The third in an occasional series of Weekend Projects on a variety of topics to help the novice collector of 78rpms.

View the full series here.


Here are a few tips to help you get better transfers from your 78s.

It covers the basic process of transferring from cleaning your 78s to backup your final results.

Remember that there are many ways to do each step. Many collectors swear by certain methods – so it’s important to use the method that’s best for you…

First of all, consider the following suggestions before starting any 78rpm transfer job:

  • Ideally use a turntable with 78rpm and adjustable speed – though you can use lower speed dubbing if you only have a turntable capable of speeds of 33 and 45.
  • Use a proper 78 stylus – you may want a separate headshell/cartridge. See the following website for stylus types, sizes and prices as a first step or try Ebay. http://www.esotericsound.com/CartStyli.htm
  • Clean your records thoroughly before transferring them digitally. The overall result will be much better.
  • Use appropriate software and adjust equalization and remove noise – and review results. These simple steps will result in a better, overall transfer.
  • Export your final ‘product’ to WAV/MP3.

Styli

As mentioned above – always use a special stylus or cartridge. Your overall results will be significantly better by using a stylus designed for the type of recording. With 78rpm records, many different speeds, groove sides and recording processes were used – so try to match your record type and make to a stylus that will give the best playback results.

The following website is a great place to start – although there are others around. Google “78rpm stylus”
http://www.esotericsound.com/CartStyli.htm

You should only use a stylus (needle) designed to play 78’s. The grooves on a 78 are significantly wider and deeper than the grooves on an LP. Using an incorrect stylus will result in noisier, more surface noise and less accurate reproduction of the music.

Ideally you should consider more than one stylus width if you are playing really old shellac records, because there was no standardisation of groove dimensions until late in the 78 rpm era. Search our website for further advice on this topic and visit this page for a comprehensive overview of 78rpm styli.

Cleaning the records

  • Clean the 78s as thoroughly as possible before recording. This will save you time later as cleaning clicks/pops is hard work if you do it manually through the use of software.
  • Do not use alcohol-based solvents on the shellac, use only water or water-based cleaners. You can use a bit of washing up liquid on a piece of velvet and warm water. Give them a wash, in cool not hot water, and place them in the dish rack – then change the water and rinse thoroughly – finally rinse off with distilled (de-ionized) water, then drain and dry off with a dry piece of velvet.
  • Avoid wiping with kitchen paper or similar, as these are both abrasive, and can leave fibres stuck in the grooves.

Equalization

Often overlooked – but very important.
When transferring 78 rpm’s, pre-amplification built into any ‘modern’ consumer-level pre-amplifier or USB turntable will be designed for vinyl records made from the 1950s onwards. The problem is that most 78 rpm records were not cut with such a strong high frequency bias. They therefore sound dull if played through modern equipment that applies RIAA playback equalization. To overcome this, see the filtering section below…

Noise removal

Over the years your 78s will undoubtedly have received scratches and wear, which will result in clicks, pops and crackle. Use free or paid ‘noise removal software’ such as Audacity, Goldwave or ClickRepair.

Filtering

For recordings from the 1940s or later set the cutoff frequency at 9 kHz or 10 kHz; for electrical recordings (1926 to 1939) about 8 kHz, and acoustic recordings (before 1926) about 7 kHz. Use a rolloff of at least 12 dB per octave; 24 dB per octave could probably be better. Listen to the results to make sure the sudden cut-off of high-frequency noise does not sound too artificial.

Then deal with the low frequency noise – try a rolloff of 12 dB per octave at a cutoff frequency of 1000 Hz.

Normalization & Compression

As a final step you may wish to adjust the loudness of you recording. Most software (such as Audacity) allows you to adjust the overall loudness of your transfer.

Review and Export

Review the track to decide if any further treatment is required, or if you need to restart from scratch. If you are happy with your work than your project is ready for export – export or save the file as WAV and/or MP3 etc.

Backup

Don’t forget to backup your finished audio files as you will not want to lose all that hard work; ideally at least two separate copies on separate media. You may wish to consider also backing up your original capture masters as WAV files, then you can always come back to the raw recording later and re-process it if you need or want to.




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