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Tip Radius : for 78s, anything from just under. For shellac 78s, Conical is probably to be preferred to Elliptical. The round section rides the grit, whereas elliptical will engage the grit and other imperfections because of its slightly reduced surface contact area. In certain critical circumstances, particularly when playing very clean copies, an elliptical stylus will give a little better definition of the higher frequencies, but they can be quite unforgiving on scratched or worn records.

Elliptical is sometimes preferred for best vinyl and microgroove reproduction. Again, for our purposes, Truncated is usually preferred to Full Radius, for the reason given before.

Vintage Vinyl Records Sizes & Types – A Guide to Your Collection

While the professional sound restorer may have a full range of stylus assemblies, maybe up to 20 and all to fit in one cartridge, the average record collector might do quite well with three or four. Conical Truncated would be the one to get, but bear in mind the reference table below. The post groove tended to settle at 2. Now we move to the main business of fitting the groove.

It is probably best to start with a 2. The optimum point in the groove is just below the shoulder, because there you get maximum deflection, side to side movement of the stylus tip, giving you the best signal-to-noise ratio. But, that is also along the line that a previous steel needle may have chiselled out, so you have to come down in size a bit to track the groove area that has not been damaged.

Surface scratches may also force you that way. Occasionally, running an undersized stylus and a tracking brush Dust Bug or similar can help keep the groove as clean as possible. This of course brings in the thorny subject of to wash or not to wash records and how to do this without causing irreversible damage to the record. This subject is worth an article on its own let us know if you want one - MB and is not our main concern here, but bear in mind that a clean and detritus-free groove is not only going to sound better but will also reduce the wear and damage on those expensive industrial diamonds!

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In the end, the art of compromise has to be practised. Tracking weight also has to be considered. Too much will force the stylus arm up into the cartridge body, or, more accurately, force the cartridge body onto the record surface: too little will result in inaccurate tracking, possible skipping and swishing.

All this talk of racks of multiple sized diamond styli may seem rather daunting and an expensive luxury when there are records to be bought, but the financial outlay will be far outweighed by the pleasure derived from hearing the enormous improvement in the sound quality of your records. Play away!

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The following reference table give you an even better indication of where to start fitting the groove — as you have by now gathered there are no hard and fast rules but, based on years of playing a variety of makes and ages of 78s and covering a timeline of s, this table will give the reader a fairly good idea of where one should base their starting point.

Anomalies abound, as one might expect, and some notable ones are mentioned where appropriate.

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As can be clearly seen, the vast majority of records fall into just three stylus sizes — 0. Further References. Bryson, H.

Read, Oliver and Welch, Walter L. Thanks also to Russ Shor and Malcolm Shaw for their assistance. Many Paramount series.

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English Columbias mainly prefer this size. A good starting size to work up or down from. Autograph, some Paramount s though these vary enormously — up to 0. Commonly practiced in major sound archives and research libraries that house large collections of audio recordings, it is also frequently followed by audiophiles and home record collectors. Because vinyl —a virtually unbreakable light plastic made up of polyvinyl chloride acetate copolymer, or PVC —is considered the most stable of analog recording media, it is seen as less a concern for deterioration than earlier sound recordings made from more fragile materials such as acetate, vulcanite, or shellac.

This hardly means that vinyl recordings are infallible, however, and research—both expert and evidential—has shown that the way in which discs are handled and cared for can have a profound effect on their longevity. In —roughly a decade after vinyl LPs first became widely available to consumers —the Library of Congress published Preservation of Sound Recordings A. Pickett and M. Lemcoe , the first and most extensive investigation of the deterioration of grooved discs and magnetic tape. Funded by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation , the purpose of the investigation was to establish suitable guidelines for the storage and preservation of sound recordings for libraries.

Conducted at the Southwest Research Institute of San Antonio, the study involved subjecting sound recordings to a series of lab tests, from accelerated aging to fungal exposure. Though considered the definitive study in the field, the chemical makeup of plastics and how they perform under stress was the primary focus of the report, whereas playback deterioration—a significant concern to sound archivists and record collectors—was excluded from the investigation. The Preservation and Restoration of Sound Recordings Jerry McWilliams , published in by the American Association of State and Local History, did include information about disc wear through playback, and is still a practical source of information on sound recording preservation.

A comprehensive manual based on reports gathered from library professionals, sound archivists , audio engineers, and other experts, it included information on such topics as disc damage from frequency of use, stylus wear, and inferior or improperly adjusted equipment.


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Since the shift from analog to digital recording , research in the preservation of sound recordings has been in serious decline. Gerald L. Though guidelines and recommendations for the care, handling, and proper storage of vinyl LPs are available from such resources as The Library of Congress and the National Library of Canada , to this date there are no nationally agreed upon standards for audio preservation.

Though recommendations for LP preservation differ among professionals, the majority are in agreement on some basic guidelines : discs need to be kept clean, stored in such a way to prevent distortion, and maintained in a stable, climate-controlled environment. Routine maintenance of turntable equipment including regular inspection of the weight, tracking, and condition of the stylus is also advised. Though proper methods are debated, cleaning is extremely important in maintaining the fidelity of LPs. What is known is based on trial-and-error, not upon controlled, scientific study…however, one thing is certain: playing a dirty recording, regardless of its format, is one of the most damaging things you can do to it.

It is imperative that LPs be kept free from foreign matter deposits. Oils from fingerprints, adhesives, and soot are damaging, as are air pollutants like cigarette smoke.

How Vinyl Records Are Made

Even grease from cooking can deposit itself on LPs. Probably the number one contributor to damage, however, is ordinary household dust. Dust can become embedded permanently into the disc's grooves, causing distortion of the transmitting signal, ticks, pops, and inferior sound quality. Vinyl discs can become so dirty and scratched that they are virtually unlistenable. It is recommended that discs be cleaned before—and after—each playback, carbon-fibre brushes are quite effective.


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  • Records should be cleaned in a circular motion, in the direction of the grooves. Distilled water not tap water as it will leave behind mineral deposits and a soft, lint-free cloth is a common method of cleaning. Another method is to clean the LP on the turntable with a disc cleaning brush the Discwasher system is frequently recommended by the audio press.