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 Post subject: Brunswick Light Ray records & German Gramophone
PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 4:26 am 
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Victor I
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Location: Germany
I´m a record collector from Germany, so please excuse my "bumpy" english :?

Because I´m collecting discs from the early to late 1920´s AND I´m interested also in technology history I´m going to write a little bit about the early history of the electrical recordings by the Deutsche Grammophon (German Gramophone).

The German Gramophone (from now on GG) used the Trade Mark/Nipper Logo, but had been since WWI a independent label.
For foreign discs they used the Polydor Label because they couldn´t use the Nipper Logo.

From mid 1925 on the GG issued electrically recorded discs, many of this early records sound almost acoustically!
Not all of their recordings were electrics, they used their acoustic system also till 1926. You also may find a record, electric one side, acoustic the other.
Some of the electrics sound pretty good, other horrible!

In early 1926 the GG had an deal with the Brunswick concern to use their “Light Ray” recording technique.

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That are they doing before? The “Light Ray” technique was in fact the Pallophotophone system from General electric. It became later the Fox movie tone system.

I stuck my nose deep into old patent specification to understand more this system, some of my finds you see here.

The Pallophotophone system used instead of an real microphone a little horn with a diaphragm at the bottom.
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Connected to the diaphragm were as a little mirror. The mirror vibrated in the frequency of the sound. A electric light beam fall via a lens system on the mirror, reflected from the mirror and again through a lens system, the light oscillation bias a photoelectric cell.
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The cell changed the light oscillation into a alternating current voltage. After amplification the electric current drove a cutting lathe.
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The whole Pallophotophone (incl the cutting lathe) was invented by Charles Hoxie from c. 1921 on.
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There had been also a german branch of General electrics, so I think the GG used the system already in 1925, the records sound similar to the 1926 discs which are definitely by the “Light Ray” system.
It is said that the GG did experimentation with their own electric system since 1923/24. I never heard one of this records.
Compared to the American Brunswick and Vocalions, the GG “Light Ray” recordings sound bad.

A German "Light Ray" record from September 1925
[flash=]
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQCZNCoGWt4[/flash]

So the company didn´t mention the new electric process on the label. From early 1926 on, all recordings by the GG were electrically recorded.
In early 1927 Brunswick switched from the fancy Pallophotophone mic. To a “real” condenser microphone, with a dramatic change in sound quality – the days of the typically “boxy sound” had been gone.
Contemporaneous in 1927 the GG also switched to the Condenser mic. Now they began to promote their electric system heavily , they called it the “Polyfar” system.

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 Post subject: Re: Brunswick Light Ray records & German Gramophone
PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 8:33 am 
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Victor IV
Joined: Wed Jan 07, 2009 8:44 pm
Posts: 1590
Thanks for the in depth report on Brunswick Light Ray records. Amazing how complicated the designs were. As you mentioned though its too bad that many of them are just not anywhere near the sound quality developed by other companies of the time. I used to have a number of early brunswick albums and many by famous composers conducting. Sadly the sound was so poor you could barely stand to listen to them and eventually I parted with them. Still the late brunswick acoustics are among the best, so their fall from quality sound is very surprising.

Larry


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 Post subject: Re: Brunswick Light Ray records & German Gramophone
PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 12:47 pm 
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Victor V
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Joined: Wed Jan 07, 2009 7:52 pm
Posts: 2583
larryh wrote:
As you mentioned though its too bad that many of them are just not anywhere near the sound quality developed by other companies of the time. I used to have a number of early brunswick albums and many by famous composers conducting. Sadly the sound was so poor you could barely stand to listen to them and eventually I parted with them. Still the late brunswick acoustics are among the best, so their fall from quality sound is very surprising.

Larry


There are the exceptions, of course. I think something like Charmaine by the Abe Lyman orchestra on a 'Light Ray' (# 3648) disc is at least about equivalent quality that Victor was producing on their early electrics in 1925. You never know what you're going to get with those Light Rays.


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 Post subject: Re: Brunswick Light Ray records & German Gramophone
PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 6:03 pm 
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Victor II
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2009 6:03 pm
Posts: 393
Actually, I think that early recording you linked to on YouTube sounds surprisingly good for 1925. The pressing is noisy, but that probably is just a result of excess record wear. The recording has prominent bass which is completely absent in acoustic recordings. A better pressing would be necessary to really judge the quality of the recording technology. I suspect that there were still some significant response peaks which were due to improperly damped and controlled mechanical resonances in the pallophotophone microphone, which wasn't all that much different from an acoustic recorder. It appears to have still had a relatively high moving mass (the diaphragm, the mirror and the linkage) attached to it that would have resulted in a primary resonance well inside the audio band. Likewise, the disc recorder probably had significant mechanical resonances which weren't fully understood at the time.

One of the most significant things that Western Electric did in introducing their electrical recording system was to much more fully understand and carefully control the mechanical resonances in both their electric microphones and more significantly in their disc recorder design. The old "rubber line" recorder which dates back to just about the dawn of WE recording was quite a contraption - it included a substantial number of fiddly bits which were specifically designed to reduce, damp, and otherwise control the mechanical resonances in the recorder. This helped produce the much flatter frequency response that the WE recordings were noted for. And the WE condenser microphone was also noteworthy for having its resonances well controlled. Later condenser microphones are designed with their primary resonance moved very high in the frequency range and well damped so as to affect the audio band very little.
Collecting moss, radios and phonos in the mountains of WNC.


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 Post subject: Re: Brunswick Light Ray records & German Gramophone
PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 6:33 pm 
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Victor I
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Stomp off, let´s go !
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Location: Germany
Yes, the record is almost eaten up - it´s mine.... :D

Here is another, better sounding record. It is also good recorded.
The Efim Schachmeister Dance Orchestra, recorded c. October/November 1925

http://www.box.net/shared/6bo0ky4hsy

As I said, the German Gramophone used the Light Ray process officially not
until spring 1926. But just for me, this sounds like the early Brunswick/Vocalions......


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 Post subject: Re: Brunswick Light Ray records & German Gramophone
PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 10:52 pm 
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Victor IV
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2009 4:43 pm
Posts: 1183
Location: Toronto, Ontario
The patent drawings are interesting indeed. I have read one description of the light ray method which stated that the mirror " floated in a magnetic field" which I have always thought was creative thinking on the part of the writer rather than a description of the actual system . I suspect that would have been beyond the capabilities of 1924 experimenters. The horn especially and the mechanical linkage would seem to set up a whole range of mechanical resonances which I suspect caused more problems than the tamed resonances in a Western Electric mic. But it's true that for some reason the Light Ray system was extremely hit or miss. I have a Richard Strauss side recorded by German Gramophone and issued on Brunswick here that I had to play twice before I decided that it WAS in fact electrical. I recently have found some extremely early Brunswick light ray recordings that don't sound too bad at all, but even the best of them tend to distort on the loudest notes. I'm attaching an old scan of the description of the light ray system taken from the Brunswick 1927 catalogue.( I'll try this again with my new scanner) Note the frequency response they are claiming. Again, more creative thinking on the part of the catalogue editor. I think the singer might be Florence Easton but it's hard to tell.

Jim


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