Sound on Wire
Wire Recorders

Wire Recording - I’ve been both perplexed and enamored with this concept of recording sound on wire since my elementary school days sometime in 1960 something. In college, I got to play around with an old industrial grade Magnecorder SD-1. This old white-haired psychology professor had one in his home left over from when he used it in the 50s for psychological research. This heavy all steel machine had two heads (record and play). It could delay when a person heard their voice through headphones. Though the two heads were pretty far apart, the wire moved rather fast (24 inches per second) causing only about a fraction of a second delay. While I was messing around with this machine, he offered to give it to me. But I was young and into high fidelity stereo.

At that time, I had really good hearing. I could just about hear 18 kHz. I definitely knew when an old CRT television was on because I could clearly hear the whistling of the 15 kHz fly-back transformer from across the room. So, I could hear that the high end on this machine was somewhere around 10 to 12 kHz, the same as my portable Concord F-400 stereo cassette deck. Also, what about stereo wire? “Did they use two wires,” I commented. Today, these very rare SD-1s go for about 5 grand. But, I digress.

My first recent experience with this hair thin stainless steel recording wire was with a Webster Chicago Model 80 Wire Recorder. I picked it up at a highbrow art museum fundraising rummage sale in the early 90s. I got it for about $15.00. It was in near perfect condition. It must have been from an estate of one of my town’s wealthier citizens.

I was hoping to find some wire to play on it. But none was to be found. So, I put it in a closet where it stayed for about twelve years. then in 2004, I happened to notice some spools of wire for sale on eBay. Remembering the recorder, I bid and got them for a few bucks. After they arrived, I anxiously took out the Webster and plugged it in. Its fuse blew. It stayed on just long enough for the main power rectifier tube to warm up and…well, attempt to charge the filter capacitors. Needless to say, wax capacitors on the whole entire planet expired on or shortly after Y2k. After recapping the whole thing, I finally played my first spool. It was a Shaklee Vitamin convention in 1956. But, the response was rather poor, only about 4 to 5 kHz.

Well, the recorder was done and in very good condition. However, it was oddly shaped and it didn’t fit anywhere. It was rather deep and it wouldn’t fit on any shelf such that it could be displayed. So, I listed it on eBay. I was shocked when it sold for $165.00.

However, my desire to know more about this medium of wire did not stop here.

- Recording Sound on Wire -


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Sears Silvertone Model 101.773
Wire vs. Tape


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Webster Chicago Model 178-1