Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville patented the phonoautograph, the earliest sound recording device, in 1857. The ability to record audio information is surprisingly recent if compared to the ability to record graphic information, which dates back to the first proofs of human activity.
From de Martinville’s invention on, audio conservation technologies notably evolved. Because of a never-ending succession of transformations and innovations, many different devices and audio supports were employed. Audio information, however, is still extremely labile, because it is subjected to both degradation and irreparable loss in a relatively short period of time.
These problems are due to the perishability of the employed audio supports. Wax, photosensitive gel and varnish are organic materials, thus suffering from the consequences of mildew and parasite attacks. Besides, crystallization makes them extremely prone to deterioration and inappropriate for usage after a long period of time.
Synthetic resins employed for discs and magnetic supports are subject to deformations and ageing, too. Magnetic oxide layers often lose particles or crumble: their magnetization tends to flag and to move to the adjacent coils of the mag tapes reels. Synthetic resins in optical supports also tend to alter, making their reading difficult or impossible.
The technological continuous evolution causes the obsolescence of old recording devices. As a consequence, the information recorded cannot be no longer read because the proper players are not in production or are simply too expensive. This is the destiny of the information that was digitally recorded some decades ago: players are not working anymore and shortly they will not be available.
Conserving the original supports and, in the meanwhile, the necessary equipment for its playback is hopeless: this is why the international archivist community created the slogan:
“protect the contents, not the support.”
In order to fulfil these needs, Audio Innova developed:
- An informatics system (aiCARE: Context-aware Audio Restoration Environment) based on innovative algorithms applying the Kalman filter theory, a math technique that has been used in avionics since the Sixties in order to extract a signal from a series of incomplete and/or uncertain measurements;
- A software (winner of the first prize in the StartCup 2010 competition among innovative entrepreneurial ideas) that allows to reconstruct the sound of consumed or broken discs starting from their photograph, which is useful in order to:
- Automate the digitization processes in the archives;
- Avoid disused equipment purchase (record players, amplifiers…) to listen to old recordings…;
- Recover songs from broken discs.
List of audio supports we can process:
- magnetic tapes:
- open reel (different formats)
- phonographic discs:
- 78 rpm
- shellac discs (19 rpm – 90 rpm)
- vinyl (33 rpm, 45 rpm)
- wax cylinders
- wire recordings