Thursday, June 21, 2007

78 rpm Technical Data

Yesterday’s post of 78s generated lots of interest and a few inquiries about the process I use to record old 78 rpm records. For those of you interested in the equipment and process, I’ll run through it...

Equipment:
Turntable – Denon DP-60L (no, the DP-60L does not play at 78, more about this later)
Cartridge – Ortofon Super OM-30 (I replace the stylus with an Ortofon 78 stylus on this cartridge when recording from 78s)
Pre Amplifier – Carver C-1 (serial number 00014)Output to sound card through external processor loop
Software – Audacity Digital Audio Editor
Cleaning and preservation Fluids – L.A.S.T. (Liquid Archival Sound Treatment)
Tracking Force Gauge - AcousTech Stylus Force Gauge

Over the years I have owned several turntables. My favorite that was capable of 78 playback was an old Dual by United Audio. I used that Dual to record many 78s to open reel tape, but alas, that old record player is long gone. My current (that sounds strange to say about something I’ve owned for over twenty-five years!) is a direct-drive Denon DP-60L mounted with the straight tonearm and lightweight headshell. Before each use I clean the stylus using a short, dense fiber brush and LAST stylus cleaner. Twice a year I immerse the stylus in an ultrasonic cleaner for an hour or so. A standard 100x student’s microscope is essential to check stylus condition during cleaning. Once the stylus is clean and replaced, I set the tonearm tracking force using an AcousTech Stylus Force Gauge. I usually run the tracking force at 1.25 grams for LPs and 2.1 grams for 78s. The new Ortofon 78 replacement stylus that I got just this week has made a tremendous difference in quality. I believe that the thinline elliptical stylus of the Ortofon Super OM-30, while great for getting into the untouched portion of the grooves on LPs, was getting lost in the wider grooves of the 78s.

Now that the turntable is ready, we move on to the records. Many years ago, I almost bought a Discwasher automated record cleaner, but I continue to clean records by hand. If a record has not been previously cleaned and treated, I pre-wash with a mild surfactant-type dishwashing liquid (such as Dawn) and a soft synthetic sponge. After a thought rinse and air drying, I clean with LAST Power Cleaner. Vinyl LPs then receive a treatment with LAST Record Preservative. I have used this on 78s that are in really bad condition, such as the Bill Monroe I posted yesterday. LAST Maintenance Cleaner is used before each play. I have tried Bluenote Kymyas Record Conditioning liquids before and was impressed, but I’ve been using LAST for over twenty years. Why change now?

As I mentioned above, my turntable does not play at 78. Fortunately, the editing software that I use has an option to change the speed after the recording is made. I usually record at 45 rpm unless the record is in extremely bad condition, in which case recording at 33 1/3 rpm seems to reduce some ticks and pops. Audacity Audio Editor is a great open source program. It does include a noise reduction add-on, but I have found that it clips too much music even at the lowest settings, so I do not use it. I do use the equalizer when a lot of surface noise is present. The equalizer includes several pre-sets for the most popular 78s (Decca, Columbia, RCA Victor, etc.) or is user adjustable. The “Tick Removal” tool is useful as well as the pitch adjustment and fade in/out. Files may be exported as mp3, ogg or many other formats.

Each 78 rpm record takes an average of one to one-and-a-half hours from start to finish. Before I post the files, I drop the bitrate down to 112k bps using Switch software from NCH Swift Sound.

For those that inquired, I hope that this has helped. Most of the records in my personal collection (over 3000 LPs and 100 78s) are in generally good condition, but some are less-than-perfect treasures found in used record shops. All are treated with care and stored in archival sleeves. Of all the different equiptment and technics I have experimented with over the years, I find that the replacement stylus has made the most dramatic improvement in quality. I do not expect to get good quality results with lesser quality equipment, a high quality cartridge and stylus are essential, as are the alignment and tracking forces.

Sources:
I purchase most of my record cleaning supplies from Jerry Raskin’s Needle Doctor
Audacity software is available for free download at Audacity
The audio file conversion software I use is Switch Plus Sound File Conversion Software

Those riders that transfer old 78s and LPs to digital and want to exchange tips and tools, drop a note or leave a comment. I'd love to hear from others who are preserving their old shellac and vinyl.

7 Comments:

Blogger kjk said...

thanks, ed!

June 22, 2007 10:07 AM  
Blogger Ted Barron said...

Thanks for the info. My transfer process is a little more primitive.
I'm playing my shellac on an old KLH Model 20, with a built in Garrard Turntable. I get the least amount of turntable noise, when I line out of the turntable (bypassing the amp) into a Griffin imic which is plugged into the computer. The imic has 2 different impedance settings: line and mic. I use the mic setting, the line setting is too quiet. Then I transfer using Finyl Vinyl software. I've tried using the EQ, but it leaves a lot to be desired. I think I need to run it through something else. The KLH has a stereo/mono switch, I of course switch it to mono. I'm gonna look into this software you mention here. The cartridge is the built in Pickering V-15 outfitted with a 78 2.5mil stylus. I get better results listening through this rig than in my transfers. The speaker I use a KEM Bildton is something that I originally thought was junk, but has amazing response with this set-up. I'm not a hi-fi guy, but this speaker rocks. I don't really know anything about it.

June 28, 2007 12:46 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Ted, Sounds like you have a fine set up. That Garrard is a great choice for playback, an excellent turntable. Pathing the output from a moving magnet cartridge, such as your Pickering, through an imic is acting as a phono pre-amp for your sound card.
I have not tried Finyl Vinyl, I have used other software in the past, including LPRecorder and LPRipper. I am happy with the Audacity, although all software is a compromise.
BTW - Thanks for the link from Boogie Woogie Flu, I'd added a link back.
Cheers!

June 28, 2007 7:41 PM  
Blogger careerdoctor said...

I'm a lot late to this blog and this posting in particular. But...just in case Ed or someone is still checking in, I have a question: I'm looking for a tonearm for my Denon DP60L. More specifically, I need a replacement counterweight. Someone switched the original one for a substitute that "works" more or less. Don't ask how the switch came about. It's too painful to recall. Is there anyone who can tell me where replacement parts for my otherwise magnificent DP60L can be found? Thanks!

May 07, 2009 2:03 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Careerdoctor, You are a bit late to the party, I thought I had turned off the comments when I shut the Bus down. Guess I missed this one.

The DP-60L is one of the top direct-drives of all time, imho. Bummer about the counterweight, but all is not lost. In the few instances I have needed Denon parts or service Denon has always come through. Give a call or email one of their service centers, Denon Parts/Service.

If you are using the "S" shaped tone arm, it looks very simillar to the one on Denon's current direct-drive table, the DP-500M. In fact the dust cover and hinges looks very familliar also!

A quick search of eBay turns up several counterweights.

I'm sure you will find any parts you need and soon have that rosewood turntable spinning again.

May 07, 2009 7:47 PM  
Blogger careerdoctor said...

Thanks, Ed. Glad you're still checking in with your fan base. You can't just walk away after all those years, you know. You've got all those commenters and fans to feed.

Re the counterweight, I'll check with Denon as you suggest. I guess I assumed they'd be like Sony or most other electronics mfrs -- they don't support anything older than last month. Problem with your old stuff? Too bad. Buy our new stuff. So it's good to hear that Denon supports their classic gear. BTW, I'm a big vinyl fan and have at least 3K LPs and a bunch of singles, too. A big chunk of it goes back to my days as an FM dj in San Francisco in the late '60s and early 70s. I didn't know how good I had it -- we got everything from the label promo guys. I'm also a big fan of Last record and stylus treatments. I know my stylus got a major life extension because of it.

I'll check in with Denon, though, and see where that takes me. Many thanks for the helpful reply. Good luck in your new endeavors, whatever those may be. But you really ought to keep the blog going. Maybe you can get a few co-bloggers to contribute so you won't be overly burdened by it.

Best regards,

Tom

May 07, 2009 11:17 PM  
Anonymous Medicine Without Prescription said...

hello, this brand Denon is very good, is one of the best options offered by the market for sound, simply this is is quality!

November 10, 2009 3:18 PM  

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