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Digitizing Rare Vinyl 397

eldavojohn writes "While the RIAA is busy changing its image to a snake eating its own tail, one man is busy digitizing out-of-print 78s. 'There's a whole world of music that you don't hear anymore, and it's on 78 RPM records,' he stated to Wired. Right now, you can find about 4,000 MP3s on his site, with no digital noise reduction implemented yet."
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Digitizing Rare Vinyl

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  • 78's, 16's... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @11:21PM (#24578297)

    For all you whippersnappers who don't remember records: not only were there 78 RPM records, and of course the 33 1/3 and 45's you are aware of, but they also used to make 16's (technically 16 2/3 RPM). I used to own one record in that format (long since lost to the grue in the attic). It was just speech, not music; I think they didn't typically use that speed for music because of fidelity limitations of 16 RPM.

    I made the mistake of getting rid of my (admittedly modest) vinyl collection in the 80's when CD's were the up and coming thing. Sorta wish I hadn't, now. I'm not one of the people who think vinyl has superior sound, but it did have a certain charm.

  • Then the purists should invent a way to digitally record all of the information. All the 3D characteristics of the record.

  • Re:Digitizing vinyl (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Midnight Thunder ( 17205 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @11:31PM (#24578353) Homepage Journal

    Is there any good documentation on how to remove noise using Audacity?

  • by franois-do ( 547649 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @11:56PM (#24578509) Homepage
    I would like to warn all people wanting to digitize 78rpm records : the sound you get using a magnetic cell, especially stereo or mono ones posterior to the invention of "universal engraving" (around 1965 ?), you will get a hissing and unpleasant sound, and poor restitution.

    Surprisingly, if you use a piezo, heavy cell (not suitable to read stereo records), you will get a much better sound, and almost no hiss. I got very good results at a time from a Dual 1010 turnable, unfortunately out of order now :-( I also have some Jack Hylton songs that do not seem to be present on his Internet tribute site (Bogey wail, Sarita...), for whoever is interested. I guess they are legally in the public domain now, as all of them date from before WW2.

  • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @12:07AM (#24578567) Homepage

    The same music isn't there in CD or MP3. That's the whole point. This stuff is out of print, never been released in CD. It's the in summary for god's sake!

    Well, that isn't exactly what the summary says. The summary says the 78s are out of print, which is no surprise because 78s aren't produced anymore. There's definitely a ton of music on there that is available commercialy in modern formats. For instance, he has "Caravan," by Duke Ellington. That's an extremely famous jazz tune, and I can't imagine there's ever a time when you couldn't buy a commercial recording of it. You can buy it right now on Amazon in mp3 format [amazon.com] for 99 cents, or on a CD reissue [amazon.com]. I don't know if it's exactly the same performance or not.

    The Wired article also has a discussion of the copyright status of these songs, which basically amounts to, "nobody's sued him so far." I guarantee you that the composition of Caravan [wikipedia.org], for instance, is still in copyright -- Tizol and Ellington wrote it in 1936, so the only way it would have passed into the public domain would have been if the copyright owner had failed to renew it -- but it was a valuable commercial property (still is), and I'm sure they did renew it. (Nothing from after 1922 has expired in the US except by failure to do the renewal that used to be required.) I don't know about the copyright on the sound recording (is the duration different?), but I'd guess it's still also in copyright.

    If copyright law in the US was sane, a composition from 1936 would be in the public domain, but that doesn't change the fact that the law is not sane, it is what it is, and these recordings are not all out of print or out of copyright.

  • in the thread on the tragedy of the anticommons, but it seems even more relevant to this topic

    on the subject of intellectual property and the rare souls reviving old media through blood sweat and tears [aintitcool.com], the filmmaker vincent gallo [imdb.com] said this four years ago:

    Capone: The songs selections here are inspired at times. I really liked the Gordon Lightfoot song "Beautiful."

    V.G.: Thank you. The amount of time I spent choosing the music of the film would be unbelievable to you. The funny thing is, when it's not right, you spend all your time playing songs for people saying, "What do you think of this one? How about this one? How about this one?" You're dying, when you're on that level. When you hit it, it's so obvious and you immediately get a desperate feeling that says, "How am I going to get the rights? Are they going to fuck me on the rights to this song?" And guess who are the worst people in the movie business. The licensing people. They are most miserable, mean, selfish, insensitive, regressive, unproductive on the planet earth. You don't know what it's like to feel so strong about something and not have a budget to make that go away. It's not like I was looking to get some Paul McCartney song for my movie; I'm talking about esoteric music. Some of the music in the film didn't even exist, I had to rebuild the original master tapes that had decomposed. I had to re-bake the tape stock, the emulsion on the tape had peeling off. I'm the only person in the world who would salvage this particular recording because I had an original three-track machine and I knew how to bake that type of Ampex tape. The tape would have disappeared in two more years, and it's highly spliced. Then to be ballbusted for a year and a half on the licensing on that music. We talk about how long it took for me to get the film out after Cannes was because the film wasn't ready due to negative problems. I wanted to use this technique to blow up the negative in a new way. That's why I waited so long to finish the film. But it turns out that I would have had to wait seven, eight months anyway was the releases for the music. If you were dealing with the musician directly, you wouldn't have these problems. It's the people representing these artists that kill the process. I realize if you want to use the Beatles song "Revolution" to sell eyeglasses, I understand the exploitation of that. I understand that I'm using culturally significant relics to manipulate people into attaching those to my product. But if I'm using a rare piece of music by and unknown artist, not to brag, but the people whose music I use in my films sell way more records than they were selling before they were in my film. Proof of it is, the Italian artist who did this one jazz piece in my movie had sold 600 copies worldwide before my movie. Before my film was released just on the announcement that they were included people tracked down the music, and they sold something like 6,000 more copies. Why you're treated like you're exploiting this music makes no sense. If they're going to make a tough deal for you, just be up front about it. But this sort of, "We don't have time for you. What do you want?" stringing along is nonsense. And I'm the producer on THE BROWN BUNNY. I didn't have a music supervisor. I did the licensing for BUFFALO 66 and THE BROWN BUNNY. And of all my memories of making the film, that's my most painful memories.

    bottom line: revive old media, bring renewed attention AND SALES to a long forgotten artist and piece of music, and expect the corporate intellectual property assholes to punish you for effort

    thats the state of intellectual property today

  • Re:Digitizing vinyl (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @12:31AM (#24578691)

    Having some insight in how audio restoration works it might prove to be a big mistake to data-reduce the material first and trying to dehiss, decrackle and denoise it afterwards. Most professional (commercial) audio restoration software works by analysing the waveform and detecting phase breaks. Unfortunately this information isn't left intact by psychoacoustical data reduction algorithms, so any lossy codec will make it hard to impossible to restore the audio. Only FLAC (or another lossless codec) would preserve the option to process the audio later for final archival.

  • ACETATE! ACETATE! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @12:33AM (#24578711)

    I spent 20 years convincing people to save the acetate (pre-vinyl) records before I gave up, and now there is finally a cheap enough technology to be used by the common person to save them in the full spectrum (better than vinyl?)...


  • by Okian Warrior ( 537106 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @12:34AM (#24578719) Homepage Journal

    As a suggestion, how about digitizing the songs several times and then using the redundant data to recreate the originals with no hiss or pop.

    As I understand it, pop is sometimes caused by buildup and sudden release of static electricity. This means that the pops will be in different places for different digitizations and can therefore be recognized and accounted for. Scratches, on the other hand...

    Hiss is stochastic noise and would average out over several recordings.

    It should be straightforward to use a correlation coefficient correction to bring all the recordings into "phase", then use a processing algorithm to remove most of the artifacts.

    The artifacts that remain can be removed using techniques more suited to single-images; ie - filtering to remove hiss and pop.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @12:48AM (#24578775)

    wget http://78records.cdbpdx.com/ -O 78records.html
    wget -i 78records.html -F
    rm *html *mdb
    foreach song (*.mp3)
    ffmpeg -i "$song" "${song}.ogg"

  • by pixel.jonah ( 182967 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @12:53AM (#24578791)

    Sadly you're right - US copyright law is messed up.

    From: http://cylinders.library.ucsb.edu/copyright.php [ucsb.edu]
    "Sound recordings were not eligible for federal copyright protection until 1972 and recordings made prior to this date are only protected by state and common-law copyright. All Edison cylinders are presumed to be in the public domain as the assets of Edison Records were transferred to the National Park Service, a federal agency. Other American sound recordings made prior 1972 may or may not be protected by state laws or common-law copyright. Foreign cylinders are all public domain in the country of production and are also presumed to be in the public domain in the United States.

    The nature of the various state laws and differing interpretations of these laws in state courts means that the legal status of many early recordings is unclear. The passage of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 reiterated that all recordings made prior to February 15, 1972 are only eligible for protection under state laws until February 15, 2067, when federal law preempts state law and they enter the public domain. While the Sonny Bono law was intended primarily to extend the copyright protection to the soon-to-expire copyrights of multinational corporations and heirs to songwriters, in effect it meant that all early recordings, no matter what their commercial potential, historical importance, or availability as reissues (with the exception of Edison Recordings) may be protected for well over 150 years after their creation. This is in stark contrast to the original copyright law passed in 1790 which granted a 14-year term of copyright (renewable for another 14 years) or the copyright law in effect for other types of publications when these cylinders were recorded which granted a copyright or 28 years, renewable for another 14 year (28 years after 1909). Not a single person who composed a song recorded on these cylinders or sang into the recording horn is alive today, which suggests that the original intent of copyright to "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries" has been completely usurped by the Sonny Bono law."

    This happens to be another incredible collection of old recordings: http://cylinders.library.ucsb.edu/ [ucsb.edu]

  • by 6350' ( 936630 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @01:12AM (#24578889)
    This is quite an impressive bit of work, and kudos to dude for posting the mp3 version of his archived .wavs. Seeing the whole page of awesome music (and the sub pages of Japanese, Arabic, and Greek stuff as well) really makes me want to see this all packaged up as a torrent - and sooner than later. Spidey sense says many of these will be drawing unwanted interest.
  • Re:Digitizing vinyl (Score:5, Interesting)

    by KGIII ( 973947 ) <uninvolved@outlook.com> on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @01:15AM (#24578909) Journal

    I realize you're modded off topic but...

    Noise Removal - Audacity Wiki:
    http://www.audacityteam.org/wiki/index.php?title=Noise_Removal [audacityteam.org]

    There are a pile of resources for Audacity, the wiki is one of the first places I'd look and, in this case, did.

  • by zakezuke ( 229119 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @01:17AM (#24578923)

    Silly question, regarding digitizing 78s. If one can get the right stylus, can't one take a 33 1/3 TT and sample at a 2.34:1 ratio so the net result is like 44.1/48/96 what have you. 78s are likely pre RIAA filters and as such base response shouldn't be that much of an issue.

  • by LoudMusic ( 199347 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @01:33AM (#24579003)

    If that were my project and I was putting that much work into the data creation I would want a lot more reliable hardware and backups. I'd also work to do more automation.

    But, awesome work, and thanks for sharing (:

  • by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @02:00AM (#24579145) Homepage Journal

    Thanks for that. When the Universal studio went up in smoke this year, it did not destroy films but it DID destroy the only known copies of any of their music from the 50s and earlier. How much money do you think they'll make from the ash? "Not a whole lot" is my guess. They also lost a lot of remastered early movies, where the originals are too artsy to be worth remastering again, going by $ value alone. Again, how much do you think they'll get from the smouldering remnants?

    Now, if those works had been generally available under public domain, those artists would be better known and maybe, if any works are still under honest copyright, have greater market value. But, no, they wanted their hard cash up-front and in big quantities, even if that meant risking losing everything. They don't care about what society has lost, they only care about what they can take for themselves.

    It might be better if there was staggered copyright whereby rights automatically revert from whoever owns the rights to the creator of the work after 40 years, and they (and their estate) get to hold the rights for a further 10 or 20 years. It wouldn't stop the corporate abuses, but it would restrict them, and it would lessen the need any actual artist might have for a longer copyright, because they'd be earning five to ten times as much per sale towards the end of the copyright lifetime.

  • Then the purists should invent a way to digitally record all of the information.

    ELP's [elpj.com] Laser Turntable gets part way there.

  • by CrypticKev ( 1322247 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @02:01AM (#24579157)
    If the needle was made of vinyl & the discs diamond, no-one would be able to afford a single disc! The needle wouldn't last very long either. The discs would sure look pretty though!
  • The QUAD underground (Score:4, Interesting)

    by clokwise ( 844691 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @02:06AM (#24579179) Homepage
    There are also an amazing number of people who are transferring old Quad albums and tapes from the 70s. They digitize them and then re-release them on Bittorrent as DTS encoded .wav files which can playback with any CD player and any standard 5.1 surround sound system. I personally possess nearly a terabyte of such albums, and I've hardly scratched the surface of what's out there. It's amazing to listen these old quad albums because most of them were professionally mixed and they enable the listener to appreciate the music more than any stereo recording can, often you get entirely different takes than the stereo release. Check out http://groups.google.com/group/SurroundSound/ [google.com] or Demonoid torrent site.
  • Re:78's, 16's... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @02:30AM (#24579291)

    They were also used for recording programming/speeches for radio broadcast (most commonly overseas during wartime, the bigger, 14" records at 16 RPM are known as V-Discs for this reason) as well as for film sound in the talkie era.

  • by PFI_Optix ( 936301 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @02:36AM (#24579311) Journal

    Shhh we want to complain about how he doesn't do everything we want while giving us free music.

    His copy of Mack the Knife is BEAUTIFUL. Sounds better than my 78 version. I want his copy :(

  • by Anthony ( 4077 ) * on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @03:17AM (#24579481) Homepage Journal

    Dad had crates of them and he picked up cheap players at fetes that you could wind up.

    Sadly us young boys wrecked a number of the records and I ruined one of the players with my half-arsed engineering skills. I tried to slow the player down enough to play at 45rpms. The styluses were brass? or silver and would destroy the newer vinyl anyway. We grew up playing the Andrews Sisters, Glen Miller Band and Mario Lanza.

    When I was twelve, I visited a friend who played his "Fireball" Album and I left the 78s behind.

  • by Xizer ( 794030 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @03:25AM (#24579511)
    Transcoding from a lossy format to another lossy format sounds GREAT on the ears!
  • by Ziest ( 143204 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @03:27AM (#24579523) Homepage

    When 78s first came out, the turntable was a windup mechanism and it used cactus needles. Later, the late 20's I think, they went to steel needles. I have very fond memories of listening to Enrico Caruso on my grandmothers windup victrola.

  • by Whiteox ( 919863 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @03:29AM (#24579543) Journal

    Been there, done that.
    What you need to get as a basic setup, is a modern 33.3/45/78 turntable with a ceramic cartridge (or as modern as you can get). Those late 70s and early 80s turntable with strobe speed control is excellent because accurate speed is important.
    Try not to use a magnetic cartridge because you will probably need to amplify it. If you amplify it, or for that matter, click the LP/Record option on most audio rippers, you will be applying an eq curve called an 'RIAA EQ Curve'.
    What this does is to alter the sound as it is being ripped to disk. This curve is used to help get the tonal balance of records, but was only introduced in the 1930s, so any pre-WWII recordings probably don't have it as the RIAA curve was used in the process of cutting the disk. You'll find that those early records were made 'direct-to-disk' and pressed as such. Having a cheaper ceramic cartridge connected direct avoids this easily. Ceramic cartridges also have a higher output (more volume) and is better suited to sound cards in this case.
    So try not to use an amp (or if you have to, then get one where you can switch the RIAA curve out), and plug the T/table into the soundcard. There's lots of free audio ripper software out there and you should get it digitized with no probs.

    Don't forget to clean each side - lukewarm water with a little natural soap, 1" paint brush to apply - get the brush bristles into the grooves. Rinse. Don't dry it with anything, but shake it dry. Don't get the label wet. Water on the grooves is ok and some actually flood the grooves when they record as it dampens the needle.
    The tone arm weight has to be heavy, about 5 grams if you can manage it - or put a small coin on top of the headshell. Experiment with a non-critical record and make sure that the needle is free to move and not jammed up into the cartridge.
    Now when you've done all of that, put up a website and let me know the URL :)

  • by franois-do ( 547649 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @03:37AM (#24579601) Homepage

    It is not the cartridge itself that matters. The shape of the needle changed from the 78 size to a smaller one for the microgroove recordings. (33 + 1/3 and 45 )

    Yes. These cells commonly used a commutable needle : one for 78 rpm and another for the microgroove, and a level allowed to switch from one to the other. Needless to say, I supposed the right needle was used.

    That being said, piezo cartridges and magnetic ones accepted at a time these dual needles, so using the right needle is necessary, but here not sufficient :-)

    Of course for best fidelity the single use steel needle is preferred....:)

    That might be. When I was very young we used to have a "Peter Pan" portable mechanical 78rpm player and we had a box of needles, which had to be changed rather frequently. I had the surprise, when reading its user's manual to see that the manufacturer recommendend changing the needle after each record, which seems unbelievable. I always wondered if that really applied to steel needles, or just to former bamboo needles, which I never had a chance to see.

    I still have a wind up gramophone of maybe twenties or thirties vintage that uses these. No amplification, no electricity.

    What makes me sade evert time there is a technology change is the know-how that it lost with it forever - except perhaps a for a few passionates which allow it some survival. In french brocantes, it is common to find objects for sale, the function of which is ununderstandable, even for its preceding owners :-/

  • by XNormal ( 8617 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @03:47AM (#24579651) Homepage

    If static is indeed a significant source of noise it should be possible to reduce it by processing multiple playbacks of the recording. But I'm afraid that much of the noise in a typical record is already part of the medium in the form of tiny scratches and will not average out. You would need two or more imprints of the same master to fix that.

    Bringing the recordings into phase is not as straightforward as you describe. You need to track the variations in rotation rate and continuously stretch and compress the signal based on cross-correlation. But I'm sure there's a plugin that already does it.

  • old news (Score:2, Interesting)

    by agent4256 ( 893846 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @04:36AM (#24579865)
    I've been digitizing my parents records since I started high school in 1999. I don't spend every waking hour on this, but I've found a few gem. Plus, when I listen to music that is hot now, many of the same "beats/instrumentals" have been taken from these old songs. There is a lost history of these old records out there, you can find the same albums on amazon but they've been re-mastered and put together differently. this guy is awesome.. and I will continue my conversion.
  • Re:Digitizing vinyl (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 1u3hr ( 530656 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @04:49AM (#24579923)
    Noise Removal - Audacity Wiki:

    Yep, I've used that, on audio from old TV captures, or digitising audio cassettes recorded from the radio 30 years ago. Get the latest beta 1.35 of Audacity, the noise removal "effect" is much better than 1.2. Good for getting rid of hiss and hum.

    But if I was archiving "important" music I probably would invest in a commercial solution.

  • by westlake ( 615356 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @06:33AM (#24580335)
    That was pretty brilliant of the record companies, though, don't you think? Make the medium out of nice, soft vinyl, and make the worthless, replaceable needle out of the hardest mineral on the Mohs scale.

    You do know that the acoustic recordings were recorded on wax and played with steel needles that bore the weight of the "tone arm and speaker?" In the early days you could expect perhaps twenty-five plays.

    The diamond stylus was never worthless.

    Thomas Edison used it in public demonstrations - blind "Tone Tests" - to establish the validity of phonographic recordings as music, something the Geek takes for granted.

    The live performance was often by a singer from the Met - or an instrumentalist of national reputation.

  • by Lisandro ( 799651 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:31AM (#24581079)

    There's no technical reason for vinyl to sound better than its modern digital counterparts. Outside a (much) higher frequency bandwidth, there is no real technical reason [hydrogenaudio.org] for vinyl to sound better. On the other hand, albums were mastered much better back then - CDs offer a wider dynamic range than vinyl for example, but recordings nowadays end up so compressed that you'd never imagine it.

    I love listening to my old vinyl albums, but i have well-mastered CDs that sound awfully better than anything vinyl i've tried. The remastered versions of Pink Floyd albums are a good example.

  • by Rob the Bold ( 788862 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:39AM (#24581143)

    That was pretty brilliant of the record companies, though, don't you think? Make the medium out of nice, soft vinyl, and make the worthless, replaceable needle out of the hardest mineral on the Mohs scale.

    Brilliant, that is, if you want to maximize the rate at which the media wear out.

    Many 78s are shellac on a metal substrate. If you really played the heck out of them, you could see the aluminum or other metal shining through. I doubt that either vinyl or shellac were chosen due to the fact that they wore out -- the recorded music business, then as now, is interested in "hits". Fickle public tastes could wear out a song faster than a needle.

    But that brings up an interesting point, that one could examine record wear to get an insight on the owner's taste. I have an old (1924) disc that had been in my Dad's possession in his childhood. On one side is "Whispering" and on the other "Japanese Sandman". "Whispering" is still in great shape. Evidently my Dad loved "Japanese Sandman", which is barely audible now. Kind of trivial, but it gives me a little glimpse of his early years -- especially since I can't ask him about that anymore

  • Re:78's, 16's... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by unitron ( 5733 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @02:25PM (#24587453) Homepage Journal

    My dad used to play bluegrass banjo. He once told me he bought a record player with a 16rpm setting so he could slow down the harder sections and really hear what notes to hit.

    The nice thing about the 16 rpm speed was that it was actually exactly half of the 33 rpm speed so that it played albums exactly one octave lower so that you don't have to re-tune to learn by ear.

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.