1926 EDISON LONG PLAY
DIAMOND DISC PHONOGRAPH
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Watch this YouTube Video of the Machine playing a Long Play Diamond Disc and Zez Confrey’s Kitten on the Keys.
Production History of this Model
The introduction of electrically recorded Victrola records created a problem for Edison’s Diamond Disc Phonographs:
While Thomas Alva Edison considered electric recordings inferior to his acoustic Diamond Disc process, and dismissed louder volume as the passing fad of a misguided public, he was nevertheless working on an innovative new record to counter the electric recording: The Long Playing Disc.
Victrola records maxed out at about 5 minutes per side, a 10” Diamond Disc side could hold up to 4:50 minutes. In the time before record changers, that meant that any listener would need to get up frequently to change records.
Edison’s amazing new Long Playing Diamond Disc would hold 24 minutes for a 10” record, and 40 minutes on a 12” record. Still running at 80 rpm, the playing time of these innovative records is comparable to a modern Vinyl LP. The idea was that people could sit down for dinner, wind up the Edison Phonograph, and enjoy uninterrupted pleasant background music during the meal.
Original advertising slogan: “Entertainment from Soup to Nuts”
George Frow reports in his book on Edison Phonographs:
“The reproducing styli with their elliptical points were ground and polished to two thousandths on an inch, finer that the thickness of a newspaper, and 60 per cent were said to be destroyed in the manufacture. The record grooves were finer than a human hair, and a 40-minute 12-inch disc had one and a quarter miles of groove and a playing time of 5.625 minutes per inch of music. Truly these records were years in advance of their time, and had twice as many grooves as the average long playing record of today; if only they could have been reproduced electrically in the home, they might have given the Edison Company several years’ lead over competitors.”
With this impressive innovation Edison reached the limits of the technically possible of acoustic reproduction:
- Records were cut at an ultrafine 400 lines per inch, finer than a modern LP.
- The ultra fine elliptical long play diamond was precision ground and exerted a significant pressure on the fine grooves.
Because correct tracking was more important than ever, Edison even slightly angled the Long Play Reproducer to reduce any tracking error. While the HOME USE Long Playing Disc was a short-lived experiment, the COMMERCIAL Long Play Disc actually survived the 1929 closure of the Edison works into the mid-1930s.
Edison introduced 6 Long Playing Diamond Discs in October 1926, and at the same time introduced 4 models of long playing consol phonographs, C1 – C4, which were of similar design, but differed in overall dimensions and the size of the horn. Prices were from $165 with the small C-100 horn to $300 for a console with the largest Laboratory Model C-250 horn.
In February 1927, Edison also offered a long play conversion set for existing Diamond Disc Phonographs: It consisted of an optional second spring barrel (for one-spring motors), the Long Play Reproducer, the gear mechanism, a 10”/ 12” record stop and a holder. Installation was simple, as it only required to switch the original wormgear shaft with the new gear mechanism. The short/ long switch was simply clipped on the bedplate.
Despite the stunning achievement of the Long Play Disc, it did not find widespread success. In this it shared the fate of many other schemes to introduce longer playing records:
- Only very few Long Playing Records were available (6 records in 1926). Selections were mostly dinner music or classical medleys, but no complete works like musical scenes or symphonies.
- While working reliably, record volume level was quite low, and sound quality hampered by some lack of clearness and occasional pre-echo.
- The fine grooves were susceptible to damage, and the fine diamond point was rather hard on records. Once a record was damaged, the stylus would start to skip.
- The new long playing consoles were of a somewhat unattractive design.
Edison Long Play Phonographs were offered for less than one year: They were discontinued in August 1927 with the introduction of the new EDISONIC line of Diamond Disc Phonographs. This puts the Long Playing Reproducer and Diamond Discs among the rarest Edison Phonograph collectibles.
While the HOME USE Long Playing Disc was a short-lived experiment, the COMMERCIAL Long Play Disc actually survived the 1929 closure of the Edison works into the mid-1930s: The 300 lines per inch 30 rpm Radiosonic Broadcast transcriptions were used by several radio stations, and other uses, like audio books for the blind were explored.
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So, check out some more movies that I have put on YouTube here:
And some more interesting changers with videos of the changers working: