Phonograph Society to Crack Down on ‘Nostalgia Newbies’

The International Society of Antique Phonograph Enthusiasts (ISAPE) has issued new guidelines for playing records on vintage machines. Society chair Dr. Marta Meeling, PhD, DDS, issued a directive (effective April 1st, 2024) sanctioning collectors who ignorantly mismatch media (i.e., 78 RPM records) and playback devices (i.e., phonographs).

The directive states, first and foremost, that it is expressly forbidden to play electrically-recorded (post-1925) selections on acoustical-era (pre-1925) phonographs. “The mica diaphragms on the earlier instruments were not engineered to withstand the greater amount of energy contained in the groove on electrical recordings.

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“Besides sounding over-driven and distorted, this can delaminate the mica diaphragm, and all of that excess sound energy has to go somewhere, so it follows the path of least resistance back down to the needle bar to the tip of the stylus—that is now trying to send energy to the diaphragm while at the same time receiving the excess energy from the diaphragm, so it’s carving away the walls of the record groove, ruining the record.”

And pre-1925 records should not be played on an Orthophonic Victrola, such as a Credenza. “The Credenza was designed as the mechanical equivalent of the Western Electric system’s recording curve. Therefore, only records made from 1925-1937 should be played on it.

“Records made after 1937,” says Dr. Meeling, “should not be played at all.”

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ISAPE officers have instituted spot checks to ensure that phonographs and records are used together correctly. While these inspections have no actual force in law (despite ISAPE lobbying efforts), persistent offenders will have record show and auction privileges suspended. “Unfortunately, we can’t prevent someone from buying a priceless record at a yard sale, taking it home, and playing it to death on the wrong machine.”

Ultimately, ISAPE proposes a system of licensing in which prospective enthusiasts must take a 16-hour course in phonograph and record care before they may buy vintage phonographs or records from ISAPE-registered dealers.

Says Dr. Meeling, “Too many over-eager nostalgia newbies are haphazardly playing stacks of irreplaceable recordings on Grandma’s old Victrola VV-XI, ruining both the records and the listening experience, because it’s ‘neat,’ it’s ‘fun.’ They’re probably not changing the needle after each play, either.

“Well, there’s more to record collecting than ‘fun.’ It should be approached as stewardship, as a process of curation—of preserving cultural treasures for posterity. People who listen to old records for personal enjoyment are selfish and short-sighted. It’s time for the carnage to stop.”

Andy Senior is the Publisher of The Syncopated Times and on occasion he still gets out a Radiola! podcast for our listening pleasure.

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