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Some Notes on Wax Cylinder Recording
you consider just what is expected of a 100 year old phonograph, and
how it is expected to do it, it is really remarkable that it
ever worked, let alone still works after all this time. Although
records as loud and clear as the commercially available moulded product
of the 1900s cannot be produced with the home set up, with a
little patience and more importantly, experimentation, records that
are perfectly wonderful can be made which will play dozens of times.
There are no hard and fast rules for getting the
best results every time. There never were. Some people have voices that
record easily and others do not, but there are a few points that may
be passed on and I list them as follows.
1. The phonograph
used must have enough power to run truly with the extra work it is
expected to do in recording.
2. The blank should have the
best possible shaved surface, and should not be cold. Body
temperature is ideal, but remember it will stick on the mandrel if
allowed to cool.
3. The recorder if properly adjusted should
need little attention other than cleaning away shavings. This should
be done by blowing, never a brush.
4. Occasionally, the
sliding collar in the Edison recorder does not drop down into the
corresponding cup in the diaphragm carrier. A gentle shake will cure
this, and a small amount of oil placed carefully on the inside of
the neck where the tube slides, will stop this occurring again.
5. Whichever horn is to be used should be attached with the
shortest length of rubber consistent with making a connection and
not absorbing too much sound.
6. Experimentation is the only
road to success with choice of horn. However a conical horn works
best, and as a rule, the longer the horn, the better the bass
response. For talking, singing the 30” horn supplied by Paul Morris’
Music represents an ideal compromise. The horn should be stout
enough not to vibrate, since this wastes energy.
Depending on how loud, sonorous or directional the source to be
recorded, a distance of about 2” from the end of the horn works
well. A violin should be closer if this were possible, whilst a
cornet could be six feet away with advantage.
8. Singing and
speaking should be done close in and at as level a volume as
possible. Loud open vowel sounds will introduce distortion, and if
unavoidable must be done from a greater distance. This is known as
“drawing back from the horn”
9. Just occasionally, a
combination of the thickness of the blank as supplied, the stylus
mounting and the position of the phonograph carrier arm relative to
the surface of the blank means that the stylus will be too low, and
dig into the blank too deeply. Always check for this, and if it
happens, twist the recorder a few degrees so that it does not mate
with the carrier arm, causing it to be raised up a little. This is
known as using it “in the up position”
10. The record or
phonogram should be dusted with a camel’s hair brush and can be
played several dozen times without significant loss of volume
Blanks as supplied are ready shaved, and the only really
satisfactory way of re-using them is by further shaving on an office
high-speed shaver. Paul Morris’ Music offers a shaving
service-please ask. Blanks are supplied thick enough to be shaved
and re-used at least a dozen times.