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Thread: Wax Cylinders

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    Talking Wax Cylinders

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    does anyone here use wax cylinders?

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    ummm

    Not sure if anyone who used those things is still alive.............and if they were, don't know if they know how to use a computer............

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    Wax candles - Yes!

    Wax paper - once in a while.

    Wax lips - not lately?

    Wax cylinders? - Hell no!

    Cheers!

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    I once joked of making an ultra lo-fi record on wax cylinder.

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    waxcutting

    Wax cylinders are not a jokey as you may think. I have made around 3 or 4 thousand of them in the last couple of years. Unlike all modern media, the machines were built to last, and there are still cylinders as old as 1888 that play. I doubt in real life that a CD player or Adat machine will be around 110 years later and be able to be fixed within reasonable cost. What is Jokey is Berliner discs, I can't belive discs took over the market, and the only reason was storage, and that only, it certainly was not sound quality. A well preserved cylinder record is a million times better in sound quality than a Berliner disc of the same period. The disc record was introduced as a toy, and the first disc record of the Berliner type was Twinke Twinkle little Star! Cylinder records are not wax at all but a complex compound of aluminum sodium sterate and a small percentage of earth waxes. I make the recording blanks from Edison's 1889-1902 formula. Wax cylinders started to be used in 1888 for voice recording, office dictation. The cylinder of course had to be very clear, as evey sylable must be understood, so the typist would not make a mistake. The earliest wax cylinders made for 3 months were in fact wax, and made from 25% beeswax, 25%stearic acid, and 50% ceresin wax. for a few months at the end of 1888 they were made of Lead stearate unfortunately it was found upon the early summer months of 1889 that the formula fogged and all those recordings, were destoyed by etching, the stearic they used purchase from P&G had too much olaic acid. They had to figure out how to fix this problem, so they found staric that had less olaic. The formula was made better by using acetate of aluminum, and sodium sterate and expect for dropping acetate of allumina for alumina hydroxide, the formula was used without too much change untill 1901. The diaphragms were made of french glass, a range form 5-9 thousandths thick, you change diaprhragm to fit the istrument you want to record.a violin saly a 5 thousanth glass or a band a 7.5 thousandths. The industry started music recording in 1889, and the Edison PHonograph Works in 1889. The Columbia company also started recording wax cyilnders at this time, the Columbia label, however Used from 1889-1894 Edison recording blanks. Unfortunatly cylinders get a bad rap, because the majority of machines are not operating up to snuff, nor are the records being presented in good shape, the gaskets for one in most phonographs, are bad, so they sound thin and tinny because the dry rubber inhibits the action of the diaphragm, or the gastes have compleatly crumbled and it buzzes and the sound is weak. Another thing, is a long horn must be used, or better yet listening tubes, which are the same as a thesoscope without the front part, just the rubber tubes and ear pieces. That way has a good presence, and you can imagine the recording studio, and the placement of the musicians. That way has a errie step into a different century
    sincerely
    Shawn Borri
    Edison Phonograph Works. Serving the Recording Industry since 1888. First in Recordng Reproduction and Perpetuation of Articulate Speech and other sounds. Edison Phonograph Works!

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    ....nope, got a couple of wire reels though.....

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    It's really quite interesting how Edison's Phonograph Laboratories studio worked. In a room in downtown New York City, there was a huge funnell on the ceiling that curved sideways, went out the building, and funneled downwards into another building, down to a diaphragm, and onto a stylus cutter, cutting a wax cylinder. That funnel tube was packed on the outside with ice (sometimes dry ice) to keep the air in the funnel as dense as possible, so that the stylus would vibrate as much as possible. The band would play in the room, and a recording would be made from PURE acoustic energy. The only electronics were the mechanical electronics used to turn the wax cylinder against the stylus. The engineers would listen back to the recording, and if something needed to be "mixed" differently, they would telephone the room, and suggest who to play quieter/louder, and where to move them in the room to get a more proper blend.

    Talk about old school. It's incredible. These were the guys who invented the recording process as we know it. It all started with sound itself. Recording and playback of the cylinders was pureley acoustic energy. No electronic amplification whatsoever until the late 20's early 30's.

    Later on, wax cylinders/disks were cut electronically, but were still done with the mechanical/analog concept, same stylus, cutting technology. Just electronic amplification for better recording, and stronger playback. I listened to an unbelieveable Count Basie live record, recorded about 1939. Frikin amazing. Then the engineer turns around and tells me it was done on a wax disk in 1939. (?!) Mono (?!) He coulda fooled me. It was a smooth, almost noiseless record, with that sound that just gets you going, that only Count Basie can do. I figured, oh it's probably in the 50's or 60's, done on state-of-the-art magnetic tape. Nope. 'Twas wax indeed.

    Which goes to show you. Doesn't matter WHAT you're recording with.

    If you can capture HEART AND SOUL, just choose the format. It will show.

    And we complain about only having 8 tracks to work with..............HA!!

    -callie-

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    Quote Originally Posted by Muckelroy
    The only electronics were the mechanical electronics used to turn the wax cylinder against the stylus.
    Apparently, Abbey Road wasn't even doing that in the 1930s. I've heard that they used a weight descending from the ceiling to power the lathe.

    (I don't have the book to hand so I can't give the reference, but if anyone is interested I can provide it later on.)

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    Indeed! This stuff really intrigues me, so what book was it? publisher, author, etc.?

    thanks

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    Quote Originally Posted by Muckelroy
    Indeed! This stuff really intrigues me, so what book was it? publisher, author, etc.?

    thanks
    'Electronic Music - The Instruments, the music & the musicians' by Andy Mackay. Published in 1981 by Phaidon Press Ltd. ISBN is 0 7148 2176 4

    There seems to be another edition (US?) which has a different ISBN.
    Info on that (and a picture) is here:

    http://www.roxyrama.com/miscellany/b...onicmusic.html

    Even though it says so on the inside of the dust jacket, I never realised that the author was a member of Roxy Music until 5 minutes ago.
    I got my copy about 15 years ago.. not sure where my Dad got it from, although he is a something of a book collector so I guess it probably came from a second-hand bookshop.

    Until recently I was mostly interested in the synthesizer angle (the book starts with the bizarre Cahill Telharmonium, arguably the first synthesizer in 1902, which weighed 200 tons) .

    BTW, I double-checked. If I read the passage right, EMI were still doing the weight thing in the 1950s(!) although they were using valve amplification by then.

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