About

Preservationsound.com is a collection of ideas and information about audio.

More specifically, the history of audio, and our relationship to audio.  Audio, broadly defined, is the electrical representation of sound.  Sound has existed for at least as long as anyone has been around to hear it, but audio is a relatively new technology.  The ability to ‘capture’ sound and then ‘play it back’ divorced from its origin in time and/or space is the most basic function of audio technology.   In addition to this role, audio technology can also be an instrument; a tool to create unique sounds that do not originate as acoustic sound.  I do not mean to imply that these are separate functions; capturing and playing back sound will always change the sound, regardless of the intent of the audio operator.   There is always a grey area between documentation and manipulation; every audio operation creates the potential for a new sound.  We have developed a great many audio tools and technologies to maintain the ‘fidelity’ of audio: that is to say, maintain a ‘true-to-the-original-sound’ quality in our audio signals.  We have also developed a great number of tools and technologies to enhance, distort, combine, separate, and generally manipulate audio.  It is these tools and technologies that I am interested in exploring.  I am interested in their effects, their methods, and their development.  Most of all, I am interested in their potential to create meaning for the people who experience these new sounds.  Sounds that have been brought across great distances, through spans of time, bearing the artifacts of the particular tools that have crafted them.

I will not be presenting a chronological narrative.  I am not attempting to offer a comprehensive or thorough treatment of audio history.  Instead I will focus each post on a particular subject: a technology, a technique, an individual, a recording, a piece of hardware.  I will provide historical context, and offer my thoughts about what significance the subject may have.  Some posts will be very broad in nature, and some will be fairly technical.  Much of what I write about will stem from my own experiments with audio hardware and techniques.  I hope you find the information useful.

14 thoughts on “About”

  1. You’ve got a great blog, dude! Althought, I disagree with the definition of audio ” as the electrical representation of sound” as long as they managed to capture and reproduce sound even before electricity was widely used. You know: wax cylinders, tinfoils, and such… 🙂 Cheers!

    1. That is an interesting point. i’ll have to think about that… in the instance of wax cylinders, was there any current involved? magnets, coils, any fields generated? I imagine that electrical potentials were in use somewhere in the process? maybe not?

      1. The audio we hear is changes of air pressure that push and pull the eardrum which are translated to nerve signals. The audio recorded to a wax cylinder is changes of air pressure that push and pull a membrane connected to a needle that cuts a groove in the wax. No electricity or magnets are needed.

        1. Hi paul. Thanks for writing in. Respectfully, i feel that you
          Might be confusing the literal definitions of “audio” and “sound”. Best, c.

      2. The only electricity used in recording sound until circa 1924 was that required to power the studio lights and drive the mandrel/turntable under the (completely mechanical) record head. Often however either a spring or weight driven apparatus was used instead of an electrically driven motor so, lighting aside, the entire process was non-electronic.
        I know of some cylinder dictation machine that recorded and played back 100% acoustically still being used in the early 1960s.

  2. Hi Chris:

    Until about 1926, all sound recording for cylinders and Berliner/Victor disks was done mechanically (acoustically). No electricity involved. The recording horns in major studios of that era, like Edison and Victor in NJ and EMI in England, were huge and the setups elaborate. There was even a recording violin made by Stroh, which had a horn attached to the soundboard in order to acoustically amplify the instrument.

    Western Electric developed the means to use electricity to pick up sound with a microphone and amplify it into an electro-magnetic cutting head, to cut onto wax, in 1925-26 and licensed the system to record companies in 1926.

    There are two excellent books on the early days of recording, which I highly recommend, both by Alan Sutton:

    “A Phonograph in Every Home”
    http://www.mainspringpress.com/book_phonograph.html
    traces the beginnings of the recording industry

    “Recording the ‘Twenties”
    http://www.mainspringpress.com/book_rec20.html
    takes the history into the transition from acoustic to electrical recording, and then into the Depression. Fans of jazz, blues and “hillbilly” (country) music will like the chapters detailing how these genres developed in the larger context of the recording and music businesses.

    And I see he’s just finished the next installment (as of 2/12), “Recording the Thirties”:
    http://www.mainspringpress.com/book_catalog.html

    — Tom

  3. Hey Chris!

    Thanks for the comment you made on my blog. Really enjoyed talking music with you on Saturday. Enjoy your Uncle Roy Ayers record. Hope to see you before I head out west.

    All the best,
    Amy 🙂

  4. I really enjoy your website and wonderful that people still find the “Old and Antique” technologies interesting to study. I’ve been studying the Old and Antique Recording technology for over 50- years and still find it very interesting. There is always something to learn, even studying all this old audio technology. Thanks for all your efforts and time to keep this website going.
    Best regards, Gaylord Ewing

  5. I am build a new studio what to buy ?
    there is no real recorders for master dry tracks rackmount
    48 channel. so no master dry track are your time and bread winner. that is my error thinking on build a tape-tapeless recorder- no SD FOR ME maybe a old hard drive 32bit-16bit
    no usb. AES the most 48-44.1-96k maybe-16bit yes.
    no pc or mac fun.
    Studio manufacturers mixing tracking console of 2015
    I think they drop the ball on what sounds good
    after you know you can lose your sound with Avid.
    i think all the manufacturers should take lesson from this site
    learn from real history not just try to get better or look for a fast buck
    to make real consoles and keep a low price so we all can have
    real sound they we all want it. art is music and you have it all.

  6. http://www.ebay.com/itm/Wheatstone-SP-8-Stereo-Production-Console-TV-Broadcast-On-Air-Mixer-/251813149317?nma=true&si=NK%252FZgTRVDKPvN4xsExwTgphzYXI%253D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557

    I wish I had seen this Wheatstone SP-8 sooner. Several months after the ebay listing above had closed, I stumbled upon it while looking for a TV-600 manual. I contacted the seller right away (an e-recycling center), and he informed me that the console was destroyed. The 24 mono/stereo modules in the console and a box of extra modules were used for scrap metal. He had also found the power supply, which was also destroyed. That type of shit makes me very sad. I guess it’s true – you snooze, you lose. In this case, everybody loses. RIP beautiful analog console…

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information and ideas about audio history