what to play a stack of 78s on?
November 26, 2005 8:13 PM   Subscribe

Help me help my grandpa. I need a record player that will spin 33s/45s/78s AND support stacking up a bunch of discs that will then play in succession. He doesn't believe that 78 players are still sold, period. I know that's not true but finding one that will play a stack of discs one at a time is another story. Any help? Something slim and low-profile which I can install into his old stereo console will be helpful. Bonus points for sub-$200.
posted by scarabic to Shopping (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The only thing I found on google is this, which looks like you can get it for right around $200 new. The stacking requirement is the killer: give that up, and there'll be a lot more choices.
posted by kickingtheground at 8:24 PM on November 26, 2005

I think the Crosley Stack-o-Matic might be the ticket. Try brookstone.com.
posted by maryh at 8:52 PM on November 26, 2005

Oops! Should've checked kickingtheground's link first. My bad.
posted by maryh at 8:53 PM on November 26, 2005

Beware, thought, that many 78s are very brittle and should not be stacked, lest they break. My grandfather recorded some albums as a pianist in the 30s (or maybe 20s) that we had around when we were kids and they all eventually broke. It pisses me off because I would love to play them for my son who has been studying piano for a while now.
posted by Doohickie at 9:11 PM on November 26, 2005

Continue googling around about playing 78s and other gramophone records. Also, old , functional wind-up 78 RPM gramophone players are still pretty available at antique shops and junk markets. There are a lot of collectors, and some small manufacturers do make turntables that can handle 78s. The old ones that played all types - 78/45/33 RPM used to have a switch on the needle arm to switch from the diamond needle (for 33/45 RPM vinyl record) to a steel needle for the 78s.

One IMPORTANT factor: a regular diamond record player needle will quickly destroy shellac 78s. Old wind up 78 RPM gramophones ("His Master's Voice") came with matchbox sized boxes of steel needles. Ideally, one was supposed to replace the needle after each record. 78 RPM collectors are almost as nuts about collecting these old needles as they are about collecting old recordings.
posted by zaelic at 2:24 AM on November 27, 2005

Playing old records is tedious and error-prone, with a risk (see above) of damaging the recording.

Why not record them once to another medium? In particular, why not record them losslessly (.wav, flac, monkey, etc.) and then play the lossless recording from a pc? This will also make it more convenient for your grandfather to play the music -- no need to be exquisitely careful.

And, for those recordings that are out of copyright, you may even make a few bucks selling your re-recordings.
posted by orthogonality at 5:42 AM on November 27, 2005

The TEAC Nostalgia Stereo System plays 78s and can record them directly to CDs. I imagine you could record several 78s to a single CDR and eliminate the need for stacking. But if you want to go that route, TEAC also has one similar to the stack-o-matic.
posted by Otis at 8:07 AM on November 27, 2005

Expanding a bit on what Zaelic said - There is a difference in the tip diameter of a 78 stylus (needle) and a 33/45 stylus. The 33 is much smaller, and will sink deeper into the groove on a 78 disc - thereby playing back all 60 years of dust and grunge. A fatter 78 needle will ride properly in the groove, and sound tolerable. They are still produced, but are made for enthusiasts, and priced accordingly.

The other thing to (not) worry about is that most 78s were produced before the RIAA playback equalization was standardized. Some brands of 78s will be 'inaccurately' reproduced; they will be listenable, but may sound a bit funny. Of course, grandpa can't hear the diff, and won't care. I'm just covering all the bases.

A possible solution would be to find the record nerds in your town, and work a deal for burning the 78s to CD. Otherwise, you may find a serviceable turntable at your local thrift shop.
posted by Triode at 5:16 PM on November 27, 2005

Thanks all, some good angles here I hadn't considered, like the needle.

I got a great laugh out of this, too:
"Why not record them once to another medium ... and then play the lossless recording from a pc? This will also make it more convenient for your grandfather"

I appreciate the elegance of what you're proposing but trust me, CDs and PCs are not convenient for grandpa.
posted by scarabic at 2:05 PM on November 29, 2005

Those Crosleys all look pretty cool but do none of them have audio out jacks? It looks like they've all got internal speakers only.
posted by scarabic at 2:16 PM on November 29, 2005

We got him the Crosley Traveler - and he was pretty stoked. Indeed, the speakers are internal and there's no audio-out. This seems retarded to me, but the sound was decent enough. The stacking mechanism isn't particularly robust but it did work, so again: decent enough.

We grabbed a few records off his stack when he unwrapped it, and the first one he put on was soemthing called "More Wacky Doodlin's with the Doowackdoodlers." Hell of a title. Fun record.

Thanks for all the help.
posted by scarabic at 4:02 PM on February 28, 2006

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