Almost 5000 sound files are available via the Find Sound Files
All sound files are transferred from 78rpm discs held by the
Archive at King's College London, under the CHARM transfer project and the
subsequent JISC-funded 'Musicians of Britain
and Ireland, 1900-1950'.
Apart from a special focus on Schubert songs, the CHARM transfers aimed to cover a
broad range of performers in Classical repertoire, avoiding where possible tracks that
were already widely available in CD or online reissues.
‘Musicians of Britain and Ireland’ focused on
performers who recorded mainly in those countries and whose work fell out of the
catalogues following the creation of EMI in 1931.
Each file transfers one side of a 78rpm disc: sides are not edited together. The
transfers available for download include appropriate equalisation and light noise
reduction, leaving the musical signal intact. A
detailed description of the procedures used is provided by the CHARM transfer engineer,
Andrew Hallifax. (Raw ('flat') transfers, and other formats, may be
purchased on request from firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The sound files use the lossless FLAC format, which can be played with Winamp, Songbird and numerous other media players. For
more about FLAC see below.
Selections of CHARM sound files are placed in context in the following three packages.
Records on the Radio provides a
collection of BBC radio scripts from record choice programmes broadcast in the 1930s
and 40s, together with the original sound illustrations.
House Conductors, by David
Patmore, provides biographies and selected recordings of some of the conductors who
worked for the major record companies as 'house conductors', c. 1910-35.
Cortot discoveries introduces recently
discovered recordings by the great French pianist and offers guidance on how to search for more.
CHARM and the King's College Archive reproduces
an article from Classic Record Collector in which David Patmore interviews Andrew Hallifax
about his work as the CHARM transfer engineer.
The CHARM audio download files are available only in the FLAC format. FLAC files are
easy to download and play requiring no expert knowledge.
What is FLAC?
- FLAC is an acronym for Free Lossless Audio Codec.
Free - Flac is a freely available open-source
audio codec that is not protected by any legal patent.
Lossless – Many of the most common audio
files currently available on the Internet are data-compressed to
reduce the size of the files in order to expedite downloading. Data
compression (not to be confused with audio compression) takes two
forms: lossy and lossless. Lossy compression
produces small files that are quick to download and that occupy
relatively little hard disc space. Even though this form of
compression typically jettisons 80% of the data of the original,
uncompressed sound file, tests have shown that most listeners are
unable to discern any loss in audio quality under most listening
conditions most of the time. However, most listeners tend to listen
to popular music recordings that typically occupy a very limited
dynamic range. Lossy compression is less well
adapted to represent music with a wide dynamic range – a category
that includes ambient acoustic music recordings.
Lossless compression works in much the same
way as a zip file. That’s to say, although the file is compressed
its integrity is not compromised; none of the data is thrown away;
it is fully restored upon decompression resulting in an output file
that is identical to the input file. FLAC compresses files at a
ratio of approximately 2:1, reducing the size of the original by
Audio Codec – The term codec is derived from
coder/decoder and is a device or computer programme for compressing
or decompressing digital media files. A codec incorporates an
encoder, to compress the file and a decoder to decompress it so that
it can be played.
- The CHARM website is designed as a resource with a long
life-expectancy and although lossy files such
as MP3 are smaller and would be quicker to download, such formats
are likely to be superseded as Internet connections become faster
and data storage becomes cheaper. In making CHARM’s audio transfers
available for download as FLAC files we hope to achieve the fastest
possible download times without compromising the audio content.
Although FLAC is only one of several lossless audio codecs it is
quickly becoming one of the most widely used with good
cross-platform support. The resolution of our FLAC files is 16bit
44.1Khz - precisely the same quality as a commercial Compact Disc.
Why is hi-fi important when the 78s are
- The audio quality of 78rpm records is determined by the technical
limitations of the original recording, the surface material into
which the recordings were engraved, and by the ravages of time and
wear. Lossy data compression introduces
another, entirely different type of degradation: one that is not
directly comparable with the mechanical vicissitudes of the original
analogue record. It is quite common, for example, for listeners to
find lossy audio compression fatiguing during
extended listening even though it may not at first be easy to
differentiate between a lossless and a lossy file. Very soft sounds are worst
affected by low-resolution audio and although 78rpm records are
usually swathed in surface noise a lot of low level ambient sound
and a sense of the acoustic space in which the music was recorded is
often discernable particularly once the worst clicks and pops have
been removed. Having gone to all the lengths we have to recapture
and preserve in the best possible quality the full dynamic range of
these recordings we believe that it would be perverse to discard 80%
of the data simply in order to expedite rapid downloads.
How to play your FLAC downloads
- Once you have downloaded your FLAC files you can use them in any
of the following ways:
- 1. Decode the FLAC file to restore the original wav file. A wav
file is approximately twice the size of its FLAC equivalent and will
therefore require double the storage space. The official FLAC tools
are available for Linux, Mac OS X, Windows and other platforms from
website where a number of links to other
encoding/decoding front ends can also be found.
- 2. Burn wav files onto a CDR and play them with standard audio CD
player. Some CD authoring software packages automatically decode
FLAC files and convert them to CD Audio files before writing them to
- 3. Load FLAC files onto a Digital Media Receiver or streaming
device integrated into your hi-fi system.
- 4. Load FLAC files directly onto a compatible handheld device. A
list of compatible hardware is available on the FLAC website.
- 5. Play FLAC files with a media player such as:
- NB. Windows Media Player will not currently play FLAC files
without the installation of a DirectShow filter.
Mac OS X
Fluke is an
AppleScript that automatically installs the components necessary to
play FLAC files in iTunes
- For other players/decoders see the FLAC
How long do FLAC files take to download?
- Download times vary depending on a number of factors but on
average, a typical 10Mb FLAC file will take less than 10 seconds to
download with an 8Mb/s Internet connection. With a 2Mb/s connection,
the same file will take approximately 15 seconds and approximately 1
minute with a 1Mb/s connection.
- CHARM FLAC audio files are tagged with native FLAC tags. As much
relevant metadata as possible has been included. However, tags are
not well suited to classical music metadata so some users may prefer
to edit the tags to suit their own preferences. This can be
accomplished quickly and easily with Exceltagger. With thanks to William Hooper.