Drexel Declaration In High Fidelity

If you’ll remember back to our New Years Finds List from January, there was one item in particular I had my heart set on: a Motorola hi-fi in a Drexel cabinet. Well, I found it!

Drexel StereoThe most important part of searching for something is to cast a wide net. My friends and family knew I was hunting for this and it was my mom who found the ad on Craigslist and sent it my way. The minute I got her email, I called the number and drove 60 miles in a thunderstorm to get it—I wasn’t about to let this slip away.

Stereo Open

I wasn’t disappointed I made the trip. This thing is gorgeous from every angle, and other than needing a good cleaning inside and out, it is in excellent condition with only a couple minor scratches on the top. No water rings, no chipped veneer, no weird smell—none of the common pitfalls of old technology that gets sentenced to musty basements.

Stereo 3 QuarterIt even works! The gentleman who sold it to me had it playing as I drove up. I was prepared to buy it either way, but working condition is a huge plus. I do, however, plan to have it fully restored. Although it works, vintage electronics contain paper capacitors lined with electrolytic paste to control power supply throughout the unit. Over the years these dry up and fail to perform their jobs correctly. It is always a good idea to have a professional look it over and replace the capacitors (known as re-capping) before using any vintage electronics regularly, especially if they use vacuum tubes. I plan to have this baby forever, so it will be worth the investment.

Stereo Turntable

Stereo Radio

I am absolutely in love with the design and quality of this cabinet. The wood is top notch with amazing figuring. The entire cabinet is heavy plywood with extremely thick walnut veneer. The jointed edge banding shows at least an eighth of an inch of wood, ensuring that chipping will never be an issue. The center grille is also beautiful with vertical solid walnut slats hiding a massive Vibrasonic Golden Voice woofer.

Stereo Quality

Stereo Grille

The Vibrasonic system was evidently designed to allow the device to be carefully tuned to the acoustics of any room, recreating the reverberations heard from live music in concert halls. That’s a pretty neat trick for 1959. The stereo also features what some call a “magic eye,” which is a tube that emits an eery green light to let you know if you’ve tuned a radio station to the strongest available signal. Super cool.

VibrasonicBut what I’m most excited about is finding another piece of beautifully designed and built furniture from the Drexel Declaration suite. Stewart MacDougall and Kipp Stewart designed the line for Drexel in the late 1950s. It contains numerous pieces, all designed as a modernist interpretation of utilitarian Shaker furniture. The result is a breathtaking line of furniture with elegant, clean lines.

My obsession with Declaration began when I purchased this coffee table at a tag sale for $40. At the time I debated and debated, but fortunately nobody had swiped the tag when I finally decided to take it. Looking back, I can’t imagine how I didn’t grab it at first glance.

Coffee Table ClosedSuperbly made, this low table has storage inside as well as drawers and magazine storage on the outside. I ended up completely redesigning my living room around this piece, which necessitated buying a flat screen tv and selling many things I thought I’d never sell. But it was well worth it.

Coffee_Table OpenAs I researched the furniture more, I fell in love with the china hutch from the line. In a very short amount of time I found one on Craigslist and commandeered my parents and their truck to make the hour long trip to get it.  Its coolness cemented it into my life forever. Lighted cabinets with milk glass shelves make a perfect spot to display vintage pottery. Drawers and an automatically lit cabinet below provide tons of storage for serving ware.

Drexel_HutchMy next piece was this side table. It was a charity shop find and one I again debated on. I have no idea why, it’s gorgeous. Despite its rather massive size, the open legs and caned shelf make it look much less space consuming.

Side TableBut it is this stereo that is most satisfying. How many other lines of furniture had a matching console stereo? None that I know of. Of course you never find what you’ll love the most when you’re ready for it. Literally the weekend before I bought this I just finished arranging the living room furniture to include these two chairs in the last remaining space in the room. Of course, this is where the stereo would have to go.

Living Room Before

Before

After

After

I’d be lying if I said I loved the stereo here as much as I liked the chairs. I don’t. It’s kind of imposing and the proportions are much different than the hutch it shares a wall with, making it look a little awkward. But I’m willing to make the sacrifice until I someday move into my forever house which will be chosen specifically to house these special pieces—and possibly even more. I hear Drexel also made a TV for Motorola…

Drexel Declaration TV cabinet for Motorola, via RetroRenovation

Drexel Declaration TV cabinet for Motorola, via RetroRenovation

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26 Comments

  1. Hillary
    Posted October 5, 2013 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    I have the Declaration Drexel stereo console for sale. What do you think the value is. It works.

    • Austin
      Posted October 13, 2013 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

      Hi Hillary! I’m not an expert on pricing, but these particular units are very popular because they appeal to two groups of collectors: those who collect electronics and those who collect Drexel Declaration. Depending on the condition, how well it works and where you’re located, your console may bring anywhere from $250 to $500—possibly more in areas like southern California. If your console has been re-capped (paper capacitors replaced) and the turntable relubricated by a professional (and it should be at some point for the health of the machine) it would definitely be on the higher end of that price scale. If mid-century collectibles aren’t hot in your area, you might consider selling this online where a global marketplace may command a better price. Good luck!

    • Bob Lauson
      Posted October 29, 2013 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

      Hillary, I’m interesting in buying. Please contact me.

    • Andrew
      Posted March 28, 2014 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      Hillary, I know this is an old post, but I have been looking for the Drexel Declaration stereo for a couple months now, and can’t find a nice one. Please contact me if you still have it, and hopefully we can work out a deal.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

      • brian g
        Posted October 11, 2014 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

        I ran across one of these today in mint condition with all the original manuals and paperwork. I still can get it if someone is really interested. I am in North Carolina email me at bgray441@gmail

  2. Dena miller
    Posted July 5, 2015 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    I found a Motorola stereo console at a salvation army. I have looked up all the information that I can possibly find. I’m thinking 1963 not certain. I could use some help please!!!

    • Austin
      Posted July 7, 2015 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

      Hi Dena. Unfortunately I don’t know much about dating Motorola electronics. If the console has a Drexel cabinet, it usually has the date stamped on the back of the cabinet. Otherwise electronics manufacturers didn’t necessarily date their pieces or used codes. I might suggest researching old magazine ads for units that look similar to yours. Cabinet styles and the design of control panels are usually good indicators as they changed often over the years. If your unit has tube components, it’s likely 1965 or older. Most units after ’65 are solid state. Good luck!

  3. Ted William
    Posted August 28, 2015 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    I have a hifi like the one on top in a drexel cabinet but it has no stylus in the cartridge, sonotone8TA4-S do you know where and what kind of needle it may need

    • Ted William
      Posted August 30, 2015 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      I looked at the back for the one I have it’s a model SK32W GOT AT GARAGE SALE EXCELLENT CONDITION radio works

      • Austin
        Posted September 8, 2015 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

        Hi Ted. Ebay is the best place to find new-old-stock styli for turntables, often they run about $5.99. Usually all you need is the make and model number of your turntable or, as you’ve already shown here, the model of your cartridge. Just go to eBay and search “sonotone 8TA4-S” and you’ll probably find what you need. I often buy from a seller called Carole’s Needles (stereoneedleslady.com). If you can’t find what you need, send her a pic of your cartridge and I bet she can help. Good luck!

        • Ted william
          Posted September 14, 2015 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

          Thank you

        • Ted Diegel
          Posted January 5, 2016 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

          Got needle installed but sound from speaker from tun table not nearly as good as from fm, any ideas as what I may do or replace economically.

          • Austin
            Posted January 5, 2016 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

            It’s really hard to say for sure, several things could cause such a problem. The first things to check would be to make certain the stylus is properly seated and is the correct one for the cartridge installed on the turntable, make sure you’ve got the stylus on the LP side and not the 78 side (if it’s a flippable style). Also make sure you’re playing a stereo record and not mono. If all that checks out and you’re still getting poor quality sound, the cartridge itself could be failing or there is something amiss between the needle and the amplifier. I’m not sure of your technical ability, but you may be able to replace the cartridge, just make sure you find the right ceramic type replacement.

      • Theodore Diegel
        Posted July 29, 2017 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

        Left speaker sounds weak any ideas what to check

  4. Keith Nunes
    Posted January 5, 2016 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    I have a Drexel stereo cabinet available just like the one at the top of this page. I am selling it for my parents. I remember listening to my mother’s 78’s and Christmas albums as a kid (60’s). It comes with a matching album storage credenza. No guarantee on function of turntable or tuner, but all parts are original and there. Email me for pictures and pricing. keithn@dpr.com

  5. Dale Hinkelman
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Keith, Did you ever sell the console stereo that is your parents? If not, please let me know.
    I collect and restore these fine Motorola/Drexel classics. I see that many of the above post, refer to “re-capping” the electronics in these old stereos. Well! Motorola was different, they did NOT use electrolytic capacitors in their units. So many times, they work well without a costly electronics update. All other brands needed costly updating, which I do. The average cost is $120. My whole house is furniture from the Drexel Declaration line. Its taken years to collect all the pieces. Its like walking into a time warp. My home looks like those furniture ads from 1960. If anybody wants to see the photos, let me know. BTW, I have a SK32WA For Sale $550 dhink802@yahoo.com

    • Matthew Mayo
      Posted May 16, 2016 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      I have recently come across a set of bookcases that are drexel declaration and have motorola stereo components in them. One is the stereo, turntable in a low secretary style pull down door and caned top panel that houses speakers and an amp and the other matching bookshelf has the same caned panel with speakers only, with wires strung between to power second cabinet. I haven’t seen another set anywhere like them. I have seen these consoles a million times almost bought one from the original owners a few years ago. Anyone ever seen this set?

  6. Posted April 17, 2016 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Got needle installed but sound from speaker from tun table not nearly as good as from fm, any ideas as what I may do or replace economically.

    • dhink802
      Posted April 18, 2016 at 8:56 am | Permalink

      replace the cartridge, that’s all it is. You can get one from Gary at The Voice of Music Enthusiast.com probably 35/45 $

  7. Matthew Mayo
    Posted May 16, 2016 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    I have recently come across a set of bookcases that are drexel declaration and have motorola stereo components in them. One is the stereo, turntable in a low secretary style pull down door and caned top panel that houses speakers and an amp and the other matching bookshelf has the same caned panel with speakers only, with wires strung between to power second cabinet. I haven’t seen another set anywhere like them. I have seen these consoles a million times almost bought one from the original owners a few years ago. Anyone ever seen this set?

  8. Susan Wulff
    Posted June 13, 2016 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    Imagine my delight when I saw this picture of my parents Drexel Declaration Stereo on here!.

    My dad is 90 yr old ( still going strong) and we just sold his house. ( in Indiana) My mom was anal in the care of all her furniture etc… so everything still looks brand new. They not only have the stereo but two end tables and
    a huge credenza? Of course smoke free home. My mom was also into Chinese/Japanese decore.
    Wasn’t sure where you are located Dale. I will try and email you. My email is chloe5@comcast.nest
    I am not computer savy about posting pictures. Since I also do NOT do Facebook, I am looking at different avenue on how to sell his furniture for him. Thanks for any help .Susan chloe5@comcast.net

  9. Tommy
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    Austin:

    My parents have a Motorola exactly like yours. I can’t find the model number anywhere on the unit as I would like to replace the needle/stylus. Do you have a model number for yours? Thanks.

  10. Tommy
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    Austin

    My parents have the identical stereo as yours. Do you know the model number? I would like to replace the needle. Thanks.

    • Ted William
      Posted July 6, 2016 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

      Austin
      Posted September 8, 2015 at 12:11 pm | Permalink
      Hi Ted. Ebay is the best place to find new-old-stock styli for turntables, often they run about $5.99. Usually all you need is the make and model number of your turntable or, as you’ve already shown here, the model of your cartridge. Just go to eBay and search “sonotone 8TA4-S” and you’ll probably find what you need. I often buy from a seller called Carole’s Needles (stereoneedleslady.com). If you can’t find what you need, send her a pic of your cartridge and I bet she can help. Good luck!

      This may work for you it did for me as seen above

    • Ted William
      Posted July 6, 2016 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

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