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Author Topic: digitizing damaged records
Chad Rinne
Film Handler

Posts: 1
From: steinauer, nebraska, usa
Registered: Sep 2018


 - posted 09-08-2018 08:47 AM      Profile for Chad Rinne   Email Chad Rinne   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I have a few 10inch home recordings from the 1940s that the surface is bubbling and chipping, so there is no way to play them with conventional equipment.
Does anyone know of a place (business, archive, or museum) that does or has the ability to do audio transfer/restoration of this kind ?
I have heard of IRENE audio restoration and it sounds like it would be far to expensive.
I have also heard of laser record players, would this work? and does anyone know of a service somewhere in the united states that has a laser record player, who could transfer the audio for me before its gone forever?

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Marcel Birgelen
Film God

Posts: 2646
From: Maastricht, Limburg, Netherlands
Registered: Feb 2012


 - posted 09-08-2018 09:21 AM      Profile for Marcel Birgelen   Email Marcel Birgelen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I don't think any laser-turntable system ever made it beyond prototype and even if it did, it's still questionable if it could handle such damaged media efficiently.

The IRENE system is being used by the Library of Congress for exactly those kind of records. It's generally a not-for-profit institution, so if your recordings have any historic significance, I'm pretty sure they would accept a submission.

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Leo Enticknap
Film God

Posts: 7130
From: Loma Linda, CA
Registered: Jul 2000


 - posted 09-08-2018 02:07 PM      Profile for Leo Enticknap   Author's Homepage   Email Leo Enticknap   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
There is at least one model of laser turntable currently in production and available to buy. However, from what I've read about it, it's actually no good for damaged records. The laser reads scratches and dirt more precisely than an elliptical stylus will, meaning that unless the record being played has been cleaned to almost lab standard cleanliness (e.g. on a Loricraft or similar), it will actually sound worse than even a budget end hi-fi turntable would give you.

If we're dealing with acetate on steel or acetate on glass one-time recordings, and the acetate and/or binder layer is decomposing, I don't know of any way (besides IRENE) to deal with that.

I have a collection of about 15 acetate-on-steel discs that my grandmother (a professional musician in the 1930s and '40s) made. They range from in near new condition to badly decomposing. Some of them have also suffered lower groove wall damage from being played with a microgroove stylus in the past (meaning that I had to play them with a 3.5 mil stylus and tracking as light as possible without jumping, and then do some heavy signal processing with Diamond Cut, and even after that the s/n ratio wasn't good).

The other gotcha is that you can't clean these discs in anything other than distilled water, because alcohol-based record cleaners, while harmless to vinyl (as long as they're washed off thoroughly afterwards) will attack both shellac and acetate. So 78s of any description, both factory-pressed and one-time, can only be cleaned in distilled water, which makes removing mold a difficult task.

Incidentally, one fun (and veering OT) factoid. Almost seven decades after the movie industry turned its back on nitrate, one of the last remaining uses for nitrocellulose is in lacquer plates for record mastering. What may be the only remaining factory in the world making them is just a few miles from me, in Banning, CA.

A few years ago, some folks restored a 1940s consumer phonograph recorder and made a bunch of new records, direct to disc, on these lacquer masters. It's weird listening to them - the recordings have the similar dynamic range you would expect from a 1940s era 78, but none of the surface noise, because they were never pressed onto shellac.

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