Philco Boomerang, A Study in Asymmetrical Design

Symmetry is pleasing.  It gives us a natural balance.  Things just look right with even sides and a nice easy-to-understand presentation.  People who have symmetrical faces are considered more beautiful or handsome.  Most radios are symmetrical.  One side matches the other.  So, why did someone design a radio that looks like this?IMG_5879Basically, the whole design of the Philco 49-501 is amazingly asymmetrical!  The only things symmetrical in the design are the round knobs (although of greatly different sizes), and the bottom, which is rectangular.  As we look at it, the left side of this 1949 Philco “Boomerang” is a large sweeping arc.  The arc itself is uneven.  The radio’s right side has two fairly straight surfaces that are two different sizes at two different angles.  The front of the radio is more curved than flat.IMG_5888And what’s with that speaker opening?!  Nothing about it is equal.  The two levels of the Bakelite that form the bottom of the speaker opening are two different sizes at two different heights.  The Bakelite lip of the big curve angles into the speaker grille with a wildly changing sweep…from small to large to small again.  It would be expected that the big curve would naturally join the top of the radio even with the front.  But instead, the top of the curve narrows and meets the right side of the radio farther inside.IMG_5886

There is no designer credited with this Philco model.  It’s a shame, because it’s an ingenious asymmetrical design…extremely well thought out.    Some people think it’s weird or futuristic looking (often called “Jetsons” in eBay listings).  But, it’s one of my favorite designs, because it’s so complex and bold.

Below is the ivory painted version of the Philco Boomerang.  This photo correctly shows the differences compared with the brown Bakelite version.  The grille is brown, the tuning dial has a brown background with white numbers, and the knobs are white.  Often, Boomerangs have incorrectly matched parts, or are painted wild colors.  This is the only painted version that’s original.  Some of the paint jobs can look pretty cool (stay away from one that looks like camouflage and claims to be “Catalin colors”).  You definitely want to know what you’re getting.image

The radio is approximately 11-inches wide, 7-inches high, and 6-inches deep.  But really, it all depends on where you measure it, because nothing is even!

For a more symmetrical radio that’s still highly original, check the one in the article below.

3 thoughts on “Philco Boomerang, A Study in Asymmetrical Design”

  1. As the Truetone D2017 (1950) radio is somewhat similar and oftentimes referred to as a “Boomerang” in shape, how would you compare the Philco here with the Truetone radio of similar design?

    Editor: The Truetone came after the Philco, and unfortunately is not nearly as sophisticated in it’s design. It took the boldness of the big sweep for the speaker, but missed all the subtleties. I had the Truetone, but it was never a favorite. Just my personal opinion, others may see it differently.

  2. The Philco is listed as being made 1949 and the Truetone in 1950, so it seems plausible that the Truetone designers copied the design and made it similar but lacking the sophisticated style of the Philco, that is if Truetone or some other Company actually made the radio. It was probably sold through one of their Western Auto Stores. I have the painted creme colored Truetone (with the original creme colored knobs) in good condition and it doesn’t match up as well to me either as its’ overall design wasn’t thought out as well as was the case with the Philco.
    I do like the large rounded Truetone Face Dial and it lights up well at night. The gold Truetone nameplate extending up on an extension into the Dial Face works well. It also has an RCA Phono jack which was probably for one of the new RCA Victor 45 RPM changers (Radio/Phono) which had just come out. I’m not sure if the Philco came with such a jack or not?
    The Truetone does have a large speaker with good sound, reception and tonal quality. It gets the attention also, but not with the same appreciation of the Philco, especially if the two were put side by side.

    Editor: You’re right the Truetone has many good qualities, and is probably a better sounding radio, because of its larger size. Also, the Philco didn’t have an RCA input. It’s simply the quality & originality of the design of the case that makes the Philco outstanding.

  3. The Philco is obviously the first such “Boomerang” designed radio I am aware of with the Truetone coming out the next year or so (1949-1950). The Philco obviously out-styles the Truetone in it’s better thought out asymmetrical design, but they do go hand in hand with the so called “Boomerang” design name given to both.

    Were there any other radios with such a similar design, or did it end with the Truetone radio which is also oftentimes referred to as a “Boomerang” designed style of radio?

    Editor: I believe those are the only “Boomerang” radios.

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