Acoustic Devices


Edison Cylinder player  in the vintage recording collection

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PLEASE NOTE: None of the Vintage Museum items are for sale.



Statistics 20142015  •  KXAN Austin Recording Museum Update  • view overview video of tape recorder collectionmobile videomore info

Acoustic Recording

Read about the hot 1917 musician load-in.

Experiments in capturing sound on a recording medium for preservation and reproduction began in earnest during the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s. Many pioneering attempts to record and reproduce sound were made during the latter half of the 19th century – notably de Martinville's Phonautograph of 1857 – and these efforts culminated in the invention of the phonograph, patented by Thomas Edison in 1877.

The history of sound recording - which has progressed in waves, driven by the invention and commercial introduction of new technologies - can be roughly divided into four main periods:

the "Acoustic" era, 1877 to 1925
the "Electrical" era, 1925 to 1945 (including sound on film)
the "Magnetic" era, 1945 to 1975
the "Digital" Era, 1975 to the present day.

One of the earliest practical recording technologies were entirely mechanical devices. These recorders typically used a large conical horn to collect and focus the physical air pressure of the sound waves produced by the human voice or musical instruments. A sensitive membrane or diaphragm, located at the apex of the cone, was connected to an articulated scriber or stylus, and as the changing air pressure moved the diaphragm back and forth, the stylus scratched or incised an analogue of the sound waves onto a moving recording medium, such as a roll of coated paper, or a cylinder or disc coated with a soft material such as wax or a soft metal.

These early recordings were necessarily of low fidelity and volume, and captured only a narrow segment of the audible sound spectrum - typically only from around 250 Hz up to about 2,500 Hz - so musicians and engineers were forced to adapt to these sonic limitations.

Bands of the period often favored louder instruments such as trumpet, cornet and trombone, lower-register brass instruments (such the tuba and the euphonium) replaced the string bass, and blocks of wood stood in for bass drums; performers also had to arrange themselves strategically around the horn to balance the sound, and to play as loudly as possible.

The reproduction of domestic phonographs was similarly limited in both frequency-range and volume - this period gave rise to the expression "put a sock in it", which commemorates the common practice of placing a sock in the horn of the phonograph to muffle the sound for quieter listening. By the end of the acoustic era, the disc had become the standard medium for sound recording, and its dominance in the domestic audio market lasted until the end of the 20th century.


View our Museum's "live" acoustic recording video by Jim Cartwright using Austin, Texas jazz musicians

The first American acoustic symphony recording was made in Boston in 1917.

Read about the hot musician load-in.

Acoustic items in our Museum's collection



Edison Cylinder Player Edison Cylinder (Standard) 1904 $20. Cylinders were $.25 each.

1904 Edison standard cylinder player  in the vintage recording collection

1898 ad  1902  1903  1904  1905   1908 ad

1904 Edison standard cylinder player  in the vintage recording collection

1904 Edison standard cylinder player  in the vintage recording collection

1904 Edison standard cylinder player  in the vintage recording collection

1904 Edison standard cylinder player  in the vintage recording collection

1904 Edison standard cylinder player  in the vintage recording collection

1904 Edison standard cylinder player  in the vintage recording collection


Edison Voice Writer Cylinder Dictating Recorder 1937




Edison Ediphone Cylinder Recorder - 1920 Dictating machine, 'Edison Ediphone', wax, Thomas A. Edison Inc., USA, 1920-1930.


Edison Blank Cylinders

These cylinders are brand new.  The box of unused cylinders was purchased from the Ford Museum.

picture of box of blank edison cylinders

picture of box of blank edison cylinders

About the company

On August 13th, Chris and Martin, two of MOMSR's Board of Directors, were treated to a tour of Jim Cartwright's Immortal Performances, Inc.'s collection of vintage acoustical devices. We had not asked to shoot any video in advance, however when we arrived and saw what Jim has, he gave permission to video our visit with Martin's iPhone. At some point it would be fun to re-shoot seriously. The collection is incredible!

PLEASE NOTE: The Jim Cartwright collection is not associated with the Museum of Magnetic Sound Recording

On February 11, 2015 Jim Cartwright held his annual party celebrating Thomas Edison's birthday (168th) by recording a group of Austin musicians on a cylinder recorder. Jim allowed Chris & Martin to videotape portions of the party for the Museum of Magnetic Sound Recording



Go to Record CuttersMagnetic Film RecordersMicrophonesReel Tape Recorders • Unique Recording Items • Wire Recorders



Tour our collection! 

We offer seven hours of 50 video segments via download about our collection and the history of magnetic recording available at this link.

ORDER THE VIDEO FILES ON LINE - was 14.95  NOW only $9.95

There are 50 QuickTime H264 854 X 480 files in this download.  Play on MAC OS or Windows Media Player

We provide 48 hours during which to download the files. After that the file access will expire.  Once the files are downloaded they are yours to keep.

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