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Victor Recordings In The Acoustical Recording Era

Prior to 1925, making a recording employed the same purely mechanical and non-electronic “acoustical” method that was used following the invention of the phonograph almost fifty years earlier. That time, there was no microphone involved in a recording and no amplification system. The machine used for recording was an exposed-horn acoustical record player which functioned in reverse.

The Mechanism Of The Early Recording Machine

The early recording machine had one or more funnel-like horns made of metal which were used to create and send a concentrated energy form of the airborne sound waves into a recording diaphragm. The latter, made of a thin glass disc that measured around two inches in diameter, was held in place using rubber gaskets at the perimeter. Its central part which was sound-vibrated was connected to a cutting stylus found guided across the surface of a wax disc.

Although the wax disc was very thick, the wax itself was too soft to allow it to be played back without incurring serious damage. At times, test recordings were conducted and sacrificed by playing back the wax disc immediately.

The Characteristic “Horn Sound”

A series of small refinements was added to gradually improve sound quality which was deemed as an inherently insensitive process. The recording of sound was only possible when the sources were either very loud or were in close distance to the recording horn. While the process incorporated the use of sibilants and high-frequency overtones that were important for producing clear and detailed sound, these items were too feeble in order to register beyond the background noise. As a result, the resonances produced in the recording horns as well as the accompanying parts gave the characteristic “horn sound.”

An experienced modern listener would easily identify this sound type as an acoustical recording. Likewise, contemporary listeners would normally associate it with “phonograph music.”

Innovations On The Manufacturing Process

From the very beginning, Victor made innovations on its manufacturing processes which led them to rise into preeminence following the recording done by famous performers. First, it instituted a 3-step mother-stamper process in 1903 which allowed increased production of more stampers and records. Once the quality of disc records and players had improved, the next project was to have the most respected musicians and singers of the time to record for Victor under exclusive agreements whenever possible. These recordings had red labels and bore the Red Seal in the market.

Double-Sided Recording

After these recordings were made single-sided for several years, Victor started offering Red Seals that were in double-sided form in 1923. During this time, countless advertisements were released which gave praises to renowned opera stars and concerts. Each had boasted on recording exclusively for Victor.


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