First Look: 1934 GE M-125 Radio

I was lucky enough to find a very rare, high-end radio for sale on Craigslist and jumped on it as quickly as I could. This particular one is the 1934/35 General Electric model M-125, their highest end offering for that year. And it’s both visually and electrically very impressive.

It’s in a stately (and very heavy) burled walnut cabinet with closeable front doors to hide the controls, and the small feet common to the mid-’30s console radio styling. It’s just as impressive with the front opened up:

Inside there are a total of 7 control knobs: Sensitivity, Volume, Treble, Tuning, Bass, On/Off, and Band Switch. On these old radios, more knobs means a higher-end radio with a more complex circuit and there aren’t many other radios with this variety. Some of the complicated McMurdo / Silver and Scott radios have similarly complex control schemes, but it’s quite rare to find surviving examples of such high-end pieces.

The radio uses the square “clock dial” face, with a large double-sided pointer to indicate tuning position and a smaller sweep second hand in the center for fine tuning. Tune the main knob to approximately the right frequency, then fine-tune with the second hand and mark the position in your log for next time to perfectly tune in the station. A couple of trim pieces are gone on this radio, but they should be able to be replaced or refreshed with new ones without too much trouble – everything else is complete.

Electrically, the radio is the same as the RCA 281 – they share the same chassis, but with a different cabinet and dial face design. This radio is a 12-tube receiver with a tuned RF stage, separate oscillator, two IF stages, and push-pull drivers (76) coupled two a pair of push-pull 42s for ~10W of audio output. It can receive the AM Broadcast Band, the Long-Wave band (<375 KHz, not much broadcast there anymore) and AM Shortwave stations up into the high reaches of the VHF band.

All the tubes are present, although it’s missing grid cap shields on 3 of the tubes in the back – although this is more cosmetic than functional – and all the labels are also in excellent shape.

Unfortunately, as you can see in the top right of this photo (somewhat in the shadow), the power transformer on this radio is toast. It’s spit out its tar from the bottom. Someone during this radio’s life plugged it in before repairing it electrically and it suffered catastrophic electrical damage. I’m lucky that I have a large stock of transformers lying around, but I will have to dig them out of the depths of storage and a transformer replacement is never a small job.

With the transformer gone, and the speaker field coil used in the power supply circuit, I hope the speaker isn’t also damaged – but I do have a suitable replacement or two lying around if necessary.

One interesting choice is in the huge cabinet, why they went with a small 10″ speaker design. The Tone Equalizer cabinets on the sides are resonant chambers which will help with fidelity a bit, an early nod towards evolving hi-fi designs, but for such a high-end piece the audio seems a bit under powered.

I’m very much looking forward to starting work on this radio next month. It will likely be a several part series, as there are a few big jobs to deal with – transformer replacement, recap, and alignment. Stay tuned!


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13 Responses to First Look: 1934 GE M-125 Radio

  1. Thomas Lange says:

    We bought one of these at an antique shop some time ago. I re-capped it and modified the audio circuitry to extend the usable frequency response (removed some small capacitors). Some may feel the 10″ speaker is undersized, but I think this size was common in console radios. Without having a dust cap, it sure has some nice highs. I have the cabinet backed up against the wall with just enough of a gap to create a rear-ported bass reflex effect. I send it streamed audio from computers or tablets into the phono input, and it sounds great!

  2. Joseph Camilleri says:

    I live in Mississauga Ontario. I just picked up a M-125 General Electric radio .
    I really got lucky today.
    I will restore it..

  3. Ron Laskey says:

    As a kid and teenager in the 50s my parents had one if these,in my first marriage ,my ex junked it,it had a incredible sound,would love to find another one,hope I find one in the Youngstown ,Ohio area

    • jwk says:

      That’s a terrible fate for this radio! Mine’s still in storage, I haven’t been able to get to it yet sadly…3.5 years later (wow!) and I haven’t even dusted it off in my ownership. Maybe someday, though.

      • Ron Laskey says:

        I used to listen to radio drama as a little boy,and as a teenager,had my record player hooked up to it and WOW WHAT A SOUND!!!! In the mid to late 40s tv was in it’s very beginning and my parents couldn’t afford one,so this radio was all I had,when I got married I took it with me but in my divorce my ex junked it,it means a lot to me to find one,and get it working,they sound great……thanks Ron

  4. jaychis says:

    I hope this is not double posting. I was looking at this radio on your website a few days ago and then discovered someone made a reply yesterday evening. I wasn’t sure if you checked back on the site since this radio was listed a few years ago. I’m in the process of purchasing an M-125. This console has been on my bucket list for some time. 🙂 It will require the typical recap, etc. Have you made any progress on this radio? If you have, I would like to hear about how it came out or what progress you have made.

    • jwk says:

      Sadly, the radio is in my warehouse and hasn’t been touched at all since I brought it home. Business picked up and my own projects are always at the bottom of the list. Mine needs a new power transformer, too, so that’s another thing I’d have to deal with.

      I’ll dig it out and fix it eventually as I’d like to get rid of most of my radio collection to save space, but don’t know when that might be just yet.

  5. James says:

    I was looking at this radio on your site a few days ago. Then I noticed you had a reply yesterday evening. I wasn’t sure if you checked back into the site since this was posted a few years ago. I’m in the process of purchasing an M-125. It will get the usual recap, etc. This is a console that has been on my bucket list for a while. 🙂 Have you made any progress on this radio? If so, I would love to hear how it turned out or how it’s progressing.

  6. June says:

    I have a model as well, in great condition, works. looking to sell, in Peterborough on. Canada model # M-125 General Electric 59332-2 have all original paper work that came with it as well. just wondering what I should charge has been in my husbands family forever.
    thank you

    • jwk says:

      If it’s working, but has never been electrically restored, I’d say it’s worth around $200 – this is because, despite working, it could suffer a catastrophic failure at any time. If it’s been reconditioned electrically, it could be worth as much as $500-600, depending on the physical condition.

      • June says:

        have a supply of replacement tubes as well, so if I have it reconditioned it will be worth more?

        • jwk says:

          Having extra tubes doesn’t add much if anything to the value (the tubes this one uses aren’t rare or hard to find), but the reconditioning will ensure it’s worth more. Of course, keep in mind that a full overhaul of that radio could run around $200-300 itself, so there’s that to balance it against.

  7. Steven says:

    I picked up one of these recently in the Tampa area, it too was on craigslist and had been in the family since new.
    I wish my cabinet was as nice as yours, the only thing missing is the middle fern and one foot on the corner front.

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