[Dixielandjazz] Restoring old 78 rpm jazz recordings

Arnold Day arnieday at optonline.net
Mon Mar 7 15:53:50 PST 2005


As you have discovered, transferring from LPs to CDs (including removing 
clicks and pops) is relatively straightforward. However, 78s present 
some unique problems which can be summarized as follows:

1. "78s" (especially early ones) were actually cut at an rpm of anywhere 
between roughly 75 and 83, so playback at the right speed/pitch needs 
attention. Not difficult to correct though, once in digital format.

2. Not many modern turntables have a 78 rpm setting. This again is not a 
big problem....play at 45 rpm and then convert once in digital format.

3. Modern cartridges for playing LPs do not have the optimum stylus 
(needle) shape for 78s. this too is not too difficult to take care of it 
your TT has a P-mount cartridge that you can easily switch to a spare 
one with a 78 compatible stylus .

4. This one is the major problem.  The signal level from most turntables 
is too low for recording through the line-in jack of a computer 
soundcard. So a "phono pre-amplifier is needed, either built into the TT 
or in the phono stage of your stereo receiver/amplifier (although many 
receivers/amplifiers these days come without a phono-input. Now, even if 
you have a phono pre-amplifier (either in the TT or in the 
receiver/amplifier) there is another problem. Except for speciality 78 
turntables, these pre-amplifiers include what is called  "reverse RIAA 
equalization". This is to correct for the RIAA eqalization that all LPs 
have had applied to them in the recording process since about 1955. This 
recording equalisation attenuates the bass frequencies (to keep the 
signal within the very narrow micro-groove) and amplifies the high 
frequencies. Now, this RIAA equalisation was not applied to 78s, so if 
you use a typical modern pre-amplifier (which applies the unneeded  
reverse equalisation) you will end up with a signal that has far too 
much bass and too little treble. Hope that is clear!
There are two ways to get around this. One is to buy a small 
pre-amplifier that does not apply the reverse RIAA equalisation (they 
used to be available at most electronics and audio stores...but I 
haven't checked lately. The alternative is to let the pre-amp do its 
dirty work and then correct for this once the recording is in digital 

In the unlikely event that you are still interested in going ahead with 
such a project, I have a lot of detailed information on the issues I 
have tried to summarize above. E-mail me off-list if you want to discuss 
it further.
Bill Gunter wrote:

> Hi all,
> In casting about for a topic for my column next month in the American 
> Rag about "Jazz on the Internet,"  I came across a web site for a 
> Canadian recording engineer who has developed a technique for 
> transferring old 78 to digital files and then burning them onto CDs. 
> The result is much cleaner recordings than the old 78s (who's got a 78 
> record player anyway this day and age?).
> I have transferred a few old recordings to CDs for my own archives and 
> certainly do not consider myself professional enough to do such a 
> thing as a business venture either for fun or profit. However, it's 
> possible that some of you may have developed an interest in this sort 
> of thing.
> If you can clean up old 78 jazz records and convert them to digital 
> .wav files for burning onto CD, and if you do this on any sort of 
> professional (or even amateur) basis for others, would you please 
> contact me and tell me about it.
> Those of us jazz nuts who would like to archive our old 78s in a 
> convenient clean form, playable using digital technology would, I'm 
> sure, be interested in techniques for doing it themselves or 
> references to those who do this sort of work.
> Are there software programs for such purposes that will clean up 
> cracks, scratches, clicks, and other strange and unwanted noises and 
> then burn such cleaned up tracks onto CDs playable in any CD player?
> Thanks in advance for your input on this.
> Cheers,
> Bill "Archivist" Gunter
> jazzboard at hotmail.com
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> Dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com
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