P R O J E C T T R I O L I A N
This page is about the Sparton Triolian series of radios
This page is preliminary and the links are not working yet. In time I will be adding content to the links. Thanks for reading!
In the early 1930s, radio technology was finally maturing. The Superheterodyne was becoming mainstream and there was a push for higher sound quality.
Radios with two speakers were appearing, also with better audio power output. Extending the frequency response for "High-Fidelity" reception was the new "big thing" in radio (Along with short-wave reception). Despite bleak economic times, there was still a demand for high end radios.
In May 1932, the Sparks-Withington Co. announced "Thrilling new developments" for the Eighth Annual RMA Convention and Trade Show in Chicago (May 23-26) and introduced a 3 speaker 13 tube model called the "Triolian". The name is probably from the fact it has three speakers.
This radio was the high-end model in the Sparton line up. (Unless you consider the radio-phonograph "Ensembles" or the large "Sparks Visionola" which was a radio-phono-16 mm movie projector in one unit).
The Triolian was designed to have better sound quality than other models with a powerful audio amplifier and a woofer/tweeter arrangement. The tweeters were angled out the corners of the cabinet for wider sound dispersion of mid and high frequency sound while the larger woofer was aimed straight out the front.
For the next 5 years, Sparks-Withington Co. had one if not two models by the name "Triolian" for each model year. All were 3 speaker high-performance radios. The last and arguably the best was the 18 tube 1937 Sparton 1867 with a 15" woofer and separate amplifiers for the Bass and Treble channels.
I've managed to find all 7 of these wonderful models. unfortunately, some of them are in poor condition. My plan is to restore each one and document them here on this page.
Let's look at these wonderful radios in more detail.
1932-1933 Sparton Triolian model 28
The 28 is an AM Broadcast band only 13 tube model with four #47s in push-pull/parallel in the output.
Here is my model 28. It came from an antique shop in Havre De Grace, Maryland. I picked it up after going to the Kutztown radio swap meet in September of 2012. It is not perfect, but it is good enough that I have no intention of refinishing the cabinet.
More about the 28 Triolian here
1934 Sparton Triolian model 76
For 1934, Shortwave reception was added to the Triolian as well as a very interesting 5 window drum dial arrangement. It has frequency coverage from the AM Broadcast band through 24.5 MHz. It uses 13 tubes as well and uses 2A5's in the output rather than 47's
This Sparton 76 came from the Davenport Iowa area and the cabinet is in reasonably fair to good original condition. I got it January 2011. The finish isn't perfect, but its at least presentable. The 76 uses the exact same speaker part numbers as the model 28.
More about the 76 Triolian here
1935 Sparton Triolian model 134
The 1935 model 134 is basically a revised model 76. Many improvements were made such as the change from two 56's wired as a fullwave detector to a single 56 as a halfway detector. The other 56 was repurposed as an additional stage of audio amplification.
Probably the most notable addition is the VG-1 "Viso-Glo" tuning indicator tube! This is basically a glorified neon bulb built to vary the area of orange glow according to the strength of the received signal.
The VG-1 was only used for the 1935 Sparton line and was changed to the 6E5 Magic Eye for 1936.
This is my 134. It has been refinished and looks absolutely wonderful! I got it October 2011 in Florida about 40 miles North of Tampa. It has a few issues I need to iron out, but is in amazing condition!
More about the 134 Triolian here
1935 Sparton Triolian model 136
1935 brought TWO Triolians with the addition of the model 136!
The 136 is the same chassis and speakers as the 134, however it has a more modern cabinet with Art Deco styling.
More about the 136 Triolian here
1936 Sparton Triolian model 1466
1936 saw a big change in the Sparton line. First off, the model numbers now include the number of tubes and the model year. First digit or two digits indicated number of tubes, the last digit was the year (6 for 1936).
The 1466 actually has 15 tubes as they didn't include the 6E5 Magic-Eye in the count for some reason. It also has many new features such as an Airplane style dial (Introduced on other models the previous year), variable bandwidth IF, Class B 20 watt audio output and a speaker crossover network to direct the music range properly between the woofer and the two tweeters.
This is my 1466. It uses the exact same cabinet as the previous year model 136. It has been refinished, but has several chips out of the veneer. I plan to strip it down and patch all veneer damage and give it a proper refinish. I bought this 1466 from a fellow collector in Eastern Ohio August 2011.
Electrically, it is complete. However, it has one incorrect speaker. finding the proper one may be very difficult!
More about the 1466 Triolian here
1936 Sparton Triolian Deluxe model 1476
Also for 1936, The model 1476 Triolian Deluxe was introduced! It used the same chassis/speakers as the 1466, but with a cabinet designed by Walter Dorwin Teague. Honestly, this radio resembles a room heater, and that was no co-incidence. Teague did design heaters and they resemble this radio cabinet.
This 1476 came from a fellow radio collector in the Dayton area December 1992. The Late Maurice Hill. I acquired this radio from him not long before he passed away.
Unfortunately, it is missing the lower amplifier chassis. As I do have the same chassis in the 1466, I hope to reproduce the chassis and get the 1476 fully operational.
More about the 1476 Triolian here
1937 Sparton Triolian model 1867
1937 saw the introduction of the Sparton "Photo Chromatic" dial. Basically a dial made of mirrored glass. 1937 could arguably be Sparton's most magnificent year! They had many wonderful models to choose from culminating to the beautiful big 18 tube Triolian model 1867!
The 1867 was probably the best Sparton radio ever! New features include a volume expander, bi-amplification with a separate amplifier driving the two tweeters and the huge 15" woofer! It is a powerhouse capable of 35 watts of audio power!
The only feature lacking is the variable bandwidth IF system as used in the previous year's 1466 and 1476. The 1476 Triolian Deluxe was also included in the 1937 brochure, so 1937 had two Triolians as well.
This sad carcass is what my 1867 looks like. Veneer is delaminating, the finish is shot, however it is complete. The chassis just isn't installed for this photo. Unfortunately, the beautiful Photochromatic dial is a disaster. It must be reproduced, but I have an idea of how to do that. It will just take time.
I bought this 1867 at the MARC Extravaganza back in 1995.
More about the 1867 Triolian here
For some reason, there were no Triolians for 1938. I thought perhaps they kept the 1867 available, but it does not show up in the listing of 1938 Sparton radios.
There was a 15 tube model for 1938, but it was not a Triolian.
Sparks Withington Co. added some new features for 38 (Such as "Selectronne" automatic tuning), but by and large, the company was on a decline from 1938 forward. Radios became fewer and less fancy. The best Sparton radio after 1938 was a 12 tube model.
I'm not sure what happened, but there seems to be an industry trend that most manufacturers innovation and industrial design peaked about 1937 and 1938. 1939 and after radios became more ordinary and had cookie cutter designs. You can see this trend with Philco, RCA and to a lesser degree, Zenith. Was it problems in Europe? WWII? I'm not sure. But it is an interesting phenomenon.
I plan to restore each Sparton Triolian and document things here on this webpage. This won't happen overnight and may take years. So, come back often and see what is developing with "Project Triolian".
Thank you for reading!