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78's: Acquiring Them in Reasonable Condition?

RatherAnOddball

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Hello, thanks for reading.

I love 78's, they've music that I adore. But I'm having a terrible time finding good sources from which to buy them.
The local flea market hasn't any - just masses of poorly-kept LP's.

I've bought a few 78's off of eBay, but the prices were quite high in consideration of the condition of the items. Paid nearly $50 for a historic recording of a few of a Mozart's works, only to find that the collection provided was incomplete and that several of the 78's were cracked. Awful disappointment...but I still couldn't stand to send them back to such an abusive home. Bought a few others - Jazz, popular music, Bing, etc. - and they each presented their own set of problems, while costing me as much as your average new CD might. I get the impression that a lot of these sellers aren't really music buffs, but just people who've come into antiques and are trying to move them, and charge high for anything old.

Someone told me that they'd read about some kind of big auction for 78's for that you can sign up for online, but I had no luck finding out more information on the basis of that meager tip.

So, in short, apart from eBay, I don't really know where to try. I'd appreciate your guidance in finding a better source.

Thanks again, take care.
 

tlmusic

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I have been a long time record collector, and at one time I collected 78s. These days I concentrate on LPs, as I enjoy the sound of them.

I have one friend who is still a fanatic 78 collector. He has over 30,000 of them!

78rpm 7" is a format fraught with issues, which is why they are so obscure in modern times. They are inherently very noisy, and that was one the reasons that vinyl records replaced them in the late 1940s. Every 78 I've ever heard has had tons of surface noise, so you have to be OK with that if you want to listen to them.

Secondly, 78s actually were recorded with many different playback EQ curves and speeds. 78rpm does not necessarily mean 78rpm. If you are serious about listening to 78s you will need a turntable with a variable speed control. You will also need an equalizer and a good ear to try to deduce the EQ curve (or lack of EQ) that the record label used. Also, different needles will give you different sounds.

Phonograph machines made during the 78 era had incredibly heavy tonearms, especially the acoustic phonographs (pre 1930s). The heavy tonearms quickly wore out the records, so its pretty rare to find a 78 that isn't quite worn.

Regarding the breakage and cracking, this is another problem that vinyl records cured. 78s crack very easily. It is very difficult to ship them without damage. Even records that you buy on ebay that are pristine may arrive at your door destroyed.

Also, 78s are quite heavy and bulky, especially considering that they contain only 6 minutes of music (3 minutes on each side). My friend with the collection of 30,000 told me a story of how his collection actually collapsed a floor from the weight!


Now, I happen to love the music originally issued on the 78s--in fact the 1920s-1940s swing and jazz music is some of my absolute favorite music of all time!

If you are wanting to just listen to recordings made from 1900 to 1950, other options may actually sound more pleasing. Many reissue CDs will be made from pristine copies played back on turntables with optimum EQ, speed and needle. Many CDs are made from the original metal masters which the 78 was pressed from, and those can be substantially quieter. Also, many of the 1950s 33rpm LP reissues of early swing and jazz have the best sound of all. They were made from (then) relatively fresh masters. Many CD reissues are sourced from the analog tapes that the 78 recording masters were dubbed onto back in the 1950s, and this may sound cleaner and more accurate than an vintage mass-market 78 record.

If find you feel you must pursue the 78 route, send me a pm and I will try to put you in touch with some of the people I know that are really into the hobby.
 

RatherAnOddball

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Thanks for the tips, tlmusic.

The real allure of 78's for me is to discover music and performers that haven't been well represented on other formats. I've researched 78's thoroughly, before buying even a single one. I've got a variable-RPM turntable dedicated to the function, with a few different sizes of stylus on various headshells. I've also got a variable EQ, though what I hope to do is record the 78's onto my PC, using it to set EQ precisely and to store the music so that I can listen to it often without fear of wearing down the 78's. I'm just doing research on various methods of cleaning records and shellac, to find the most efficacious supplies to purchase - and to learn the right technics for them.

My plan wasn't to buy just any 78's, though I admit I have done that on a few occassions; instead, I hoped to purchase 78's which contained music available in no other format or by no other means. I don't mind a fair amount of surface noise, and this is an issue that can be somewhat attenuated by further processing on the PC.

Also, I'm not sure if I trust a lot of these remasters on CD. They tend to compress the dynamic range of music, add reverb, lose the treble to eliminate surface noise, etc., even on relatively recent material. Nevertheless, if you know of some good rereleases of 20's-30's music on LP or CD, I'd be very thankful for tips regarding which labels or titles to seek out.

I'll take you up on your offer of introductions, if it's no bother to you.

Thanks again, take care.
 

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