The Transfer Session
Unlike other companies who tend to use modern electric pick ups to transfer their records we prefer to play our 78s using an acoustic horn gramophone. In doing this we produce a warm, vibrant and extremely lifelike sound which requires very little processing (only the worst clicks are removed) before issue. In fact the only 'electric' part of the whole playback process is the Technics SL-15 turntable which is used to ensure that the record is running at the correct speed. Our purpose built horn gramophone is no more than a development of machines that existed in the 1930s (see picture). Not faced with the problem of fitting the apparatus into an average sized living room we have made it much longer (its length is nearly six metres) and changed the shape of the horn's curve. These adaptations enable extreme frequencies of the original recording to be heard more clearly and provide us with a more balanced sound. The thorns which we use are made of a pliable wood and will quickly shape themselves to the fit snugly into the groove of a 78. It is unlikely that a thorn will last much longer than one side of a record before the quality of the sound begins to deteriorate. Sections of the records we are transferring (usually the ends) are therefore often played more than once and the best of the different takes are matched and joined in the editing suite. In playing the records in the Performing Arts Centre of the Nimbus Foundation we are virtually allowing the artists a second chance to make their recordings, this time in a more generous acoustic. The conditions under which many of these artists recorded were often cramped and difficult and one often wonders what chance the voice really had! The microphone which we use is exactly the same one that we use to make the majority of our ambisonic recordings. It is positioned so that it is central to the aperture of the horn and its distance from the horn is varied depending on the singer's voice and the quality of the records we are transferring. Changes of microphone position are kept to the bare minimum during a session unless the original recordings are radically different. No mixers, faders or processors are involved. A session in the PAC might last for anything up to a week during which we usually hope to transfer a minimum of two discs. Despite the application of thought and effort and the amount of time involved with each Prima Voce release, the basic principle remains very simple: we play the records the way they were intended to be played and record the results in much the same way that all our recordings are made.