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Phonograph cylinder

Phonograph cylinder

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Encyclopedia
Phonograph cylinders were the earliest commercial medium for recording and reproducing sound. Commonly known simply as "records" in their era of greatest popularity (c. 1888–1915), these cylinder
Cylinder (geometry)
A cylinder is one of the most basic curvilinear geometric shapes, the surface formed by the points at a fixed distance from a given line segment, the axis of the cylinder. The solid enclosed by this surface and by two planes perpendicular to the axis is also called a cylinder...

 shaped objects had an audio recording engraved on the outside surface which could be reproduced when the cylinder was played on a mechanical phonograph
Phonograph
The phonograph record player, or gramophone is a device introduced in 1877 that has had continued common use for reproducing sound recordings, although when first developed, the phonograph was used to both record and reproduce sounds...

. The competing disc-shaped gramophone record
Gramophone record
A gramophone record, commonly known as a phonograph record , vinyl record , or colloquially, a record, is an analog sound storage medium consisting of a flat disc with an inscribed, modulated spiral groove...

 system triumphed in the market place to become the dominant commercial audio medium in the 1910s, and commercial mass production of phonograph cylinders ended in 1929.

Early development



The phonograph was invented by Thomas Edison
Thomas Edison
Thomas Alva Edison was an American inventor and businessman. He developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb. In addition, he created the world’s first industrial...

 on 18 July 1877. His first test using tin foil
Tin foil
Tin foil, also spelled tinfoil, is a thin foil made of tin. Actual tin foil was superseded by cheaper and more durable aluminium foil after World War II, and aluminium foil is sometimes confused with "tin foil" because of its similarity to the former material.-History:Foil made from a thin leaf of...

 wrapped around a hand-cranked cylinder. Tin foil was not a practical recording medium for everyday use and commercial production. Within a few years Edison developed wax cylinders licensed by Charles Sumner Tainter
Charles Sumner Tainter
Charles Sumner Tainter was an American scientific instrument maker, engineer and inventor, best known for his collaborations with Alexander Graham Bell, Chichester Bell, Alexander's father-in-law Gardiner Hubbard, and for his significant improvements to Thomas Edison's phonograph, resulting in the...

, Alexander Graham Bell
Alexander Graham Bell
Alexander Graham Bell was an eminent scientist, inventor, engineer and innovator who is credited with inventing the first practical telephone....

, and Chichester Bell
Chichester Bell
Chichester A. Bell was a chemist, cousin to Alexander Graham Bell, and instrumental in developing improved versions of the phonograph.- Life :...

, as the American Graphophone Co. – Later absorbed by the Columbia phonograph Co.

By the late 1880s wax cylinders were mass marketed. These had sound recordings in the grooves on the outside of hollow cylinders of wax. These cylinders could easily be removed and replaced on the mandrel
Mandrel
A mandrel is one of the following:* an object used to shape machined work.* a tool component that grips or clamps materials to be machined.* a tool component that can be used to grip other moving tool components.- Variants :...

 of the machine which played them. Early cylinder records would commonly wear out after they were played a few hundred times. The buyer could then use a mechanism which left their surface shaved smooth so new recordings could be made on them. In 1890 Charles Tainter patented the use of hard carnauba wax
Carnauba wax
Carnauba , also called Brazil wax and palm wax, is a wax of the leaves of the palm Copernicia prunifera, a plant native to and grown only in the northeastern Brazilian states of Piauí, Ceará, and Rio Grande do Norte. It is known as "queen of waxes" and usually comes in the form of hard yellow-brown...

 as a replacement for the common mixture of paraffin
Paraffin
In chemistry, paraffin is a term that can be used synonymously with "alkane", indicating hydrocarbons with the general formula CnH2n+2. Paraffin wax refers to a mixture of alkanes that falls within the 20 ≤ n ≤ 40 range; they are found in the solid state at room temperature and begin to enter the...

 and beeswax
Beeswax
Beeswax is a natural wax produced in the bee hive of honey bees of the genus Apis. It is mainly esters of fatty acids and various long chain alcohols...

 used on phonograph cylinders.

Early cylinder machines of the late 1880s and the 1890s were often sold with recording attachments. The ability to record as well as play back sound was an advantage to cylinder phonographs over the competition from cheaper disc record
Gramophone record
A gramophone record, commonly known as a phonograph record , vinyl record , or colloquially, a record, is an analog sound storage medium consisting of a flat disc with an inscribed, modulated spiral groove...

 phonographs which began to be mass marketed at the end of the 1890s, as the disc system machines could be used only to play back pre-recorded sound.

In the earliest stages of phonograph manufacturing various competing incompatible types of cylinder recordings were made. A standard system was decided upon by Edison Records
Edison Records
Edison Records was one of the earliest record labels which pioneered recorded sound and was an important player in the early recording industry.- Early phonographs before commercial mass produced records :...

, Columbia Phonograph, and other companies in the late 1880s. The standard cylinders were about 4 inches (10 cm) long, 2¼ inches in diameter, and played about two minutes of music or other sound.

Over the years the type of wax used in cylinders was improved and hardened so that cylinders could be played over 100 times. In 1902 Edison Records launched a line of improved hard wax cylinders marketed as "Edison Gold Moulded Records".

Commercial packaging


Cylinders were sold in cardboard tubes, with cardboard lids at each end. These containers helped to protect the recordings. These containers and the shape of the cylinders (together with the "tinny" sound of early records compared to live music) prompted bandleader John Philip Sousa
John Philip Sousa
John Philip Sousa was an American composer and conductor of the late Romantic era, known particularly for American military and patriotic marches. Because of his mastery of march composition, he is known as "The March King" or the "American March King" due to his British counterpart Kenneth J....

 to deride the records as canned music (though that did not stop him recording on cylinders).
Record companies usually had a generic printed label on the outside of the cylinder package, with no indication of the identity of the individual recording inside. Early on such information would be written on the labels by hand, one at a time. Slightly later, the record number would be stamped on the top lid, then a bit later the title and artist of the recording would be printed on to labels on the lid. Shortly after the start of the 20th century, an abbreviated version of this information (together with the name of the record company) would be printed or impressed on to one edge of the cylinder itself. Previously, the actual cylinders had no such visual identification (though they would have a spoken announcement of the song or performance title, recording artist, and record company recorded on to the beginning of the recording.)

Small paper inserts with the recording information were placed inside the package with the cylinders. At first this was hand written or typed on each slip, but printed versions became more common once cylinders of certain songs were sold in large enough quantities to make this economically practical. Note that in the example in the image below, from Edison Records, 1902, the consumer is invited to cut out the circle with printed information. This paper circle could then be pasted either to the lid of the cylinder container, or (as this example prompts) to a spindle for this cylinder in specially built cabinets for holding cylinder records which were marketed by record companies. Only a minority of cylinder record customers purchased such cabinets, however.

Hard plastic cylinders




In 1906 the Indestructible Record Company began mass marketing cylinder records made of celluloid
Celluloid
Celluloid is the name of a class of compounds created from nitrocellulose and camphor, plus dyes and other agents. Generally regarded to be the first thermoplastic, it was first created as Parkesine in 1862 and as Xylonite in 1869, before being registered as Celluloid in 1870. Celluloid is...

, an early hard plastic
Plastic
A plastic material is any of a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic solids used in the manufacture of industrial products. Plastics are typically polymers of high molecular mass, and may contain other substances to improve performance and/or reduce production costs...

, that would not break if dropped and could be played thousands of times without wearing out. This hard inflexible material could not be shaved and recorded over like wax cylinders, but had the advantage of being a nearly permanent record. (Such "Indestructible" style cylinders are arguably the most durable form of sound recording produced in the entire era of analog audio before the introduction of digital audio
Digital audio
Digital audio is sound reproduction using pulse-code modulation and digital signals. Digital audio systems include analog-to-digital conversion , digital-to-analog conversion , digital storage, processing and transmission components...

; they can withstand a greater number of playbacks before wearing out than later media such as the vinyl record or audio tape
Compact Cassette
The Compact Cassette, often referred to as audio cassette, cassette tape, cassette, or simply tape, is a magnetic tape sound recording format. It was designed originally for dictation, but improvements in fidelity led the Compact Cassette to supplant the Stereo 8-track cartridge and reel-to-reel...

.) This superior technology was purchased by the Columbia Phonograph Company
Columbia Records
Columbia Records is an American record label, owned by Japan's Sony Music Entertainment, operating under the Columbia Music Group with Aware Records. It was founded in 1888, evolving from an earlier enterprise, the American Graphophone Company — successor to the Volta Graphophone Company...

. The Edison company then developed its own type of long-lasting cylinder, consisting of a type of plastic called Amberol (which was blue in color) around a plaster core (the plastic was a phenolic resin, similar to the contemporary "Bakelite"); these were called Blue Amberol cylinders, the earlier Amberols being made of wax. Around the same time Edison introduced 4 minute cylinders, having twice the playing time of standard cylinders, achieved simply by shrinking the groove size and spacing them twice as close together in the spiral around the cylinder. Amberol cylinders are of the four-minute variety. Edison made several designs of phonographs both with internal and external horns for playing these improved cylinder records. The internal horned models were called Amberolas. Edison also marketed its "Fireside" model phonograph with a gearshift and a reproducer with two styli that allowed it to play both 2-minute and 4-minute cylinders.

Disc records


In the era before World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, phonograph cylinders and disc records
Gramophone record
A gramophone record, commonly known as a phonograph record , vinyl record , or colloquially, a record, is an analog sound storage medium consisting of a flat disc with an inscribed, modulated spiral groove...

 competed with each other for public favor.

The audio fidelity of a sound groove is debatably better if it is engraved on a cylinder, due to much improved linear tracking, and this was not resolved until the advent of RIAA standards in the early 1940s, by which time it was a moot point, as cylinder production stopped with Edison's last efforts in October 1929.

Advantages of cylinders


The cylinder system had certain advantages. As noted, wax cylinders could be used for home recordings, and "indestructible" types could be played over and over many more times than the disc. Cylinders usually rotated twice as fast as contemporary discs, but the linear velocity was comparable to the innermost grooves of the disc. In theory, this would provide generally poorer audio fidelity
High fidelity
High fidelity—or hi-fi—reproduction is a term used by home stereo listeners and home audio enthusiasts to refer to high-quality reproduction of sound or images, to distinguish it from the poorer quality sound produced by inexpensive audio equipment...

. Furthermore, since constant angular velocity
Constant angular velocity
In optical storage, constant angular velocity is a qualifier for the rated speed of an optical disc drive, and may also be applied to the writing speed of recordable discs...

 translates into constant linear velocity
Constant linear velocity
In optical storage, constant linear velocity is a qualifier for the rated speed of an optical disc drive, and may also be applied to the writing speed of recordable discs. CLV implies that the angular velocity varies during an operation, as contrasted with CAV modes...

 (the radius of the helical
Helix
A helix is a type of smooth space curve, i.e. a curve in three-dimensional space. It has the property that the tangent line at any point makes a constant angle with a fixed line called the axis. Examples of helixes are coil springs and the handrails of spiral staircases. A "filled-in" helix – for...

 track is constant), cylinders were also free from inner groove problems suffered by disc recordings. Around 1900, cylinders on average were indeed of notably higher audio quality than contemporary discs, but as disc makers improved their technology by 1910 the fidelity differences between better discs and cylinders became minimal.

Cylinder phonographs generally used a worm gear to move the stylus in synchronization with the grooves of the recording, whereas most disc machines relied on the grooves to pull the stylus along. This resulted in cylinder records played a number of times having less degradation
Elegant degradation
Elegant degradation is a term used in engineering to describe what occurs to machines which are subject to constant, repetitive stress.Externally, such a machine maintains the same appearance to the user, appearing to function properly. Internally, the machine slowly weakens over time. Eventually,...

 than discs, but this added mechanism
Machine
A machine manages power to accomplish a task, examples include, a mechanical system, a computing system, an electronic system, and a molecular machine. In common usage, the meaning is that of a device having parts that perform or assist in performing any type of work...

 made cylinder machines more expensive.

Advantages of discs


Both the disc records and the machines to play them on were cheaper to mass-produce than the products of the cylinder system. Disc records were also easier and cheaper to store in bulk, as they could be stacked, or when in paper sleeves put in rows on shelves
Shelf
Shelf may refer to:* Shelf , a flat horizontal surface used for diplay and storage* Shelf , a user interface feature in the NeXTSTEP operating system* Shelf, West Yorkshire, a village in England...

 like book
Book
A book is a set or collection of written, printed, illustrated, or blank sheets, made of hot lava, paper, parchment, or other materials, usually fastened together to hinge at one side. A single sheet within a book is called a leaf or leaflet, and each side of a leaf is called a page...

s -- packed together more densely than cylinder recordings.

Many cylinder phonographs used a belt to turn the mandrel; slight slippage of this belt could make the mandrel not turn evenly, thus resulting in pitch fluctuations. Disc phonographs using a direct system of gears turned more evenly; the heavy metal turntable of disc machines acted as a flywheel
Flywheel
A flywheel is a rotating mechanical device that is used to store rotational energy. Flywheels have a significant moment of inertia, and thus resist changes in rotational speed. The amount of energy stored in a flywheel is proportional to the square of its rotational speed...

, helping to minimize speed wobble.

In 1908 Columbia Records
Columbia Records
Columbia Records is an American record label, owned by Japan's Sony Music Entertainment, operating under the Columbia Music Group with Aware Records. It was founded in 1888, evolving from an earlier enterprise, the American Graphophone Company — successor to the Volta Graphophone Company...

 introduced mass production of disc records with recordings pressed on both sides, which soon became the industry standard. Patrons of disc records could now get two recordings for less than the price of one on cylinder.

The disc companies had superior advertising
Advertising
Advertising is a form of communication used to persuade an audience to take some action with respect to products, ideas, or services. Most commonly, the desired result is to drive consumer behavior with respect to a commercial offering, although political and ideological advertising is also common...

 and promotion, most notably the Victor Talking Machine Company
Victor Talking Machine Company
The Victor Talking Machine Company was an American corporation, the leading American producer of phonographs and phonograph records and one of the leading phonograph companies in the world at the time. It was headquartered in Camden, New Jersey....

 in the United States and the Gramophone Company
Gramophone Company
The Gramophone Company, based in the United Kingdom, was one of the early recording companies, and was the parent organization for the famous "His Master's Voice" label...

/HMV
HMV
His Master's Voice is a trademark in the music business, and for many years was the name of a large record label. The name was coined in 1899 as the title of a painting of the dog Nipper listening to a wind-up gramophone...

 in the Commonwealth. Great singers like Enrico Caruso were hired to record exclusively, helping put the idea in the public mind that that company's product was superior. Edison tried to get into the disc market with hill-and-dale discs, Edison Disc Record
Edison Disc Record
The Edison Disc, also known as a Diamond Disc record, was a type of audio disc record marketed by Edison Records from 1912 to 1929. They were known as Diamond disc because the reproducer fitted to the matching Edison disc player was fitted with a diamond stylus...

s.

Demise of cylinders



Cylinder recordings continued to compete with the growing disc record market into the 1910s, when discs won the commercial battle. In that decade, Columbia (which had been making both discs and cylinders) switched exclusively to discs, and Edison started marketing its own disc records. However Edison continued to sell new cylinder records to consumers with cylinder phonograph machines through 1929. The latest of the new cylinders were simply "dubs" of disc records, and were therefore of lower fidelity than the disc originals.

Cylinder records are once again being manufactured, out of modern long-lasting materials. The Vulcan Cylinder Record Company of Sheffield, England currently boasts nearly two dozen titles in both 2 and 4 minute sizes, mostly dubs from original material but also some recent acoustic recordings. Also, out of Baldwin, New York
Baldwin, New York
Baldwin is the name of some places in the U.S. state of New York:*Baldwin, Chemung County, New York *Baldwin, Nassau County, New York...

, the Wizard record company is making similar cylinders.

Later application of phonograph cylinder technology


Cylinder phonograph technology continued to be used for Dictaphone
Dictaphone
Dictaphone was an American company, a producer of dictation machines—sound recording devices most commonly used to record speech for later playback or to be typed into print. The name "Dictaphone" is a trademark, but in some places it has also become a common way to refer to all such devices, and...

 and Ediphone recordings for office use for decades.

In 1947, Dictaphone replaced wax cylinders with their DictaBelt
Dictabelt
The Dictabelt or Memobelt was a form of recording medium introduced by the American Dictaphone company in 1947. It used a type of "Write Once - Read Many" medium consisting of a thin, plastic belt 3.5" wide that was placed on a cylinder and spun like a tank tread. The needle would then move slowly...

 technology, which cut a mechanical groove into a plastic belt instead of into a wax cylinder. This was later replaced by magnetic tape
Magnetic tape
Magnetic tape is a medium for magnetic recording, made of a thin magnetizable coating on a long, narrow strip of plastic. It was developed in Germany, based on magnetic wire recording. Devices that record and play back audio and video using magnetic tape are tape recorders and video tape recorders...

 recording. However, cylinders for older style dictating machines continued to be available for some years, and it was not unusual to encounter cylinder dictating machines into the 1950s.

In the late 20th and early 21st century some new recordings have been made on cylinders for the novelty effect
Novelty effect
The novelty effect, in the context of human performance, is the tendency for performance to initially improve when new technology is instituted, not because of any actual improvement in learning or achievement, but in response to increased interest in the new technology...

 of using obsolete technology. Probably the most famous of these are by They Might Be Giants
They Might Be Giants
They Might Be Giants is an American alternative rock band formed in 1982 by John Flansburgh and John Linnell. During TMBG's early years Flansburgh and Linnell were frequently accompanied by a drum machine. In the early 1990s, TMBG became a full band. Currently, the members of TMBG are...

, who in 1996 recorded "I Can Hear You" and three other songs, performed without electricity, on an 1898 Edison wax recording studio phonograph at the Edison National Historic Site
Edison National Historic Site
Thomas Edison National Historical Park preserves Thomas Edison's laboratory and residence, Glenmont, in Llewellyn Park in West Orange, New Jersey. For more than forty years, the laboratory had a major impact on the lives of people worldwide...

 in West Orange, New Jersey. This song was released on Factory Showroom
Factory Showroom
Factory Showroom is the sixth studio album by the band They Might Be Giants. It was released in 1996 through Elektra Records....

 in 1996 and re-released on the 2002 compilation Dial-A-Song: 20 Years of They Might Be Giants
Dial-A-Song: 20 Years of They Might Be Giants
Dial-A-Song: 20 Years Of They Might Be Giants is a 2002 compilation album by They Might Be Giants. Despite the name, it is not a compilation of tracks from the band's "Dial-A-Song" service. It is instead an anthology of various album and live tracks from the band's history, spanning their full...

. The other songs recorded were "James K. Polk," "Maybe I Know," and "The Edison Museum," a song about the site of the recording. These recordings were officially released online as MP3 files in 2001.

In 2010 the British steampunk
Steampunk
Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, and speculative fiction that came into prominence during the 1980s and early 1990s. Steampunk involves a setting where steam power is still widely used—usually Victorian era Britain or "Wild West"-era United...

 band The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing
The Men That Will Not Be Blamed for Nothing
The Men That Will Not be Blamed for Nothing are a steampunk band from London. Their name is a reference to the chalked graffiti discovered above a section of blood-stained apron thought to have been discarded by Jack the Ripper as he fled the scene of Catherine Eddowes' murder...

 released the track 'Sewer', from their debut album, Now That's What I Call Steampunk! Volume 1
Now That's What I Call Steampunk! Volume 1
Now That's What I Call Steampunk! Volume 1 is the debut album from English steampunk band The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing. The album, released by the band's own record label, Leather Apron, is the first steampunk-based album to be released in the United Kingdom, consisting of 11...

 on very limited edition Wax Cylinder, only 40 were made and only 30 were put on sale. The box set came with instructions on how to make your own cylinder player for less than £20. The BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 covered the release on Television on BBC Click, on BBC Online and on Radio 5 Live.

In August 2010, Ash International
Ash International
Ash International is a British record company and audio-visual organisation started in 1993 by Mike Harding and Robin Rimbaud. In 1995 Robin Rimbaud left to pursue his music group Scanner full time. Ash International is part of the Touch organisation, founded by Jon Wozencroft in 1981...

 and PARC released the first commercially available glow in the dark phonograph cylinder, which is a work by Michael Esposito
Michael Esposito
Michael Esposito is an experimental artist and researcher in Electronic Voice Phenomena .-Biography:Michael Andrew Esposito was born in Gary, Indiana in 1964. He is a descendant of Alfred Vail who invented the Morse Code and several early telegraph devices with his partner Samuel Morse...

 and Carl Michael von Hausswolff
Carl Michael von Hausswolff
Carl Michael von Hausswolff is a composer, visual artist and curator based in Stockholm, Sweden. His main tools are recording devices used in an ongoing investigation of electricity, frequency, architectural space and paranormal electronic interference...

, entitled "The Ghosts Of Effingham". The cylinder was released in a limited edition of 150 copies, produced by Vulcan Records, Sheffield England.

Preservation of cylinder recordings


Because of the nature of the recording medium, playback of many cylinders can cause degradation of the recording. The replay of cylinders diminishes their fidelity and degrades their recorded signals. Additionally, when exposed to humidity, mold can penetrate cylinders’ surface and cause the recordings to have surface noise. Currently, the only professional machine manufactured for the playback of cylinder recordings is the Archéophone
Archéophone
The Archéophone is a modern, electric version of the phonographs and ediphones from the early 20th century. It is specifically designed to transfer phonograph cylinders and other cylinder formats to modern recording media....

 player, designed by Henri Chamoux. The Archéophone is presently used by the Edison National Historic Site, Bowling Green State University
Bowling Green State University
Bowling Green State University, often referred to as Bowling Green or BGSU, is a public, coeducational research university located in Bowling Green, Ohio, United States. The institution was granted a charter in 1910 by the State of Ohio as part of the Lowry Bill, which also established Kent State...

 (Bowling Green, Ohio), The Department of Special Collections, Donald C Davidson Library at The University of California, Santa Barbara
University of California, Santa Barbara
The University of California, Santa Barbara, commonly known as UCSB or UC Santa Barbara, is a public research university and one of the 10 general campuses of the University of California system. The main campus is located on a site in Goleta, California, from Santa Barbara and northwest of Los...

, and many other libraries and archives.

Other modern so-called 'plug-in' mounts, each incorporating the use of a Stanton 500AL MK II magnetic cartridge, have been manufactured from time to time. Information on each may be sighted on the Phonograph Makers Pages link. It is possible to use these on the Edison cylinder players.

Also of interest is the cylinder player built by BBC engineers working in 'Engineering Operations - Radio' in the early 1990s. This was equipped with a linear-tacking arm borrowed from a contemporary turntable, and an Ortofon cartridge. It employed a wide range of analogue EQ filters (since various recording companies used different EQ until standarisation (for discs) arrived in the form of RIAA curves), and was used to transfer archive material to DAT tape.


In an attempt to preserve the historic content of the recordings, cylinders can be read with a confocal microscope and converted to a digital recording
Digital recording
In digital recording, digital audio and digital video is directly recorded to a storage device as a stream of discrete numbers, representing the changes in air pressure for audio and chroma and luminance values for video through time, thus making an abstract template for the original sound or...

 format. The resulting sound clip in most cases sounds better than stylus playback from the original cylinder. Having an electronic version of the original recordings enables archivists to open access to the recordings to a wider audience. This technique also has the potential to allow for reconstruction of damaged or broken cylinders. (Fadeyev & Haber, 2003)

Modern reproductions of cylinder and disc recordings usually give the impression that the introduction of discs was a quantum leap in audio fidelity, but this is on modern playback equipment; played on equipment from around 1900, the cylinders do not have noticeably more rumble and poorer bass reproduction than the discs. Another factor is that many cylinders are amateur recordings, while disc recording equipment was simply too expensive for anyone but professional engineers; many extremely poor recordings were made on cylinder, while the vast majority of disc recordings were competently recorded.

Also important is the quality of the material: the earliest tinfoil recordings wore out fast. Once the tinfoil was removed from the cylinder it was nearly impossible to re-align in playable condition. None of the earliest tinfoil recordings has been played back since the 19th century. (Hypothetically in the future some sound might be salvaged from few surviving flattened out early tinfoil recordings.) The earliest soft wax recordings also wore out quite fast, though they have better fidelity than the early rubber discs.

In addition to poor states of preservation, the poor impression modern listeners may get of wax cylinders is from their early date, which can compare unfavorably to recordings made even a dozen years later. Other than a single playable example from 1878 (from an experimental phonograph-clock), the oldest playable preserved cylinders are from the year 1888. These include a severely degraded recording of Johannes Brahms
Johannes Brahms
Johannes Brahms was a German composer and pianist, and one of the leading musicians of the Romantic period. Born in Hamburg, Brahms spent much of his professional life in Vienna, Austria, where he was a leader of the musical scene...

 and a short speech by Sir Arthur Sullivan
Arthur Sullivan
Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan MVO was an English composer of Irish and Italian ancestry. He is best known for his series of 14 operatic collaborations with the dramatist W. S. Gilbert, including such enduring works as H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado...

 in fairly listenable condition. Somewhat later are the almost unlistenable 1889 amateur recordings of Nina Grieg
Nina Grieg
Nina Grieg, born Hagerup was a Danish-Norwegian lyric soprano. She was the first cousin of composer Edvard Grieg, whom she married....

. The problem with the wax cylinders is that being an organic material (it is not actually wax) readily supports the growth of mildew which penetrates throughout the cylinder and, if serious enough, renders the recording unplayable. The earliest preserved rubber disc recordings are children's records, featuring animal noises and nursery rhymes. This means that the earliest disc recordings most music lovers will hear are shellac discs made after 1900, after more than ten years of development.

See also

  • Archéophone
    Archéophone
    The Archéophone is a modern, electric version of the phonographs and ediphones from the early 20th century. It is specifically designed to transfer phonograph cylinders and other cylinder formats to modern recording media....

  • Audio format
    Audio format
    An audio format is a medium for storing sound and music. The term is applied to both the physical recording media and the recording formats of the audio content – in computer science it is often limited to the audio file format, but its wider use usually refers to the physical method used to...

  • Audio storage
  • Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project
    Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project
    The Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project is a free digital collection maintained by the University of California, Santa Barbara Libraries with streaming and downloadable versions of over 10,000 phonograph cylinders manufactured between 1893 and the mid 1920s.- History :The project began...

  • Mapleson Cylinders
    Mapleson Cylinders
    The Mapleson Cylinders are a group of more than 100 phonograph cylinders recorded live at the Metropolitan Opera, primarily in the years 1901–1903, by the Met librarian Lionel Mapleson ....

  • Volta Laboratory and Bureau

External links