History of lead-in and lead-out grooves?

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mvno_subscriber
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History of lead-in and lead-out grooves?

Post by mvno_subscriber » 27 May 2019 17:04

Hi!

I've come to notice that the type (or lack) of lead-in and lead-out grooves seem to somewhat coincide with when a record was pressed. Personally, I've never seen lead-in grooves on anything before 1930, and some labels seem to have omitted it until late in the 30s. I do have some one-sided discs without lead-out, whereas mostly have some kind of oval shape (some so extreme my tonearm won't track it!). The "gentle" lead-out groove seems to not have been introduced before the 40s, but I bet there are tons of variations based on label!

So question is, can I based on the lead-in and lead-out groove somewhat date a disc? And does anyone know how they came to be what they are?

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Re: History of lead-in and lead-out grooves?

Post by Bob Dillon » 27 May 2019 18:07

They came to be because of the introduction of changer mechanisms on phonographs. The grooves are there to guide the stylus into the record and trip the mechanism at the end. I'm not really up on exact years when they were introduced, it's not something I've paid a great deal of attention to. Certainly "changer" grooves aren't seen on acoustic era discs though.

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Re: History of lead-in and lead-out grooves?

Post by circularvibes » 27 May 2019 18:16

Lead in and out grooves were originally designed for the new contraption called a record changer. Different changers had different types of trip mechanisms. The position trip required the stylus to travel to a certain place and it would initiate the change cycle. The velocity trip required the offset groove (which you refer to as "oval"). This required the arm to seem to move rapidly to trip the cycle. Before the advent of lead in and out grooves, records would either have a locked groove or an open groove. If your gramophone is not level, it could cause the needle to run into the label. The beginning of early records would have a few rotations of silent groove to grind the needle to fit the groove. The filler in 78's is what gives them "surface noise". It was a grinding agent for the needle.

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Re: History of lead-in and lead-out grooves?

Post by mvno_subscriber » 27 May 2019 18:26

Thanks for the explanation!

Do you know when these changers were introduced? And for records with lead-out but no lead-in, how would they work in a record changing context?

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Re: History of lead-in and lead-out grooves?

Post by Bob Dillon » 27 May 2019 18:29

The first Victor changer was apparently this one, in 1927. : https://youtu.be/0-l0OJcjwJo

Would have been a super premium model, for people with money to spend.

I'm not sure of disc changers that existed before. Watch the records get dumped in the slot in the video. Wouldn't be doing that with valuable records today.

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Re: History of lead-in and lead-out grooves?

Post by mvno_subscriber » 27 May 2019 18:59

Now that was a stunning apparatus! No electrical amplification it seems, but over 12.000 made. Not bad for such a high end piece of hardware/furniture :)

When I see those players with the heavy arms, it makes me wonder how it's possible some of those records still sound awesome today (listening right now to Rachmaninoff: Prelude, Association des Concerts Lamoreux, Albert Wolff :))

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Re: History of lead-in and lead-out grooves?

Post by Bob Dillon » 27 May 2019 21:20

mvno_subscriber wrote:
27 May 2019 18:59

When I see those players with the heavy arms, it makes me wonder how it's possible

A changer such as that Victor required one to use semi-permanent Tungstone needles (marketed by Victor for use in any of their phonographs, not just changers) which unlike steel needles, didn't require changing every side or two. Tungstone needles are harder than steel. Use of Tungstone needles did require additional use of abrasive filler, like Victor added to their records in that time period, to grind the tip of the needle (really just a piece of Tungsten wire, about 6-7 mil or so) to form to the groove. Playing records made with less abrasive filler with Tungstone is very hard on the records, especially in one of those heavy tracking Orthophonic arms, like the 10-50 in the video.

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Re: History of lead-in and lead-out grooves?

Post by mvno_subscriber » 28 May 2019 11:58

Bob Dillon wrote:
27 May 2019 21:20
really just a piece of Tungsten wire, about 6-7 mil or so
Do I understand it correctly then, that any record played by this machine will be pretty much unplayable by a 2.5 mil stylus? Or was the typical needle of that time just as wide?

I have to admit, going in on the topic of needle sizes (where I have no merit, I must say), I don't really grasp how it's possible to use such a variety of sizes, the biggest being almost 3 times the smallest. How does this affect playback in practice? :shock:

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Re: History of lead-in and lead-out grooves?

Post by Bob Dillon » 28 May 2019 18:03

mvno_subscriber wrote:
28 May 2019 11:58
Bob Dillon wrote:
27 May 2019 21:20
really just a piece of Tungsten wire, about 6-7 mil or so
Do I understand it correctly then, that any record played by this machine will be pretty much unplayable by a 2.5 mil stylus? Or was the typical needle of that time just as wide?

I have to admit, going in on the topic of needle sizes (where I have no merit, I must say), I don't really grasp how it's possible to use such a variety of sizes, the biggest being almost 3 times the smallest. How does this affect playback in practice? :shock:
I think it depends on the original groove dimensions. A 2.5 mil might play a 'Tungstoned" record just fine. But early electrically recorded records from the late 20's tend to have wider grooves anyway, because that's how they were made. Some people even recommend a 4.0 mil for Victor electrics of that period. I've favored a 3.5 mil. A stylus that is too small will skate around the trough of the groove and sound noisy and possibly bass-lite.

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Re: History of lead-in and lead-out grooves?

Post by Coffee Phil » 28 May 2019 18:48

Hi mvno_subscriber,

I don't think Victrola's Tungstone needles were simply tungsten wire chopped of the spool. Here is an eBay listing of some:
https://www.ebay.com/itm/VINTAGE-VICTRO ... SwBApc6A7k

If you zoom in on the picture you can see that the tip was ground to what was a proper stylus of the day.

Also I do not believe that the fine powdered stone was added to the mix to get the abrasive effect, but rather for strength much like aggregate in concrete. Of coarse the stuff was abrasive and noisy but I think those were undesired side effects. As shellac record technology matured the mix was refined to the point where records were laminated with the stuff with fine sand was in the core for strength and less abrasive stuff chosen for quiet on the playing surfaces.

Ideally records should be played with styli of the correct size. Most 78s were about 2.5 to 3.0 mil. Lps started at 1 mil and about at the advent of stereo became closer to 0.7 mill. 1 mil and 0.7 mill are close enough such that modern cartridges and styli are fine on early Lps. A 78 will play with an Lp stylus but it will ride low in the groove and won't be optimum. There were budget 7" 78s made with a fine groove pitch and microgroove and on some it actually said to use an Lp stylus but I'm sure most were played on old 78 equipment.

Phil
mvno_subscriber wrote:
28 May 2019 11:58
Bob Dillon wrote:
27 May 2019 21:20
really just a piece of Tungsten wire, about 6-7 mil or so
Do I understand it correctly then, that any record played by this machine will be pretty much unplayable by a 2.5 mil stylus? Or was the typical needle of that time just as wide?

I have to admit, going in on the topic of needle sizes (where I have no merit, I must say), I don't really grasp how it's possible to use such a variety of sizes, the biggest being almost 3 times the smallest. How does this affect playback in practice? :shock:

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Re: History of lead-in and lead-out grooves?

Post by H. callahan » 28 May 2019 18:50

The "oval" lead-out i guess, was supposed for grammophones having auto-brake. Meaning there was a mechanism attached to the tonearm which stopped the platter from turning when the record was at its end. To make sure this mechanism was triggered the oval lead out does move the arm pretty fast left and right.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFLi3pZbQCI

You can see the action at about 6:12. If you watch the complete video you´ll notice that this auto-brake also features an auto-start. To start the platter turning you have to move the tonearm to the right, this will release the spring motor.
As you have to wind for a while to play just one side an auto-brake will spare you winding time, otherwise you have to stand next to the grammo and stop the platter when the record is at its end. The auto-start also can save you a few seconds, but i guess its mainly for comfort as you can start the platter by just moving the tonearm. On a grammo without auto-start you have to release the brake, which especially with portables often is under the record because portables often have platters which are smaller diameter than a 10inch record - but the brake needs to be located at the platter like this:
1brake.jpg
(21.5 KiB) Downloaded 86 times
and when the platter is smaller diameter than the record this brake can be hard to reach. I have a portable where i have tied a string onto the brake lever because with a 10inch record the brake is hard to release and with a 12inch record its nearly impossible to operate.

So auto-start/-brake operation is (way) more comfortable and it might spare you winding time. But as this auto-mechanism is rather sluggish you need some movement of the tonearm to activate it - and the oval lead out ensures that the mechanism is triggered and the brake will be activated.

Now the portable i have probably is from the late 20s and as said it does not have the auto-brake. I feel like the auto-brake came up in the 30s on advanced portables, but there also were auto-brakes for tabletop grammos.
In the 40s grammos got electrified, the platter at least, so the need for auto-brake probably decreased. On the other hand if using longplay-needles, auto-brake also would help to reduce wear on the needle, but as electrical tonearms came up in the early 30s, having lower TF than soundboxes, they might have stopped the oval lead-out as them electrical tonearms also might have had trouble following the oval lead-out. Also, if the (portable) grammo isn´t properly leveled the oval lead-out can accelerate the tonearm so bad it will jump out the groove and scratch the entire record (happened on one of my favourite records - never place your grammo on your bed!), so this also might be a reason for the oval lead-out dissapearing.

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Re: History of lead-in and lead-out grooves?

Post by Bob Dillon » 28 May 2019 18:58

Coffee Phil wrote:
28 May 2019 18:48
Hi mvno_subscriber,

I don't think Victrola's Tungstone needles were simply tungsten wire chopped of the spool. Here is an eBay listing of some:
https://www.ebay.com/itm/VINTAGE-VICTRO ... SwBApc6A7k

If you zoom in on the picture you can see that the tip was ground to what was a proper stylus of the day.
Those are used needles, the Tungstone tips of them are varying degrees of used due to the remaining length.
The shaft of the needle that fits in the needle chuck is not Tungsten.

Also, one should never use any type of jewel point needle in an acoustic phonograph, unless it's an Edison Diamond Disc machine. You'll just chew the grooves of your records up.

Here's an excellent primer on needles (for anybody) : http://www.gracyk.com/needletips.shtml
It repeats what I understood to be so, which is that a new Tungstone needle has a cylindrical shape, not a point.

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Re: History of lead-in and lead-out grooves?

Post by H. callahan » 28 May 2019 19:46

Coffee Phil wrote:
28 May 2019 18:48
...

Also I do not believe that the fine powdered stone was added to the mix to get the abrasive effect, but rather for strength much like aggregate in concrete. Of coarse the stuff was abrasive and noisy but I think those were undesired side effects. As shellac record technology matured the mix was refined to the point where records were laminated with the stuff with fine sand was in the core for strength and less abrasive stuff chosen for quiet on the playing surfaces.
...
Oooh, it was added to be abrasive. When the shellac record was invented in about 1905, the only paragon was the phonograph. The phonograph featured a diamond stylus and wax cylinders

(actually these cylinders rather are made of a soap-like material, but in the first days of phonographs they actually had cylinders made of wax but, just for one or two years until they found a better material. But because of that these cylinders were called "wax"-cylinders colloquial.
Anyway as wax is about the same hardness as soap let´s call them "wax"-cylinders.)

and as diamond is about the hardest material in the universe and a wax-cylinder a rather soft material, all of the inevitable wear a mechanical reading does produce will go on the cylinder but not on the diamond stylus. This means a phonograph can play a cylinder to death till there is no modulation left in the groove (i once heard one) while the diamond stylus never has to be changed. In fact you can buy a 130 year old phonograph and still use the original stylus.
Now with phonographs the wear of the cylinder wasn´t that critical because phonographs not only were intended as playback-machines but also for recording. In fact phonographs have widely been used as dictating machines, to my knowledge in america even into the 1950s, so wear of the cylinder wasn´t that of an issue. There even were machines in which you could hone down a recorded cylinder, cutting off the upper layer, so the cylinder could be recorded multiple times - and when the cylinder was cut down completely you could sent it back to the manufacturer to have it re-coated.

So wear of the cylinder wasn´t that problematic.

Now when the shellac record was designed in about 1905 they had to decide whether to adopt the principle of the phonograph - all wear goes onto the cylinder - of whether to take a different approach, which was to shift at least some of the inevitable wear onto the needle.
So they put stone powder into the sheallc-mix by intention and used a needle made of steel, which is softer than diamond. Now the record more or less does act like sandpaper wearing down the steel needle to some extend - and by that the inevitable wear will be shifted onto the needle to some extend.
Because of that a shellac record should be able to withstand longer than a wax-cylinder, though i also assume that a 1905s soundbox of a grammo did have higher TF than the soundbox of a phonograph.

Anyway the system shellac record is designed to put as much wear as possible on the needle, to make the record last longer.
Later on when electrical tonearms came up, TF could be reduced. The first soundboxes had in combination with the first tonearm TF above 200g. Up to 250g are said to have been possible, but though the shellac records could withstand that - for some time at least. Of course a shellac will suffer at 200g or more, but they made it for some time due to the shift of the wear onto the needle.
The electrical pickups of the 1930s had TF of about 40-80g, sometimes even being adjustable in TF, so i guess the abrasive compound of the shellac mix could be reduced as overall wear was decreased - and SNR was desired to be improved. Especially when early tape-machines came up at the end of the 1940s, featuring premagnetisation.
But the abrasive compound was intentional to shift wear.
...

(Taking a deep breath:) And because of that, those tungsten-needles weren´t such a good idea. Because the harder the material is a needle is made of, the less wear will go onto the needle but onto the groove. The needle will withstand longer, but the groove will wear more - just like with a phonograph.

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Re: History of lead-in and lead-out grooves?

Post by Bob Dillon » 28 May 2019 20:00

Shellac records exist before 1905.

Yes, natural wax cylinders were only around for a very short time, right at the start of commercial record production, let's say ca. 1889-90, I think.

Wax cylinders of any kind are not ever intended to be played with diamond styli. Conical sapphire is what's used in the reproducer of a cylinder phonograph for wax. Diamonds will ruin wax cylinders. Diamond styli were used with Edison Blue Amberol cylinders which are hard celluloid. I'm not sure what type of vintage stylus is best for other makes of celluloid cylinder like Lamberts or Indestructibles. Also, different styli / reproducers need to be used for 2 minute or 4 minute cylinders.

An old cylinder phono must have the stylus inspected for wear. Or chips, if you don't want the stylus to be a carving tool.

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Re: History of lead-in and lead-out grooves?

Post by H. callahan » 28 May 2019 20:22

Comming back to the missing lead-in and -outs on pre 1930 shellacs:

I don´t know the answer for that, but i have some ideas. Until 1926/27 all shellacs were recorded acoustic. This means you did not have electrical amplification of the audio signal, but you needed to sing into a horn (a pretty long horn btw) which had some sort of soundbox at its end, being optimized for recording.
This means you especially were limited in recording volume (and some other factors) - and the cutting stylus very likely did not have as much force than the cutting stylus of an electrical record cutter.
So the wax you cut the groove+modulations into better was as soft as possible. This means they put the wax-matrix (basically a disk of wax) into a special oven to heat up to ideal temperature, making the wax as soft as possible but not too soft for the just-cut groove not to collapse.
Though they made this wax-matrix pretty big in height, minimun 2 inches i´d say, too keep optimum temperature as long as possible - and though recording time only is about 3-5 minutes (10inch to 12inch record), still the wax would cool down during recording resulting in less ideal cut at the end of the record.
This means when starting the recording everything had to be ready to go. No more "hold it" or clearing your throath - but hit it now.

So maybe due to this technical circumstances they just may not have had the time to cut a lead in. Cutting a lead in does not take a lot of time, but it may be possible that it just would have taken too long and therefore the wax-matrix would have cooled down to much.
When electrical recording came up in 1926/27, the electrical cutting head just could cut the groove+modulations with more force. Cooling down of the matrix still was a problem, but very likely not as much as with acoustic recordings. Also electrical heating of the cutting stylus was invented someday, i don´t know when, but this also did decrease the problem of a matrix cooling down. So cutting a lead-in should have been easier then.

Also the needle of a shellac record is not supposed to ride the bottom of the groove (unless the shellac is a vertical cut), but only the left and right groove walls - similar to the microgroove on a stereo vinyl record.
I think somewhere it is said that the needle of a grammo is supposed to wear down the tip in the lead in of a shellac, to only contact the groove walls left and right when actually tracking the music but not the bottom of the groove.And as electrical tonearms, featuring lower TF than soundboxes, also came up with electrical recording in about 1927 it might be possible that the necessity for a lead-in rose, because of the reduced TF of an electrical tonearm it took longer for the tip of the needle to hone down to properly track the groove.
Also when trying to put a soundbox onto a shellac without lead-in, its not so easy to hit the groove without skipping the start of the music or even scratching the first grooves - so it also just might have been an improvement for comfort.
...

Now the missing lead-out might have to do with autographs. At least i have read that it was more common during the acoustic era to make the artist actually sign the wax-matrix with his signature - at the end of the record of course. So maybe they did not make a lead-out to have more space for the signature - or the need for a lead-out was not given as the auto-brake-mechanism wasn´t invented yet.

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