Tips for Playing 78s

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by AppleCorp3, Mar 26, 2016.

  1. AppleCorp3

    AppleCorp3 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Hi everyone -

    My PL120 has a 78 speed that, and being a member here for about a year hearing good things about the old shellac 78s, has encouraged me to go out and buy a few.

    I must admit, the preconceived notions I had about these records were largely unfounded. In fact, I find that playing the records sometimes sounds better (at least where the high end is concerned) than some of the "digitally mastered" versions that NR the heck out of a great song.

    My set up is the PL120 with a Shure N78s tracking somewhere between 2.25 and 2.5. I'm getting pretty nice sound, with that underlying crackle/hiss which doesn't really get in the way of the music. My pre-amp has a mono button.

    I'm wondering if there are any other tips the group has to reach optimal listening for these records. Cleaning, tracking force, platter mat, etc.

    Thanks!
     
    33na3rd likes this.
  2. Scope J

    Scope J Forum Resident

    Location:
    Michigan
    I was told not to use a diamond
    needle on 78's , an old school metal
    one is needed .
     
  3. Muzyck

    Muzyck Just another anonymous canine Beatle fan

    The only thing I would say is to be careful cleaning them. Shellac does not always react well to fluids.
     
    The FRiNgE likes this.
  4. I think that'd be a recipe for more damage. While an old Victrola can sound surprisingly good, I don't think it'll do your records any favors. There are plenty of modern carts for playing 78s.
     
    Dude111 and Muzyck like this.
  5. Colin M

    Colin M Forum Resident

    You'll probably need a phono preamp with multiple eq waveforms eg the iFi iPhono MM/MC Phono Preamplifier. Not all 78s will be RIAA
     
  6. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident

    I am not a 78 expert, but do own about 200 of them. The 78's are more specific with playback stylus size and shape, and also the speed they were cut at. The older 78's especially will vary from approx 60 RPM to 80 RPM, sometimes higher. The stylus can be from 2.5 mil to 3.0 mil, and there are a few 78's cut in microgroove, playable on a 0.7 mil conical. The playback curves also vary, and widely varied for the older records. The vintage acoustically recorded records have no equalization curves, although some sort of playback EQ may enhance their sound. (to simulate the response of an old gramophone) If we play a 78 on the wrong playback EQ or the wrong speed, it will sound "wrong". The tracking force for magnetic cartridges tends to be in the 3 gram range for playing 78's.

    I had an excellent page shortcut in my old computer on the playback, care and cleaning of 78's. I'll try to find it. Cleaning of some types of 78's with water can be fatal, some types of shellac are water reactive, and the pulp core may swell and fracture the shellac. Many 78's can be wet cleaned though.. the question is which ones are safe...
     
    adriatikfan likes this.
  7. AppleCorp3

    AppleCorp3 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Good stuff, thanks! The 78s that I've got are 40s and 50s with an old super thick single sided from the teens being the one exception and I've yet to try and play that!

    Overall the sound is really good, but we're always looking for ways to make it better. Very pressure bass signal and oddly enough no inner groove distortion.

    It's a marvel to watch too - those discs spin fast! It's amazing the needle doesn't fly off the record!
     
    Pinknik likes this.
  8. JBStephens

    JBStephens I don't "like", "share", "tweet", or CARE.

    Location:
    South Mountain, NC
    That's wrong and just plain silly. Some early 78's had an abrasive in the first few grooves, so that the sylus would be ground to the shape of the groove. However, playback with a modern stylus renders this moot. Alcohol should not be used to clean 78's as that will dissolve the shellac. I clean 78's with plain clear ammonia. The records that should not be cleaned with water are Edison Diamond Discs. Most have edge chips by now, and water will swell the core which is often made of wood flour. Stylus size and equalization are the two most important factors for listening to 78's. For casual playback with modern equipment, just turn down the bass and turn up the treble, and it'll sound close to the way it should.
     
    qwerty and McLover like this.
  9. JBStephens

    JBStephens I don't "like", "share", "tweet", or CARE.

    Location:
    South Mountain, NC
    It will, if they are very warped.
     
  10. JBStephens

    JBStephens I don't "like", "share", "tweet", or CARE.

    Location:
    South Mountain, NC
    Louis Armstrong was a very unfortunate victim of "engineers" who applied so much noise reduction it turned the music into horrid unmusical glop. :(
     
  11. JBStephens

    JBStephens I don't "like", "share", "tweet", or CARE.

    Location:
    South Mountain, NC
    If that's an Edison, those are vertically-cut, so you have to reverse the stereo channels. If you sum it, that'll just cancel things out and you won't hear much besides noise.
     
    The FRiNgE likes this.
  12. AppleCorp3

    AppleCorp3 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Interesting! I never knew about any sort of abrasive run in groove but it makes sense. Did they continue that practice long?

    I've also noticed some labels sound better than others. I've got some Parlophone and Mercury labels that sound quite good. Those are mostly pop (Platters and Vipers) and some Goodman on Columbia that are pretty noisy.
     
  13. JBStephens

    JBStephens I don't "like", "share", "tweet", or CARE.

    Location:
    South Mountain, NC
    No, it was more expensive for the label, and the shellac did natively shape the steel to the groove. They printed "Use a new needle for each playing" but nobody ever did, that's why you see so many 78's in such sorry condition. They did have "bargain" labels then, and pressing quality varied quite a lot. The 1920's equivalent to Certron cassettes. Okeh was usually pretty good. RCA Red Seals were pretty bad, from what I've seen. By the time they got to the 1950's, they had 78's down to a science, and they sounded excellent.
     
    AppleCorp3 likes this.
  14. Rick Bartlett

    Rick Bartlett Forum Resident

    Agreed! get a modern cart for 78 play, no way would I ever use a steel needle on a 78.
    In this day and age, we should be trying to preserve these, not rip the guts out of them like they did in the old days.
    steel is too harsh.
     
    McLover and adriatikfan like this.
  15. seed_drill

    seed_drill Forum Resident

    Location:
    Tryon, NC, USA
    A lot of people like to collect Victrolas, and there are plenty of less than mint popular titles that some shops still throw away. But you wouldn't want to put anything with any value under one of those.
     
  16. Cyrille.A

    Cyrille.A New Member

    Location:
    Lille, France
    Did you find your link to clean those 78's?

    I am intersting in it!
     
  17. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident

    Sorry, the old Compaq is in storage, still ran great last time is was booted up! I may have the old shortcuts on disc, will look but no guarantee it is there.
    There are lots of sites on the care and play of 78's and archival methods!
     
    AppleCorp3 likes this.
  18. Cyrille.A

    Cyrille.A New Member

    Location:
    Lille, France
    I have seen that, but if you had an accurate method, i would be glad to ear it :)

    Thanks anyway.
     
  19. MrRom92

    MrRom92 Forum Supermodel

    Location:
    Long Island, NY

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe you’re referring to the LP120? The PL120 is an old Pioneer from about 30 years ago and doesn’t do 78 as far as I’m aware, but the LP120 does.


    One great thing you can do that every record will benefit from - gut the internal phonostage. It’s no good. Once it’s completely removed, you’ll get a big improvement with your phono stage of choice - whichever you choose.


    Also, since your preamp has a mono switch, you can go ahead and remove the little metal strap from the pins on the M78s - this will give you a bit more flexibility with 78s should you need it, especially if you’re doing transfers, but generally you’re still gonna want to be playing with the mono switch engaged. This little coil is just doing the same thing so that people without a mono switch don’t have to worry about it.


    Anyway, welcome to the world of shellac! It gets addicting, and fast. But it’s still the best way to hear a lot of classic recordings.
     
    DaverJ likes this.
  20. beat_truck

    beat_truck Forum Resident

    Location:
    SW PA
    The AT PL120 was the predecessor to the LP120. I'm pretty sure the main difference was the PL120 didn't have the USB crap built in.
     
    sloaches likes this.
  21. AppleCorp3

    AppleCorp3 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Thanks for the comments! @beat_truck is correct that my AT is the older version and doesn't have USB capabilities.

    I've reverted it to my dedicated 78/mono table now and upgraded to Ortofon's stylus, having had great luck with their 2M series....so yes, addicting and fast would be appropriate!

    I'm terrified of removing the internal preamp even though I hear it works wonders... right now I'm just collecting some great stuff. My recent was a Sun pressing of Blue Suede Shows/Honey Don't (Carl Perkins) that cleaned up very nicely. Nice sound!
     
    DaverJ likes this.
  22. DaverJ

    DaverJ Forum Resident

    Location:
    East Tennessee
    I think we have that one too, and it's a nice sounding 78.

    That's the thing about playing 78s - they are far from high-fidelity, but on a decent system they sound better than one would expect. ...And different. If vinyl has a magical "musical" quality to the sound, then shellac is a mysterious, haunting experience that can draw the listener in. Best with old Blues 78s from the 20s and 30s.
     
  23. MrRom92

    MrRom92 Forum Supermodel

    Location:
    Long Island, NY

    Ahh I see. Today I learned! That 78 is a bit of a grail for me. Found one “in the wild” or so to speak when I was in Memphis this summer, but waaaaay too much money compared to what higher grading copies typically sell for online. Now I’ve been tempted to pull the trigger and order one since then!
     
  24. ThinWhiteDuke

    ThinWhiteDuke Active Member

    Location:
    New Zealand
    Does 'ruined' Shellac look similar to 'ruined' vinyl?

    There's a brick-a-brac store down the road from me with 1000's of 78's but the bunch I checked over all look like they've been groove ground so I didn't buy any.

    What does good quality well preserved Shellac look like?
     

Share This Page