Return to Home Page

The Victor-Victrola Page  

How do I set the speed?

ANSWER:  One of the most humorous aspects of many YouTube videos featuring Victors or Victrolas, is that the user is totally clueless about setting the correct turntable speed on their phonograph. One will either hear a playback sound similar to "chipmunks" or a slow drunken-sounding moan that puts you to sleep. The speed setting process for the turntable was never considered when the video was made.

That is what the little speed control knob is for. In the early years of the 20th Century, phonograph records varied in recorded speed from 60 RPM up to 80 RPM; so since there was no "standard" speed, phonograph companies simply allowed the user to set the correct speed for the record being played. The example on the left is one of many different designs for speed-control systems that Victor used throughout the years. The adjustment knob controls the turntable speed, and the dial shows the user the speed of the turntable. Your machine may not have the dial; it may only have a single knob or a "fan" type control, depending on vintage and model.

In most cases, after 100 years of use, you can't depend on the accuracy of the readout dial (if you have one) to display the correct speed. They tend to stick or become un-calibrated, which usually requires that some teardown and lubrication of the motor and governor system be performed before it will function correctly. However, unless your motor is totally seized-up or has serious mechanical issues, the speed control adjustment knob will usually work. But you will have to set it manually per the instructions below.

All Victor records should be played at 78 RPM. In order to set the correct speed:

If you are unable to achieve the required 39 revolutions in 30 seconds by adjusting the speed control knob, it is likely that you have a problem with the motor governor system. This will require a motor overhaul. Never run a turntable at a very high speed (over 100 RPM) as the governor system can easily "fly apart", requiring costly repairs.