Philips is one of the few manufacturers that made tape recorders in the 1950's and that are still around today. A major electric and electronic enterprise founded in the Netherlands in 1891, they started out as a light bulb manufacturer, and are today number one in the world in the field of lighting.
While tape recorders were not more than a sideline for such a large company, their machines are nevertheless interesting. Philips is very good at quality control, meaning in this case that the components, especially mechanical ones, last just as long as their supposed to but no longer. This can present problems for collectors, when faced with cracked plastic parts, or rubber belts that have turned to gum. When new though, the machines represent excellent value for money.
The two-track EL3510, launched in 1955, was not the first domestic Philips
recorder (that title goes to the rarer EL3530), but it was the first machine that
carried an affordable price tag. Consequently the machine was quite popular,
and was also available built into radiograms. Technically, it was
quite basic, offering a single speed of 3 3/4 ips and a maximum reel
size of 5". All functions, including power on/off, are controlled from
a large rotary knob, making the machine very easy to operate. Not so
good however is the fact that for fast winding in either direction,
the knob must be held down, which makes for rather tedious operation.
Not immediately obvious from the picture at right is the fact that it stands quite tall, the reason being that the electronics are mounted on a classic 'radio chassis' underneath the electronics. Nevertheless, the machine is quite compact, and the design allows for a rather large speaker beind the front speaker grille.
The EL3510 was offered in several countries with small variations; the particular machine shown here was sold in Sweden and probably built in Holland.
The EL3520 is the result of further development on the EL3510 above. While
the basic mechanics remained the same, there were a couple of
significant improvements, both technically and in style.
Starting with style, it can be seen from the picture that this machine is much more compact. Instead of placing the electronics underneath the mechanics, it is contained on a chassis at the front of the machine, giving the tape recorder a flatter and more conventional appearance. The small DM70 recording level indicator used on the EL3510 has been replaced with the larger EM81 type.
Technically, the large spring belt which ran in a figure-8 through the machine has been replaced by two smaller belts, which can now be replaced without fully dismantling the machine. A significant advantage is that the pulley below the left hand reel table remains stationary during play and record, instead of rotating, causing less flutter in the tape movement.
The basic premises of two track mono, 5" maximum reel size and a single 3 3/4 ips speed have been retained.
This is a rather large jump forward in time, to the start of the 1960's,
1962 to be more exact, when this machine was launched, although it
was in production for several years. The machine depicted is an
early version with metal pause button; later versions had a plastic
button which tended to crack with age, leaving a rather unsightly metal
stud (which would still be operated though).
The EL3547 shown must have been a breakthrough in its day. Fully transistorized in an era where tubes where still the norm, it also sported stereo record and playback, with two speakers built in, and four track operation. Further features included 'multiplay', later more often called 'sound-on-sound', i.e. the ability to 'bounce' material between tracks, adding new material at each bounce. Sadly, the maximum reel size is only 6".
Technically there are a couple of interesting solutions. Upon first opening the machine up it becomes evident after a while that there is no power transformer! Closer inspection reveals that extra windings on the drive motor provides power for the amplifiers.
The machine sports belt drive of the flywheel, but still has two speeds (3 3/4 ips and 1 7/8 ips). The belt is moved between two pulley grooves on the motor using a clever mechanism which lifts the belt from one groove and places it on the other, operated by the two push buttons to the right.
An interesting style note is how important it was to give an impression of symmetry. The function control knob on the right is balanced by the track selector on the left, the four knobs for recording level, playback volume, balance and tone are symmetrically placed, and the push buttons for record and multiplay balance the two buttons selecting the two speeds. Only the pause button causes a distraction from the symmetry, but it is rather small.
The User Manual is available in PDF format. Or have a look at the EL3547 and other tape recorders in this 1963-64 Philips Tape Recorder Catalog (large file; 20 MB, in Swedish).
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