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In 1906, the Victor Talking Machine Company introduced the Victrola, the first record player with an enclosed horn, to little fanfare. But as the company innovated over successive decades—adding a cord and plug as homes electrified, securing an exclusive recording contract for Sergei Rachmaninoff, releasing the first blues and jazz songs ever recorded—Victor became America’s premier home music provider and, eventually, an iconic brand.
Now, Victrola (post-mergers and acquisitions, the company goes by the name of its most treasured product) is busy re-envisioning its sound and style yet again. But this time it’s doing so from headquarters in Denver.
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Since early spring, a handful of employees have been working out of Victrola’s new home base in the Golden Triangle neighborhood, and over the course of 2021, the company plans to expand its staff into a team of about 30, though some will work remotely.
“It’s exciting to feel like we’re slowly starting to become a part of the community,” Hagen says.
Hagen has helmed Victrola since late 2019, prioritizing affordability and expanding Victrola’s reach. “We’re taking something established,” Hagen says, “and essentially ‘plugging it in’ with new types of connectivity, better sound quality, and better materials.”
But to grow, Hagen and his team wanted to move out of their less-than-accessible Port Washington, New York, headquarters. The company had initially planned to relocate in-state, but had to scratch the move because of COVID-19. The pandemic, however, allowed Hagen to realize the staff could run daily operations virtually with surprising efficiency (meaning they didn’t have to live in one place), and surging vinyl sales bolstered his confidence in scaling up.
They drafted a shortlist of 19 cities, on the hunt for a metropolis with an up-and-coming music scene, a business-friendly tax code, and a wealth of young talent. Denver came out on top.
Along with new digs, Victrola has released a range of new products. The Eastwood, a hybrid turntable with a speaker that can use bluetooth to stream music from other devices, is a recent best seller. Hagen said he’s a particularly big fan of the Canvas, a player that lives inside a portable suitcase and comes with 50 flashy stickers. Both sell for less than a hundred dollars.
Recent reviews have been warm. Wirecutter described the Plaza, a slightly higher-end option, as evoking “a new emotional connection to a simpler and more satisfying musical past.” And of the seven players picked as the best on the market by New York magazine, four are made by Victrola.
With local music festival partnerships in the works and four patents filed or pending so far this year, Hagen expects Victrola to continue revolutionizing revolving discs. “This brand has become so elevated, and will only become more so in Denver,” he says.