There are plenty of 78 titles that are a dime a dozen, the kind you buy for $2/box at the Salvation
Army. Those are what students should handle. And they should handle them, just like they should
handle non-valuable old tapes and tape recorders, etc. That's how young people learn. I can't think
of any transcription disk that should be mis-handled by students. They are too fragile, and even
they are repeats of common program material, there still weren't thousands of copies made, and it's
unlikely that even dozens of copies of that particular disk still exist.
As for preamps, as much as I respect Kevin at KAB (I own, have used for hundreds of LP and 78
transfers, and still very much like one of his Technics SL-1200mkV modifieds with 3-speed, silicon
damping and fancy wiring/RCA jacks), I stand by recommending the TDL Restoration Preamp. With
Kevin's preamps, there are pre-designed curves that you select with push-buttons. WIth the TDL, you
control turnover frequency and rolloff, plus there is a high-pass and low-cut filters. Kevin's
offers more gain at all curves, so his will be lower noise into any input and likely can work with
As for flat transfers, I recommend reading Gary Galo's research on this. I have yet to hear RIAA
software that sounds half as good as a high-quality phono preamp with high-fidelity material. I
haven't messed with lower-fidelity 78s. Gary's research indicates digital EQ do not take into
account certain facts and factors of analog components, and thus do not mirror the cutting curve as
well as a properly-designed and well-built analog preamplifier. Horses for course, but I'll always
choose analog for phono EQ and preamplification. Paul's point about trying multiple curves is
correct, but one can figure out a good-sounding curve without over-playing a disk.
More important for the original poster -- have you budgeted proper disk-cleaning equipment? You can
buy a setup that will do an acceptable job on 10" and 12" disks for around $700 (the lower-end VPI
unit and several competing alternatives). I think you run into big bucks when you get into 16"
disks. If you don't clean your grooved media properly, you are going on a ruinous fool's errant
putting stylus to grooves. Even common 78's out there for the kids to learn on should be cleaned, in
fact proper cleaning should be part of the teaching.
Finally, I agree with multiple posters that the transcription disks should be professionally
transferred, and not put in the pool of media to which students have access. Transcription/lacquer
transfer is tricky and it's best left to experts. If you can gather up that funding and you pick a
good expert (there are plenty of hacks out there), you will be surprised at how much audio is in
some transcription grooves. Radio studios, especially network production studios, were putting out
really good stuff back in the day. What came out of the consoles was most certainly high-fidelity.
Some disk-cutting gear captured an awful lot of that. I have transcription transfers of
music-variety shows from the 1940s that sound more natural and high-fidelity than almost any LP
record released well into the 1950s.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "John Haley" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Saturday, March 28, 2015 12:15 AM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Phono pre-amps for 78 rpm and transcription discs
> Paul is absolutely right about the curves. Students will never get this
> right. It takes a good amount of skill and experience to get the phono-EQ
> curve right. There is no research tool that will tell you what is "right."
> You have to use your ears, guided by experience. There is no other way
> for instantaneous discs. Even commercial discs sometimes involve a lot of
> trial and error.
> I strongly recommend getting the KAB EQS MK12, which is an excellent
> sounding preamp even apart from its curve settings, and I further recommend
> getting the small mod you can buy with it, as I did (it's an extra card
> inside), that allows you to input line level signals thru the EQ curve
> section of the electronics. Otherwise you can only input the low levels
> from a phono cartridge through it. That's impossible once you have
> digitized something to a wav file. With this mod, you can do what Paul
> says, which is do flat transfers of discs and then play the resulting wav
> files thru the preamp to select the right curve, without further playing of
> the record.
> Also, if you digitize the records with the wrong curve, it is really,
> really hard, maybe impossible, to reverse that to apply the right curve.
> This is because you can't reverse the turnover point electronically--it is
> not a matter of equalization (which the treble emphasis and de-emphasis
> is). Getting the curve right often matters quite a lot in how something
> sounds. It's not a small part of the process.
> Frankly, I would never trust a student with any of this. You will destroy
> your collection and end up with garbage for transfers.
> On Sat, Mar 28, 2015 at 12:09 AM, Paul Stamler <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> On 3/27/2015 7:38 PM, John Schroth wrote:
>>> You have no doubt put some time, research and money into acquiring
>>> turntables that you feel would properly play back the disk collection.
>>> You are willing to invest in proper preamps for the turntables. It is
>>> worth the money to either pay someone first to properly preserve the
>>> media, prior to letting inexperienced hands start working with it, or
>>> pay to get some instruction from someone who can help you and your
>>> students properly use and care for the media - which is the most
>>> important piece of this equation.
>>> Just my two cents....
>> I'll back up what John says, having seen how records are damaged when
>> students handle them as though they were CDs.
>> Let me put in a plug for transferring discs flat, then adding de-emphasis
>> curves in post-production, of course preserving copies of the flat
>> transfers intact. My reason: to determine the proper de-emphasis curve for
>> a particular disc, you really have to play it, try different curves and
>> listen, then go back and record the disc with the curve you've selected.
>> Playing the disc twice damages it -- yes, even shellac 78s, Transferring it
>> once, flat, then doing the experiments on the digital file is less damaging
>> to the original material. Unless I know the actual curve of a record
>> (which, practically speaking, means unless I know it to be RIAA) I always
>> transfer flat, playing the disv just once.
>> There may be imperfections in this technique, but IMHO the lessened wear
>> and damage on the discs outweighs them.
>> To the OP: I suggest that if you have a professional transfer these discs
>> in your collection -- particularly the transcriptions -- you have them
>> transferred flat, without de-emphasis curves.
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