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> Is the real thing any better?
drunkstripper
post Oct 12 2005, 04:25 PM
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I have decent speakers and a receiver (about $3,000 worth) and I understand that these recordings were not made for modern day equipment. As everyone here would agree it's the imprefections of the sound that is part of the attraction of these old recordings.

My question is whether I am getting 90% of the effect listening to Radio Dismuke, or if I'm only halfway there and I'd have a much better experience if I went out and purchased old 78's and the appropriate player.
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dismuke
post Oct 13 2005, 06:17 AM
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QUOTE(drunkstripper @ Oct 12 2005, 10:25 AM)
I have decent speakers and a receiver (about $3,000 worth) and I understand that these recordings were not made for modern day equipment.  As everyone here would agree it's the imprefections of the sound that is part of the attraction of these old recordings.

My question is whether I am getting 90% of the effect listening to Radio Dismuke, or if I'm only halfway there and I'd have a much better experience if I went out and purchased old 78's and  the appropriate player.

The audio on Radio Dismuke has been compressed down to 24kbps so that the significant percentage of the population still on dial-up can listen in. The audio files on my Hit of the Week updates have been compressed to 32kpbs. While modern recordings would not sound so great with such low bitrates, the fidelity of 78 rpm era recordings was such that the reduction in quality is not all that noticeable when listening to the station. However, if one were to play one of the 24 kpbs recordings side by side with an uncompressed .wav file, one would be able to notice a slight difference.

Most of the recordings on Radio Dismuke come from CD reissues. The recordings on the Hit of the Week section on my website come exclusively from 78 rpms.

As to what is a better experience, that is largely a matter of personal taste and there are people on both sides who have very strong opinions. There are some people out there who are very picky and do not like even the very best quality CD reissues. There are others who want nothing to do with the hassle of playing 78s and listening to the defects that sometimes come with them.

Personally, I have never had that much fondness for the imperfections inherent in older recordings. If I had a way of making the recordings sound like they would if they had been made with today's state of the art recording technology, I would. There are others who would consider that to be just short of sacrilegious. Plus, there are those who do enjoy the audio imperfections because it make the recordings sound "old timey."

A lot of the audio imperfections that people associate with 78 rpms come from playing them on modern equipment with incorrect styli size - plus, of course, any scuffs, scratches and needle drops that the record might have been subjected to over the decades. A 78 rpm in Excellent condition issued on a quality label such as Victor and, most especially, the Viva Tonal Columbia label, can sound absolutely exquisite when played on the right equipment.

Getting the right equipment will set you back about $1,000 or more. That would include a variable speed turntable (some 78 rpms were actually meant to be played at 80 rpm), a Souvenir VSP to restore the vintage equalization settings as well as some specialty styli.

On top of that, you of course, have to find records. If you are into 1940s era Guy Lombardo recordings, you will probably have collectors beating down your door offering to GIVE you all that you could possibly want. If you are looking for the type of music on Radio Dismuke, finding such records is going to involve much more time and money.

Personally, I decided years ago that I am primarily a vintage music collector more than I am a record collector. For example, one of my favorite early 1930s bands was the Don Redman Orchestra and I have most, if not all, of their output on CD reissue. For that reason, I do not make any special effort to track down Don Redman 78 rpms. For me to duplicate the CD reissues with the original 78s would cost me a rather sizable amount of money and probably many years of looking. I would much rather spend my time and record money on 78 rpms of material that I don't already have and which has never been reissued on CD. Now, if I come across a Don Redman 78 rpm for sale at a low price - sure, I will pick it up as it is always nice to have it in its original format and it means that I can perhaps include it on a future Hit of the Week update.

As for the sound quality differences between the two - that is not really a big factor for me. I am the exact opposite of an audiophile. I started collecting 78 rpms when I was a kid and only had horrible equipment to play them on. To me, the music was so vastly superior to the noise that my contemporaries listened to that I just tuned the hiss and scratches out. There are, however, a couple of CD reissue labels that I will NOT buy from because their so-called audio restoration is HORRIBLE and sound much worse than the noise that it attempted to eliminate.

In my own efforts at comparing a 78 rpm version of a recording in decent condition played through my VSP with a CD reissue version of that same recording, I personally think the VSP sounds better in most cases. But that difference is not enough to motivate me into finding 78 rpm copies of all the recordings that I have on CD reissue.
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