The Strange Auxetophone

11 Jan 2015

We take the ability to turn music up as loud as we want for granted. But this is something that we’ve only been able to do for the last 70 years or so. 

What did people do back before there were such things as electronic amplifiers?

One solution was to use compressed air. Back in 1906, rich people (along with bars, hotels and other places that wanted to play gramophone records for large crowds) bought something called an auxetophone. This was a gramophone that used a convoluted system of compressed air to amplify music come out of one of those old-fashioned horn speakers. And it wasn’t very adjustable. It was either on (meaning the music was very loud) or off (in which case the volume was very low). Still, it was state-of-the-art stuff for 1906.

How much? It originally sold for $500 back then. That’s the equivalent of $12,000 today.

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