Highway Hi-Fi (1956 – 1959)

Highway Hi-Fi was a record player system for cars, introduced at a time when the only form of music available in cars was the radio (the 4-track (Stereo-Pak) tape cartridge was still six years away).

It was developed by Peter Goldmark, who had previously developed the long-playing record (LP) at Columbia, and used a 7-inch disc with a standard LP centre hole and heavier vinyl (135 grams when standard 7-inch singles normally used 70 grams). Highway Hi-Fi records played at 16⅔ RPM and could hold up to 45 minutes of music or an hour of speech per side, helped by very tight grooves, and smaller centre labels on some discs. To try to prevent skipping, an unusually high stylus pressure was used.

The players were produced by CBS Electronic and fitted to Chrysler cars in the US from the 1956 model year, while Columbia Special Products manufactured the records.

As early as 1957, Chrylser was beginning to pull support due to warranty claims as the system proved unreliable, and there was a limited number of titles available from Columbia’s back-catalogue.

RCA tried their hand with another car record player from 1960 to 1961. This version played standard 7-inch records but the high stylus pressure quickly caused wear.

Sources / Resources

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