Wax cylinder recording - He's In The Jailhouse Now

Forget iPods, MP3s, CDs, or even cassettes and vinyl. Here's how Thomas Edison first recorded sound 130-years ago - using wax cylinders. Duncan Miller of The Vulcan Cylinder Record Company, of Sheffield, England, UK, runs one of only two functioning cylinder phonograph companies in the world. Here he explains how it works, recording Vaudeville ukulele player Madame Pamita and Sheffield musician Tom Rodwell. Video courtesy of The Star. Full story

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Author Kotikjeff (1 month)
Fantastic! Great sound, lovely singer and a wonderful slice of the past. 

Author Geoffrey Chambers (6 months)
Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project, University of California at
Santa Barbara enables you to download mp3s of historic wax cylinder

Author Dave Star (8 months)
This is a very interesting video . I would love to see more of you
recording technique.
Thanks Dave.

Author Rodrigo Valenzuela (3 months)
Channel BBC 4 - Sound of songs. masterpiece!!! January 2015

Author Juliana Brown (1 year)
Wouldn't it make more sense to say this is a photograph..and not a painting?

A photograph being... reality captured... a painting being infinitely
modifiable... like modern recording.

Author bluenote71 (5 years)
Just amazing.

Author Shawn Borri (2 years)
Horns depend on what kind of a record you are taking and what sound you
want. Duncan is using the correct horn for this recording situation, since
the uke and female voice have very high frequencies, a skinny short horn
works the best for this purpose. High frequencies tend to get lost on the
journey down the diaphragm so a short horn is best for these. Most original
acoustic recordings were made with a 27" long horn with the bell about 6"
in diameter. Band with no vocal a 56" horn.

Author obscure323 (2 years)

Author ufoengines (4 years)
Have you ever tried to record video on your machine, using the standards
from the Narrow Band T.V. folks ? ..... " Mechanical T.V."

Author AAErikCO (5 years)
Really neat to watch! It's interesting to hear how a brand new cylinder
sounds to compare what the original wax cylinders must have sounded like
'hot off the stylus' :)

Author PlasmaMongoose (1 year)
If you were to place the quality of the wax recording in terms of an MP3,
it sounds like about 16kbps.

Author robert creighton (3 years)
this is so amazing love this song and recording on wax cylinder - too cool
i love old recording talking machines

Author BlackHoleSun1921 (3 years)
Vinyl is too mainstream--- I have the new Radiohead album on Wax.

Author rweerakkody4565 (5 years)
i love all primitive recording devices and media. this is great. i see it
from recording to playing. nice sound quality. i only saw this in the
books. and very nice song. i can use this song on some occasion or
something. 5 stars.

Author jojopuppyfish (2 years)
What does led zeppelin sound like on that machine?

Author Shawn Borri (2 years)
I should say with no bell, a cone horn. Full Band recording, to capture the
full sound I have used a 56" brass horn, and sometimes with vocal put a Y
in and have the smaller horn off to the side for the vocalist, while
instruments are pointed at the larger horn. I have used a cygnet horn and
have made decent recordings with them for male baritone/tenor voice playing
an acoustic guitar. See is depends on the record you want.

Author EmmetEarwax (3 years)
The cutting needle IS pretrty sharp, and so it has no prob in recording a
perfect lo-fidelity cylinder. Also the "wax" is actually blue amberol, a
shellac-like substance that works very well. Wax was used prior to 1890
,mostly for home recording and it wore with each playing. Prior to 1878,
there were experiments with tin foil and lead. Tin foil records are now
unplayable (after 3-4 playings they wore out and they had to be scraped off
the cylinder !) and a lead cylinder still survives.

Author Max Dzikowski (5 years)

Author edisonphonographfan (3 years)
@mandelcorny yeah I never really much liked vinyl the old celluliod
cylinders wouldnt break and lasted better than any other medium we have.
and phonographs and graphophones were cylinder machines (most of the time)
it was gramophones that played 2 sided records which didnt catch up in
quality until the 1910s and 20s

Author Zefren Anderson (5 years)
Epic! XD

Author DellDuckfan313 (2 years)
I think it's wonderful that this company exists. Who knew you could still
have a recording made on a cylinder, in the 21st century?

Author Alexander Kirtley (2 years)
isnt the bell of this horn a bit small to pick up all the frequencie's from
both the voice and ukulele, i would have thought a horn with a small bell
should be for voice recordings, and a wider bell can pick up more
frequencies? there is a video on "phonophan79"'s channel using a brass
belled horn to record and that does a decent job, the sound from this
recording sounds quite dull and quiet. anyways thanks for your info, when i
can get a recorder i will start recording so all info is helpful!

Author deltaleader37 (3 years)

Author Fonograf1877 (5 years)
Great song !! 5/5

Author chrisz78 (2 years)
Nope, nothing but a straight conical horn for recording! I've tried it, an
exponentional (wide-belled) horn won't work as the sound will be dull and
lacking presence. This *is* a voice recording, and a female voice at that,
so he's perfectly right to use a horn that resonates with the upper
harmonics of that voice. You definitely don't want resonance in the lower
midrange, let alone bass - the horn should do a similar bass rolloff and
treble boost as today's RIAA curve for best efffect. .....

Author AstroGamerSteve (1 year)
So the cylinder recording is cut by a phonograph and played back by a
gramophone, correct?

Author ArchyC (1 year)
I wonder if this guy could clean up that of "Funky Butt" granpa left
behind. Supposedly came from pre WW1 "Nwalins".

Author CassetteMaster (4 years)
Is there a way the wax is hardened after the recording is done? Cause it
seems like playing it would wear down the wax into just wiping out the
original recordings.

Author sauroid1 (2 years)
Amazing sound quality.

Author EmmetEarwax (3 years)
Sound quality is good -but that's because it was just cut. 10-11 playings
and you'll hear definite deterioration. Best to tape record the cylinder
before it becomes a surface roar mess. I was in the Edison labs in NJ, and,
while they did sell albums of Edison disks and cylinders in the gift shop
and had a cylinder player for a visitor to run, there was no actual
recording being demonstrated.

Author darksound1973 (5 years)
Nice recording machine! Finally someone with an advance ball to adjust the
depth of cut.

Author paragraphthree (5 years)
This is excellent.!

Author 2agray (3 years)
Now that's just fascinating! Who would have ever thought we'd go back and
do this again commercially? What a wonderful idea to recreate cylinders. A
lot of the original material was crap and this is more hand picked with
jazz tunes and such. Would love to see a video of your transfers from
whatever media. The ones I've heard on youtube are stunning in their
clairty and quality. They must be electrically transfered.

Author squidrick9042 (2 years)
i must try this, im a music technology major and i wanna record analog
tracks on a non electric device and some digital tracks and mix them to get
a strange sound

Author Gregory May (5 years)
So cool! We want more videos of using these old machines to record!! Thanks
for showing the act of recording, and the finished output!

Author realgoodbread (5 years)
Two thumbs up.

Author TeeheeSamson (2 years)
They should try recording songs on cylinders made of dried flavoured

Author Ziplock74 (5 years)
who would of guessed the first microphone looked like that?

Author edisonphonographfan (3 years)
@mandelcorny Actually edison cylinders after 1901 where pressed in molds up
until 1929.

Author mandelcorny (3 years)
vinyl vs. cylinders in sound quality are the same. but vinyl can be
pressed, while wax cannot

Author Mark Aartun (2 years)
Where was this machine built? Looks to be a new designed machine. Very well
built! Any information would be greatly appriciated.

Author xylfox (2 years)
I think:Why wasnt this invented 100red years earlier?From mechanical point
they could have done it. Why didnt the Chinese invent a man-carrying
hot-air-ballon? They had smaller ones for thousand years.Also
paper,silk,bambus.Because there was no need? BTW: It took nearly 50 years
from this first records to a industrial mass-market.

Author palehorse864 (2 years)
I wonder, could cylinders be made of vinyl? Would they have more durability
or sound quality like that?

Author McToddRidesAgain (2 years)
Phonophan79 may simply have used a better video camera and microphone, it's
really impossible to compare these types of recordings when they are shown
here as videos shot on wildly differing cameras. For cylinder recording
info, get Eric Reiss's book The Compleat Phonograph.

Author Alexander Kirtley (3 years)
he was using the wrong horn!, those small but long horns are only for voice
recordings! for recording that he really needed to use a large belled black
and brass horn or possibly a morning glory or even a cygnet!

Author HyruleanaZeldin (5 years)
Oh my God! :O I want one of those!

Author McToddRidesAgain (2 years)
You only use straight horns for recording with (albeit different sizes and
widths depending on the sounds you're collecting) but you NEVER use curved
horns for recording, ONLY for reproducing sound.

Author chrisz78 (2 years)
....(continuation) In a perfectly linear High-Fidelity reproduction, bass
amplitudes are magnitudes larger than treble (look or feel the movement of
a bass speaker diaphragm compared to the tweeter!). You can't cut grooves
that look like that, but you have to transform all frequencies into
amplitudes of similar size. With acoustic recording that means tuning the
resonance of the system to the upper end of the recorded range. A smallish
horn and glass diaphragm do just that.

Author Souza Brito (4 years)
s to send me the draft of the recording head? I have here a dictaphone and
I want to turn it into a phonograph ... but you have to manufacture the
bottles and burn too ... I would like if possible the design of the
recording head and other details please hugs Souza Brito

Author mandelcorny (3 years)
@edisonphonographfan still more difficult, and also, phonographs can have 2
sides, should have specified phonographs over vinyl my b. vinyl is such a
fail though, i was at a store selling old 78 rpm's made of shellac and they
felt so much better

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