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Re: [ARSCLIST] Dynamic-frequency Range

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Tom Fine" <tflists@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> If you consider that, for instance, an Edison Gem player has a horn with a
bell about the size of a
> flugelhorn, one can see how the medium did not allow anywhere near fidelity to
a piano. I've heard
> cylinders played on the more deluxe types with huge horns and they still sound
awful to my ears. A
> musician who actually cared about how his instrument sounded, especially
someone like a solo piano
> player who cares about dynamics and subtle shading of notes, would want to
avoid the medium
> altogether. I guess cylinders were something different in their day, obviously
greatly admired for
> the leap of being able to time-shift a performance and have repeated hearings
of something, but
> sheesh, I can't see how anyone who has grown up in the high fidelity era can
stand to listen to
> them. 10 grades worse than 78's, and I think you all know how I feel about
most 78's so I won't
> belabor that one. I'm talking specifically about using the medium for music,
not for spoken word or
> sung "skits" (usually racist and none too funny by today's standards) that
cylinders were also used
> for. In those cases, no better or worse than most modern AM radio (ie not too
good but the words are
> usually intelligable). I know, I know, they're historic artifacts, which is
why I'm glad they're
> preserved and people still care about them. Just not ever my choice for
quality listening time.
Well, you have to remember (as you note) that the early record players,
disc or cylinder, were for most people the first time they had ever
been able to hear music that they didn't have to either play themselves
or depend on any remotely-"talented" members of their household!

And...regardless of the fact that the reproduction was miles from
being accurate, it was also the only source they had...all someone
could do is buy a fancier machine with a larger horn, which might
sound a bit better. Same way that back in my teenage years, cars
had only AM radios, and the speakers the factory had installed...
so you put up with that, because the vast panopoly of automotive
sound systems hadn't yet materialized. Oh, you COULD install a
rear speaker (and, by the late fifties, a spring reverb...) but
that was it!

As far as the early recordings...well, fans of classical music
can often find current recordings of many, if not most, of the
pieces in the repertoire. The only reason they have to listen to
vintage recordings is to hear performers who have long since died
(Caruso, Rachmaninoff, usw.) and aren't accessible in any other

However, we fans of "pop" music aren't nearly as fortunate! If
I want to hear "On the 5:15," the only way I can do so is to
dig out my 78rpm recording of the tune. Further, I shudder to
think of the results should it be redone by a typical 21st
century band...or even by a group of studio musicians more
used to playing "easy listening" music. It's something like
having two choices if you wanted to hear, say, Beethoven's
Fifth Symphony...a reissue of an acoustic 78, or a recording
of your local high-school orchestra!

Give the digital world another couple of decades, and they
will probably have figured out how to enable computers to
analyze a digital sound file taken from playing a vintage
recording...and provide a full-bandwidth stereo (or 7.1?)
rendering of what SHOULD have been recorded...

(and probably fed directly into one's brain, so that any
inaccuracies inherent in one's hearing would also disappear...)

Steven C. Barr

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