Prior to the introduction of microphones, electrical recording and amplification, recordings were made by grouping performers around a large acoustic horn (an enlarged version of the familiar phonograph horn) and the acoustic energy from the voices and/or instruments was channeled through the horn’s diaphragm to a mechanical cutting lathe, which inscribed the signal as a modulated groove directly onto the surface of the master cylinder or disc.
For vocalists, it was necessary to stand close to the horn and sing quite loudly. Some instruments had a difficult time being picked up by the acoustical recording horns. Violins, for example, were outfitted with a small horn of their own in order to make them louder. These were known as Stroh violins.
Since early recording studios were very basic facilities – essentially soundproof rooms that isolated the performers from outside noise – it was not uncommon for recordings to be made in any available location, such as a local ballroom, using portable acoustic recording equipment.
Following the invention and commercial introduction of the microphone, the electronic amplifier, the mixing desk and the loudspeaker, the recording industry gradually converted to electric recording and by 1933 acoustic recording was completely obsolete.
The Acoustical Recordings collection consists of tapes and 78rpms recordings, ca. 1895-1925, of nearly every internationally known singer, instrumentalist or small instrumental group who recorded substantially during the “acoustic” period that preceded the introduction of electrical recording in 1925. The collection was acquired and arranged by Robert Stone, former reference librarian at the University of New Hampshire and radio commentator on classical music.