Braun Table Radiogram

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Table Radiogram Model SK5 by Braun
Manufacturer Braun
Production years c. 1962
Production location (unknown)

This Table Radiogram Model SK5 from Braun combines a four-speed record-playing deck and a radio receiver. Braun products were appreciated for their technical quality and for their severe aesthetic appeal, which was defined by the visionary designer Dieter Rams whose design credo was ‘back to purity, back to simplicity’.

How it works

Radio transmissions are created using two kinds of waves: a carrier wave is used to modulate a radio-frequency wave to encode audio. Circuits in the receiving equipment recreate the carrier wave and decode the signal.

All waves have three parts: wavelength, amplitude and frequency. Wavelength affects receiving characteristics (typically range); amplitude (AM) or frequency (FM) can be changed to carry information.

Radio waves are at the low end of the electromagnetic spectrum, which also includes infra-red, microwaves, visible light, ultraviolet and x-rays.

Vibrations from sound waves can produce movement in a needle attached to a diaphragm. If this needle is placed on a rotating surface a groove can be cut. The principle behind the record player is that another needle can then be placed in this cut and, as the record is rotated, tiny indentations in the walls of the grooves move the needle. The needle is connected to a tiny magnet that moves through a small coil. Magnets moving through coils produce current. This current can then be sent to the amplifier, which can then reproduce the original sound.

Memories

My parents bought the Braun radiogram in the early 1960s when we lived in south London. I “inherited” it as a teenager, and used it throughout the 1970s until I went to university. My father helped me connect a tape recorder and an additional loudspeaker (it was still mono but sounded fine). It could play records at four speeds, i.e. 16, 33, 45 and 78rpm, which meant our parents could play their old 78rpm jazz discs, while we played mainly singles and later pop music LPs. Listening to the radio was a family event - Listen with Mother during the week and Family Favourites at the weekend. There were of course fewer distractions and, as was the case with British television, there was less choice than today (but like today we could borrow records from the local public library). The radio needed lengths of wire wrapped around the room or radiator to get good FM reception during the day.

Braun’s Dieter Rams’ design philosophy is often cited as an influence upon the British designer Jonathan Ive, who has produced much-respected work for Apple, e.g. Mac, iPhone and iPod, and some broad similarities can be seen in the radiogram.

— Jonathan Davies