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Author Topic: Of vinyl records and Black Boxes...
Mike Peckham
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1461
From: West Sussex, UK.
Registered: Jun 2003

 - posted July 17, 2014 04:06 PM      Profile for Mike Peckham   Email Mike Peckham   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I have a 1954 Pye Black Box, I’m not sure if these ever made it to America and elsewhere but in the UK they were very highly regarded and considered to be amongst the first true HiFi record players released after the second world war. They have a compact wooden cabinet, beautifully crafted with a typical fifties and yet strangely timeless bow front, a bullet proof BSR Monarch record deck and a four valve (E series) push pull amp. Unusually for the time, and for a compact record player, they have two built in speakers, one on each side. The early literature supplied with them recommended that they were positioned in the corner of the room so that the sound would reflect off the walls!

Mine hadn’t been operational for many years and then, on a whim, I had it reconditioned by a local Black Box specialist, it cost me £95 and I can honestly say it’s the best £95 I’ve spent in a long time. It has led me back into music. I have a modest (no more than 150) collection of Mono Jazz and Blues records, plus a selection of Classical and a little easy listening stuff.

My BB has been back in service since mid-April and there has hardly been a day when I haven’t played at least a couple of records. I have rediscovered records that I have on cd that I concede sound better on cd through my Denon Sound System, and yet I sit mesmerised in wonder listening to every crackle and bump on my old records and appreciating the rich, warm sound of the old valve amp.

Tonight has been Grieg and Count Basie, tomorrow who knows. I don’t remember the last time I played a cd, and as for downloads…

Mike [Cool]

Auntie Em must have stopped wondering where I am by now...

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Clay Smith
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 144
From: El Cerrito, CA, USA
Registered: Jan 2014

 - posted July 17, 2014 04:41 PM      Profile for Clay Smith   Email Clay Smith   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Yes Mike, I don't think they were ever marketed here in the US but they should have been. A friend of mine from London had one and I remember it quite well, beautifully designed and all self-contained like you said. The sound was pretty full too. We have a newer Audio-Technica and also play vinyl almost everyday. Our taste run the gamut from rock, psych, folk, blues, jazz. I still buy an occasional CD but mostly now buy my music on vinyl. The analog recording is far superior to my ears. There are some wonderful re-issues coming out on vinyl, also in jazz and classical. But as you mention, I certainly don't mind the occasional crackle or pop on our older albums and 45's.

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Christian Bjorgen
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 996
From: Kvinnherad, Norway
Registered: Oct 2009

 - posted July 28, 2014 07:44 AM      Profile for Christian Bjorgen   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The Black Box was marketed in Norway aswell, as the "BSR Kombi 401" from 1957-1961. I believe it was based on the Mark II model.

I am an avid collector of vinyls myself, although I use modern equipment most of the time (Rega RP1 w/ modern Pioneer stereo system). I also own several older models, my favorites being a restored 1953 Garrard 16/33/45/78 rpm turntable, and a restored 1930s wind-up gramophone :-)

Well who’s on first? Yeah. Go ahead and tell me. Who. The guy on first. Who. The guy playin’ first base. Who. The guy on first. Who is on first! What are you askin’ me for? I’m askin’ you!

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John Last
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 104
From: Codsall, UK
Registered: Dec 2012

 - posted August 15, 2014 02:26 PM      Profile for John Last   Email John Last       Edit/Delete Post 
My parents gave me a Black Box for my 21st. birthday. It was superb and Tanhausser never sounded so brilliant. Later in life, I acquired another BB and together with the original one and a new turntable, I made my first stereo unit using 2 Wharfdale speakers. This was magical sound and gave me much pleasure.

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Mike Peckham
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1461
From: West Sussex, UK.
Registered: Jun 2003

 - posted August 16, 2014 02:39 AM      Profile for Mike Peckham   Email Mike Peckham   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I hate to admit it, but the collector's gene has once again kicked in and I now have an example of all three of the BB models - the auto-changer using the BS Monarch deck, the Single play model and the last of the valve-amp models having four speakers and separate treble and bass controls (heady stuff!) and the classic Garrard RC 120 Mkii deck. The latter is going to be a restoration project for me to slowly work through.

I haven't even plugged it in yet as I'm guessing all the Capacitors will need to be changed before it's safe to do so, and then I can make an assessment of what needs to be done.

There really is something very special about listening to early vinyl through a valve amp. Dave Brubeck has never sounded so good!

Mike [Cool]

Auntie Em must have stopped wondering where I am by now...

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Osi Osgood
Film God

Posts: 10204
From: Mountian Home, ID.
Registered: Jul 2005

 - posted August 16, 2014 11:56 AM      Profile for Osi Osgood   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The UK gets the best of everything .... (grrrr) [Smile]

I'm still amazed at just how good of recordings were actually made way back then. I have a bunch of restored "Suspense" radio shows that were done in the mid to late 1940's, and they truly sound as if you are actually in the recording studio with the actors. The fidelity is that good on these restorations!

I wonder if some of these were actually done on early tape, instead of on record (as most of these transcriptions were).

I know that's a little off topic, but were talking about early fidelity, so I thought I'd mention it.

By the way, what was the earliest stereo record production? I know that Disney already had "Fanta-sound" for his release of Fantasia in 1941 (? is that right on the date?) ...

So it seems that stereo recording was already possible no doubt before that? I know that there were what was called "accidental stereo" recordings where, being pressed for 78 rpm, two mikes were used and the "back-up" would sometimes be in a different position and therefore, picking up a different sound. There is a 1929 recording of "The Rite of Spring" that, while the stereo separation isn't perfect, does appear to have a slight stereo sound.

Anybody know?

"All these moments will be lost in time, just like ... tears, in the rain. "

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Pete Richards
Master Film Handler

Posts: 302
From: Australia
Registered: Sep 2010

 - posted August 27, 2014 10:51 PM      Profile for Pete Richards   Email Pete Richards   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Is this the beastie you guys are talking about?

BTW, Bell labs did the first single groove stereo recoding in 1934.

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Brian Fretwell
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1785
From: London, UK
Registered: Jun 2014

 - posted August 28, 2014 07:06 AM      Profile for Brian Fretwell   Email Brian Fretwell   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
It seems they also did some double groove recordings in 1932, it is said that one from March 1932 is the oldest intentional stereo recording still existing.

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