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Cylinder Playback Machine

This is part of the POPPY Records range of professional transcription services

Please contact us to enquire about hiring this machine

The POPPY RECORDS wax cylinder playback machine is a high quality precision-engineered instrument which meets the most exacting archival standards. it features:

Automatic anti-wow speed control for warped and eccentric cylinders

The pickup arm contains a sensor which measures the instantaneous radius of the cylinder and adjusts the mandrel motor speed so as to keep the surface speed constant. This reduces the wow of warped and eccentric cylinders to negligible proportions even if they are not accurately centred on the mandrel.

When playing archival cylinders this feature saves a great deal of time as there is no need to accurately centre each cylinder in order to play it properly. If the cylinder is mis-shapen, a simple shim may still be required - but tedious and time-consuming fine adjustments of the shimmming or mandrel offsets are entirely eliminated.

Speed range 30 - 300 rpm
Speed control accurate to better than 1%

The mandrel is driven by a stepper motor with analogue electronic waveform generation giving smooth control over a wide speed range. The operator sets the speed by means of dial which has 1000 divisions and a linearity of better than 1%. A stroboscope allows a quick and accurate check that the system is in calibration

Servo tracking from 10 to 300 tpi

The pickup is mounted on a carriage driven along bedways by a leadscrew. The leadscrew motor is controlled from an optical sensor connected to the pickup spindle bearing which is arranged to maintain the pickup at the correct angle and move it at the correct speed, regardless of the tpi of the cylinder

Edison standard mandrel

The machine is equipped with a mandrel to the Edison standard, which suits the majority of commercial entertainment and dictating machine cylinders. Special alternative mandrels can easily be produced to suit non-standard or particularly difficult cylinders.

Interchangeable stylus to suit groove profile
Very light stylus pressure with low inertia arm

The pickup arm is equipped with a Shure 44 cartridge with interchangeable stylus. A wide range of different styli is available for this type of cartridge, so it can easily be adapted to suit almost any groove shape.

Because the pickup arm is short and made as an anti-resonant sandwich construction from special low-density materials, it has a low inertia and is able to accurately track warped cylinders with low tracking weight.

Stylus lift/lower control to avoid groove damage

To reduce the possibility of groove damage caused by lowering the stylus onto the wax surface, the pickup is controlled by a hand-operated lift/lower mechanism which allows it to be manipulated accurately and gently. A cam gives a variable ratio of leverage so that the precision is greatest where it is most needed. This is particularly important for warped or eccentric cylinders, where hand-lowering would be a very risky procedure.

Very low motor noise level

The mandrel and leadscrew are driven by stepper motors. This type of motor has acquired a bad reputation for being noisy, a reputation which is well justified in many designs using off-the-shelf controllers. The controllers in this player have been custom-designed by Poppy Records to give drive waveforms which generate the least amount of vibration from torque variation in the motors.
Each motor is resiliently suspended from a weighted mounting platform, which in turn is resiliently suspended from a massive cast-iron mechanism bed-plate. The motor drive shafts power the drive train through special resilient torque couplings having a high degree of damping to prevent resonances from building up at any speed within the working range.

Adjustable rumble filter

Warped cylinders can generate high levels of rumble and this is often exacerbated by the transfer characteristics needed to obtain adequate bass from acoustic recordings. To prevent overloading of any subsequent signal processing or recording devices, the player is equipped with a switchable rumble filter with an 8-pole Butterworth characteristic giving a 48dB per octave slope.

Accurate adjustable playback characteristic

The archival "Playback" copy of a cylinder can often benefit from a certain amount of bass lift. If required, this can be applied to the Playback signal by means of a dial calibrated in microseconds. By logging the dial setting, removal of the characteristic from the recording at some future date (should this ever prove necessary) becomes a simple and accurate process.

Low noise circuitry throughout

The signal amplifer chain has been designed in its entirety by Poppy Records so as to give the lowest possible distortion and background noise level. High quality components are used throughout, so as to ensure a long life with stable characteristics.

Output levels and connections

The player has four output signals:

Left channel

Right Channel


Mono processed

These permit the recording of several different "Archive" and "Playback" combinations to suit the requirements of different archives and authorities. Each signal is fully buffered and independent of the others, so that a fault or change of conditions on one recording channel does not affect any of the others.

The output levels are nominally 0dBm into 600 ohms balanced and centre-tapped to earth. Levels up to +20dBm may be generated without distortion so as to faithfully reproduce transients from damaged cylinders.

Standard BBC/GPO jacks are used on all channels.