A face made for radio

Uncle Jay gives a short explanation of why vintage 78 RPM records sound terrible on most modern turntables, and how you might be able to fix that.

“Radio 9” will not be heard this weekend on our flagship/namesake station, WRCT 88.3 FM. Instead, students will be presenting “Anatomy of the Ear,” an annual event where — for three days — usual programming is suspended in order to feature solid one-hour blocks of music from a variety of styles and genres.

This year, for my contribution to “Anatomy of the Ear,” I will be presenting an hour of big-band music, all from records, and most of the records will be original 78 RPM records from the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s.

The bad news? My hour will air at 3 a.m. Saturday. Make sure to set your alarm.

Since I know most of my listeners go to bed right after they watch the lottery numbers and won’t be up at 3 a.m. (unless they have to go pee), I will re-broadcast the hour of big-band music from 2 to 3 p.m. Saturday during my regular timeslot on Tube City Online Radio in McKeesport. (The other two hours of my show on Tube City Online Radio also will be pre-recorded this weekend.)

I thought some folks might be interested in the mechanics of playing 78 RPM records almost 100 years after they were first made, so I did this short video.

Basically, if you try to play 78 RPM records on most modern turntables, they will sound terrible, even if the turntable says it can play 78 RPM. You need to make sure you have the correct needle.

The opposite is also true: You should not try to play any modern records (33 or 45 RPM records made since 1950) on a turntable designed to play 78 RPM. You may very well destroy more modern records.

The needle (technically, “stylus”) for a modern (“microgroove”) record is tiny compared to the needles for which 78 RPM records were designed.

Mat from Techmoan has a much more detailed video that will explain everything you ever wanted to know about playing vintage records on a modern turntable.

And here’s a link to V-M Audio Enthusiasts in Michigan, which has a wide selection of turntable needles and record cartridges to fit most vintage (and some new) record players. This is not a paid endorsement; I’m just a very happy repeat customer.

You can find the entire schedule for Anatomy of the Ear on the WRCT website.

%d bloggers like this: