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MMD > Archives > October 1999 > 1999.10.27 > 09Prev  Next

Aeolian Vocalion 78 RPM Records
By John Ward

Damon Atchison wrote:

> I have three Aeolian Vocalion 78 rpm records.  The first one I
> bought is brown Bakelite plastic and it plays fine on my Victrola.
> The second one is black with a blue label and it sounds funny on the
> Victrola.  It sounds a little faint and it has a great background
> noise.  It says "lateral cut" on the record.  The third one is black
> with a gold label from 1916.  This one hardly makes a sound at all.

Your record No. 3 from 1916 is a vertical cut recording.  Prior to 1917
a lot of companies made verticals, as the Victor/Columbia patent pool
held a virtual monopoly on lateral recording.  When the principal
patents expired in 1917, most of the competition switched to lateral,
while Edison staunchly stuck to "hill-and-dale" recording.  Pathe made
both types for a while, calling their laterals "Actuelle".

Vertical recordings need a special reproducer, and most require a
special stylus, usually larger in diameter than the usual 3-mil 78 rpm
stylus.  Some gramophone makers made reproducers that could be rotated
90 degrees, and had two stylus holders, for playing either type.  There
were aftermarket reproducers sold for playing verticals on a Victrola;
you may be able to unearth one somewhere.  I play mine electrically
with a stereo cartridge that has its channels wired out of phase.

As for your record No. 2, it's a bit of a puzzle.  If it says it's a
"lateral" it should play okay.  Some acoustic recordings were not very
loud in the first place: I have a number of early Aeolian-Vocalions
like this.  As for the high surface noise, sometimes a record has a lot
of wear but still looks fine; also some shellac formulas wear better
than others.  Your mileage may vary.

Edison Diamond Discs have a surface made of phenolic plastic which he
called "Condensite", essentially a variant of Bakelite.  Virtually all
other 78s are made of a mixture of shellac and clay, with small
amounts of other additives.  The red color of many Vocalions, Pathe
Actuelles and Perfects comes from the clay.  Lampblack was generally
added to the recipe to make the records black.

John Ward

(Message sent Wed 27 Oct 1999, 17:37:01 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  78, Aeolian, Records, RPM, Vocalion

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