Frequently asked questions from the new collectors
this page first published by John Wright, 12 Feb 2002
last update 23 April firstname.lastname@example.org
How do I get the sound from 78's on to my PC?
For most 78's good results, playing and recording, are obtained by connecting an old (1960's) electric record deck player to a more modern hi-fi or directly to a PC with a CD-writer. There are different ways of doing this and some give better results than others. On this page I am working only with British equipment.
Record Deck or Turntable
If you acquire a decent 3-speed 1960's - 1980's record deck (i.e. turntable only) like Garrard, Thorens or Lenco, or more modern Stanton or Numark, then the deck's audio-out leads are usually compatible with even some 21st century hi-fi which still had a turntable. I have used a modern amp from British company Acoustic Solutions, my deck audio-out is then connected to the amp and the amp connects to the PC (Windows 7). Some more recent PC's need additional sound card hardware to allow this set up. You can view a selection of Record Decks and Players that are compatible with modern equipment.
Pre Windows 10 PC's have LINE-IN sockets to the sound card. More recent PC's need additional sound card hardware to allow this set up.
To record and do audio restoration on a 78 I use either Algorithmix software and/or Audacity software to make .wav files.
If your end-use is to put your soundfiles onto a CD, and you have a CD writer with your PC, then you should set Audacity audio record at 44KHz, 16 bit stereo which will make a ~30 megabyte file for a 3 minute 78.
Always set up Audio Properties for the end-use, converting later can adversely affect the sound quality and lead to 'squeaks and whistles'.
Over the years (before PC) I taped onto cassettes a lot of music from the radio. I have a cassette player in the hi-fi set up, connected to the Acoustic Solutions amp, and so can create .wav or .mp3 sound files from cassette tapes either to transfer to a CD or for web page clips e.g. hear the Billy Thorburn web page clips which came from a cassette tape.
brief look at Audacity software
Audacity software is currently free to download from audacity.sourceforge.net. As well as recording and playing your 78 sounds this software can be used for simple noise reduction, to reduce the crackle and hiss in a 78 recording. As it's a free program it needs a lot of work to get good results, lots of trials to get a clean reduction in noise. The Audacity noise reduction programs rely on the theory that if you record a few seconds of the hiss alone you can then subtract that noise from the rest of the recording. In theory that sounds good but rarely is the level of noise the same the whole way through a 78. Your sample noise usually has to be taken from the first few grooves or the last few grooves, and unfortunately in a used 78 the first few grooves have often suffered from very sharp steel needles ploughing through them before they've got worn down, and in the last grooves the steel needle has got so worn that it's scraping through the grooves, so the noise at either end of a 78 groove is usually severe and there will be different noise throughout the rest of the 78 where the music plays. Since the noise samples don't match then you never get a good clean noise reduction with Audacity, even though you can vary the level of reduction. On 78's of loud music you can get away with the less than perfect noise reduction but with quiet vocal or small group music your attempts at noise reduction may leave audible 'artefacts' that sound like whistles or whines. Since Audacity software allows you to vary the level of subtraction of the noise sample so you can have a few attempts and vary the level at different parts of the recording. If you have any mint or near-mint 78's you should get better results as the first and last grooves will have little or no damage so the noise should be fairly uniform throughout the whole 78.
For further advice go to the Audacity website.
For better results consider Algorithmix or Click-Repair software for 78rpm audio restoration. See their websites for more information.
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