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Play Your Cylinders Electrically
By Allan Sutton

Archeophone cylinder player, available from Nauck's Vintage Records There's amazing sound in your cylinders, and now two new devices can help you retrieve it.

At $12,000 plus accessories, the Archeophone (pictured above) is the ultimate in modern cylinder playback. It can handle all types of cylinders, from standard two- and four-minute issues to Busy Bees, Liorets, Concerts, Columbia 20th Centurys, Pathé Celestes, and even dictation cylinders. Speed is infinitely variable between 44 and 236 rpm. The Archeophone comes with two different styli, and custom sizes are also available; standard turntable-style headshells allow quick cartridge changes. Connection to an amp or preamp is via standard audio cables.

The Archeophone uses a unique linear tracking system, designed by Pierre Clément, that is able to track all types of grooves and pitches by means of an optically controlled servo motor. The mandrel's axis of rotation can be realigned to compensate for warped or off-round cylinders. The Archeophone's belt-driven mandrel is powered by an asynchronous motor, providing rock-solid speed.

I had the pleasure of auditioning the Archeophone at the 2000 ARSC Conference. It performed flawlessly, handling everything from warped Indestructibles to fragile brown waxes and Edison Concerts without so much as a skip and revealing sound that the best acoustic machines can only hint at. There's none of the annoying wow-and-flutter inherent in wind-up machines and, as you would expect from the price, the engineering and construction are superb. The Archeophone is obviously not intended for the average collector, but for libraries and archives with large cylinder holdings, it should be an indispensable tool.


ACT elctrical cylinder reproducer, available from Nauck's Vintage Records

For the rest of us, the cleverly designed Advanced Cylinder Technology (ACT) reproducer should suffice nicely. Priced at about $245, it fits into any Edison Model C/Model H reproducer carriage. It can also be adapted to the later top-mount carriages with the use of an accessory reducer ring. The finely machined brass housing contains a Stanton 500 magnetic cartridge mounted in a spring-loaded cantilever assembly, and the price includes two custom styli, one for two- and one for four-minute cylinders.

The ACT head attaches via a standard RCA phono-plug cable to your amp's or preamp's phono input. Mono and stereo versions are available. The stereo signal is useful to collectors who have audio systems or digital software offering advanced signal processing options, allowing sampling and selection of the best channel (but be sure to use the amp's mono setting to reduce noise).

I've used the ACT, in a two/four-minute Edison Home, for several years with consistently good results. (Reproduction quality, of course, depends largely on the quality of the phonograph being used.) The ACT tracks most gold-moulded, wax Amberols, Blue Amberols, and US Everlastings perfectly. Its performance on Indestructibles is somewhat spottier if the cylinder has shrunken laterally or is off-round or poorly molded, as is so often the case with this brand. If the record mistracks with your acosutic head, it will probably mistrack with the ACT (or the Arcehophone, for that matter) as well. However, with some minor tweaking of the set-screw adjustment, even problem cases will often track well. The high-quality styli and relatively light tracking weight (roughly 5 grams) produce no noticeable wear on celluloid. Although very slight wear is evident on wax cylinders with repeated playings, the ACT is still far gentler on wax than are acoustic reproducers. Surprisingly little mechanical noise is transferred to the head; there's an inevitable bit of rumble, which is easily removed with a graphic equalizer, low-end filter, or a simple twist of the bass control. Overall, the ACT head delivers great value for the money.

The Archeophone and the ACT reproducer are available through
Nauck's Vintage Records.

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