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Vintage Radio

The HMV A13B 4-Valve Twin-Chassis Mantel

By Rodney Champness

I first saw one of these receivers at my grandparents’ home in the early 1950s. I’m not sure why I was so intrigued with the set; maybe it was because it was so small compared to other radios I was familiar with at the time (mainly large vibrator-powered receivers that ran off batteries). Or perhaps I was impressed by the performance delivered by such a small set.

Of course, by modern standards, it isn’t all that small. However, at the time, it was the smallest I had seen and my grandparents’ set was even housed in a brown Bakelite cabinet, just like the A13B receiver featured here.

A little history

Click for larger image
The loudspeaker is attached to the front vertical section of the chassis and sits partly behind the dark backing material for the dial scale.

HMV has always built interesting receivers, both from a technical viewpoint and in terms of appearance. The cabinet of this receiver is much smaller than other 4-valve superhet receivers. It features rounded edges and a central dial scale which looks quite attractive, although it is relatively small. The loudspeaker is located to the left and is partly behind the dial scale.

The cabinet has four large holes towards the top of the rear panel, designed to accept four fingers so that the set can be easily lifted and moved from one location to another (after first disconnecting the antenna and unplugging the set from the mains). The antenna supplied with the set was around 6-7m long and this was typically draped along a picture rail or run along the skirting board in the room.

As an aside, radio receivers of this era were often supplied with a short-wire antenna. This could be used in good signal areas instead of the set being connected to a large, outside antenna. Of course, that was before ferrite-rod antennas came into common use.

In practice, most people soon abandoned the idea of shifting such sets from room to room, since relocating the antenna each time was a nuisance. The advent of the ferrite-rod antenna made shifting valve sets easier but it wasn’t until transistor receivers arrived that sets became truly portable.

The advent of transistor receivers also eventually made it possible for households to afford multiple sets. By contrast, at the time the HMV A13B was produced, receivers were expensive and the average household could only afford one receiver.

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