The (very exclusive) 16 RPM Club.

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Marco Gilardetti
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The (very exclusive) 16 RPM Club.

Post by Marco Gilardetti »

Just as we did with The Weird Needles Exchange Club, I thought it may be amusing to open another "club" thread, easy to find with the search field even after a long inactivity, reserved to the very few ones who dig 16 RPM records.

I happened to be a child in those years in which it was extremely common to have at home a suitcase-style turntable, mostly equipped with an automatic record changer, featuring four speeds: 78 RPM for the old stuff, 45 and 33 for the hits of the moment, and then the elusive and mysterious 16 RPM speed. I remember very vividly how I had fun at seeing the turntable revolving at that curiously low speed. However in my parent's collection, which was pretty vast considered the times, there was no 16 RPM record to play. This left me with much curiosity about this specific speed, as all my father could tell me about it was that he heard it was for spoken records. I kept wondering, however, if perhaps any interesting titles worth being listened were ever issued.

Since when internet auctions broke through, now and then I dig the ads to see if there is any record worth being purchased, of course avoding like pest boring spoken records (which obviously are by far the vast majority of 16 RPMs). Over the years I've found out that in Italy and France some serious attempt at pressing musical 16 RPM records was made, while I can't seem to find any from UK or Germany or elsewhere.

Are there any other 16 RPM fanatics or collectors on the board? What are your memories and what are your favourite items of your collection? And what about the turntables you use to play them?

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Re: The (very exclusive) 16 RPM Club.

Post by Orchorsol »

Hi Marco

I have an outré fascination for them too - I only have a couple of discs, one of French poetry.

The US jazz label Prestige briefly issued LPs at 16 rpm including Miles Davis and John Coltrane. How cool it would be to find one of those - if a bit pointless, given the poor sound quality!

Also, let's not forget 8 rpm, and 24 rpm (talking books for the blind here in the UK, from 1935 - I saw some at an antiques fair a few years ago and have regretted not buying them ever since). https://audiobookhistory.wordpress.com/ ... king-book/
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Re: The (very exclusive) 16 RPM Club.

Post by Marco Gilardetti »

Hello Andy, nice to hear from you again! It's not the first time that we find out to be extravagant quite the same way! :D

Please don't mention those records... They surface now and then on eBay but always at insane prices. Of course they are very collectable and jazz fanatics are willing to pay large sums for them, and being located in the US there are also import costs and duties to consider. If only they were cheaper, I'd be very glad to buy both.

Thanks for the link to pictures of 24 RPM records, they look very nice. I don't remember having ever seen a turntable with 8 or 24 RPM speeds though, I suppose they were specialised products made almost exclusively for blind people.

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Re: The (very exclusive) 16 RPM Club.

Post by 52089 »

I am a fan of the 16 rpm records used on the Seeburg 1000 background music system. These are very odd discs, 9 inches in diameter, with a 2 inch center hole. They are mono microgroove and play about 40 minutes on each side. They were used to provide background music to department stores, factories, etc. from the late 50s to the early/mid 70s.

The player was a table top machine that would accommodate a stack of 25 discs and would play both sides of all discs before automatically resetting the stack and starting over. Both the discs and the machines are scarce. The discs were replenished quarterly, and the old discs were supposed to be sent back to Seeburg and destroyed.

You can find lots of videos on YouTube as well as sound samples all over the internet.

I have a semi-functioning machine and a few dozen discs. It's the only modern, electric machine in my collection. I made a small run of adapters to allow the discs to play properly on a standard turntable. They sold out on ebay fairly quickly. Perhaps I'll make more someday.

As for mainstream music, I know that South Africa produced a bunch of LPs at 16 rpm. I have seen them on ebay and YouTube, but I don't currently own any. Maybe someday.

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Re: The (very exclusive) 16 RPM Club.

Post by epigramophone »

In the UK Pye Ltd, an electronics company established in 1896, brought out the "Record Maker" in the 1950's. My father bought one.

It recorded at 16rpm onto pre-grooved 12 inch discs which had a magnetic coating. It also doubled up as a conventional record player, having a 4-speed deck and a separate pick-up head with a turnover cartridge. I cannot remember any of the technical details, as I was a school boy and it was some 60 years ago. Needless to say, it is long gone.
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Re: The (very exclusive) 16 RPM Club.

Post by drh »

Here in the United States, American Vox took a flyer at releasing classical music on 16 RPM disks in the late '40s or early '50s. I've never owned one myself, but a collector friend used to have one or two. As noted elsewhere, the fidelity level could best be described as "non."

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Re: The (very exclusive) 16 RPM Club.

Post by kirtley2012 »

Third man records recently did a 3 RPM record but that's just silly

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Re: The (very exclusive) 16 RPM Club.

Post by AmberolaAndy »

The only 16rpm records I have ever found was an audiobook of the Bible.

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Re: The (very exclusive) 16 RPM Club.

Post by Marco Gilardetti »

52089 wrote:I am a fan of the 16 rpm records used on the Seeburg 1000 background music system.
That's interesting, something I suppose it never made the road to Europe, at least as far as I know. The machine is kind of cute, it also has some stylish design for being professional stuff. There is a funny website about which you obviously already know, which also features a "Seeburg internet radio" that "broadcasts" Seeburg music 24/7, it can be heard by clicking over the "ON AIR" clip in top-right corner and then going through a sequence of apparently useless pop-ups:

https://seeburg1000.com/about/

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Marco Gilardetti
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Re: The (very exclusive) 16 RPM Club.

Post by Marco Gilardetti »

drh wrote:As noted elsewhere, the fidelity level could best be described as "non."
I usually tend to be not so severe with 16 RPM quality. It is at least comparable to the quality of 78 RPM records, and we all love 78 RPM don't we?

What amazes me most is the unbelievable list of titles that each 10'' record usually contains - ten titles or more per side! I should be accustomed to it but it impresses and amuses me every time! :)

A peculiar advantage of 16 RPM records is that once you own a half dozen of them you already rank as a "big collector"!!! :D

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