buying a record player, dealing with 78's

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DapperDan
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buying a record player, dealing with 78's

#1 Post by DapperDan » Fri Feb 28, 2003 3:43 pm

My great uncle Ruby Braff recently passed away and I inherited eight boxes of records. I still haven't opened them to go through them, although I believe they're mostly 33rpm LPs. I need to buy a turntable suitable for hooking up to my computer (via an offboard USB soundcard), so I can play them in and digitize them.

Questions for the group:

- Any recommendations on record players? Portability doesn't matter. I have a cheapo Radio Shack mixer which can (I think) deal with the lower line level put out by record players. Mainly, I want to spend enough money to get something that works but I don't want to get into esoteric audiophile crud.

- I may have an opportunity to pick up a bunch of old 78's. Never mind that most record players can't spin that fast. Assuming I could hack the gearing to make it go faster, would I need a new cartridge and/or needle as well? What does it take to play a 78rpm record properly?

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#2 Post by GemZombie » Fri Feb 28, 2003 4:27 pm


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#3 Post by mark0tz » Fri Feb 28, 2003 5:02 pm

wow that rocks... maybe when the next generation of these comes out this will be cheaper

... right.
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#4 Post by DapperDan » Fri Feb 28, 2003 7:08 pm

Somehow, I was thinking more along the lines of the generic Technics turntables that you see all the DJs using, versus other possibly more esoteric gear. For $10K, I could buy a hell of a lot of CDs.

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#5 Post by DapperDan » Sat Mar 01, 2003 9:58 am

Okay, so I've been digging around the net. The audiophile crowd will happily charge you multiple thousands of dollars for turntables. This seems to get you a belt-drive mechanism. It seems that common features among audiophile players are very heavy platters combined with some kind of locking mechanism to hold the record down and maybe even compensate for record warping. It's unclear whether you get support for 78's, although Shure seems to make a cartridge specifically for 78rpm records that you could (maybe?) put on any record player.

Pro DJ gear, on the other hand, tends to have direct drive rather than belt-drive motors. "Expensive" means $300, which tends to get you 78rpm support from some vendors. These vendors seem to like emphasizing how fast they can stop and restart the motor. Nice, but not interesting to us. Denon and Stanton even toss in a digitizer and give you digital output right from the record player. Heaven only knows if it's decent quality and if it works with 3rd-party cartridges, but it could make life a lot easier for me when my goal is to get bits into the computer to burn out to CDs.

Anybody have one of these decks? Thoughts?

Also, for what it's worth, here's an audiophile-biased FAQ which ain't bad at all.
Last edited by DapperDan on Sat Mar 01, 2003 10:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

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#6 Post by Kyle » Sat Mar 01, 2003 10:19 am

I am no audiophile by any means, however I do have a friend who loves her records. Yo her, the most important piece of equipment is the needle. She will spend $200 for a high quality needle, because it makes a difference.

so, don't forget about the needle :)

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#7 Post by Lawrence » Mon Mar 03, 2003 2:05 pm

I have been in the same market for a good turntable since the ground on my B&O turntable went bad.

Rega Planer 2 or 3 turntables are widely recognized by audiophiles as the best without spending thousands. You can get them used off Ebay for under $500.

Bang and Olufsen also was a top-notch turntable manufacturer back in the day. They were popular for their asthetics as much as their sound. They have ultra-small, proprietary needles/cartridges that place the least amount of pressure on records so as to not wear them out. However, they are only available used, today, and not even B&O makes replacement parts or needles.

As for 78s, you do not need a special needle so far as I know. I used to have a record player that played 78s as well as 45s and 33s with the same needle. I only played a handful of my father's classical records at 78: even he had all 33 LPs. I mostly used it to make my 33s sound like "the chipmunks." The upshot is that it did not have diferent needles. Moreover, I suspect the older, victrola-style needles placed excessive pressure on the records and wore them out quicker than more modern records.
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#8 Post by DapperDan » Mon Mar 03, 2003 3:12 pm

I found a great web site, 78rpm.com, that has more information than you could possibly want on 78's.
Short form:

- the grooves on 78's are bigger, so it helps to have a bigger needle

- you only need one cartridge/tone-arm/etc.

- some 78's work by vibrating the needle up and down, others go side to side (there wasn't ever really a standard)

- not all 78's are at the official 78.26rpm. Some are slower, some are faster. >10% pitch bending seems to be a necessary feature

- the "RIAA equalization curve" wasn't standardized until the 1950's. For earlier stuff, you actually want a flat pre-amplifier. These days, that seems to mean that you want a microphone amplifier. Amazingly, after digging around, I found the XPSound XP201, which seems to have everything you need in one box.

- Also, Esoteric Sound modifies modern record players to support 78rpm. If you want out-of-the-box support, it looks like you want an Esoteric-hacked turntable plus the XP201 or equivalent.

Moral of the story: if you want to do 78's "properly", it's a serious pain in the rear.

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#9 Post by Lawrence » Mon Mar 03, 2003 3:55 pm

Lawrence wrote:As for 78s, you do not need a special needle so far as I know. I used to have a record player that played 78s as well as 45s and 33s with the same needle. I only played a handful of my father's classical records at 78: even he had all 33 LPs. I mostly used it to make my 33s sound like "the chipmunks." The upshot is that it did not have diferent needles. Moreover, I suspect the older, victrola-style needles placed excessive pressure on the records and wore them out quicker than more modern records.
I forgot to add that, of course, you DO need a special record player that will spin at 78 RPM, which the Regas or B&Os will not do. I do not know of any modern manufacturers of 78 RPM players, but they should exist. The least expensive route would be to go used off Ebay.

78rpms.com sounds like an interesting site.
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#10 Post by KevinSchaper » Tue Mar 04, 2003 4:50 pm

I <heart> my <a href="http://www.ttx1.com">TTX1</a>, but if you're not DJing with it, and carrying it around, you can go for different things in a turntable..

I'd get something that can spin at 78, cuz it's nice to have the option, but honestly, unless you have stuff on 78's that you absolutely can't get on a CD, I'd save the hassle - they just seem like so much work, and it's never gonna come out good like professional re-issues..

I'd add up what it would cost for a phono-preamp and a/d conversion attached to a decent home turntable, and compare that to a dj table with digital out..

oooh, if you have a laptop, maybe you could try ripping a song in-store with both setups and see what you think of the output.

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#11 Post by DapperDan » Wed Mar 05, 2003 9:29 am

KevinSchaper wrote:oooh, if you have a laptop, maybe you could try ripping a song in-store with both setups and see what you think of the output.
When I went to GuitarCenter, it was clear that their record players had been pretty seriously trashed by their customers. One of them had a warped platter, another had a platter that wasn't properly mounted; it just wobbled around. Heaven only knows what shape their needles were in.

A friend loaned me a reasonable "audiophile" record player that only does 33rpm, which will solve my immediate problem. I'll do that for now and deal with 78rpm later on.

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#12 Post by Mike » Wed Mar 05, 2003 9:44 am

I recently got a Stanton ST-100 used, and I love it. The direct digital transfer works great, especially since I don't have to fool with sound levels at all (not to mention the quality). The sweetest feature is the key correction, which I did not realize it had until two weeks after I had it. This speeds up or slows down the music without changing its pitch.

Last night I tried to put on some of my JATP 78's, but as somebody mentioned earlier, the sound was really horrid with the standard needle I have. I'd love to get one of those 78-friendly cartridges, but $90 is pretty steep for just the ability to play 78's.

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#13 Post by NJ Swing 1 » Mon Mar 31, 2003 2:55 pm

Try this site www.recordfinders.com. Under Audio Equipment you will find 6 speed turntables. 33, 45 and 4 78 rpms, give or take an rpm.

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#14 Post by Travis » Tue Apr 27, 2004 3:32 pm

So I have a question that is pretty much unrelated to this topic but it is regarding 78rpm records. I frequently read about the restrictions of recording time on 78s - I always thought it was 3min but I often see songs from the late 20's/early 30's that are longer than 3 minutes. I realize that sometimes a band would break a song into two parts and use both sides of the record. But I see a lot of songs that are between 3 and 4 minutes long and was wondering if anyone could shed a little light on this for me. I did a little searching online and couldn't find a quick answer.

Thanks in advance.

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#15 Post by julius » Tue Apr 27, 2004 4:54 pm

On June 20, 1948, the first public demonstration was held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. By this time. Bachman and the rest of the team had managed to lengthen the LP to about twenty-two minutes. As I stopped up to the podium to address the fifty-odd representatives of the process, on one side of me was a stack of conventional 78-rpm records measuring about eight feet in height and another stack about fifteen inches high of the same recordings on LP. After a short speech I played one of the 78 rpm records for its full length of about four minutes, when it broke, as usual, right in the middle of a movement.

http://www.kcmetro.cc.mo.us/pennvalley/ ... lphist.htm

A few sources seem to imply 78s were 3 minutes long, others 4 minutes.

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