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MMD > Archives > May 1996 > 1996.05.24 > 08Prev  Next

Amica Ampico Article Review, Part 3
By Craig Brougher

Amica Ampico Article: The third installment commenting on the mistakes.

   We have so far taken to task some really egregious errors and misconceptions about the Ampico by Jeffrey Morgan in his article, "Some Observations On Fundamental Differences Between Ampico Model B and Prior Reproducing Systems."

   These are not "technical differences of opinion." We are speaking here of physical absolutes.  We are not taking depositions, and do not treat a physical fact with the same weight as an opinion.  There is such a thing as correct and incorrect.  Jeffrey is decidedly incorrect.

   The purpose of this article, it seems to me, is to show how "weird and incompatible" the Model B is to all other Ampicos, and (presumably therefore) why the Model B doesn't play very well.  As Jeffrey said in a previous article, it "Skips notes." Hmm.  Apparently, his Model B's do skip notes, so I can't argue with him there.  I don't know.  [He said they did, not me.]

   The contest I have with this is the bad rap and mischaracterization he is attempting to lay on the Model B Ampico.  If our purpose is REALLY to restore to original performance and capacity, the vintage pneumatic instruments, then why are we panning them in a false comparison to other vintage instruments-- unless we have something to prove? Unless our Model B's don't work well, as Jeffrey has already admitted?

   Conversely, is it not also our responsibility as restorers to correct wrong assumptions, technical mistakes, and false characterizations? Who do you know is writing comparison pieces against, say, Mills Violanos and comparing them to Hupfeld Phonolists-- and telling you that this one or that one isn't correctly designed? I heartily disagree with such activity, disguised as a technical opinion. It is presumptuous, self-serving, and politically controversial.  Just exactly what is Amica trying to do by exacerbating such baloney?

5. p 70, last para. "All pre-model B Ampico expression systems, except
   the 1A, can superimpose full crescendos over any preprogrammed
   intensity level including zero.  Their crescendo systems are fully
   independent of their step systems and can achieve full effect at the
   stack at all times (the Model B expression system does not have this

ANS: {For the record, there is no such thing as a "zero intensity" in an Ampico.} Here, Jeffrey actually contradicts his own overall point. The fact that the Ampico roll coding system was never intended to utilize crescendos separately from their intensities is actually borne out by the fact the "Bs" require intensities in addition to any crescendo to work properly.  Since a major criteria of the "B" was compatibility with (practically) all A rolls cut after 1921, [and please note that the Hupfeld roll series are the major exception and will not work on a B, but that is another story],  this becomes an ipso-facto, self-evident fact that requires no proof.  It is supported by the Nelson Barden interview with Angelico Valerio, the head of the roll editing department for Ampico, and also by the Hickman diaries.[ Dr. Hickman developed the Model B. ]

   So the intent to show inconsistencies and incompatibilities, expression-wise, are not at all borne out by this claim.  Were Ampico to have programmed its rolls with independent crescendo, not using intensities, then I would have to agree with Jeffrey.  But the Model B was made perfectly compatible with the roll editing formula established at the end of 1921 for the most part, and still plays rolls prior to 1921 quite well.  So with a few exceptions, namely experimental rolls that saw very limited production, the vast Ampico library is compatible to anyone with a Model B.  The Model B also does not need the sub intensity or amp trigger holes cut in, in order to play a roll well. Those perforations merely expand the dynamics a bit.  It will still "crescendo" and operate the intensities  perfectly.

   As an aside to this fact, the longest slow crescendo used in any of my rolls measures a little over 2".  It is on a 1915 Ampico march roll. The Model B has no problems with this.  And what does that amount to, dynamically? A little over 1" of extra vacuum, or a 5% increase for the longest slow crescendo hole in a 600 roll collection.  Slow crescendo was only used after the roll was coded to give a little extra "bump" to a few passages.  You could tape over them all and barely notice a difference.  The proof of the pudding, so to speak, is right there on the roll itself.  Angelico Valerio underwrites this completely.  It is not a matter of speculation.  It is a fact.

6. p 70, para 5. "By means of a binary code -- the crescendos are

ANS: Give me a break, Jeffrey.  Why not -- for a change -- just look up the term "binary code" in any textbook and see if you can possibly justify such an outlandish claim.  The fact that the Ampico uses two holes in the trackerbar to control crescendos does not mean therefore that it is binary.  It is more like a faucet with a small knob mounted on top of a large knob, both controlling the flow.

   Binary code is not the same thing as boolean logic or a logic state table.  The two tracker bar inputs are actually used together or separately, but that doesn't mean they are binary, either.  Duo-Arts operate more from "binary" concept.  Ampicos never did, and they never will, either.  And, we're not changing 'em.

Craig B.

(Message sent Fri 24 May 1996, 12:51:30 GMT, from time zone GMT.)

Key Words in Subject:  3, Amica, Ampico, Article, Part, Review

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