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MMD > Archives > July 2000 > 2000.07.27 > 15Prev  Next

Western Electric Worm Gear Drive Turntable
By Richard Simonton

My recent remarks regarding turntable speeds were, of course, part fact
and part conjecture.  But in reply to Robbie's comment that he had
never seen a turntable driven from an electric motor through a gear
reduction, I suspect that such devices were standard for professional
disc recording and playback in the early days of electrical recording,
with much of the equipment made by Western Electric.

My circa-1932 Western Electric turntable is driven by a huge 1/3 HP
motor, through a rubber isolation coupling (as Robbie suspected), to
a beautifully machined, brass worm gear assembly.  Although originally
installed in a New York hotel as a background music source in the
pre-dawn days of Muzak, the turntable is similar, if not identical, to
those used earlier for Vitaphone.  It turns at 33-1/3 RPM, of course,
and accommodates 16" diameter discs.

I don't know what discs they played in 1932.  The earliest Muzak
recordings that I know about began in 1934 and were vertically cut --
a standard that existed until 1954 -- and pressed on cherry-red vinyl.
I have some Fats Waller recordings from 1936 that are sonically better
than 78's: quieter, and with greater bandwidth and lower distortion.

If the performances weren't always as good, it might be due to the rate
of pay.  I heard that organist Jesse Crawford got paid $50 per tune for
the Muzak Library, also known as Associated Recorded Program Service.

Richard Simonton

(Message sent Thu 27 Jul 2000, 16:56:34 GMT, from time zone GMT-0700.)

Key Words in Subject:  Drive, Electric, Gear, Turntable, Western, Worm

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