No, this is not a guide to meeting an EMG gramophone with romantic intent. It is about how to determine the place of a particular gramophone in the evolutionary history of these machines. Since they are handmade, and would frequently be constructed to a particular set of purchaser’s specifications, this is no mean task.

Clearly a first step is to measure the final external diameter of the horn and compare it with the ‘standard’ diameters of the different Marks. However this is only a first step, and because the machines were handmade, far from conclusive.

EMGER writes : A further difficulty for us when attempting to date a particular gramophone is that alterations have often been made by subsequent owners, either personally or as a result of having returned their examples to the manufacturer for upgrading. The ex-Cobham Hall Xb Oversize (first photo) is a case in point which, having started out as a Xa, was returned to EMG to fit the 33 ½” horn together with longer conduit (second photo). Two number stamps (199 and 333) on the deck-board together with two name-plates perhaps prove the occurrence (photos three and four).

As a rough guide, I have found the following: Mk X had the weakly designed horn (few seem to be known---short casting much like Mk IX) with goose-neck tonearm and short (bronze) conduit. Mk Xa had early cygnet initial aluminium casting with narrow knuckle, swan-neck tonearm and short (aluminium) conduit. Mk Xb and Xb Oversize had later cygnet initial aluminium casting with wide knuckle, swan-neck tonearm and long (aluminium) conduit.

You may like to remove your deck-board to measure your conduit (photos five and six---underside of deck-board to bottom of conduit). This will establish one more piece of the jigsaw.

One further aspect worth observing is the tonearm bearing. It would seem that all EMGs prior to Xa had the bearing formed by loose ball bearings whereas subsequently a fully caged ball race was used. Once again, the time of the Xa production seems to have been one of crossover with earlier examples having loose ball bearings. Further photos (seven and eight) show the different external appearance of both types. The earlier type has a pinch-screw to set ball pressure.

As far as numbers are concerned, the nearest to {XaE-#657} in my records is {Xb-#817} and owned by a member of this forum (Orchorsol) which, extremely interestingly, has what we think is a factory hybrid horn with early Xa narrow knuckle but later Xb 29 ½” final diameter. This appears to be a crossover instrument, perhaps using up previous stock. Yet another member of this forum (Frankia) has an Xa, {Xa-#412}, which can be dated to 1932 due to the presence of a bronze name plaque apparently unique to that year according to Frank James. From this, we might infer that your instrument could be 1932/33 but this is still very much conjecture.

The situation is complicated and eternally confusing but also fascinating. I hope this helps a little?

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