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Housekeeping « Grandpa's iPod

Archive for the ‘Housekeeping’ Category

Merry Christmas!

December 23, 2012

I just wanted to pop in here in case anyone is still following me. Here’s a little update.

We moved from Orlando, Florida to Chiang Mai, Thailand in June. The last six months have been a blur of settling in and learning our way around. But Grandpa’s iPod is never far from my mind.

Just before we left Florida, I sold the turntable and gave the records to a great guy from Miami. Robert, I hope you’ve been able to get the turntable working well again and are enjoying the records. I did get everything transferred to my computer before it all went away, and I’m starting to really get the itch to start posting again. Somehow this always happens around Christmastime. :)  Between language learning, homeschooling my kids, and everything else (not to mention sometimes very slow internet) I can’t promise I’ll get to it soon but I’m really going to try. Who knows, maybe I’ll get a little time over Christmas break. In the meantime, here are some Christmas records I’ve posted in the past. Enjoy.

Anyway, I just wanted anyone out there to know that I’m still here even though the blog has been quiet for a long time. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you!

My final eBay listing

March 27, 2012

The turntable, EQ, transformer, and pre-amp are now listed on eBay. The Altec Lansing amplifier and Gray Research tonearm have both sold and shipped. The records will be picked up in a few weeks.

I feel like this is the end of an era, but I’m okay with it. I know my grandfather would be really happy with what I’ve done, how I’ve used everything, and what I’ve been able to get for it all.

I’m not sure when I’ll have time to post some more material, but I’ll try to get some up soon.

It is finished!

March 17, 2012

I can hardly believe it, but I think I’m done with the digitizing! I may go back and do a few of the ones I skipped if I get the chance, but I’ve done everything that (a) was an actual program, (b) seemed historically significant or hard-to-find, or (c) otherwise caught my eye. The things I skipped were all records that my mom confirmed were most likely copied from commercial recordings. Apparently he worked the day shift on Sundays for a while; there were no live shows so he had a bit of time on his hands. Almost every week, he’d come home with a record or two that he’d made from the WJR libraries during his shift. This would have been in the late 1950s to early 1960s.

I’m now ready to part with the records and the gear. I’ve got a place for the records (actually, a plan A and a plan B) and will be listing the gear on eBay very soon. Just in case anyone’s interested, I’ll post here with a link once it’s listed.

Preparations for our move are in full swing, but if I get a chance I’ll put some new programs up. I’ve been able to confirm that we should have a good internet connection in Thailand, so I will still be able to continue posting music after we move. Thanks for sticking with me!

Back in business!

March 3, 2012

It seems like there was a problem with the new stylus I’d put in. I’m not sure, but I think maybe it was a little bent so it was touching part of the cartridge where it shouldn’t have been. I did a bunch of playing around today and everything seems to be good again. I’m still using that new stylus but I straightened it out and so far, no hum/rumble. I’ve tested it compared to the old stylus and to another new stylus, and it sounds way better than either. That’s actually a bit of a bummer, since I was planning to use the other new stylus once this one wears out.

Does anyone have a source for type 500-S25 styli? In the past I didn’t have any trouble finding them, but when I tried a few weeks ago I had no luck at all. I ended up having to get a diamond stylus instead of sapphire. When I just tried it out compared to either my old, worn out sapphire tip or the new (formerly messed-up but now good) sapphire tip, the diamond one sounded pretty awful. I suppose it would still be better than nothing, but I’d love to be able to get the right kind again.

As a progress update, as I write this I’m recording disc #155.  I have 101 16″ records left. I may skip some of them, as it looks like they might be what we’d now call mixtapes. If it’s obvious that the material on them is just copied from commercial records that are available elsewhere I won’t waste my time with them. I’m sure there will also be a few that aren’t playable due to condition problems. In addition to the 16″ records there are 24, 12″ records (at least some of which are  78s) and two 10″.

So I’m making progress, but still have a way to go. Now that the player’s working again I should be able to pick up the pace.


February 28, 2012

Something’s going on with my setup. I keep getting this low rumble/hum, but not all the time. Here’s what we’ve guessed at/tried to fix so far.

The connection from the tonearm to the preamp: it’s kind of cobbled together. The cord from the tonearm has been soldered to an RCA end which goes into the little cheapo digital preamp I use. My resident audio engineer (my husband) checked that and thought it might have gotten messed up, so he played around with it and thinks he got it straightened back out. He had originally put it together so he knew how it was supposed to go.

Interference from other devices: there had been some powered speakers plugged into the same power strip as the the turntable and amp. I pulled the speakers, so now the TT and amp are the only things plugged into it.

Vibration: if the platter is spun by hand, there is no rumble.

Bad cords: tested each one.

Bad input: plugged a different device in, no rumble.

Interference from other peripherals in the computer: unplugged external hard drives.

On a record I just played, there was rumble when I first dropped the needle. I picked it up and dropped it again–no rumble.  On the next record,there was no rumble at first, but it started in the middle of the record. When the rumble started, the signal strength as indicated by the waveform dropped way off.  Here’s a screenshot to show you what I mean.

The hum starts at about the 2:00 mark, then quickly grows–and signal fades–until you can barely hear the signal. Where it looks flatlined, you can actually still hear the music over the rumble but just barely.

Does anyone have any ideas as to what might be going on and how I can fix it? My next thought is the cartridge. I do have a spare, so I could try that. I recently changed the stylus, but it’s identical to the one I took out (purchased at the same time, both NOS). Maybe something got messed up in the cartridge connections then? The problem started since that change, but not immediately after it.

If I can’t get this fixed, I can’t get my records done before I move. So please, if you have any suggestions for me let me know ASAP!



How I do what I do

February 3, 2012

There have been a couple of comments mentioning that it sounds like the speed of the recordings might be off. It is entirely possible. Let me describe the process I’m using to get these programs from the records to the web.

I am using the 1948 Presto 64-A turntable (described and pictured in “About -> The iPod”) as I have no other turntable. The output from the tonearm is going directly to a digital preamp, and that is connected to my computer. Unfortunately the 33rpm motor on the Presto started malfunctioning about a year ago, which leaves me only able to play records at 78rpm.

So I play the records at 78rpm into a program called Audacity. It takes about 6-7 minutes to play a 15-minute program this way. Audacity has a preset effect for altering the speed of an audio file, which I run on the completed wave form. I spot check to make sure it sounds human, then save as a .wav file.

When I’m getting ready to upload a new program to Bandcamp, I open the .wav file in a different audio editing program, Cubase. Audacity is great for making the original recording and changing the speed, but it’s not so good for editing.  With Cubase I can manipulate the wave form to repair skips, trim dead space at the beginning and end of the files, and fade out the ending if I had to trim it (sometimes the edges of the record are in such bad shape I can’t play them right to the end).  Then the completed project is outputted to a new .wav file and uploaded to Bandcamp then cross-posted here.

With the help of my audio engineer husband I just did some checking and found that it looks like the turntable might be running just a tiny bit fast. He clocked it at about 78.5rpm, which is a very, very slight difference. However, when the recording speed is changed to 33.3 that difference gets stretched, so to speak. I just did a test with a file that I just recorded yesterday. First I changed it back to 78rpm. Then instead of using the preset of -57.265%, I slowed it down a tiny bit extra: -57.96%. He and I both think it sounds better that way, so from now on I will use that conversion rate instead. I can also fix the records that I’ve already done but not yet posted by running the fix when I’m ready to edit them. This will only add a couple of minutes to my editing time, so that won’t be any big deal. However, with trying to get the remaining records copied to the computer before we move overseas (while trying to get rid of everything we own, homeschool my three kids, and take care of life in general) there is absolutely no way I can go back and change the recordings that are already posted. But remember that you can download lossless files of everything on Bandcamp. If you have audio editing programs and want to play with it on your own, go for it!

The total time I put into a 15-minute recording start to finish can be as little as 30 minutes for a program with no skips to several hours for one in really bad shape. There are about 250 records in my collection (15 minutes per side), although some are only recorded on one side, some are too deteriorated to play, and others I’ve chosen to skip for now because they’re not actually radio programs but just random prerecorded music my grandpa put together.  I have somewhere around 125-150 records left to do. I’ll let you do the math for how much work I have ahead of me. I don’t really want to know.  :)

As far as inconsistencies in the speed of some of the recordings (where they sound kind of warped), there is absolutely nothing I can do about that. I just don’t have the time, knowledge, or technology to do it. But once again, those of you with more time, experience and better programs than I have are welcome to download and play with the files. The only limitation I’ve put on them is that they are not to be used for profit.


I’m on a big push right now to get the rest of my grandpa’s records digitized as quickly as possible. I know I’ve said this before. This time, though, I actually have a deadline looming. Later this year my family and I will be moving out of the country and we can’t take the record player or records with us. Even if I thought they could survive the journey (which I don’t), shipping costs would be astronomical. As much as I love the player and the records themselves, what’s special to me is the content and the glimpse it gives me not only of my grandpa, but of life in a different era. Once I have that content preserved, I can handle parting with the physical media and player.

To see exactly what this “stuff” is, click on the “About” menu at the top of the page. For the gear, select “The iPod” and for the records “The Playlist.” The only part of the turntable setup that is currently functioning is the 78rpm motor. The 33rpm motor worked until about a year ago, when I think it burned out. It will start but immediately starts to lose speed and eventually stops, all while making a loud humming noise. The Altec A323B amp lights up (or did the last time we messed with it) but it’s not connected to anything.  The records are in a custom case made of 3/4″ plywood lined with foam, on large heavy-duty casters. For a picture of it, see my very first post.

But now I need your help. What do I do with this stuff? My first thought is to try to sell it (especially the equipment) but for a lot of it, shipping is impossible. The smaller components from the record player are the only things that I could possibly package and send. I’d also be willing to consider donating (particularly the records) to a museum, archive, or some other place that would appreciate and share what I have. If you know of any person or organization that might be interested in either my gear or my records–or if you are interested–please contact me either via comment or by email.

I think it will take me at least another month or two to finish digitizing everything, so I’m guessing I’ll be ready to part with it sometime after the beginning of April. We will probably be moving in mid-May. We will leave central Florida by car, stop in St. Louis en route to Detroit to visit family and friends, then fly out of Detroit to Thailand, our final destination.

While digitizing will take priority over posting for the next couple of months, I am going to try to keep getting material up. And even after we move I’ll be able to keep posting, so please don’t go away–there are lots of great programs to come.

Updating my Bandcamp page

January 8, 2012

I’ve been doing some organizing over at my bandcamp page, where all my audio files are hosted.  I realized not long ago that it was already becoming pretty difficult to see what was there, so I’m in the process of organizing all my tracks into albums. Hopefully this will make it easier to browse around and find some interesting programs. So far I’m grouping together “like” programs–House of Squibb, American Melody Hour, Tony Martin, etc.–and grouping the remainder by year and whether it’s music or spoken.

I’ve also started adding album and track art to the programs. This past summer I spent some time at my parents’ house and was able to scan a portion of the huge collection of  work-related photographs that my grandpa had. I’m using those for the album art (unless I can quickly find an image online that better suits the album, like the Tony Martin picture). My plan is to add some notes to the album explaining what the picture is. I haven’t done this yet, but I will. I’ll still use pictures of the record labels for track artwork.

I hope you enjoy a little glimpse into my grandpa’s life through those pictures! For now, I’ll leave you with this one which is a new favorite of mine.

Keith Kinney at work

Keith Kinney at work, late 1940s?

I’m having a blast!

December 1, 2010

I’m going crazy with digitizing right now. I’ll start posting some of this stuff soon, maybe this weekend. Are there any Tony Martin fans out there? Apparently my grandpa was one, or at least went on a Tony kick. I just digitized over 10 records of his show for Bourjois. Right now I’m doing a bunch of “Your Hit Parade” shows, which are really fun. Most of these records are in pretty good shape, so it won’t take me long to get them ready to post.

The death of my 33.3rpm motor has actually turned out to be a good thing. I can record records in less than half the time on 78, and there doesn’t seem to be any loss from changing the speed digitally.  I’d still like to get the 33.3 fixed, but it’s not a priority. Now, if the 78 goes out too… but I won’t even think about that possibility.

Anyway, just keep watching this space! And if you want to listen to some tunes to get you into the Christmas spirit, check out these posts from last year:  Christmas 1946, Christmas 1945.

A Question for You

July 2, 2010

As I’m mentioned before, some of my records are in really bad shape.  There are some that skip badly through part or all of the program. I can remove some of the skips digitally, but sometimes program material gets lost in the skips and/or repairs. This is especially true since the demise of my 33rpm motor. It seems like when I’m recording at 78, the higher speed makes the needle “jump over” spots after skips so there are dropouts. Other times the outer edges of the discs are damaged so badly that I can’t even play the record to the end (they play from the inside out). As an aside, if anyone out there can give me a suggestion of a place that might be able to repair a 1940s Westinghouse motor, please tell me!

My question is, do you want me to put those poor-quality, incomplete programs on the blog? Or do you think my time would be better spent in getting up the ones that are more “listenable?”  One consideration is that the poor-quality ones take a lot more time for me to edit. I can probably do at least two or three better-quality recordings in the time it takes me to do one bad one. Of course, if the content seems historically significant I’ll put the time into it. But for more “run-of-the-mill” music programs, what do you think? For example, I’ve already spent several hours on a Frankie Carle show from February 1944, and I’m not finished yet.  It’ll probably take me at least two more hours to get it into a form that I would want to listen to. And I wasn’t even able to record all the way to the end of the record because of a broken glass base and delamination. Should I keep working on that or just set it aside?

Please respond in the comments with your opinion.