Subject: Edison records|
Date: 21 Feb 12 - 12:10 AM
Hunting around in a huge antique store today, I came across some Edison diamond discs. I've never really saw one in front of me before. The store had several for sale so I bought the lot of them. Poor Edison. His cylinders sounded better than discs but the public wanted discs. So then Edison made discs that were superior to the Victor Talking Machine Company and Columbia's but the public chose those over his again.
Basically, the cylinders (of which I own many) were vertically cut. When Victor and Columbia were touting discs, theirs were laterally cut. The quality of the sound is dependent on the width of groove. If a piece was anything over three minutes, the grooves had to be made thinner on the lateral groove discs which reduced sound quality. Cylinders, on the other hand, were vertically cut so the quality was contained in the groove depth rather than the width. So the width could be kept uniform on a cylinder meaning more music could be contained on a cylinder AND sound better. But, alas, cylinders were hard to store. The public was willing to accept shittier sound quality because discs were easier to store away and transport.
So Edison realized by 1912 that cylinders were done and started manufacturing discs. He used the same principle for this disc by making the grooves vertical rather than lateral. They sounded better and could fit more music per side. But here's what I can see is the problem having now bought a few: they weigh a ton, are thick as hell and brittle. I know if I drop one, that's it. They were more expensive, played at 80 rpm and required a diamond stylus (hence the term "diamond disc"). Victrolas couldn't play them but could play Columbia's discs. In 1908, Columbia started making double-sided discs. Edison picked up on that but Victor didn't (I own early 1900s Victors that are recorded only on one side and this continued into the 20s in many cases). Edison recorded on both sides (a different artist or act on each side) but this made them all the thicker and heavier.
Edison also had no marketing sense. When Emile Berliner first painted "His Master's Voice" in 1899, he used an Edison cylinder player as the model. When he tried to sell the painting to Edison, they told him to get lost saying, "Dogs don't listen to phonographs." So Berliner went to Maiden Lane in London and spoke to William Barry Owen who ran England's newly formed Gramophone Company. He said he'd like to borrow a golden horn attachment. Owen asked what for and Berliner showed him the painting and said a golden horn would spice up the picture. Owen said he'd loan Berliner the horn but only if Berliner changed the cylinder player to a gramophone to which Berliner immediately agreed. Owen then bought the painting for £100. We know the rest.
Then Edison had hard time giving up non-electric recording. They didn't switch over to it until 1927 while Victor and Columbia had converted in 1925 (actually earlier but they stayed silent about it until they could sell off their stocks of non-electric recordings). By 1929, Edison simply couldn't compete with Victor, Columbia, Decca, OKeh, Gennett and others. The advent of radio and the stock market crash drove in the nail. Even Victor was hard put to survive and merged with Sarnoff's Radio Corporation of America to form RCA-Victor and used "His Master's Voice" as the trademark in America. In 1931, Columbia Graphophone of Europe and the Gramophone Company merged to form Electrical and Musical Industries, Ltd. or EMI. They used the Gramophone Company's "His Master's Voice" label for their trademark (meaning it was the same as RCA-Victor's in the States). They also founded the Abbey Road studio—the first true dedicated recording studio.