Highway Hi-Fi

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Highway Hi-Fi was a system of proprietary Gramophone record and players designed for use in automobiles. Designed and developed by Peter Carl Goldmark, who also developed the LP microgroove, the system appeared in Chrysler automobiles from 1956 to 1959 (1956-1958 model years). The discs, 16⅔ RPM records, manufactured exclusively by Columbia Records, could hold roughly 45 minutes of music or an hour of speech per side. The players themselves were manufactured by CBS. According to the official Chrysler press release of September 12, 1955, "Highway Hi-Fi plays through the speaker of the car radio and uses the radio's amplifier system. The turntable for playing records, built for Chrysler by CBS-Columbia, is located in a shock-proof case mounted just below the center of the instrument panel. A tone arm, including sapphire stylus and ceramic pick up, plus storage space for six long-play records make up the unit." The records were cut 550 grooves to the inch (twice that of a standard LP) and required a proprietary 0.25-mil stylus at a stylus pressure of 2 grams.

Highway Hi-Fi units were pre-installed and not available as after-market add-ons. With a tendency to break or malfunction and a limited number of titles available solely from one label's back catalog, the line was not a commercial success; Chrysler slowly began to pull support for Highway Hi-Fi as early as 1957 when it became aware of the high cost of servicing the units under warranty. Another automobile record player was manufactured by RCA from 1960 to 1961. This later version dropped the "Highway Hi-Fi" label (not being Chrysler-exclusive) and played standard 45 RPM 7" records. It too suffered a short life span : the players were even more prone to malfunction than those manufactured by CBS, and standard 7" records had their grooves worn down rapidly by the high stylus pressure used to prevent skipping.

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References


  • Goldmark, Peter. Maverick Inventor:My Turbulent Years at CBS. Saturday Review Press, 1973.
  • Greenfield, Jack. Practical Auto Radio Service and Installation. Gernsback Library Inc., 1960.
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