ETCHED records, and surface noise. -Wyatt Markus
Ever wonder why some DD records sound better than others? A lot has
to do with available materials
and the processes involved with disc production and quality control.
This is a QUICK (and I mean, QUICK)
primer on Edison Diamond Disc recording quality, and overall physical disc
quality, spanning early to late production.
1. The earliest all-black "etched" Edison Diamond discs were accoustically
recorded, and were essentially
wood-powder core discs laminated with celluloid and condensite. These
are easily identifiable by their label,
which is stamped into the condensite, with a frosted or sand-blasted look
to them. These earliest of discs are
accoustically recorded, and are constructed of highest quality materials
available. If you wanted to impress the general
public, you utilized the best materials obtainable. And, this is what
Edison did. The recordings are strong,
near life-like, and have the least surface noise of any DD recordings until
the invent of the electrically mastered
recordings in the late 1920's. These high quality discs lasted for
a brief period until World War 1 came about.
To me, these are the most valuable recordings because of their relative rareity
(not in numbers, but in the numbers
that SURVIVE!). I'd say that 85+% of these discs are found literally
peeling apart or warped. A shame, because
they are also my favourite style. They are the most life-like recordings
Edison ever made. PERIOD.
Average purchasing price: $3-$8
2. Edison etched Diamond Disc production continued through the WWI
era, although a few changes to the composition
of the discs had to be achieved. Because materials were needed for
the war efford, the chemical and physical
composition of the discs was modified. These poorer compositions lead
to much noisier and weaker recordings.
Not until the years following the end of the Great War did material quality
improve. One of the transitional changes
was the use of china clay instead of wood powder for the disc core materials.
This lead to less moisture damage,
less warping, and less delaminating.
Average purchasing price: $3-$8
3. Into the early 20's we go, and the labels were changed from the
all-black etched label to the addition of a paper label.
These paper labels are easy to read, and rather attractive. They
are, unfortunately, adhered to the disc record with the
worst possible adhesive known to man, and they are highly prone to chipping
and tearing. The quality of the condensite
laminates improved slowly through the 20's, up until the late 1926-1929 period,
where they became nearly as quiet
and perfect as they were in the 1912-1915 period.
Average purchasing price: $5-$12
4. The final incarnation of DD records occurs in the late 1920's, until
the demise of the format in 1929. These are electrically
mastered (using a studio microphone), and start roughly at 52089-ish. The
highly collectible 52,xxx series records have
very high signal modulation, and excellent audio dynamics throughout. Nothing,
not even a Victor record, can compare to the
tonal depth and clarity available on the superbly recorded Diamond Discs
of the very late 1920's. These records have
nearly ZERO surface noise, and a very broad catalog offering of genres. Expect
to pay anywhere from $9-$800 for these,
depending on the type of performance on the disc.