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Old 24th Sep 2015, 9:30 am   #1
bsrman
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Default A couple of 16 RPM questions

A 12" 16 RPM Will Kennedy record has just come into my collection but I don't want to play it until I know it is safe to. At the bottom of the rear side of the sleeve a note says:

A WORD OF CAUTION: PLEASE DO NOT PLAY THIS RECORD ON A REGULAR HI FIDELITY RECORD PLAYER AND DO NOT PLAY WITH A WORN OR DEFECTIVE NEEDLE AS THIS WILL DESTROY ITS TONAL QUALITY.

Ok well my needle is in good condition, but what do they mean by not playing it on a "regular hi fidelity record player"? Most 16 rpm records commercially available were intended to be played on a regular domestic record player with a regular 0.7 mil LP stylus. There were apparently a couple of exceptions though. One was Seeburg series which I think were 9" records designed for a special jukebox. These were intended to be played with a smaller 0.5 tip. And then there were the Highway HiFi which were made for Chrysler automobiles. The 16 rpm records for them were designed to be played with a 0.25 mil tip. Now apparently if one uses a conventional 0.7 LP tip on the Highway HiFi discs and even the Seeburg discs they will be destroyed because the needle is too big. This is what many people have said anyway.

But if my guess is right, the Will Kennedy record I just acquired is just a standard 16 RPM disc designed for ordinary domestic use. It's very much the same type of disc as the South African 16 rpm RCA pressing of Jim Reeves (which actually sounds so good in quality that I can not detect any difference between it and a 33 RPM record!). But what would actually be meant by that warning note though? Does it just mean that a 1.0 mil tip can't be used and that it must be a 0.7 mil tip? Or is it saying that a tip even smaller than 0.7 is required?


My second question is: What was the very last record player manufactured that had the 16 RPM setting? I do know that 16 rpm records themselves were manufactured at least as late as the late 1970s, but were there any record players with 16 rpm setting manufactured in the 80s at all?

Thank you if you have any knowledge about any of this!
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Old 24th Sep 2015, 11:48 am   #2
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Default Re: A couple of 16 RPM questions

I am afraid I don't know the answer to the technical questions but I would be surprised if 16rpm decks didn't make it into the 80s - if only to use up stockpiles of BSRs, Garrards etc. I always thought the 16rpm setting was for recorded speech - ie, a limited dynamic range where quantity was more important than quality. In all my years of buying records I have only rarely come across 16rpm examples and they were all spoken word. As for the warning - presumably the groove profile is smaller? But it would have been helpful if the manufacturer had added some advice as to what WOULD be suitable equipment, wouldn't it?
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Old 24th Sep 2015, 12:07 pm   #3
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Default Re: A couple of 16 RPM questions

Presumably a microscopic comparison of the groove with a standard LP would provide a decent clue to the size of stylus needed. A couple of screenshots from a cheap USB microscope gizmo should do it.
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Old 24th Sep 2015, 1:47 pm   #4
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Default Re: A couple of 16 RPM questions

You seem to have asked the styli question on 23/8/15 as well bsr.

Via search, there are quite a few related threads but the one begun by Alexb1406 [on 23/4/10] refers to the "Highway" Hi Fi system using 16rpm and a .25mm dedicated stylus. Hope that helps.

Going the "other" way, I think there has been a general assumption that [usually] 16rpm records would play on the "normal" stylus.
We didn't actually see any of these discs but it 16 rpm was handy, 50 years ago, to slow down 45/33's to decifer lyrics and/or guitar licks

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Old 24th Sep 2015, 2:38 pm   #5
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Default Re: A couple of 16 RPM questions

Quote:
Originally Posted by RojDW48 View Post
I always thought the 16rpm setting was for recorded speech - ie, a limited dynamic range where quantity was more important than quality.
Hi, yes, you are correct that 16 rom records were mainly used for speech. Nonetheless many music discs were also manufactured too. You are also correct that they are said to have less dynamic range. But judging from the 16 rpm collection I've built I've noticed that a lot of this seems to be determined more by the way these recordings were made. I think many recording companies had unsatisfactory knowledge of how to properly make 16 rpms which I think may have been the biggest reason why 16 rpms eventually petered out, more so than the issue of their actual speed per se. I have observed that while some recordings conform to the common reputation 16 rpm record have I nonetheless have some discs that I'd never be able to tell wasn't a 33 rpm, particularly later 16 rpms from the 1970s.
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Old 24th Sep 2015, 2:54 pm   #6
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Default Re: A couple of 16 RPM questions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Herald1360 View Post
Presumably a microscopic comparison of the groove with a standard LP would provide a decent clue to the size of stylus needed. A couple of screenshots from a cheap USB microscope gizmo should do it.
Hi Herald, that sounds like a good idea, so I'll have a look into that. I already tried doing those comparisons between a regular LP and the 16 rpm grooves using a common magnifying glass. I don't think it was quite strong enough to be able to properly tell. I did however bring out a classical 7" 45 EP which looked quite microgroovy and studied the very quiet sections of the music. There then seemed to be no particular visual difference between the width of these particular grooves and the 16 rpm.

I have one spoken word 16 rpm that was recorded using very low volume. The grooves look very close knit and extremely glossy and black, this being probably more due to the low recording level itself rather than it having been recorded using some special 16 rpm groove.
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Old 24th Sep 2015, 3:07 pm   #7
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Default Re: A couple of 16 RPM questions

Quote:
Originally Posted by dave walsh View Post
You seem to have asked the styli question on 23/8/15 as well bsr.
Hi Dave,

Yes I did start a very similar threat not long ago regarding 16 rpms but unfortunately it fizzled out earlier than I was hoping. And also the questions presented here in this thread are also completely new questions I hadn't asked in that earlier thread.

I don't actually have any Highway HiFi discs so really not too concerned about knowing about equipment to play them, at least for now. My main concern here is in regards to this Will Kennedy record I received. The warning said not to use ordinary equipment but failed so mention what particular equipment was meant to be used (which as someone else earlier rightly commented, was rather a silly oversight). Now it looks like I will never be able to play that particular disc until someone puts my properly right on it.
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Old 25th Sep 2015, 12:45 am   #8
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Default Re: A couple of 16 RPM questions

0.25mm is about ten thou. Even if that's diameter then it's five thou radius or 0.005". Big for a stylus!

0.25mil is a quarter of a thou- small for a stylus......
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Old 25th Sep 2015, 2:47 am   #9
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Default Re: A couple of 16 RPM questions

Some background on the 16⅔ rev/min disc speed and the compatibility or otherwise of 16 ⅔ rev.min discs is provided in an article “The Fourth Speed” in Popular Electronics for 1957 August, page 63ff, available here: http://www.americanradiohistory.com/...nics-Guide.htm.

Another interesting and somewhat related article is “Gramophone Turntable Speeds – What is the Best Speed for Microgroove Recording?” in Wireless World for 1951 June, page 227, available here: http://www.americanradiohistory.com/...d_Magazine.htm.

Cheers,
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Old 26th Sep 2015, 9:48 am   #10
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Default Re: A couple of 16 RPM questions

Remember what the English call a 'thou' eg one thousandth of an inch, the Americans call a 'mil'. These days the latter often gets confused with the millimeter. The highway system used a 0.25 mil stylus = 0.00025" according to Wikipedia, but the above article seems to say 0.5mil.

Regards

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Old 26th Sep 2015, 11:20 am   #11
dave walsh
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Default Re: A couple of 16 RPM questions

Hi bsr, I take your "point" but I think I was just looking for a comparator that might shed light on your Kennedy issue

The Highway system looks like an attempt to provide a very extended play music system with [presumably] "Hi-Fi" representing more of a hope than a certainty although you do report the same quality as 33 rpm via your other disc.

For some reason this reminds me of the short lived Sony Mini 8 Cassette Video system [P C Mod?] that also doubled up as a multi track Audio Hi Fi with sort of the same intent.. I did hear one in the 80's and it was a good sound but very expensive. It's possible that music at 16rpm would be very acceptable but it begs the question as to why 33rpm became a standard ? Possibly it's the difference between the top end and general listening markest eg pre Dolby audio cassettes were very popular despite some obvious deficiencies.

Not sure if it's my typo that has introduced the engineering definitions re Styli but clearly, there's more to 16 rpm than we had imagined!

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Old 26th Sep 2015, 1:38 pm   #12
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Default Re: A couple of 16 RPM questions

Another thought on this: 1 mil was the standard tip size prior to the introduction of stereo. With stereo the standard tip size shrunk to 0.7 mil. If the early 16RPM discs had a 0.5 groove width then clearly a 1 mil would be too large, however I suspect that if you play your disc using a modern stereo pickup tracking at 2 grams or so all will be well.

The instructions on the disc will be aimed more at the user of the time who would have a 1 mil stylus tracking at up to 15 grams.

Regards,

Paul
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Old 28th Sep 2015, 9:05 am   #13
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Default Re: A couple of 16 RPM questions

Quote:
Originally Posted by dave walsh View Post
Not sure if it's my typo that has introduced the engineering definitions re Styli but clearly, there's more to 16 rpm than we had imagined!
Hi Dave, well according to all the info I've so far consulted, the 16 rpm format was at its most popular in the 50s and 60s, but they did nonetheless continue to be manufactured throughout the 70s as well, continuing on through with the Listening Library Inc, Connecticut as well as in Europe (for example, the Czechoslovakian label, Supraphon was still producing 16 rpms this late). Recording technology hadn't really been developed enough in the 50s and 60s, and it appears that in the Anglosphere 16 rpms were beginning to decline by the 70s, at a time when recording technology was significantly improving. It has been claimed by some that this decline was more to do with a failure to properly market the 16 rpm coupled with a petering out of general public interest rather than an inherent lack of potential in rivalling the 33 rpm. I have collected quite a good cross-section of 16 rpm discs, of different labels and periods, and through my own empirical observations, while I would agree that during the 16 rpm's earlier phase of existence the 33 rpm was noticeably superior, I nonetheless find it very difficult (if not often impossible) to distinguish the difference in sound quality between many late period 16 rpms of the 1970s and 33 rpms.

It would be nice to see some of these bygone speeds return, and to my surprise this has already happened with the 78 rpm! A while back I stumbled across a few 21st century pressings of 78 rpms. I can't quite remember the exact musical genres that were on them but I noticed the records themselves were made of vinyl though, not shellac, so a regular LP stylus would be required to play them. I am not sure how any customer purchasing one would be able to actually play one of these discs though unless they were intending to accept playing them on older turntables equipped with 78 speed.
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Old 28th Sep 2015, 9:25 am   #14
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Default Re: A couple of 16 RPM questions

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The instructions on the disc will be aimed more at the user of the time who would have a 1 mil stylus tracking at up to 15 grams.
Hi Paul, yes something along the lines of what you've said I am also assuming. 1 mil was the usual standard at the time, so probably the warning was against using this size and instead using a 0.7 mil stylus. I currently am using a crystal cart tracking at around 3.5 grams but I do have a .0007 mil stylus. The packet the needle came in even states " Tip Radii .0007. Speeds: 16, 33 and 45 RPM", so yeah I think I'll be ok to play the Kennedy record using this size. Thanks
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Old 28th Sep 2015, 9:26 am   #15
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Default Re: A couple of 16 RPM questions

Thanks also to Herald1360 and especially Synchrodyne for the interesting links!
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Old 28th Sep 2015, 1:11 pm   #16
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Default Re: A couple of 16 RPM questions

Jumping to your comment about "new" 78's bsr-vinyl always undergoes a revival from time to time and there have been a number of blues re-issues in particular.

Sometimes they are just using original 78 Label styles and/or packaging, playing at 33rpm but more recently... actually at 78rpm, as you suggest. It may be the UK repro/retro market influence or just trying to stand out in the crowd? There are definetely more 3 speed turntables/ systems around either new or restored.

Even some professional DJ type decks, with the necessary variable speed facility, seem to go up to 80rpm. No sign of retro 16rpm releases [yet].

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Old 28th Sep 2015, 1:34 pm   #17
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Default Re: A couple of 16 RPM questions

Yes, it would be great to see 16 RPM revived. It has been referred to as the "4th speed". However I had been looking through specs of many Czech turntables a few day back and saw that many from the 60s and 70s had 3 speeds, but not 33, 45 and 78 as you will see on many English 3 speed players, but rather 16, 33 and 45 (completely lacking 78 setting). I had never encountered 3 speed decks like that before. So it looks like at least in one part of the world over a particular period 16 rpm was regarded as more common than 78 rpm.

The Supraphon HC07 was just one example. http://www.oldradio.cz/gramof.htm
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Old 28th Sep 2015, 4:51 pm   #18
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Default Re: A couple of 16 RPM questions

My late father had a Thorens TD125 which was 3 speeds 16/33/45. I remember that one set of strobe markings did for the 2 slower speeds (obvious when you think about it)

No I no longer have it. When he passed away I gave it (along with SME arms, a Quad 520 (rackmount 405), a pair of Quad ESL63s, etc) to a very good friend who knows exactly what it is, and who will enjoy it a lot more than I would.
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Old 29th Sep 2015, 8:35 am   #19
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Default Re: A couple of 16 RPM questions

And the TD125 was a high end audiophile deck too.. I'm assuming?

...which also makes me wonder what some of the other most high end (and especially the last turntables) ever to be produced which had the 16 rpm setting were. Would you happen to know? And what would have been the highest quality autochanger ever produced with 16 rpm speed?

Another interesting thing is, if 16 rpm was largely only for spoken word (as is often claimed), why did it ever get on audiophile equipment at ALL?? Why would there really have been any actual demand for audiophile quality at that speed if there were very few music discs?

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Old 29th Sep 2015, 10:12 am   #20
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Default Re: A couple of 16 RPM questions

The manufacturers included the 16rpm speed for the convenience of their customers, nothing to do with "audiophilia". The concept of the "audiophile" comes from a period long after any turntable had a 16rpm speed. There is no 16rpm speed on a Thorens TD150, for instance and the Garrard 301, from the 1950s, never had that speed.
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