Instead of doing my own
introduction, I quote from the intro to Robert Baumbach's
"The fabulous Capehart
Deluxe home radio-phonographs of the 1930s and 1940s. These
instruments used a wonderful record changer designed by
Ralph Erbe, and this changer was unequalled for features in
its time. In addition to being able to play 10" and 12"
records intermixed, this ingenious changer would also turn
each record over. It could turn each record over
immediately, so that the B side could be played following
the A side, or it could turn the record over as it returned
it to the stack, thereby placing it in position to play the
opposite side the next time the record came through the
Also check out scans of the 1938 Capehart catalog here:
The Capehart as a
symbol of urbane luxury can be spotted in many movies. Often
as a simple furniture prop in the background.
1939 INTERMEZZO with
Leslie Howard and Ingrid Bergman
This remake of the 1936
Swedish original features a gigantic Capehart 500 in Leslie
Howard as Star Violinist Holger Brandt's home. His daughter
is playing a record of "Intermezzo" (beautifully recorded by
Toscha Seidel, available on a 10" Victor) repeatedly on this
machine, and it is rather poignant when she turns around and
complains: "We will need a new copy. This one is worn out."
1945 AND THEN THERE WERE
NONE by Rene Clair with Walter Huston
Rene Clair's captivating
mise-en-scene of Agatha Christie's thriller "Ten little
Indians" takes place on an isolated island. To get the plot
started, the recorded message of the absent host is played
on an early 1930s Capehart. You will see part of the repeat
cycle of the changer.
Homer Capehart and the
Turn-Over De Luxe Record Changer
Founded by Homer Capehart, salesman extraordinaire, the
Capehart Corporation and its automatic phonograph with the
turn-over mechanism was the epitome of luxury phonographs,
technical excellence and supreme electronics in the 1930s
Homer Capehart was the first to promote the idea of a home
entertainment system: In addition to the Capehart
radio-phonograph console, the whole home could be wired with
auxiliary speakers and amplifiers, and cable remotes (the
size of a shoebox) could be used to operate the Capehart
from any room in the house:
- Phono on/off, start, record change
- Radio on/off, remote station selection/volume
- Operate loudspeakers in the whole house remotely.
In addition, plain,
undecorated consoles were available to be hidden in a
closet, while the home installation was exclusively operated
These luxurious phonographs and installations left nothing
to be desired for the affluent, and it is known that large
Capeharts with extensive home installations could run up to
The Capehart De Luxe Turn-Over Changer Radio-Phonograph
- Exquisite cabinets of the highest quality, rivaling the
art models of earlier Victrolas. Lush veneers, carving and
Cabinets came in 5
- Capehart 100: a waist-high top loader 800 - 1000$
- Capehart 200: a waist high front loader, only produced for
a short time.
- Capehart 300: An upright combination with the radio above
the changer, only produced for 2 years.
- Capehart 400: The deluxe model: A chest-high front loader
with elaborate electronics, separate amplifiers for bass
and treble, and two big 12" and 14" dynamic
loudspeakers. 1500$ +
- Capehart 500: The model of conspicuous consumption for the
ultra-rich: A chest high cabinet, but even longer than the
400. Three separate amps for low, mid, treble, 12", 14", 18"
dynamic speakers. Prices $2500 and up, remote installations
$5000 and more. Easily the most expensive standard
production phonograph. A monster. Only 6 examples are known
Also, the stand-alone changer mechanism (for use in PA
systems or in a custom-built SCOTT radio) was available for
a steep $495.
More cabinets shown at Bob Baumbach's site:
How to read Capehart
This Capehart is Model 112M FM2
100 - Type of Capehart (see above)
12 - Cabinet Style (in this case George II)
M - Model Year (1941/42)
(first year: when it came out, second year: model year)
Dating a Capehart by
The Capehart (no letter) - 1931/32
A - 1932/33
M - 1941/42
N - 1945/46-47
P - 1948/48-50
FM2 - Type of Radio and Amplifier - FM Radio and No. 2 Amp
Another Example: Capehart 114N2 = 1946 100 Model, 14 Early
Georgian Cabinet, No. 4 Amp.
Demonstration of the Capehart Turn-Over Record Changer
-The turn-over changer, developed in 1929 by Ralph Erbe for
Columbia, left nothing to be desired: Continuous playing of
20 (later reduced to 16) records, 12" and 10" intermixed.
Once the stack is through, it starts again.
First record slides out of the bottom of the stack
the first photo to see a video of the Capehart in full
browser does not play the full video file, right-mouse click
the photo and "Save target as" on your computer. The 10 MB
video file can then be played from your own computer.)
Side A playing
Record playing, note the
True Tangent zero tracking error tone arm:
Turnover arm swings
around, lift ring brings the record in vertical position
(arm is not swung over in this photo, sorry)
Record slides down
guided by turn-over arm: record is turned over to side B
Record playing side B
Record is returned to
the magazine, new record drops from the bottom of the stack
and cycle begins again:
The changer, even though
unchanged in its original design, was continuously improved:
33 rpm Transcription speed added in 1932 for 3 years.
True Tangent zero error tone arm added.
Feather Weight pickup (at the then astounding light weight
of 1 1/2 ounces) added in 1941.
This 1942 changer is the most sophisticated example of the
Play Control added: Pre-set a certain number of sides to
play after which the whole machine shuts off (great when you
fall asleep on the sofa)
- Electronics were always of the finest: Multiple powerful
dynamic speakers, well done amplifiers, and up-to-date
radios (FM radio available 1941) guaranteed excellent
fidelity and plenty of volume.
Some Details about the
Capehart 112M FM
MAKER: Capehart Farnsworth
MODEL: Capehart 112M 2 FM in rare blonde bleached Mahogany
George II cabinet
YEARS: Capehart: 1931 - 1951, this is the 1941/42 model year
ORIGINAL COST: $800
CASE / CABINET SIZE: 37" x 38" x 22"
TURNTABLE / MANDREL SIZE: 16 E turn over record changer, 16
records/ 32 sides continuous play, with play control (number
of sides can be pre-set, turns off after last record).
REPRODUCER / SOUND BOX: Feather-Weight Astatic B2 cartridge
1 1/2 Ounces weight.
MOTOR: Geared Synchronous
HORN DIMENSIONS: two 10" dynamic speakers
REPRO PARTS: Electronics have been expertly restored,
otherwise machine is all original.
CURRENT VALUE MINT: $2000 for restored machine
(Not necessarily this machine)
This machine is the last model before Capehart closed
production for the war. Advanced features of this machine
are the True Tangent tone arm, the Feather Weight Astatic B2
Pick-up and the pre-set play control. Also, FM radio (old
band) is available, in addition to AM and Shortwave.)
It is a Capehart !! put in your selection of records, switch
the machine on, and just enjoy the music. What I really like
about Capeharts is that you start the machine, and then
forget about it. It plays reliably records on both sides,
does not fail, and switches itself off after the pre-set
number of plays.
It works on any record with a run off groove, oscillating or
spiral. Once in a while I will even play a batch of Gennetts
or acoustic Brunswicks on there, works fine.
time of publication)
CAPEHARTS and the LP quandary
the image below to see Capehart turning over LPs:
browser does not play the full video file, right-mouse
click the photo and "Save target as" on your computer.
The 10 MB video file can then be played from your own
After having closed the
factory in 1942 because of the war, the Capehart dazzled the
public again in 1946 with a completely redesigned changer
(41-E) and updated electronics. These post-war Capeharts are
by many connoisseurs considered to be the finest that
Complete redesign in 1946: Lightweight pick-up allows
playing at 8 - 12 grams.
1949: Two speed changer for LPs and 78 rpm introduced.
Production of the Capehart ceased in 1950.
The 1946 had an
embarrassing false start: Capehart used a Pfanstiehl (I
think) True-Timbre strain-gauge cartridge, which works like
a carbon mike: A carbon coated piece of nylon changes its
resistance as it bends.
This cartridge provided great fidelity at low weight, and
avoided any hum problems.
However, the stylus was only factory-replaceable, and nylon
piece in the cartridges malfunctioned quickly and were
factory upgraded to the modern HiFi GE VR (Variable
The original strain gage cartridge can be recognized by its
clear Lucite/edgy head shell. These machines do not have a
pre-amp. If you want to upgrade such a machine, you will
need the later silver head shell, a GE VR cartridge and
someone has to build a pre-amp (contact me for details.)
Also, the early two-pole induction motor induces some hum on
the GE VR cartridge.
Lastly, the changer had
to be retrofitted with two struts stabilizing the magazine
holder (again contact me).
Capehart-upgraded and later machines have a silver-Lucite
head shell with a large, chromed GE VR cartridge, and a
separate preamp chassis in the changer.
(Note to the
cartridges: The original large, double cased GE VR cartridge
was only factory repairable: A new stylus has to be soldered
Your best bet is to replace it with a GE RPX cartridge with
the L shaped stylus. Your capehart will sound even better,
if you use a two-speed double ender GE RPX and replace the T
bar with one that can accept clip-in styli. These have a
much better compliance and high-end than the L shape styli.
You just saw off the first 1/2" of the T bar post, and make
the T bar stick with a piece of clear tape around the post.
Do not use the GE VRII cartridge, since it has only 50% of
the RPX output)
Otherwise the machine
was simply fabulous: Advanced electronics using improved
military circuits and components (unfortunately, the carbon
resistors have drifted over time), a coaxial 15"/ 5" Jensen
dynamic speaker on the 100 model, and a great Western
Electric 12" edge-wound dynamic speaker on the 400 model.
Radio is modern FM band,
AM and shortwave, and of astounding sound quality. The radio
dial is a beautiful back-lit dial (there is a problem with
the brown paint flaking - I have an easy solution).
In 1948, a beautifully improved changer - (41-MP, with
double separator knife, standard GE VR cartridge in a double
suspension case, three mercury switches, a quiet four pole
motor, and a new improved one chassis radio/amp, and a push
box with 4 buttons for phono noise reduction came out.
Conversion to 78/ 33 rpm speed by
Adapting the Capehart
for the new Long-Playing Microgroove record
1948 also marked the
introduction of the LP and the eventual demise of the
If you had paid $800 for a superb Capehart, you were all of
a sudden burdened with a machine that could not play 33 rpm
Capehart, unfazed, developed a beautiful new, astonishing
To accommodate LPs, the changer had two tone arms that
clipped in at the base. Clipping in the right tone arm
change the speed to 78 rpm or 33 rpm automatically, and the
separate tone arms always insured that you played your LPs
at 6 grams, whereas 78 rpms play at ~12 grams. A ball
bearing at the trip mechanism ensured that the tone arm
would track and trip reliably with playing weights as low as
These rare 2-speed changers were the last stand of Capehart
against the LP - but it seems that people did not see the
necessity to have a changer for 20 minutes a side LP
Capehart closed the production of the turn-over changer in
1950, after a basically unchanged changer production of over
22,000 changers since 1930.
This should be the end of the Capehart Story, but not quite:
Too many people had these gorgeous and highly engineered,
reliable and great sounding Capeharts sitting around, that
could not play LPs.
What to do?
On the West Coast,
Sherman-Clay, purveyor of phonograph and fine musical
instruments, would take the old Capehart, drill a hole into
the head shell to accommodate a double ender, two speed GE
RPX cartridge, and would replace the motor with a Voice of
Music Three Speed assembly.
And voila, all of a sudden you were able to play 78 rpm and
33 rpm records in changer cycle, and 45 7" records in single
(The changer you see here has an original Sherman-Clay
drilled head shell, but it is my own conversion: In the
place of the Capehart motor, I fitted in a Garrard RC88
motor with a two speed (78/33rpm) selection. Nothing was
harmed, the speed switch is discreetly hiding at the side,
and the machine could be reconverted to original status in
less than 1 hr.
And anywhere else (not
in Sherman-Clay territory):
The good people at Lincoln Engineering, which in 1949
started to produce their own pneumatic turn-over changer
Lincoln Series 50 write up), provided a Capehart
conversion model, which was 2" shorter than a regular
Lincoln. You removed the old changer, plugged in the
Lincoln, and you were done.
But alas, because of the Lincoln configuration, this was
only possible on the front loader 400 models, but not on the
top loader 100 Capeharts.
Well, the Capehart - the ideal record changer for any record
lover. More Gentle than the Human Hand - true: You will
break more records on your Victrola, than the Capehart ever
will (none on my two machines so far).
Do you realize that during the whole change cycle the
records are only handled on the edges, and record-to-record
rubbing (kept in a vertical stack) is absolutely minimal?
But be extremely weary: A Capehart will only play standard
size 11 7/8" records. If you load it with 12" records (I had
to discover that Victor Grand Prize, and Deutsche Grammophon
up to ca. 1930 are true 12" records) it will crunch the
Also, misloading will result in instant retribution.
If you make all the proper procedures, the Capehart will
play reliably and indefatigably records without skip, error
or damage (right now the whole Potted Walkuere is delighting
me as I write).
Also - it is not true that there has to be a compromise
between a great changer and a great turntable:
The postwar changer can be made to track at 4 grams with a
modern Pickering stereo cartridge, which is great for mono
LPs and still ok for stereos.
Since the changer is completely separate from the turntable,
it would be not much effort to change the turntable in a
postwar changer to a modern truly hifi turntable, a
modification to a touch less trip would allow tracking at 2
grams or less, and some slight modifications would allow you
to play 16 LPs at a time reliably one at a time, and without
the least damage to the records.
Well, that's it.
A word about acquiring and restoring a Capehart
As always, DO NOT plug a vintage piece of electronics in.
That must be left to the restorer.
Even if the machine is playing, some old capacitors are
already getting hot and melting. A flash-through with a
ruined power transformer is waiting to happen.
On these old
sets, the capacitors must be tested and replaced. Also
usually some resistors have drifted and will distort the
Capehart mechanisms are extremely reliable (except
1942 all pot metal changers with serial numbers greater than
20,000- unrestorable), and will probably work right away. On
both pre-and-postwar changers, there are gear boxes that
need to be filled with motor oil, and if the changer is
stuck, DON'T force it - it will need to go to the Capehart
There is a Capehart doctor in Philadelphia, and one in the
LA area. If your Capehart exhibits problems that a simple
oiling cannot solve, or is stuck, the mechanism MUST go to
the doctor. They can also help with fun things like a broken
turn-over arm (I told you not to put 20 records in the
Electronic restoration of a Capehart is important, and
Chuck, the gracious host of this website should be your
first stop. There is a great guy in Virginia, another one in
the Mid-West and I have a contact in the Bay Area. The
problem is that your usual radio restorer will not like to
work on these big multi-chassis electronics, and you really
want to find someone who knows how to repair Capeharts (and
the repair will be a couple hundred dollars.)
BTW: If your post-war FM radio goes quiet, and it is not a
tube problem, it is probably the inter-stage FM transformers
which have tiny PVC tubes supporting the hair-thin copper
leads. Those tubes sometimes corrode and snap the
transformer lead wires. (happened here on two machines
within two months)
pretty much it.
As always I am very interested to hear from you.
The following quality reproductions are available:
- 1941/2 Capehart 100M user Manual
- 1941/2 Capehart De Luxe 400M user Manual
- the pre-war 16-E changer service and repair notes
- the post-war 41-E changer service and repair notes.
I have some electronic schematics for post war changers, but
the graceful host of this site, Chuck, can probably make
copies for you for any model Capehart.
Pls note that
this site is dedicated to the CAPEHART TURN-OVER changer.
I may be able to give you some information on the Capehart
Panamuse DROP CHANGER .
I have no information available for later
If your set has stereo, cassette or solid state circuits, I
will not be able to help you.
Contact me at:
sgimips1 "at" yahoo
thanks so much to the excellent electronic restorer Chuck,
by whose gracious help I am able to publish these pages.
ALSO: After having my 1946 Capehart for 2 years, I feel like
upgrading to a '48 model.
If you ever see a Capehart with a chrome tone arm and a
silver head shell on Ebay or in a local antiques store,
please send me an email. I will be eternally indebted to
Again my great thanks
to Chuck Azzalina for his great help in creating these
Pleases check out his
other web pages
with even more
fascinating early audio and TV tube electronics. One level
above this page, you can find more
changers with video clips.
My thanks also to Robert Baumbach who provided many
pictures, and many other people that always helped with
their advice and expertise to make these fascinating
machines run again as reliably and beautifully as the day
when they were bought.
MORE VIDEOS and
Baumbach's seminal book about the CAPEHART COMPANY and the
CAPEHART CHANGER. A great source of models, chronology and
repair notes for the classic Capehart models.
Also check out
Robert Baumbach's video of one of my stand-alone Capehart
changers as demonstrated at the 2007 California Antique
Phonograph Society show.
(As a side
note, if you would like to have the full benefits of a
Capehart changer without the encumbering cabinet and
complicated tube electronics, the post-war 41-E changer can
be easily operated as a stand-alone turntable)