Indian Audio Icons – Portable Record Players
From the 1960s till the mid-1980s, HMV produced a plethora of affordable record players such as the Calypso and Fiesta, which are still remembered fondly today. These turntables were designed to be easy to set-up and use and made the magic of vinyl records much more accessible to music lovers across India.
By 1959, The Gramophone Company of India had invested heavily in record manufacturing facilities in India, however, the high cost of record players meant that records weren’t yet accessible to the masses. To address this, a line of affordable record players was introduced to the Indian market under the iconic HMV brand.
HMV began offering “record player attachments” meant to be plugged into a home radio receiver set. Models offered through the ‘60s included the Sherpa, Calypso, and Star. These turntables were available in mains or battery powered versions and came in a compact briefcase-like form factor. They were the cheapest way to get into LP and EP records at the time.
For customers with a higher budget, “portable radiograms” such as the Conquest were available. The Conquest featured a 3-band radio, 4-speed turntable, and an internal amplifier and speaker.
For true portability, HMV also introduced the Fiesta, a stand-alone briefcase-style record player with built in speaker and amplifier. Early versions of the Fiesta were available in mains or battery-operated versions and included a power-hungry vacuum tube amplifier.
The Fiesta proved to be highly successful, and by the mid-1970s, it had evolved into the solid-state Fiesta Popular featuring a lid mounted detachable speaker, tone control circuit, and a 3-speed idler drive turntable. By 1977, it was India’s largest selling record player, with over 3,00,000 units sold by 1979.
Although the Fiesta made vinyl more accessible than ever before, it was far from a high-fidelity product. For more discerning customers wanting better quality playback, HMV introduced higher end offerings such as the Stereo Popular and Stereo 1010. These turntables featured better quality internal amplifiers with two external speakers.
HMV’s top-of-the-line offering by 1978 was the 3131 Supertrack system featuring a high-quality turntable with a magnetic stereo cartridge, and an external 60-watt stereo amplifier.
The success of the HMV Fiesta led other brands in the Indian market to enter the portable turntable segment. Competition to the Fiesta included the Philips GF 533, which included a similar detachable speaker and built-in amplifier. While these affordable turntables left a lot to be desired in terms on audio quality, they served as an attainable gateway into the world of vinyl records during the format’s heyday.