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Record collectors desperately seek 12", 78 rpm discs

'Those modern, vinyl things lose the essential details of the music' explained dedicated collector Anna Wragg from the Isle of Wight 'and lack the subtlety and detail which is present in proper, traditional gramophone records. You see, proper records were made of shellack, an organic material, and sold in paper sleeves. Those later things were made of vinyl, a nasty industrial chemical product, which is too smooth to properly reproduce the background noise and hiss which was present in the studio or concert hall when the music was recorded.'

'Those vinyl things also suffered from cost-cutting, by only revolving at 33-1/3 rpm instead of 78 rpm, less than half the speed, and therefore too slowly to be able to fully reproduce the very fast, high-pitched notes. There was even more cost-cutting, by squashing more than 3 or 4 minutes recording on each side, and they did that by making the grooves smaller.'

'That was a further disaster of course. Smaller grooves meant the needle in the gramophone's pick-up arm didn't move so such and only produced a tiny, almost inaudible sound which had to be amplified electrically before more than one person at a time could hear it. And that inevitably added lots of distortion. You only have to listen to the BBC Home Service or the Light Programme on 1,500 metres long wave, or to Radio Luxemburg on 208 metres medium wave on a wireless set to realise how much distortion electricity always causes.'

'The only thing is, proper shellac gramophone records were brittle and broke if you sat on them or even dropped them. Which makes them scarce and valuable, unlike those vinyl things which were were mass-produced in hundreds - sometimes even in thousands - and are therefore worth next-to-nothing now.'

'Mind you, even discs were a poor substitute for the best recording system ever. Because the discs are circular, the groove has to go round in a curved, spiral pattern and even worse, one where the curve gets tighter towards the end of the tune. Basic geometry will show that this inevitably introduces a degree of distortion.

You never had this problem with the highest-quality recording system ever, phonograph cylinders. Perfect, distortion-less music, albeit in brief episodes between fitting, exchanging and re-mounting each successive cylinder. And packing, storing and transporting them was a bit more awkward than the later thin, flat round things. But one brilliant advantage, you didn't have to put up with any crappy 'B' sides!

Image: Pixabay/WOKANDAPIX

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