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The Discomatic portable jukebox

Welcome to the website that is dedicated to all things Discomatic.

In the early sixties, M. Jean Foufounis, president of Gerinvex S.A. in Switzerland invented a compact record playing chassis that could play 40 records, yet was small enough to be built into a cabinet the size of a home record player.

M. Foufounis disliked listening to 33rpm record albums as he would have to listen through tracks he didn't care for to hear the tracks he liked. His vision was therefore to create a home record player that could conveniently play a selection of 45rpm records that were all the listeners' favourites.

Launch of the Discomatic

The Discomatic was first announced at the St. Regis Hotel in New York in August 1964.

After 7½ years of development, the Discomatic was born!

With a capacity for 40 x 45rpm records, the Discomatic offered a selection that was many times that of the typical autochange record player in the sixties.

Gerinvex also made mechanism kits and complete player designs available for other manufacturers to build into their own housings. The KB Discomatic was such a player.

Did the player in the photo exist? Yes, it must have existed, but I believe it was a prototype only. The indications are that the KB Discomatic and Type A were both Gerinvex designs and that these were the first available commercially.

Early model from a launch photo

Launch of the KB Discomatic

Just after the Gerinvex launch in New York on the 28th August 1964 the KB Discomatic was launched at the International Radio Show in London. I suspect that these were the first Discomatics made commercially available.

The first indication I've found that the KB Discomatic was available to buy was in June 1965, listed in the pages of Practical Wireless at a price of 69 guineas. I have spoken with one owner who confirmed he paid 77 guineas for his Discomatic later in 1965 so it could be that the price increased.

KB were a British manufacturer of radios and other consumer products that had been trading for most of the 20th century. They chose to build a Gerinvex kit in their factory in Footscray, Kent, England which would be branded as the KB Discomatic. This became one of the best known versions of the Discomatic, particularly when Beatles John Lennon, George Harrison and their manager Brian Epstein became known to own KB Discomatics.

Click here to read more about John Lennon's KB Discomatic.

KB Discomatic with lid open
KB Discomatic

Evolution of the Discomatic

Gerinvex continued to evolve and update their design. Several different models were available over the years with curious names such as the Type A, EL-POR and TD-COF. Even within these models they made small evolutionary changes during the course of their lifespan.

Check out the Models page to read more about the Gerinvex models and the KB Discomatic.

Type A
Early EL-POR

Is the Discomatic a jukebox or a record player?

It's not important! Although most enthusiasts (including me) will refer to the Discomatic as a portable jukebox, M. Foufounis' original intentions were that the Discomatic should be enjoyed in the home. Additionally, it has no coin-op capability so I would suggest it's not a jukebox in the true sense of the word.

The Discomatic should probably be termed a portable autochanging record player. If so it is undoubtedly the best portable autochanging record player ever made!

With a capacity for 40 x 7" records, a linear selection system, gentle record handling and a case that was portable, the Discomatic was more than a match for other sixties autochanging record players. These played only 8-10 records as a 'stack'. Traction was often variable as the stack of records grew larger, causing the records to slip.

Symphomatic and Mini-Symphomatic

That brings us neatly to the Symphomatic. Gerinvex launched the Symphomatic at the Palais des Jeux in Paris in November 1967. This was announced in Billboard magazine in the same month. This had a very similar mechanism to that used in the Discomatic, but is a fully-fledged jukebox. It has coin-operation and music is selected via two telephone dials. An optional floor-stand was available with large built-in speakers.

The Mini-Symphomatic was an evolution of the original Symphomatic. Slightly more compact than the original Symphomatic, the Mini Symphomatic includes a full 30W x 2 stereo amplifier to drive a pair of external stereo speakers. The telephone dial system of the original Symphomatic was changed to twin selector dials on the front panel.

Why is the Symphomatic featured on a website dedicated to the Discomatic? The Symphomatic is very closely related to the Discomatic and many have now found their way into the homes of Discomatic enthusiasts.

Mini Symphomatic

Other Gerinvex machines

As the sixties became the seventies, the Discomatic had been discontinued, but the same basic mechanism lived on, now in full-size Gerinvex jukeboxes. Enthusiasts owning such machines may well find technical details available within this website helpful during a restoration.

The Victor Discomatics

Discomatic chassis were also built into home players and consoles in Japan by Victor (Japan Victor Corporation or JVC). This relationship appears to have started in the early days of the Discomatic as their consoles feature twist start.

In September 1967 Gerinvex announced (Billboard Sep 2nd 1967) that Victor had also signed to produce full-size jukeboxes equipped with Gerinvex mechanisms.

Which is the best Discomatic model?

That question will be inevitable, and there isn't a simple answer!

The final version of the EL-POR would probably get my vote as the best machine to own and use. This machine has a stereo cartridge so is a little kinder on records. It also has all the incremental improvements made to the Discomatic mechanism and a folding wiring arrangement to connect to the mechanism. This makes these later machines easier to service. The amplifiers are also very reliable, which, unfortunately, cannot be said for the KB.

But forget performance, how does it look? Judging on looks many will say that the original EL-POR in blue/grey or a KB are much smarter machines than the sombre black vinyl on the later EL-PORs!

In conclusion, any Discomatic is a pleasure to own, it really doesn't matter which version. They provide hours of entertainment when fed with 40 singles and are a great talking point.

So I can just buy one and fix it up?

Not recommended!

Firstly, these machines are around 50 years old and mains powered. They were not built to the same, safe standards as today's electrical products. For safety reasons Discomatic repair must only be tackled by trained jukebox or audio engineers who will also have the equipment to run continuity and insulation tests when finished.

Although reliable in use, the mechanisms will often seize in places when stored for a long period. This is due to the original lubrication grease hardening. Attempting to clear individual mechanical faults will often just reveal others, deeper in the mechanism. Hosing the mechanism down with WD40 is about the worst treatment for a Discomatic and won't penetrate the areas that really require attention.

The solution is a full strip-down, clean and re-lubrication of the mechanism. This is not recommended for the faint-hearted - there are tiny springs, balls, clips and sleeves just waiting to escape!

Mechanism stripped
Fully stripped mechanism

Parts sales

For parts and accessory sales, Discomatic UK is a trading subsidiary of Ask Stuart Ltd.


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