thin aluminum diaphragm in place of the earlier mica design. Early Orthophonic housings were made of brass, while later versions were made of pot-metal, which has a tendency to crack with age. Orthophonic Soundboxes were made in gold, nickel, or antique brass finishes.
The Victrola No. 4 Soundbox was also introduced in 1925. The No. 4 was intended for use in the low-cost portable and tabletop Victrolas, which allowed improved reproduction of the new electrical recordings on the less expensive models. While it did provide increased volume, it's performance was not nearly as good as the Orthophonic Soundbox (above). It was standard equipment on the VV 1-70, and portables such as the VV 1-6 and VV 2-30.
Victor introduced the Magnetic Soundbox (made by RCA) in 1925 on its Electrola models. These electrically amplified machines used a magnet and coil system to translate the record vibrations into electrical signals for the amplifiers. Several slightly different designs were used during this period.