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Hi Tom,
I'll answer your queries as best I can -
1.
The Gramophone & Typewriter Company used pretty much the same
equipment as Victor and by 1904 were well experienced recording on wax
masters. The recording lathes used weight driven clockwork motors and
continued to do so for many years. There are no photographs of Melba
recording in 1904 but there are artists impressions published in
periodicals of the time - I think the recording apparatus was behind a
screen or curtain with a horn measuring about a foot across the mouth
projecting out into a large room. Going by early photographs there
must have been multiple recording horns even for the piano accompanied
sides.
2. I blundered in saying waxes - it was shells being taken to Hanover
though waxes were often sent from various places in Europe to the
factory in Hanover. With the Melba recordings being such a prestige
item they did the initial processing in England. It was a not
infrequent occurrence for wax masters to be broken in transit to the
factory in the early days of European recording.
3.The waxes would have been quite thick but I don't know what kind of
metal soap they were using to make the blanks.
4.The vinyl 78s allowing for the inevitable minor problems that come
from age and conditions of storage are very good, They have a higher
surface noise than the best later acoustic recordings but are forward
and bright sounding and of course without the wear that is often so
apparent on original G&Ts. The sense of presence is quite startling
and I certainly now believe my grandfather who said Melba's was the
most carrying voice that he ever heard in person.
I don't know what caused the noise problems that worried the company
types - perhaps to do with how hot or cold the waxes were at the time
of recording.
Best Wishes
Mike Quinn