[This message is being posted to ARSC-List and 78-L in addition to the
Project Gramophone group. Because of the time requirements with a
potential funder, please reply NOW! If you prefer to give your
thoughts in private, email me at [log in to unmask] or call me at
801-253-4037. Of course, I especially seek advice from professional
sound engineers for the transfer issues -- I know enough about the
transfer process to be dangerous, but that's the extent of my


There now appears to be a possibility (although definitely not a sure
thing I must add) of support for launching Project Gramophone.

The current thinking is to start doing the raw transfers for a well-
defined subset of the corpus of earlier 78 rpm recordings which are
clearly not encumbered by recording ownership issues in the U.S., even
if the public server of the digital versions were to reside outside
the U.S. See my latest thoughts on this topic at:

This will allow getting the project jump-started, to iron out the
various bugs which invariably occur, and to demonstrate what is
possible for future expansion. It is a way to bootstrap the whole
process, rather than just talk about it ad nauseum.

So there are two immediate issues to resolve -- and fast (I want
these pretty-much resolved by January 10th if possible, so I can
get back to the potential funder with a better idea of the process
and required funding):

1) Acquiring "portable" transfer equipment and the process of
   performing the transfers where the collections reside, and

2) Which recordings do we start out with?

(For now, the focus will be on pre-WWII 78 rpm shellac discs, not

For 1), the current thinking is that we'd like to assemble the best,
state-of-the-art transfer equipment which allows some sort of
portability so we can visit collectors and library archives in the
field to transfer their records. We recognize many collectors and
archives do not wish to transport their rare and valuable records from
their storage locations, so going to the collections to perform the
transfers makes a lot of sense -- the collection owners can carefully
watch over the process and even assist if they wish.

Of course, the collection owners who participate will be given copies
of all the digital transfers of their records for their use as they
see fit (so it is a great way for collectors and archives to create
high quality raw digital transfers of their collections without the
need for them to buy the elaborate transfer equipment, nor having to
learn the intricacies of proper digital transfer. A fair trade, I

So, for 1) we have the following "sub"-issues to resolve (there are
probably others I haven't thought of yet -- chime in if you think of

a) Turntable selection (no thoughts here, anyone?),

b) Cartridge and styli selection (no thoughts here, anyone?),

[Regarding a) and b), should we consider the professional-grade
laser turntables? Or stick with the tried-and-true stylus?]

c) How to handle equalization (my current thinking: do as best as can
   be done in the analog realm during transfer -- does this make
   sense? Or can proper equalization be done "good enough" in the
   digital realm during restoration?)

d) Transfer speed (I believe set the speed at 78.00 rpm, and resample
   later during restoration to correctly tune the speed. Otherwise,
   trying to fine pitch during raw transfer greatly slows down the
   transfer process (plus requires a lot of musical skill in
   perceiving the key of the performance.) We need to transfer
   hundreds or thousands of discs in a short time during the visit to
   the collection, and don't have the time to futz around any more
   than we have to! Being able to properly transfer 3-4 two-sided
   records per hour per transfer equipment module is a goal, and this
   is pretty aggressive, in my thinking.)

e) A-D converter (professional grade, 96k sampling, 24-bit depth for
   the raw transfers. Any recommendations?)

f) Digital storage (pc with terabyte of storage in 3, 300+ gig IDE
   hard drives, maybe with redundancy by having two pcs that are

g) CD/DVD burner (to immediately give the raw digital transfers to the
   collector as well as backing up right away what is on the hard
   drives in case of hard drive failure.)

h) Scanner/digital camera to take high resolution images of the record
   labels and runout area for mx numbers (no thoughts here. Anyone?)

i) Disc cleaning equipment and techniques (no thoughts here. Anyone?)

j) Process-related:

   i) Do multiple transfers with different styli radii, or simply find
      stylus shape/radii which gives best quality transfer, and do one

   ii) ???

It is to be noted that the goal is to do the best possible (within
reason) raw digital transfers. The goal is not, at the moment, to do
the digital restoration, which can be done at a more leisurely pace,
and by anyone in the world with access to the raw transfers via the

On item 2), regarding which recordings (by which companies) to transfer
at this first stage, I see the following:

a) The "Grey Gull" recordings (those they actually recorded, not
   licensed from others, such as NYRL), and

b) The early Zonophone discs.

(if there are any others to consider, let us know!)

Zonophone is intriguing since there appears to be no ownership of the
recordings and that they all pre-date 1923, thus the digital transfers
can be placed online for public access within the U.S. without having
to contend with song copyright payments. One downside is the sound
quality and musical interest of the Zonophone discs (both in musical
era and being earlier acoustic recordings.)

Of course, the Grey Gull "group" is also very intriguing because
the ownership of the recordings is unclear (in a legal sense -- the
masters were destroyed -- nevertheless, I would contact the Shaw and
related families to secure their cooperation and blessing for the
Grey Gull raw transfer project.) One downside is that most of the
recordings are for songs in the post-1923 period, so some
accomodation with the song copyright agencies may be needed
regardless of where in the world the public server will be located.
There may be some "legal" ways around this which I won't go into here,
but I'd rather cooperate with the song copyright agencies for mutual
benefit (this is one area Project Gramophone needs to get clarified,
one of the "bugs" to "debug".) On the positive side, the "Grey Gull"
recordings are in the more-of-interest (in terms of numbers of people)
1920's, including jazz, blues, dance band and personality. Many of
them are electrical recordings, another advantage for generating

For both Zonophone and Grey Gull, having a "complete" online archive
corpus of all they recorded will greatly aid discographical
researchers who will now be able to listen to them all and help
untangle the discographical mess these labels (particularly the Grey
Gull group) are currently in. Having the images of the labels and
run-out area will further assist in discographical reconstruction.

Anyway, enough to discuss. Please provide your thoughts, any thoughts,
as soon as you can. Thanks!

Jon Noring
Co-Founder, Project Gramophone