Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Archive, 28 October 1931: the long-playing record innovation | The Guardian

No longer will you have to suffer the break in emotional response to a long composition coming from the gramophone. A single disc will carry you to the end of the piece. There will be no scratching in the midst of harmonious sounds, no rising to turn the disc, even to pause for the automatic change made in the gramophone itself. This long-playing record, so the press reports, according to the Literary Digest, “will solve the problem that has one been regarded as retarding the popularity of the gramophone as compared to other modern home-entertainment devices.”

The new records are to be known as “programme transcriptions,” and are titled as complete “performances” in contradistinction to the ordinary records which reproduce only excepts or portions of the musical composition.

How it is done
Here is a description of the process of making the new disc, “The long-playing feature is obtained by slowing down the turntable speed from 78 to 33 1-3 revolutions per minute and by introducing almost double the numbers of grooves on the playing surface. The new discs are made of an exclusive new composition called Victrolac, which is semi-flexible, and will not break when dropped. The new material makes it practicable to place finer grooves, spaced closer together, on the record, and actually reduces the surface noise from the needle to less than half of that evident on the ordinary record. The slower turntable speed essential in playing the new records is obtained by the use of a specially developed gear-shift arrangement which also permits the use of the 78 rpm speed as well.

This gear-shift mechanism, which was developed after painstaking experiment, is incorporated in the new radio-gramophone instruments. For the thousands who already have electric gramophones an inexpensive gear-shift arrangement for playing the new records, which any qualified radio service man can install, will soon be made available. These mechanisms, it is said, may be fitted to almost any of the modern gramophone instruments.”

A contrast
At a recent demonstration in the United States was heard the first composition to be recorded as a programme transcription. This was Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony as performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of Leopold Stokowski. We are told that “The superiority of the new records was made strikingly apparent when one of the speakers exhibited an album of four records recorded by the ordinary method and then held up a single one of the new discs with a complete recording of the same composition.”


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