A Brief History of Diamond Cut Productions, Inc.
In the spring of 1986, an R&D engineer/scientist by the name of Craig Maier read an article in The Star Ledger, a local newspaper, entitled “Budget Cuts Cast Shadow on Edison National Historic Site.” The article, written by science editor Kitta McPherson, described the deteriorating condition of the Edison National Historic Site and its archives located in West Orange, New Jersey. Among the many artifacts which were not receiving the proper curatorial attention due to poor funding was a collection of test-press recordings which were made by the Edison company between the years of 1927 through 1929, which was their last few years in the record business. Craig told a friend and fellow engineer named Rick Carlson about the article in hopes that it might stir up in him some interest in the Edison site as well. Craig and Rick, after some considerable discussion, decided to offer to volunteer some of their spare time and technical expertise in the area of audio hardware and software engineering in order that the Edison Lateral collection of test pressing recordings could be transferred to digital tape so that the “sound artifacts” would be eternally preserved and archived in the digital domain at the site.
Contact was made with then Supervisor Museum Curator, Dr. Edward Pershey, Ph.D. During their first meeting at the site, Dr. Pershey showed the two engineers thousands of one-of-a-kind test pressing recordings which were piled in stacks on a long row of tables on the second floor of the Edison main laboratory building. This initial introduction to the collection was an earnest attempt to sober up these two individuals as to the magnitude of the undertaking for which they were volunteering. The total number of songs which were recorded numbered over 1200 in anywhere from two to five takes each. This only further increased their interest in the project since the possibility of finding some truly important music that had previously been unheard since the late 1920’s would be quite high in such a large collection of test pressings. After several additional meetings with Dr. Pershey, an informal agreement was made such that the two engineers could proceed to seek out funding from private sources to set up an audio restoration laboratory in one of their own homes for the project. They contacted around 30 companies in the New Jersey area seeking funds to help build their laboratories. After about seven months of effort, they succeeded in raising enough money to fund their project. In addition to fund raising, they also designed and constructed several pieces of custom equipment which was needed for the project (equipment which was not readily available on the market at the time).
The next step was to become educated in the proper technique of archival audio transferring. To that end, they hired Mr. Tom Owens of the Rogers and Hammerstein musical library in New York City as an engineering consultant. Tom spent time with the two engineers at the New York City Public Library sound lab (Rogers and Hammerstein) teaching them some of the “tricks of the trade.” Tom also visited the first sound lab which the two engineers set up for the restoration project located at Craig’s home in Verona, NJ. He provided constructive criticism regarding the sound lab which the two engineers had set up, allowing them to improve upon their initial system. One significant problem which Tom highlighted for the two engineers was that of establishing the correct turnover frequency for the transfer of these lateral test pressings. Documentation could not be found at the Edison site regarding the specifics of this important parameter. So Rick and Craig devised some experiments which were conducted on a “high-end” vacuum tube based Edison phonograph designed around the same time period as the test pressings in order to deduce the correct turnover frequency. After their experiments, modifications were made to their magnetic phonograph pre-amplifier to provide the most likely proper turnover frequency for the transfers.
A seven year pro-bono contract was drawn up between the Edison National Historic Site / U.S. Department of the Interior, and Rick Carlson and Craig Maier for the purposes of executing the project outlined above.
Finally, the two engineers were ready to begin the project. Nearly one full year had lapsed before the first record was transferred to digital tape at Craig’s home in Verona, N.J. Shortly thereafter, the sound lab was rebuilt in the Maier’s new home in Rockaway Township, NJ. That is the location in which the lions share of the transfer project took place over the next seven years.
After transferring around 900 of the songs (times 2 – 5 takes per song, about 2,200 transfers in total) Craig and Rick decided that the music was not doing much good sitting in the underground vault of a museum. Since they were the only two people alive who had heard almost the entire collection, they decided that it would be a good idea to try to release some of this previously unreleased material (only around 200 of the songs had ever been released in the Edison lateral format). So they approached the Edison site in order to try to accomplish this. After about one year of frustration in dealing with the bureaucracy, they decided it would be a lot easier to form their own company and release these songs under their own record label. Thus was formed Diamond Cut Productions in 1992 with Craig and Rick providing their own seed capital for the venture. Their first release entitled “Unreleased Edison Laterals 1 – – – an anthology of Edison Needle type records” was such a success in the market that they were able to start another project in 1994 entitled “The California Ramblers, Edison Laterals 2.” For this project, they decided to improve on the audio restoration process which they had used on their previous release. Instead of analog signal processing, they migrated to digital signal processing utilizing their own algorithms to remove crackle, ticks, pops and hiss from the original material. They named their process (which ran on an inexpensive pc) “Diamond Cut Audio restoration tools” or DC-Art for short. Their technique proved successful to the extent that the Smithsonian Institution Press employed Diamond Cut Productions to perform audio restoration for some of their American Songwriter Series of CD releases using this process. Diamond Cut’s third CD release entitled “Hot Dance of the Roaring 20’s, Edison Laterals 3” was processed utilizing exclusively their own audio restoration program; all analog processing equipment had been abandoned by this point in time. In the meantime and in parallel with the efforts to bring “Hot Dance . . . ” to the market, Craig worked with County records to produce and release an Edison olde tyme group on CD called “Ernest Stoneman and his Dixie Mountaineers” using their audio restoration process. In the spring of 1996, their program was first formally introduced into the commercial marketplace at a meeting of “Record Research” which was held at the Maier residence in Rockaway Township, NJ. Since then it has been sold throughout the world for not only musical audio restoration applications, but for others such as 911 call restoration, clarification of police surveillance recordings, cleanup of radio broadcasts for release on CD, restoration of historic spoken word recordings, cockpit voice recording restoration, plus many others.
DC-Art has now become one of the predominant players in the international audio restoration software market. In the software domain, they are also planning the introduction of a product specifically designed for the enhancement of compressed MP3 files which will be released early in 2001. Also, new features and improved performance are planned to be added into their legacy audio restoration software products.
In the future, Diamond Cut Productions expects to continue releasing more CDs in their Edison Lateral Cut series. However, they have also branched out into other musical venues from the 1920’s and 1930’s.
Recent releases include “Vintage Vallee – Rudy Vallee and his Connecticut Yankees” which includes 23 of the earliest recordings made by this group in the late 1920’s. and itled “Early Eddy Duchin – – – 1932 to 1937.”
The Diamond Cut Productions Edison Lateral Cut Series of CD’s
Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877 at his laboratory, located in Menlo Park, New Jersey. Although it was his favorite invention, he did not commercialize it until 10 years later. His patents contained many variations of the basic premise of sound recording, involving media such as cylinders, disc, and moving tape. Also, he envisioned both vertical (known as hill and dale) and lateral (side to side) groove modulation methods. Edison commercialized sound recording using the vertical modulation technique initially on cylinders, and then later on discs (Diamond Discs). In the early years, these recordings were made acoustically (without the aid of microphones or amplifiers). His competitors, like The Victor Talking Machine Company, used the lateral technique because lateral cut records were cheaper to produce compared with the hill and dale method. Since they were thinner, customers could store more records in a given space. Ultimately, the industry which Edison had created became dominated by records using the lateral cut technique, which he had invented by had not embraced for his commercial purposes.
By the mid 1920’s, Edison’s record business began to decline rapidly due to the lateral competition, and also the influence of a new means of home entertainment called Radio. Two of Edison’s sons, Charles and Theodore, finally convinced him to go head to head with the competition by entering into the lateral market. Edison’s lateral recordings were made electrically. Edison felt that the greater quality and increased bass response of the electrical recordings would help sales. This attempt to save the business failed, and Edison went out of the record business the day before the Stock Market crashed in 1929.
For almost two years prior to this, the Edison record company mastered over one thousand song titles, but only a very few were ever released. The recordings, which are included in the Diamond Cut Edison Lateral Cut series of CD, are examples of some of these previously unreleased recordings. Also included in the Diamond Cut CD catalog is an anthology of Diamond Disc recordings in addition to releases of material found on non-Edison labels from the early electrical time period.