Need a little education on 78s

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Sequoia225
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Need a little education on 78s

Post by Sequoia225 » 12 Jul 2018 21:46

So Im going to get into recording vinyl into my computer. I have amassed a lot of old records in the last year or 2 - many 78s. I am going to send one of my Technics 1200s to get modded to play 78 speed and I know I have to get a 78 specific stylus.

My question is about the records themselves - how to tell if they are 78 or 33 1/3 or what size groove, and what material IF the details are not on the records. My understanding is there was a transition time that a lot of different things were being made back then

For instance. The first thing is this record set here

https://www.discogs.com/Albert-R-Brand- ... se/9637813

What I have looks exactly like this in every way.
But this page says 78 and "red shellac". But the records themselves are somewhat flexible, thicker than typical modern vinyl but still flexible, and they are somewhat transparent/translucent.

My understanding - and as many of my very old 78s reflect - was that shellac is very stiff and hard/brittle. But these are not.
Is that maybe a misprint on the Discogs page? How do I know what speed and groove these have?

add: note - the records arent great in those pictures but the label on the records gives no indication of date, speed, or whatever. just track info and licensing info.

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Re: Need a little education on 78s

Post by Spinner45 » 12 Jul 2018 22:11

Later 78's (1950's) were made of a vinyl composition.
They used a 2.7 or 3 mil stylus as best to play them with.
Pre-1950's were mostly shellac.

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Re: Need a little education on 78s

Post by Coffee Phil » 12 Jul 2018 23:01

Hi Sequoia225,

78s were the dominant format for the first half of the twentieth century. During the acoustic period (up to the later half of the twenties) the speed could be over the map. After electrical recording came in during the twenties in 60 Hz countries such as the US the speed is pretty much precisely 78.26 RPM. In 50 Hz countries it is slightly different as 78.26 is not easily derived fro 50 Hz. 33 1/3 RPM can be derived from either of those frequencies.

Shellac, which is shellac mixed with fine clay power is probably the most common material from which 78s were made but other materials were used. By the '40s vinyl started to appear due to the shortage of shellac during the war. Also Vinyl is much less breakable. It is however less tolerant of the very heavy pick-ups in the early record players.

Groove width varied throughout the 78 era but as the technology became mature ~ 2.7 mil became common. During the '40s and '50s microgroove 78s were made either for getting more music on a record as in the 7" budget kid records or to get better fidelity. To determine what you have compare the groove to an Lp (micro-groove) or a known standard groove 78.

If the speed is not stated on the record and it is 10" or 12" and from ~ the '50s, it is likely 78.26 or 33 1/3 RPM. When you play the record, it will be obvious.

The record which you have does not appear to be shellac. It could be polystyrene, but vinyl is more likely. Vinyl 78s can be standard groove or micro-groove and I have examples of each. I have never seen a micro-groove shellac record and I doubt that they exist. Virtually all 78 RPM records will be mono, so you will want to sum the channels to mono for less noise and distortion.

Unless the record was made after the late '50s the equalization will not be RIAA so to be precise you will want the correct EQ. This is sort of second order as they had some sort of EQ and will sound OK with RIAA. Tone controls can also be used to alter the frequency response. Of course if you get into the fast spinning thing like me you will want a phono stage which has a selection of EQ curves.

Welcome to the fast spinning club.

Phil
Sequoia225 wrote:So Im going to get into recording vinyl into my computer. I have amassed a lot of old records in the last year or 2 - many 78s. I am going to send one of my Technics 1200s to get modded to play 78 speed and I know I have to get a 78 specific stylus.

My question is about the records themselves - how to tell if they are 78 or 33 1/3 or what size groove, and what material IF the details are not on the records. My understanding is there was a transition time that a lot of different things were being made back then

For instance. The first thing is this record set here

https://www.discogs.com/Albert-R-Brand- ... se/9637813

What I have looks exactly like this in every way.
But this page says 78 and "red shellac". But the records themselves are somewhat flexible, thicker than typical modern vinyl but still flexible, and they are somewhat transparent/translucent.

My understanding - and as many of my very old 78s reflect - was that shellac is very stiff and hard/brittle. But these are not.
Is that maybe a misprint on the Discogs page? How do I know what speed and groove these have?

add: note - the records arent great in those pictures but the label on the records gives no indication of date, speed, or whatever. just track info and licensing info.

Sequoia225
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Re: Need a little education on 78s

Post by Sequoia225 » 13 Jul 2018 00:06

Coffee Phil wrote:Hi Sequoia225,

78s were the dominant format for the first half of the twentieth century. During the acoustic period (.........

Welcome to the fast spinning club.

Phil
Thank you for such extensive info. I learned a bit from KAB about the speed inconsistencies - they are who I am going to have mod my 1200.


your info is very educational as I get into this.

The EQ curve is a good point - what Phono pre-amps then would you recommend for a Technics 1200Mk2 that I will play 78s and current records on?

I still feel like I am not sure how to tell for sure what size groove this record has?? They are 10" records by the way.

Also, what to use to clean it with? -not knowing for sure the material. I agree this shouldn't be shellac because it does not feel like the really old brittle hard 78s. But would I use my vinyl solution in my Okki Nokki for something that is polystyrene? It really SEEMS to be vinyl.

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Re: Need a little education on 78s

Post by Coffee Phil » 13 Jul 2018 01:41

Hi Sequoia222,

If the records are vinyl the stuff which you use on your Lps is fine. Any alcohol is death to shellac. There is stuff formulated for shellac and you can use water. Some say the even water softens shellac a bit so you should wait a few hours before playing them. I clean my shellac records on my Nitty Gritty and use the solution which they sell for 78s.

There are analog phono stages sold which sum the channels both for lateral cut records and vertical cut records such as Edisons and provide most EQ curves which you may want but they are quite spendy. I built my own and the schematic is somewhere in the gallery here. You can built one for your use. If you want to sell them we should talk. I'll look for it and post it. I believe KAB sells similar boxes. Alternatively if you are going to use your computer primarly you can buy a flat gain stage such as this and do the EQ and summing in software:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Flat-Phono-Pre ... 1438.l2649

That would be way more cost effective than the boxes which KAB sells. The down side of coarse is that you are tying up a computer.

Here is a picture of my legacy phono stage under the Roku soundbridge:

[img]21426[img][/img][/img]

Here is the schematic:

[img]18919[/img]

Here is the KAB box of which I speek:

https://www.kabusa.com/frameset.htm?/

Scroll down to the VSP MK2 Vintage Signal Processor / Preamp

To determine the groove width look at the groove with a magnifying glass and compare them to an Lp and then a known standard groove 78 (any shellac). If it looks more like the 78 use the 2.7 mil stylus. If it is more similar to the Lp use the Lp stylus.

Phil



Sequoia225 wrote:
Coffee Phil wrote:Hi Sequoia225,

78s were the dominant format for the first half of the twentieth century. During the acoustic period (.........

Welcome to the fast spinning club.

Phil
Thank you for such extensive info. I learned a bit from KAB about the speed inconsistencies - they are who I am going to have mod my 1200.


your info is very educational as I get into this.

The EQ curve is a good point - what Phono pre-amps then would you recommend for a Technics 1200Mk2 that I will play 78s and current records on?

I still feel like I am not sure how to tell for sure what size groove this record has?? They are 10" records by the way.

Also, what to use to clean it with? -not knowing for sure the material. I agree this shouldn't be shellac because it does not feel like the really old brittle hard 78s. But would I use my vinyl solution in my Okki Nokki for something that is polystyrene? It really SEEMS to be vinyl.

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Re: Need a little education on 78s

Post by smee4 » 18 Dec 2018 23:49

Coffee Phil wrote:
12 Jul 2018 23:01
After electrical recording came in during the twenties in 60 Hz countries such as the US the speed is pretty much precisely 78.26 RPM. In 50 Hz countries it is slightly different as 78.26 is not easily derived fro 50 Hz. 33 1/3 RPM can be derived from either of those frequencies.

Why is this? A pulley (for belt or idler drive) can be made to ANY diameter, so the correct drive ratio for any given speed can be achieved.

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Re: Need a little education on 78s

Post by Coffee Phil » 19 Dec 2018 07:36

Hi Smee4,

I am no record lathe expert but I would guess that most of them had the platter gear driven from a synchronous motor so the speed would have to be a rational fraction of 3600 RPM for 60 Hz or 3000 RPM for 50 Hz. 3600 RPM divided by 46 is 78.2608696 RPM or precisly 78 6/23 RPM.

Phil

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Re: Need a little education on 78s

Post by smee4 » 19 Dec 2018 11:37

Coffee Phil wrote:
19 Dec 2018 07:36
Hi Smee4,

I am no record lathe expert but I would guess that most of them had the platter gear driven from a synchronous motor so the speed would have to be a rational fraction of 3600 RPM for 60 Hz or 3000 RPM for 50 Hz. 3600 RPM divided by 46 is 78.2608696 RPM or precisly 78 6/23 RPM.

Phil
You seem to be talking about gear driven cutting lathes, but I read your post as being about players. Players of course can achieve any speed using idler drive ( or belt etc)

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Re: Need a little education on 78s

Post by Coffee Phil » 19 Dec 2018 20:10

Hi Smee4,

What you say is certainly true, however the records come from lathes. There were home record cutting lathes with idler drive but if you are going to have a standard I would expect it to be locked to a reference which is controlled and tied to a standard. The frequency of the mains has traditionally been tied to the NBS as clocks use it for reference. I suppose one could use an idler drive and time it but I have to believe professional record lathes used synchronous AC motors and gear drive. From 60 Hz one could conceivably make a direct drive lathe with a 92 pole synchronous motor to cut 78.26 RPM records.

Phil
smee4 wrote:
19 Dec 2018 11:37
Coffee Phil wrote:
19 Dec 2018 07:36
Hi Smee4,

I am no record lathe expert but I would guess that most of them had the platter gear driven from a synchronous motor so the speed would have to be a rational fraction of 3600 RPM for 60 Hz or 3000 RPM for 50 Hz. 3600 RPM divided by 46 is 78.2608696 RPM or precisly 78 6/23 RPM.

Phil
You seem to be talking about gear driven cutting lathes, but I read your post as being about players. Players of course can achieve any speed using idler drive ( or belt etc)

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Re: Need a little education on 78s

Post by Bob Dillon » 04 Mar 2019 20:04

Coffee Phil wrote:
12 Jul 2018 23:01
Hi Sequoia225,

78s were the dominant format for the first half of the twentieth century. During the acoustic period (up to the later half of the twenties) the speed could be over the map. After electrical recording came in during the twenties in 60 Hz countries such as the US the speed is pretty much precisely 78.26 RPM. In 50 Hz countries it is slightly different as 78.26 is not easily derived fro 50 Hz. 33 1/3 RPM can be derived from either of those frequencies.

Shellac, which is shellac mixed with fine clay power is probably the most common material from which 78s were made but other materials were used. By the '40s vinyl started to appear due to the shortage of shellac during the war. Also Vinyl is much less breakable. It is however less tolerant of the very heavy pick-ups in the early record players.

The first vinyl 78's appeared for consumer use in 1946, after the war. They were the red RCA Victor deluxe records, packged in gold foil sleeves and sold at a premium.

Prior to that were the vinyl / plastic-ish V-discs which sent to troops serving overseas. Never intended for consumer use, although they can be found around occasionally. The earliest V-discs were shellac, but many broke in shipment, leading to them being pressed in vinyl / plastic. Hard to tell, really. V-Discs resemble in composition the RCA Victor 'Program Transcriptions' of the early 30's, but those were 33 1/3 RPM. The record material (for the PT's) was referred to then as Victrolac.

The response to wartime shellac restrictions was to manufacture records with more kinds of filler added, which is why many 78's from WWII have a higher degree of noise and / or fragility.

The Parks Audio Puffin is a terrific preamp for 78's. It's digital, but no matter, it sounds great. I admit I was intially hesitant about the digital part. It has some 78 EQ curves, or you can run it flat (no EQ, no RIAA) for acoustic records. Plus high and low pass filtering. L channel/R channel/stereo/mono, and you can even configure it to play vertically cut records, like Edison and Pathe. Plus all the other stuff it does.

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Re: Need a little education on 78s

Post by Bob Dillon » 04 Mar 2019 20:32

Coffee Phil wrote:
12 Jul 2018 23:01

Unless the record was made after the late '50s the equalization will not be RIAA so to be precise you will want the correct EQ. This is sort of second order as they had some sort of EQ and will sound OK with RIAA. Tone controls can also be used to alter the frequency response. Of course if you get into the fast spinning thing like me you will want a phono stage which has a selection of EQ curves.
Perhaps not late 50's in all cases. The RCA Victor 'New Orthophonic' 78's are RIAA, and when did those start, 1954 ?

I keep a sheet around that has all the "correct' EQ curves for all the labels and sometimes they sound right, and sometimes they sound not so great, so I just my ears to guide my preference. :)

Also, about lathes. The old style gravity weight lathes (non electric motor) were still kept in use occasionally well into the electrical era.

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Re: Need a little education on 78s

Post by Coffee Phil » 06 Mar 2019 07:33

Hi Bob,

I’m not sure that you have been welcomed to the forum as yet. It is good to have another “fast spinner” here, especially a knowledgeable one!

I believe that “New Orthophonic” started in the very early ‘50s on RCA discs and was adopted in ~ 1954 by the RIAA as the as the RIAA standard.

I also let my ears be the guide for EQ on 78s. Sometimes I’ll take the time to look up the record and If I find the EQ I’ll start with that.

Phil

Bob Dillon wrote:
04 Mar 2019 20:32
Coffee Phil wrote:
12 Jul 2018 23:01

Unless the record was made after the late '50s the equalization will not be RIAA so to be precise you will want the correct EQ. This is sort of second order as they had some sort of EQ and will sound OK with RIAA. Tone controls can also be used to alter the frequency response. Of course if you get into the fast spinning thing like me you will want a phono stage which has a selection of EQ curves.
Perhaps not late 50's in all cases. The RCA Victor 'New Orthophonic' 78's are RIAA, and when did those start, 1954 ?

I keep a sheet around that has all the "correct' EQ curves for all the labels and sometimes they sound right, and sometimes they sound not so great, so I just my ears to guide my preference. :)

Also, about lathes. The old style gravity weight lathes (non electric motor) were still kept in use occasionally well into the electrical era.

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Re: Need a little education on 78s

Post by Bob Dillon » 06 Mar 2019 18:08

Coffee Phil wrote:
06 Mar 2019 07:33
Hi Bob,

I’m not sure that you have been welcomed to the forum as yet. It is good to have another “fast spinner” here,
Thanks !

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Re: Need a little education on 78s

Post by smee4 » 06 Mar 2019 22:57

Coffee Phil wrote:
06 Mar 2019 07:33


I also let my ears be the guide for EQ on 78s. Sometimes I’ll take the time to look up the record and If I find the EQ I’ll start with that.

The other problem with finding the correct eq is with records released in another country. For example, His Master's Voice released many 78s here from labels such as RCA, and others. So picking the correct eq often has to be done by ear, but you get good at doing it.

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Re: Need a little education on 78s

Post by Bob Dillon » 06 Mar 2019 23:10

smee4 wrote:
06 Mar 2019 22:57
Coffee Phil wrote:
06 Mar 2019 07:33


I also let my ears be the guide for EQ on 78s. Sometimes I’ll take the time to look up the record and If I find the EQ I’ll start with that.

The other problem with finding the correct eq is with records released in another country. For example, His Master's Voice released many 78s here from labels such as RCA, and others. So picking the correct eq often has to be done by ear, but you get good at doing it.
If wanted to be really OC about it, the HMV pressing should still bear indentifying details like the matrix number and symbols and things in the deadwax that could give away the origin of the recording. Or yeah, just use yer ears.

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