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 Post subject: Why do early Columbia Disc records sound bad?
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 9:05 am 
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Victor IV
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Location: NW Indiana B-19;VV-IV; VV-VI;VV-XI;VV-XVI; Edison Home B; Amberola 30; Col. BK; Magnola;
I have a dozen or so early 10” Columbia disc records from 1900-1905, they all have high levels of surface noise. Why do they sound this way? My curiousity makes me wonder if they sounded better when they were new, and people just played them until they were worn, or were the early ones just noisy to begin with? Most of us were not around back then, but maybe some of our forum members may have encountered better copies.


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 Post subject: Re: Why do early Columbia Disc records sound bad?
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 10:01 am 
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Victor V
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A clean, unworn early Columbia disc that hasn't been exposed to extreme dampness or heat will sound just as nice as any other clean, unworn disc from that era. People played these things on front mount machines with heavy tonearms and often didn't change needles after each play. I have lots of early discs in my collection that came from a man who was collecting in the early 1930s and he was buying old unsold dealer stock of this kind of stuff. Lucky for me, he didn't play them on acoustic machines, so most of them are about as perfect as you could hope for. I only play things like this on my modern setup for the same reason, they've survived this long in such nice condition, they will stay that way until I'm no longer around to care for them. ;)

Sean


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 Post subject: Re: Why do early Columbia Disc records sound bad?
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 10:04 am 
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Auxetophone
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What Sean said - plus I don't think Columbia's shellac formula was as durable as Victor's and some others, but that's just my personal observation.
Brandon


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 Post subject: Re: Why do early Columbia Disc records sound bad?
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 10:18 am 
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Victor O
Joined: Thu Apr 27, 2017 5:52 am
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Location: Redruth, Cornwall, U.K.
I have five early black-and-silver Columbia discs and a black-and-gold ten-inch Climax; some of these have been with me for fifty years and I have played them many times. It is true that compared with Gramophone & Typewriter records of the same period (I have never seen a Victor record of this era) they look somewhat rougher, with matt surfaces covered with shallow pits where, presumably, air-bubbles have burst; on the other hand they all have a strong and full recorded sound, so that the difference in background-noise level – I agree that there is a difference – is not to my mind a serious drawback. (Admittedly, these are all bands; I might well feel less indulgent if they were songs or banjo solos.) The Columbia engineers knew their business, I feel, though their priorities may have been slightly different from those of Eldridge Johnson and his team.

Oliver Mundy.


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 Post subject: Re: Why do early Columbia Disc records sound bad?
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 3:54 pm 
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Victor I
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But what about the Fonotipias? They were a Columbia product, and the ones I've seen have a wonderful, rich sound and relatively little surface noise.
SOUSA, The March King, says:

"Your 'VICTOR' and 'MONARCH' Records are all right."


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 Post subject: Re: Why do early Columbia Disc records sound bad?
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 4:16 pm 
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Victor IV
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Menophanes wrote:
I have five early black-and-silver Columbia discs and a black-and-gold ten-inch Climax; some of these have been with me for fifty years and I have played them many times. It is true that compared with Gramophone & Typewriter records of the same period (I have never seen a Victor record of this era) they look somewhat rougher, with matt surfaces covered with shallow pits where, presumably, air-bubbles have burst; on the other hand they all have a strong and full recorded sound, so that the difference in background-noise level


A drawback, perhaps ? Loudly recorded records wore faster on early mechanical machines. The black and silver Columbia discs I have are all quite noisy.


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 Post subject: Re: Why do early Columbia Disc records sound bad?
PostPosted: Fri Nov 03, 2017 1:33 pm 
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Victor IV
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The Columbia records from the late 20s are quite wonderful surface wise. But the Banner teens versions for some reason usually have a sort of muddled sound I can't quite pin down, but its no one record, it seems to be in most of the classical records of that label I have. The Piano suffered the worst it seemed. The Grainger records all have a somewhat muffled sound compared to the Victors. I had some mint condition 1906 Columbia records well kept, an they actually had a cleaner sound than the banner labels I mentioned.


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 Post subject: Re: Why do early Columbia Disc records sound bad?
PostPosted: Fri Nov 03, 2017 3:13 pm 
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Victor I
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I'm not sure they do. The blue label Columbias in particular (1910s) sound rough, seems like a combination of inconsistent recording levels (generally too low, but on rare occasions too high to the point of overmodulation) and noisy surfaces. Interestingly, the green label ethnic series seems to be almost free of these problems.


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 Post subject: Re: Why do early Columbia Disc records sound bad?
PostPosted: Mon Nov 06, 2017 12:47 pm 
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Victor O
Joined: Thu Apr 27, 2017 5:52 am
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Location: Redruth, Cornwall, U.K.
larryh wrote:
The Columbia records from the late 20s are quite wonderful surface wise. But the Banner teens versions for some reason usually have a sort of muddled sound I can't quite pin down, but its no one record, it seems to be in most of the classical records of that label I have. The Piano suffered the worst it seemed. The Grainger records all have a somewhat muffled sound compared to the Victors. I had some mint condition 1906 Columbia records well kept, an they actually had a cleaner sound than the banner labels I mentioned.


If my understanding is correct, Columbia had the benefit between 1922 and 1930 of a so-called Silent Surface based on a laminated composition. In the Old World at least it seems to have disappeared with the amalgamation between H.M.V. and Columbia in 1931.

I have also observed a certain thick and murky tone in Columbia records of the second decade of the last century. I put this down to the use of large and thick recording diaphragms rather than faults in the material, but I may be wrong in this. The 1916 recordings of Margaret Woodrow Wilson, which may be known to some of us, are an example: a pity, since she seems to have been a genuinely musical singer.

Oliver Mundy.

Oliver Mundy.


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 Post subject: Re: Why do early Columbia Disc records sound bad?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 07, 2017 5:56 am 
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Victor III
Joined: Sun Mar 15, 2009 6:18 am
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Menophanes wrote:
If my understanding is correct, Columbia had the benefit between 1922 and 1930 of a so-called Silent Surface based on a laminated composition. In the Old World at least it seems to have disappeared with the amalgamation between H.M.V. and Columbia in 1931.


If you include Continental Europe in the Old World, laminated records were produced in France from the 30s to the 50s, in different labels, like Gramophone, Pathé, Columbia etc, which (I think) all had the same ownership. Pressing quality was very good, about as good as the Australian HMVs. I have never seen laminated German records, although their pressing standard was very high almost from the start of their Hanover production throughout the 20s and 30s.

On the original subject, I have a number of old US black-and-silver label Columbias, and all have high surface noise and the quality of recording is lower than the Victors of the period. As Oliver mentions, in the 20s the scene changed with Columbia producing the best quality records that benefited from the lamination technique. But I also have some pre-laminated US Columbia (flag labels) that sound very good with quiet surfaces.


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