Philips "Plano" Radios
Philips Plano RadiosAuthor: Rob Krabbendam
Why telling a story about plano's on a website? Real radio collectors concentrate on prewar sets or don't they? No they don't. At least not all of them. If your (grand) parents lived in the Netherlands in the sixties, chances are great the radio they had in the living room can be found on one of these pages. I was born in 1968 myself, and my whole family had radio's described here. Maybe that is why I have always been interested in these last generations of radio's with tubes. And I am certainly not the only one.
The B5X23A that started my collection represents the typical plano style of many models in the sixties. Plano's have a low cabinet, with speakers in the sides (or no speakers at all). The oldest plano model in my collection is the BX642A receiver from 1954, although I'm not sure this model was already called 'plano' in those days. In the fifties most models had speakers in the front above or below the dial, like the B6X63A, and I admit this design certainly has its charm too.
Both these radio's have two separate amplifiers: one for the high notes and the other for the low notes. As you can clearly see, the B6X63A has a large bass loudspeaker on the left and a small treble speaker on the right. The BX642A came with one large bass loudspeaker in a box that was to be placed in the corner of the room, and two small high tone speakers as shown in the advertisement above. In 1956/57 this separate amplifier feature was called Bi-Ampli, found in exclusive radio's only.
In 1958 the Bi-Ampli logo also appeared on less luxurious models like the B5X82A. They did have two loudspeakers, but only one audio amplifier. In 1957, the plano model B5X74A wasn't called a Bi-Ampli yet, so I assume this term degraded in model year 1958.
The single power amplifier in these radio's was special in another way though: it did not need an impedance transformer in the output stage, thus reducing distortion. Two tubes, the EL84 and EL86, were used in a serial balanced way to reduce the output impedance to about 800 Ohms so high impedance speakers could be connected directly. The result was a powerful sound with a wide frequency range and I believe the EL86 was specially designed for this purpose. The B5X84A in plano style shown below was technically equivalent to the B5X82A. Both were available in 1958 and 1959.
In 1959 the luxurious plano receiver B7X73A (model year 1957) featuring Bi-Ampli and transformerless output stages was still in the Philips brochures with loudspeaker boxes AD5035A (bass) and AD5036B (treble), but that same year there loomed up another reason to equip radio's with multiple amplifiers and speakers: stereo. Though FM-stereo wasn't available yet, stereo gramophones were and many people bought a record player (without built-in amplifiers and speakers) and used it in combination with a radio. When stereo record players became available, one option to be able to play stereo records was to buy a separate second channel amplifier (like the A2X96A) and an extra loudspeaker box. That's why radio's with a single amplifier sometimes did have the word Stereo proudly printed next to their gramophone input terminals.
A second option was much more elegant: buying a so-called Bi-Ampli/Stereo radio. These were plano's with two completely separate amplifiers and equivalent speakers in the sides of the cabinet.
Having two amplifiers and speakers, these radio's had Bi-Ampli as a cheaply implemented marketing trick. It only implied that when listening to the radio, the right channel had the high frequencies attenuated. Of course this sounded worse than older radio's equipped with one speaker specially designed for treble. The first series of Bi-Ampli/Stereo plano's consisted of the B5X94A, B6X94A and the flagship B7X94A, which had additional tweeters in its front.
The B7X94A, being really huge and really expensive, was followed up by the B7X14A in 1961. It had a reverberation unit and was also based on the B5X94A chassis. The first samples also had special green colored dial illumination, but this wasn't a great success because of its short life time. The B7X14A was upgraded with FM-stereo in 1964 and was called B7X43A then.
The B5X94A and B6X94A were made up until 1964 with only minor modifications. In '60/'61 there were the B5X04A and B6X04A, in '61/'62 the B5X14A and B6X12A, in '62/'63 the B5X23A and B6X23A and finally, in 1964 there were the B5X43A and B6X43A featuring a transistorized MPX-decoder (FM-stereo). And even up until 1966 there were models that still were based on the same chassis: the B5X42A, B5X44A and B5X54A. It seems like almost everyone in the Netherlands had one of these sets in the early sixties for they are still very commonly offered at jumble sales and online auctions.
This radio has brown speaker grilles and the Bi-Ampli radio circuit. The dial glass looks much better than the ones of its successors below. The indications on the dial glass are in Dutch. I think there must also have been a version with a plastic dial 'glass' (like the B7X94A had) with the Bi-Ampli and stereo badges placed higher. I've this seen in brochures and service docs, but I never saw one in real life. This radio was also available as a radiogram: H4X92A.
This model has black speaker grilles and was the first in this series that had a DIN bus to connect a tape recorder. Some samples I've seen do still have the Bi-Ampli radio circuit, others don't and they sound much better in FM mode. I've seen two kinds of plastic foil covering the top of the cabinet. The tuning and volume knobs came in brown and white.
This sample has the Philips name on a white plastic strip, but I've also seen brown ones. I don't know about other differences from the B5X04A. It does still have the Bi-Ampli logo on the dial, but both channels always play the same frequency range.
This radio started my collection. Besides the wooden cabinet and better looking volume/tuning knobs it is the same radio as the B5X14A. The FM frequency range was 87.5 - 100 MHz initially, but in later versions it became 87.5 - 104 MHz.
This one looks almost identical to the B5X23A, but it has a FM-stereo decoder and a red or green stereo indicator light. Some receive FM up to 104 MHz, others up to 108 MHz. It sounds less heavy but more clearly than its predecessors. The indications on the dial glass of the B5X43A's I have seen, were always in English. I believe export models were also called "Pallas".
The 6-series (B6X..A) on this page was based on the same chassis as the 5-series on the previous page. Main differences are:
This radio has the Bi-Ampli radio circuit. I assume it had a plastic dial 'glass' like the B7X94A had, but I have never seen this radio in real life.
This model has light brown speaker grilles and was the first one in this series featuring a DIN bus to connect a tape recorder. Some samples I've seen do still have the Bi-Ampli radio circuit, others don't and they sound much better in FM mode. I've seen two kinds of plastic foil covering the top of the cabinet. New is the optical indication connected to the stereo balance control.
B6X14A (1961/62). I have not found many differences from the B6X04A. It does still have the Bi-Ampli logo on the dial, but both channels always play the same frequency range.
Besides the wooden cabinet and better looking volume/tuning knobs this was the same radio as the B6X14A. The FM frequency range was 87.5 - 100 MHz initially, but in later versions it became 87.5 - 104 MHz.
This one looks almost identical to the B6X23A, but it has a transistorized FM-stereo decoder and a red or green stereo indicator light. Some receive FM up to 104 MHz, others up to 108 MHz. It sounds less heavy but more clearly than its predecessors. The indications on the dial glass of the B6X43A's I have seen, were always in English.
First the 4-series plano's from 1960-1965. As far as I know the 4-series plano was introduced in 1960.
This is a (cheaper) 4-series plano. It has smaller speakers than the 5-series plano's and only one EL84 power amplifier. It has a single dial lamp. The sides are made out of brown plastic (white on the inside) and there is no dedicated push button for tape/gramophone. There are separate knobs for AM/FM dial pointers. No stereo, no Bi-Ampli.
This model seems to be exactly the same as the B4X02A.
This model has a wood-look cabinet and new knobs (looking like the ones the B5X23A has) but technically it again is the same radio. The plastic sides are brown on the inside too.
Other B5X23A family members:
This radiogram is actually a B5X94A with a built in stereo record player. It's hard to find well working cartridges for it, but when you finally find one it sounds pretty well, mainly because of its large cabinet. I wonder why a 5-series radio equipped with a record player made a 4-series radiogram...
This radio has the same chassis as the B5X23A. Main difference is a single front loudspeaker emphasizing the high notes. This extra loudspeaker and the fact that the cabinet is larger than the B5X23A's makes this radio sound surprisingly good, though it looks a bit old fashioned for a 1962 model. I know of a Sierra model looking just like this radio.
Aristona's and Sierra's (Belgium) were made by Philips.
This radio's chassis is based on the B5X43A's. It has FM up to 104 MHz and could be equipped with a stereo decoder. Also it has a 'expanded' stereo circuit.
This radio looks very much like the B5X42A, but it was always equipped with a stereo decoder and a stereo indicator light. It also has the FM-Stereo logo on the dial.
This radio is technically the same as the B5X44A.