So here’s a possible way for you to clean your 78 rpm Shellac Records, it seems a little rough, but they’re tougher than you think. I filmed and put this up on my Instagram account a while back; it seems to me that it may prove useful for someone, if I re-post the link here. You can view it here, without leaving Musical Traces.
Use warm, verging on hot water in a bowl mixed with not too heavy a dash of Fairy Liquid, scrub the shit out of your dirty old tunes with a toothbrush that has seen better days and better teeth, wipe off with as lint a free cloth or rag or towel as you can, rinse under the tap with cold water. Use a white cloth or whatever and look at the grime you pick up. It’s mad crazy Daddy O’s. Repeat if you think necessary. Let ’em dry really good before you play them again.
There’s something a little worrying about the Disco-Antistat cleaner, namely that for something quite so obviously simple, it does the job rather too well.
I’d had one bought for me as a present years ago, used it and then put it to one side, a little concerned that there were rumours that it might leave a residue. One which would fur up the needle, and sit in the grooves for years to come. I had postulated at the time that any level of film left in the grooves of the record could only affect sound quality adversely. But I have never to date had any problems, I have never found any residue from the Lps and singles I washed coming off on the stylus, nor any degradation of the records treated, no reduction in sound quality. However I still don’t quite trust the Cleaner, trust is a hard thing to give when it’s your pride and joy record collection that could be destroyed by some cheap record cleaner system and a few positive online reviews.
The ‘System’, if a few bits of plastic can be called a ‘System’ consists of a big bottle of what is surely mainly Isopropyl-Alcohol and something mysterious that cuts down static issues. Then also a bath for the record with brushes welded inside, brushes that when you suspend the record via the handy label protecting spindle adaptor and rotate the record manually, clean said record. Hands get wet with the solution while rotating, it sloshes a bit, you rotate both anti & clock wise, you finish, somewhat awkwardly unscrew label protecting spindle ‘thingy’ and place newly cleaned record to drip and evaporate dry in the handy, ‘this was once tucked in the bottom of the bath section drying rack’, as pictured right.
It feels a little jim crack, but it was time to give it a proper test.
Mystery Cleaner, Mystery Train
So when I was recently given a record that had once belonged to my mother, ‘Mystery Train’ on the HMV label, the re-issued Sun Recording, sold with Elvis’s contract to RCA, and it was in it’s terrible 60 year old uncleaned state, I took this test worthy opportunity to see just what this relatively cheap record cleaning system could really do (again).
Frankly I was floored by it’s performance. With a few manual turns (in both directions) of the record in the cleaning bath, through the brushes and then a short drying time, the improvement was gobsmacking. A lead-in groove which had previously sounded like a commando attack with accompanying light arms fire now only hinted at it’s previous incendiary and crackly state and the record played clean, with a full sonic range and looked shiny and as if it had only just been pressed. It improved the record from unplayable to playing and damn fine in about 10 minutes.
Since then I have washed a few further records including some valuable Jamaican singles which were in an unplayable state. All have been massively improved. Rather than leaving them to fester on the shelves, they’re getting played and that’s what it’s all about.
The kit I have as I understand it has been superceeded by a MkII version, and the one I have does suffer from a cheap construction and a rudimentary and manually operated design. The fluid is impossible to pour back into the bottle supplied via the funnel and grime filter without spilling a sizeable ammount every time you use the kit, and it goes everywhere. This is very annoying and poor design is poor design, whether it is cheaply produced or not. The kit retails for under £50, new bottles of fluid are about £10 and to look at the boxed contents of what you get for your buck you would be forgiven for being disappointed; and yet if you considered the results only, you would consider the money it costs, to be VERY well spent.
I’m still reserving some judgement, just in case there proves to be an issue with any residue long term, but currently I’d give it 9 out of 10 for results, considering it’s simple operation and outlay.
This ‘article was written because though rumours abound of residue issues, with some people even just using the bare bones of the machine with distilled water and not the ‘Majic Formula’ to avoid those rumoured problems, no online review existed that directed talked about this head on and I could myself find no information to either confirm or deny the residue rumours with this kit.
I hope this has been helpful to those of you with old grimy Vinyl that needs a gentle scrub.
Has your screen started going mad, displaying every last pixel on the screen? Then it’s likely that your processor won’t boot up and you can’t get any sound out of it. If that’s the case, then this might help.
Years ago I bought one of these, an expense for me at the time, after only about 4 years of use it blew up, stopped working, the problem… gobbledygook, trash, poop, garbage being displayed and no sound, no reverb, no nothing coming out of it. So disappointed with it and the money spent I couldn’t bear to throw it away and thank goodness I didn’t.
I recently met a guy in the street by complete chance, namely Matty Dread of King B Sound System, based in Hastings on the UK. He appeared to be an obvious candidate for a lover of ‘Jamaican Music’ award, and I’m a devotee as you may or may not know. So I said hi and in the ensuing conversation discovered we both either were presently or had in the past made our own music. We also discovered that we had both owned a Studio Quad and had it malfunction in the same way, with trash being displayed on the screen. Matty told me that he had fixed his, a revelation! Matty revealed that they have an onboard button battery required for its boot up process and later internet trawling confirmed this. Though the manual and label on the unit states that is has no user serviceable parts I had nothing to lose… so…
So here’s what to do
Unscrew (being careful to seat the Phillips head screwdriver snugly. as they ae very tight) the four Phillips screws down the right and left sides that secure the lid, then with the correct hex key undo the top front and middle hex headed screw. Carefully lift off the cover and locate the 3v button/coin battery. Don’t throw it away but take it to somewhere that sells them and get one just like it. Then replace it. Carefully as the little clip needs to remain sprung and able to press firmly down to make contact with the battery.
Then you’ll need to reinitialize/reset the unit. It won’t boot up correctly unless you do so. There are some sites online that advise certain key patterns to get this to happen, but having tried their advice I think they may pertain to other models made by Digitech. They didn’t work for me, but I kept pursuing success and randomly pressing down buttons while switching on the unit. Eventually I hit the right combination, and here is what you do.
Hold down buttons 1 and 4 while turning on the unit, then once you have done so, let go of them and then hit the Program button, this should initialize the unit.
Good luck and I hope you have success. I did and was very happy to get my processor back. If you have anything to add please let me know, or if this works for you please also let me know. This help out is respectfully dedicated to Matty B and Dave Brown.
Many moons ago, when the only people to have recording equipment were studios, end of the pier machine operators and definately not the general public, the only way to get a recording of yourself was to pay for an acetate to be created from your live performance. These are two pictures of the labels from just such acetates. The extra hole on the second picture was for locating the record when cutting it, preventing slippage. The hole on the other, is obsucred by the label, which has been placed over it.
I’ll not bother to repeat information here, but you should really take a look at this.
No moving parts, no mechanicals, a 24bit 96khz PCM recorder with multiple file format and compression choices, an inbuilt guitar tuner, two second pre-roll on any recording made so you don’t miss a thing, up to 360 degree recording through 4 microphones with pattern choice for the mics. Even at the 360 degree setting on the four Mics it will record at 48kHz/24-bit resolution. Good enough to convert to 5.1 surround sound and over normal cd quality recordings!
I guess then that the final reckoning is going to end up being dependant on the 4 Microphones and the quality of their construction, and though the H2 was meant to be the poorer relation of the H4 it appears that they’ve used the same mics in both. The word is that it’s exceptional value for money.
This thing is a close to a portable recording device miracle as you can get!
F**k I want one now!
Here’s the first independent review to be blogged on it at Ron’s Tech Blog. Seems like for the money, you can’t fault the little bugger. Can it turn water into wine?
I just got one of these and it’s everything it says on the tin, simple as, get one if you want some incredible results for the money!!
Perfecting Sound Forever – The story of recorded music by Greg Milner
If you have even a passing interest in Sound, Recorded Sound, Music and the technologies developed to both record and play sound back to us then you may well be enthralled by this book, as I was.
The book takes us through the main developments in recording and reproducing sound from Edison’s experiments with various formats of Cylinder and Disc, the equipment to record sound to them and that needed to reproduce the results for the public’s consumption. He guides us through the moment when the purely Acoustic model of Edison and the early pioneers gave way to Electric recording and reproduction, the invention of Magnetic tape, the development in studio of the use of tape and then multi-tracking. He takes us through the format wars of Long Player and Single, the competition between the Globo Conglomerates Columbia and RCA. All the time he somehow manages to keep this dry subject matter liquid and interesting, engaging and entertaining.
Throughout the book Milner assesses the various merits or failings in his and others eyes of formats and processes and the equipment used to reproduce sound. In fact, though the book traces all the temporal developments in sound technology throughout there is a deep discussion about what sound is to us human beings, how we perceive it, what it means, and so what makes for a successful recording.
For those of us who love to hear our music on records he dispels myth surrounding analog technologies and describes wonderfully the problems inherent with Cd audio, moving on finally to an assessment of compressed digital audio such as ACC and MP3. He takes us through studio technologies and practice, tape splicing/editing, the art of re-mixing and the art/science of mastering, and finally he describes the demise of the studio and the growth of what he calls ‘In The Box’ recording and editing, the relatively recent development of digital recoding via software like Logic and Pro Tools.
He answers questions that you may have, if you’re an obsessive like me, asked yourself for years. Like, why do I hear a quiet version of the intro to a song when I listen intently on my earphones to a vinyl record? It turns out that if the original cutting needle has too much energy in it’s lateral movement this can be transferred through the wall of the groove into the preceeding groove, thus creating an audible echo of what is ‘about’ to happen. Where else but a book like this would you get to hear about the natural harmonics of a valve and why when mixing desks converted to solid state circuitry the sound suffered through the lack of these natural elements of Analog recording.
He explains as plainly as anyone possibly could and in doing so has answered so many questions I had not managed to answer elsewhere before reading this book. Greg Milner is a ‘bit of a genius’ I think and the depth of work and effort he has put into this project, for it’s more than just a book, is obvious to all that read it.
The level of Technology vs. Storytelling within the book is set perfectly too. If you are already involved in the world of sound, it is interesting, entertaining and informative. I imagine that those who are not would find it accessible and relatively easy to understand given Greg Milner’s excellent powers of explanation, the text is clear as are his thoughts on the subject.
Reading this book was so enjoyable that I found myself delaying ending by finding something else to do rather than read it! Strange, but true.
I couldn’t praise it enough.
Thank you Mr. Milner
Perfecting Sound Forever: The Story of Recorded Music (Hardcover)
Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: Granta Books (6 July 2009)
Available for between £10-£20 at many online Book Stores.
Forever associated with the bedrooms of a newly developing class of citizen in the U.K. ‘The Teenager’ the Dansette has come to represent a time and a style of living. The 1960s.
Manufactured from 1950/51 to 1970 over a Million were sold. With the advent of Stereo and the arrival of cheaper product from places like Japan the Dansette’s popularity decreased and the company ceased trading at the start of it’s third decade. One reason for this perhaps is that even at it’s peak of production the Dansette cost at the very least the weeks wages of a good middle class man’s job! Julie Lambert says that the Plus~A~Gram, the companies first model (first made in 1934), cost the equivalent of £800 in the year 1950-51. Dansettes continue to be very popular indeed amongst those wishing to play everything from 16-78rpm records, and also important to those that wish to emulate the height of modernity and style during this important era of Britain’s history, the moment when children grew up.
The popularity of the Dansette is inextricably linked with the battle between the companies RCA and Columbia for format domination in the late 1940s and 1950s. RCA wanted everyone to purchase their music on 45rpm discs, compiling their own playlist, or playing the passages from a classical piece in ordered succession. This was most definitely in the tradition of what a record album was originally, ie, a collection of discs closely themed or from a larger piece of music contained in something similar to the album the family would have kept their photographs in.
Though other formats had come and gone and long playing ‘reference discs’ had been available as far back as the 1920s Columbia wanted to sell the 33rpm Long Player, the L.P., what many would now call an ‘Album’ to the public. Though this format had a worse quality of sound it was the one that since it’s first public outing in 1948 would come to dominate. The 7″ single or 7″ E.P. just wasn’t convenient enough, though it’s deeper groove and relatively longer play time allowed for a better quality of reproduction and loudness. I believe in the end popularity of the successful format came down to the inconvenience of getting up to change the record. With Lps at least you could sit down for more than 4 minutes before getting up to change the side, or the record.
With it’s multichanger function the Dansette was an ideal machine to play singles on, an ideal machine for RCA therefore and an ideal machine for teenagers who could afford a single once in a while, but had to save up for more expensive Lps. Up to five singles could be placed on the automatic changer, giving you at least 15 minutes listening. Later on if you made certain that you used the single releases with the serrated rim around the label designed for the purpose you could be sure to get them to bind properly as they dropped; which avoided the inherent disappointment of scratching the hell out of your record collection!
Dead as a Dodo?
As the album, not as format, but more so as vehicle increased in popularity towards the end of the 1960s and particularly into the 1970s listeners were looking for a fuller aural experience, turning of course to Stereo and equipment of the ‘Hi-Fidelty’ type for that purpose. The Dansette was subsequently sidelined and it appears for once that instead of setting new fashion the company failed to keep pace with new market trends. Dansette did incorporate Radio, Stereo and line inputs / outputs into their record players, also producing Reel to Reel player / recorders such as the Cadet (pictured left), perhaps in an effort to increase their products’ appeal. It does seem in retrospect that they were trying desperately to keep abreast of new demands. What caused the demise of the company? Were they unwilling to break away from the section of the market that they had for so long successfully inhabited, that of the portable player.
Perhaps the brand was too closely associated in the public’s mind with portability and not with the by word of the day ‘Hi-Fi’. Perhaps with the spread Stereo requires for the listener to hear it fully the static speakers fixed on the front of a portable player were never going to have a wide enough sound image. As far as I’m currently aware Dansette never produced a Stereo player with removable speakers.
Surely a listeners enjoyment of music is mainly about a physical and emotional reaction to rhythm, melody and lyric and a tinny transitor radio is perfectly capable of getting the musical message across, so therefore also, is a Dansette. One wonders then where the impetus and energy behind the company went and why they ceased to trade in the early 1970s. Perhaps Mums and Dads were getting hip enough to the new scene to let their children dig their music on the family Radiogram in the front room and no longer were children and teenagers required to be un-seen and dimly heard listening to records in their bedrooms.
Just to note ~ Hi-Fi is a construct, a word that trys to describe a system capable of producing a high level of fidelity to the original performance and performance space, what is often refered to as presence, and yet in reality it describes nothing tangible, except perhaps (in my opinion) man’s gullibility and stupidity. Too often I’ve seen speaker cable in the back of some ‘Hi-Fi’ buffs system that is likely of a better quality than the cabling used at the recording and mastering studios where the music he’s listening to on his super expensive system was originally created. Any musician will tell you that the system of reproducing sound doesn’t have to be that great in order that those listening to music via it can interact with that music in a meaningful and engaged way. We are much more tolerant of poor sound that we are poor vision. Think of watching a movie, you are much more likely to switch off the TV if the picture gets distorted than if the sound does.
A family called Margolin were behind the Dansette, originally an immigrant to the U.K. from Russia, Morris Margolin set up as a Cabinet Maker in London. He also imported musical instruments and so perhaps it was this general interest in music that led him to produce the first electric record player made in the U.K. the ‘Plus-A-Gram’ in 1934. The first Radiograms had been available for a decade when Margolin combined his cabinet making skills and musical interests to produce a turntable that could be plugged into the back of some radios to utilise their speaker and amplification, in effect inventing the first ‘Hi-Fi’ separates! Up until this point Radiograms were incredibly bulky and expensive to the point of excluding anyone from ownership but the most wealthy. Margolin’s inventiveness made what was in effect a Radiogram of two parts, though still expensive by anyone’s standards the Plus-A-Gram was now at least within the reach of a growing middle class. Within six years it would be the only thing they would make in their workshop.
The development of an autochanger by BSR a British, Birmingham based company, meant that the Margolins would create and offer their first Dansette branded player, the Senior in 1950/51. It proved incredibly popular and the company developed into one with a staff of hundreds and a very healthy turnover; exploiting the market for a cheaper alternative to the large furniture based Radiogram style systems of companies like HMV, Blaupunkt and Bush. The product exceeded everyone’s expectations and the workforce had to be re-housed in a larger factory in Stanmore, Middlesex, around 1962. The roster of products continued to grow over the years, a Car Radio, Reel To Reel players and recorders, more record player models offered in a dazzling myriad of styles and options, some with Stereo and line outputs. But as solid state technology came in, the days of the valve based Dansette were numbered.
The company folded in 1970, a victim of cheap Japanese imports and changing tastes and fashions.
What to do if you’d like to revisit those Dansette days
If you like that warmer valve sound and want to experience what it is like playing and listening to music on a Dansette there are a number of things you can do to get one. However they are a sought after item, and just as they were relatively expensive in the past, they still are, even as a second hand item. You can expect to pay £200-£250 for one of the superior models in good condition, more even if it has been exceptionally well looked after and comes restored and over-hauled. You will count yourself lucky to get a mid range model, overhauled /checked and in a reasonable condition for under £100-£150. I myself recently purchased a Tempo model Dansette that has faded on the outside, but is entirely un-used as of it’s manufacture in around 1961. I consider it a small miracle to have done so for £73. Though it wasn’t overhauled, it hadn’t been played and I considered it a risk worth taking on this eBay purchase.
You of course could continue to search for one in your local jumble sales, boot fairs and even Auntie’s attic, but good luck, they are getting more and more scarce. If you do find one you will most likely want to have it looked over and fixed up if necessary by someone who knows what they’re doing. You could also get a line out wired in so you can record from your player, which is useful particularly if you collect 78rpm records. Be aware of what model you are purchasing and what speeds and formats it will support and of course if it is Mono or Stereo. There are many circuit diagrams and instructions for the models available online so if you fancy having a go fixing one up yourself, you can!
Dad’s Favourite ~ To sum up
I can’t imagine that the popularity of Dansettes will continue for ever, surely it’s only the children of those who grew up in the early 1960s who could possibly have a nostalgia for a faded old portable record player. Our Children of the Revolution listen to compressed audio on small earphones, an insular experience. The kids don’t collect singles to stack five apiece on their autochanger anymore of course; instead they move 500 tunes a time from one folder to another. There is very little real intimacy in their experience of playing music and listening to it, this present generation has a very different and I believe lesser relationship with music, and I pity them.
Instead of sitting reading the sleeve notes to an album, or knowing that they particularly like the music that comes out on a specific record label, files are moved en mass, musicians, producers, labels are unknown and the process of purchasing, placing and playing that music is one step removed from anything at all tangible, warm, responsive and real.
Perhaps it’s high time that parents bought their teenage sons or daughters a Dansette for their bedroom again!
Mike Murphy – February 2010
Late February, 2010 and I’ve just received my very own Dansette Tempo, I am at this very moment listening to the 78rpm of Marie Bryant’s – ‘Water Melon’ which was backed with ‘Don’t Touch Me Nylons’, a toned down and commercial ‘version’ of ‘Don’t Touch Me Tomato’, a riblad Jamaican and Caribbean tune that has almost made it to Folk Tradition status.
The manner of construction could be adequately described as Fablon and Wallpaper over Chipboard with a dash of Mecano. The sound reproduction could be described as ‘ severely lacking tonal width’, though the results vary greatly, dependant on the quality of mastering of the records, particularly on the 78rpm records I have played on it.
The Tone dial which should give a varying Bass to Treble tone only seems to take the sound from a muddy Mid-Range to a fairly clear Treble tone. It seems to have the ability to take a short bandwidth of frequency and shift it like a sweepable EQ. Rather like a very poor version of the Tubby’esque sound produced by Osbourne Rudduck’s home-made board. It isn’t what anyone with half an ounce of sense would call true tone, as once you’ve chosen the treble tone, you have no bass in the ‘mix’ and if you were to choose Bass, the Treble is non-existant.
The overall quality of manufacture is really rather low considering the cost of purchasing one new in 1961! It’s solid enough, but there are no frills, nothing of true quality, though at least the turntable looks rugged enough. The stylus weight is adjusted by means of shortening or lengthening a spring which only acts as a lever to pull the stylus down onto the record.
So to surmise, the tone is awful, the construction embodies the worst of all that is British and a bit lack lustre, and yet….. I love it, it’s fantastic, you would love it too, it’s quirky and most importantly, it will play the two speeds of records you don’t see very often these days, 78rpm and 16rpm.
REPLACEMENT STYLUS –
Do you need a replacement stylus for your Dansette, I did and found this shop online – http://www.turntablestylus.co.uk/index.htm Hayley who runs the show there was wonderfully helpful, sending me an example photograph of what she thought I needed to replace my 78 and 45rpm Styli, though it wasn’t right, I then sent a photo of the customised cartridge it turns out my set had, she identified the styli I needed and sent two for 33 and 45rpm play and one for 78rpm play for a total, including VAT and postage of £9. I thought this kind of service and pricing had died out in the Victorian era. Truly, give them a go.
Julie appears to be the thing every man needs in his life, a woman who likes to collect, and not only collect, but collect record players, records and other toys more often associated with the male gender and his natural obsessions.
There are many people repairing Dansettes as a business, they also often have them to sell, restored. I won’t put any specific sites here for you to visit, but instead here’s a Google search for renovators – Search for Repair, Renovation.
eBay – sadly eBay is a good place for finding one, I really dislike eBay, but if you’re desperate, you might find it here – Dansettes on eBay it’s a good place to find some spares also.
The history of recorded sound, a book called ‘Perfecting Sound Forever‘ by – Greg Milner, provides an excellent explanation of the history and development of recorded sound, from Edison’s Blue Amberol right up to iPods and MP3s. I’ll be reviewing it here at Musical Traces soon, in the meantime I can heartily recommend it.
tracing musical lines, talking music, recording, album art, rare records, reviewing, discographies and information