Columbia 'X' Series

 X & MX formats...

Columbia Masterworks released most of their X album sets in two formats - what were commonly referred to as Manual (X) and Drop Manual (MX) formats.

X - Selections of music which required more than one record side were continued on the ‘B’ side (or flip side) of the record. After completion of each side of the record, the record had to be picked up manually from the turntable and turned over manually by the listener.

The side sequence for X was: Record 1 - Sides 1 and 2; Record 2 - Sides 3 and 4

MX - The "MX" series of albums were made in the "drop-automatic sequence" for the drop type of record changer. After side 1 was finished, the record changer would drop the second record of the set to play side 2. At the completion of side 2, the record changer would stop. The listener would need to lift and flip both records over at once and place back on the record changer to play in sequence – sides 3 and then 4.

The drop sequence for MX was: Record 1 - Sides 1 and 4; Record 2 - Sides 2 and 3

Columbia's X Series featured 2, 78rpm records in an album consisting of classical music mostly; although later in the series; this was extended to light classical, song, folk, jazz and some Broadway theatre based music.

The series consisted of 355 album sets (of which 353 were issued). X-Sets, 192 and 275 were never issued – and as yet, no copies have ever surfaced even though record numbers were assigned. Details on these two sets are sketchy.

It should also be noted from the outset that the use of the 'X' and 'MX' prefix assigned to Columbia 78 rpm sets was not a common practice. U.S. Columbia only used the "X" and 'MX' prefix after CBS bought the company around 1938/1939.

In many cases, the matrixes of a recording were shared between Columbia's affiliated companies in other countries. In particular, we have listed, when known, record number equivalents for the United Kingdom, FR, Argentina, Australia, GR and Switzerland. 

A quick word on record formats is needed for the collector new to Columbia. Most major record companies released their record sets in a variety of formats.

A little history on how this came about might be helpful though. Initially, the major manufacturers of phonograms; (usually the same manufacturers of the records); created turntables which played one record - one side at a time. Each side of the record had to be manually flipped over. During the late 1920’s, the development of the automatic record changer made it easier to listen to a semi-continuous selection of music. As noted on a website describing record changers, “record albums were made in different sequences by different companies, to be played on the different changers each company made.”

The sequencing of an album set was therefore available in a variety of formats to suit the different record changers available on the market. In the US, three common types of record changers were available for M, AM and MM sets and X and MX sets. 

In Australia; (where incidentally the first record changer was invented); most record sets were published as M and MM as well as X and MX. 

In the UK, the major record companies released their sets as M and MM, (often called “Auto coupling”) and their two record sets in X with a few, very late pressings as MX.

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