Kit 6: Edison-style Gramophone

[Note: Kits 3, 4 and 5 are out of print and I don’t want to pay the collector’s markup to buy them off an auction site. So, there are no reviews for them at this time.]

Kit #6: Edison-style Gramophone (1800 yen). The timing for building this kit was perfect. I’d been translating the manga from kit #1, which details the battle between Emile Berliner and Thomas Edison for dominance in the record player market. Edison developed the first cylinder sound recorder/player, but Berliner captured the market with the first modern-style flat disk player. Berliner’s player also gave us the brand name “gramophone”, possibly dedicated to his former employer, Alexander Graham Bell. Which makes it funny that the design for kit #6, which is based on Edison’s next-generation recorder/player is also called a “gramophone”. Anyway, the primary difference is that Edison’s design has the needle moving up and down, while Berliner’s moves sideways. Berliner’s design produces a louder sound, while Edison’s lets you record your own disks by speaking into the cone. The consuming public picked Berliner’s cheaper music player over the more expensive “stenographer tool”.

Because I’d just finished working on the volume 1 manga, I could appreciate the nature of this kit more as I put it together. There’s about 40 pieces, and it took about 90 minutes to assemble. The only battery-driven component is the motor for the turntable; the sound is produced solely by the amount of movement of the needle attached to the paper speaker cone. A larger cone would give a louder sound, but requires that the cone be held up by an external frame since the player itself can’t support that kind of weight. The kit works great, but goes through AA batteries fast. The first mod would be to add a power jack, the second to make a bigger cone.

The mook is a wonderful look into the history of music players, with lots of photos of museum pieces, plus ideas for different cone designs (including using a stethoscope). There’s a cover interview with Kiyoshiro Imawano, the lead singer of a Japanese “noise” band, an article on how records are pressed, a history of sound recordings, and a demonstration of a can-and-string phone using a garbage can. Additionally, there’s a collection of logic puzzles, and instructions for how to make a cabinet for Gakken’s DIY speaker kit.

This kit comes with 3 blank rubber disks for making your own records, plus an adapter to let you play regular 45 RPM records and instructions for adapting it to play LPs. You just need to find a source for good 45s. This is a very sturdy kit, and is amazingly heavy compared to the other kits of the same price. It also looks really cool. When I’m not using it to play music, it acts as a stand for the wind-up doll (kit #16).

Follow-up note:

(Image from, used for review purposes only.)

Kiyoshiro Imawano, lead singer for RC Succession, died Saturday, May 2, 2009, from a lymphatic disease, and had been diagnosed with throat cancer in 2006.

Kit 6: Edison-style Gramophone

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