Comments on REAFFIRMATION of
AES-16id-2010

last updated 2013-08-13

Comments to date on REAFFIRMATION of AES-16id-2010, AES information document for transfer technologies - Stylus dimensions and selection ,
published 2013-07-01 for comment.

NOTE: some of the comments below have been edited for relevance. Full text is available.


Comment received from J G McKnight, 2013-07-04

Hello Mark,

Minor grammar comment: in Sec 1, 2nd para, "some knowledge about the physical parameters of the groove are essential". Come, come -- the subject "knowledge" is singular, so the verb should be singular, "is essential". (As opposed to the "modern" rule, where the verb takes the number of the nearest noun.)

para 3: "traditional units" In the standards world, the "old" or "English, Imperial", "US" whatever units are now called "customary units". (See Thompson and Taylor "Guide for the Use of the International System of Units (SI)" NIST SP811, Sec 2.2 and 5.3.2) I recommend following that convention.

Sec 3.1 "Disc" " Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. "The earlier and better spelling is disk, but disc is now the more usual form in British English" Isn't this a Standard published by an American-international society?

Sec 4.2 "may not sound as pleasant". It is not clear which stylus this phrase applies to.

Sec 5.2, Table 1: The column "Stylus" would be more informative if called "Stylus Radius" (I believe that is what is meant.)

Sec 5.3.1 a little text clarifying the "ironing out" process would be nice.

Best regards,
Jay McKnight
Cupertino, CA

Reply from M Yonge, Chair, SC-00, 2013-08-01

Hi Jay,

Thanks for your comments on AES-16id of 2013-07-04, and I apologise for the delay in replying.

Because your comments are entirely editorial in nature, and will not affect the normativity of this reaffirmation, I will respond directly here. See notes interleaved, below.

Minor grammar comment: in Sec 1, 2nd para, "some knowledge about the physical parameters of the groove are essential". Come, come -- the subject "knowledge" is singular, so the verb should be singular, "is essential". (As opposed to the "modern" rule, where the verb takes the number of the nearest noun.)

Agreed - thanks.

para 3: "traditional units" In the standards world, the "old" or "English, Imperial", "US" whatever units are now called "customary units". (See Thompson and Taylor "Guide for the Use of the International System of Units (SI)" NIST SP811, Sec 2.2 and 5.3.2) I recommend following that convention.

Agreed - this should read, "US customary units"

Sec 3.1 "Disc" " Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. "The earlier and better spelling is disk, but disc is now the more usual form in British English" Isn't this a Standard published by an American-international society?

AES standards documents use IEC international spelling, but I note that the IEC Electropaedia (formerly IEC 60050) uses both spellings. However, within the expert group that developed this document, "disc" was the preferred spelling, so "disc" it shall remain.

Sec 4.2 "may not sound as pleasant". It is not clear which stylus this phrase applies to.

I don't think this is ambiguous. "may not sound as pleasant" refers to the background noise; "stylii of other shapes" refers to any shape other than conical.

Sec 5.2, Table 1: The column "Stylus" would be more informative if called "Stylus Radius" (I believe that is what is meant.)

This table refers to vertical recordings on cylinders and was written by experts in this field (which I am not). I feel that changing this as an editorial matter could cause more error than it fixes, so I propose to let the current text stand.

Sec 5.3.1 a little text clarifying the "ironing out" process would be nice.

I believe this simply means, "worn". I can imagine a monograph that would go into much finer detail on the physics of mechanical discs, their materials, recording, replication, and playback, but this simple Information Document on stylus dimensions is probably not it.

Thanks,

Mark Yonge Chair, SC-00

Comment received from George Brock-Nannestad, 2013-07-31

Hello Mark,

I have comments as shown below. My text contains general comments, precise wording proposals, and specific comments to the proposals.

George

AES-16id-2010: Proposal for revision of the text in connection with re-affirmation, by George Brock-Nannestad, 31 July 2013

I have considered AES16id-2010 again with "fresh" eyes after it has been out of our minds for a while, and I can now see that there is something that is not at all dealt with. In an environment where the only fresh blood hired in archives is drawn from specialists in digital file handling systems, perhaps used to working with primitive DAWs and metadata, the information in this Information Document floats in a space that is almost irrelevant to them. Most transfers from mechanical recordings will already have been made (and for cylinders, as we know, without any calibration of the equipment).

I fully realise that despite the statements in the Introduction, the document is not intended as a user's guide to mechanical records, but I feel that vital information is completely missing:

a) stressing that a stylus must not be worn and that it must be clean, and
b) how to determine that this is the case.

We must realise that in most archival environments, the last turntable ever will already have been acquired, which also goes for the set of stylii. Using calibration records to determine wear of stylii by observing the spectra and noting increasing distortion is an expensive way of doing it. Using worn stylii on calibration records will destroy them, but obviously that might increase the sales of the set AES-S001-064! Another way out for archives would be to farm out any transfers of mechanical records to those who specialise in it, and they do not need the present information - yet.

The various cartridge manufacturers used to provide stylus inspection microscopes to the trade - these are no longer manufatured. As an example I attach the Instruction Manual for the Shure SEK-2 Stylus Evaluation Kit 1978, but it should be noted that the mounting block is useful for Shure cartridges only, and that they propose a mounting plate with goo for other types.

I have checked the web for further and more modern information, and I have found the two attached blog posts that I have downloaded for internal committee use only.

My conclusion for the problem of stylus wear is that the stylii have to be inspected on a regular basis, the first sign of wear has to be noted, and if it has increased (provided the log of the stylus use shows intermediate use), the stylus should be considered past its useful life and should be re-tipped. In other words, it is the beginning of wear and not a particular pattern of wear that is the decisive element.

Two more aspects are relevant:

1) stressing the need for adhering to the proper vertical tracking angle when using anything but spherical stylii, and
2) the possibility of manufacturing certain stylii in-house in glass, as described in Meulengracht-Madsen [Meulengracht-Madsen, Hans: "On the Transcription of Old Phonograph Wax Records", JAES Volume 24 Issue 1 pp. 27-32; February 1976].

However, I would let it be up to the Committee to decide whether these elements should presently be part of the revised Information Document. They do involve quite elaborate mechanics. I am willing to give it a try if desired.

In order to comply with the working procedures for Comments I propose the following new wordings to be inserted or substituted in the places indicated.

4.0 (before 4.1 New wording) Quality and condition of stylii.
Even a hard material like diamond gets worn when used in a groove, and this means that flat areas are polished on a surface that is doubly curved when unused. The flats develop on the parts of the stylus that in direct contact with the record material. The sharp edge between a flat and the remaining original surface that is usually not in contact with the record material will wear the groove very quickly and give a poor high frequency response, and for these reasons it is important to inspect a stylus frequently, irrespective of shape. The industrial manner of inspection, which is profile projection, is not suitable for the general archive, but a small power microscope may be. A microscope with an image sensor for use with a computer programme would be the cost-effective modern approach, even in monochrome.

The basis for inspection is that a light source will be dispersed by a curved surface but reflected with high intensity from a flat, provided the angles are suitable. The high intensity is not suitable for inspection, so the angles of incidence and reflection have to be changed somewhat, and then the flat will be very visible. The general rule is that if flats appear to be visible, then the stylus is definitely unsuitable and should be at least inspected again after only few hours further use, but preferably replaced.

5.1 General (New wording)
These recommendations are based on the experiences of the individuals mentioned in the foreword as members of the writing group, who have all been involved with the physical interface between the stylus and the groove in transfer projects at least in the period 1981 to date.

NOTE: Seeing that almost all the contributors have been personally active in transfer techniques it seems silly to single out the Phonogrammarchiv as the main source for this document. Basically it all comes down to the ability of Expert Stylus Company in England to supply various stylus profiles, as they have done for 50 years (originally known as Expert Pickups). Steven Smolian and anybody of similar vintage have all experimented, and here we see their collective contribution. It should be noted that Barney Pisha (M.D., but also a most distinguished equipment reviewer in Audio Magazine) made silicone rubber casts of grooves in the early 1970s, had them microtomed and used these profiles to obtain suitable dimensions for stylii. It should also not be forgotten that George Alexandrovich originally developed the bifurcated stylus for use on negatives, and indeed such stylii have gained increasing importance in re-issue projects [US Patent No. 4,113,266 assigned to Pickering in 1977)].

Correspondingly, the caveat concerning American aspects is superfluous, because most of the formats mentioned have most relevant American contributions. The only exception is Pathé (which label was, however, also known in the US, for instance as Perfect).

New wording of lines at the end of page 7:
... been subjected to the "ironing-out" process [Brock-Nannestad, George: "The Objective Basis for the Production of High Quality Transfers from Pre-1925 Sound Recordings", AES Preprint No. 4610, 103nd Convention 1997 September 26-29, New York, pp. 9-10]

NOTE: Upon re-reading the text it appears unreasonable to use a specific technical term not in common useage without a reference.

Reply from M Yonge, AES Standards Manager & Chair SC-00, 2013-08-01

Dear George,

First, I need to clarify that this public Call for Comment is for reaffirmation - not revision - of AES-16id. A reaffirmation is a simple decision to continue publication of a document - there is no committee to consider details of a revision at this stage.

Many of your suggestions would be most welcome in some future revision of this document but cannot be included in a reaffirmation. Such a revision would need to be justified such that a group could be formed to do the work necessary.

For example, you propose discussion of methods of monitoring the relative wear of a stylus. However the intent of this Information Document is specifically to discuss stylus dimensions. A clear method of measuring stylus dimensions would be appropriate, but was unavailable when the document was being developed.

I will retain your comments for such time as a revision of AES-16id is initiated.

Sincerely,

Mark Yonge
AES Standards Manager

First comment follow-up received from George Brock-Nannestad, 2013-08-01

Dear Mark,

thank you very much for the clarification -- it is a good thing that we have professionals like you to keep the administrative procedures in focus, otherwise Standards work would quickly turn into a shambles.

However, due to feedback from the field I believe that the present Information Document may do more harm than good if applied without the prerequisite knowledge. Choosing a suitably marked but worn stylus will do infinitely more permanent harm on a mechanical recording than choosing the wrong size but a pristine stylus. For this reason the Information Document cannot stand alone. The "feedback from the field" is the hiring pattern of archives as documented by the various adverts for technicians one may observe on several distribution lists.

Is the logical consequence in this case not that the Information Document shold NOT be reaffirmed as it stands? And in the same breath, a committee working group should be constituted to revise the document, most preferably with a shorter time horizon than has been the norm for the previous WGs in this field.

In conclusion: I recommend that the document AES16id-2010 be not reaffirmed.

Kindly note that my feedback and activity in this area occurs well before the deadline for responding to the Call for Comment on Reaffirmation.

Kind regards,
George

Reply from M Yonge, AES Standards Manager, 2013-08-06

Dear George,

As you should know, the group that originally developed this document was disbanded at the end of 2011, and all participants notified. For this document to be revised in the way you suggest, we will need to form a new working group that to work on a revision. For this to happen, the document needs to be reaffirmed now so that it remains available for such a revision.

Please let me repeat that the intent of this Information Document is specifically to discuss stylus dimensions appropriate for the different media to be found in archives. It is not intended to be a tutorial document on how to use stylii. Accordingly I cannot consider your comments on stylus wear and stylus cleaning to be appropriate for this document as it is currently written.

Please reply by the end of the comment period if this reply is not acceptable to you. You may also ask us to consider your comments again for the next revision of the document.

Mark Yonge
AES Standards Manager

Second comment follow-up received from George Brock-Nannestad, 2013-08-08

Dear Mark,

you wrote:

As you should know, the group that originally developed this document was disbanded at the end of 2011, and all participants notified.

Yes, I am aware that this was done, in my view quite precipitously and to be quite honest, I never understood why. < ... >

For this document to be revised in the way you suggest, we will need to form a new working group that to work on a revision.

Yes, that is precisely what has been on my mind

For this to happen, the document needs to be reaffirmed now so that it remains available for such a revision.

Ah, but is it really revision I want, after all, since it is not so easy as I thought. I now think that this document would work admirably as part input to a useful NEW Information Document concerning the use of stylii in the reproduction of mechanical recordings. Clearly, that is what is needed, not a revision. The additions would be along the lines of the revisions I proposed and those possibly proposed by others. In that situation it is not a revision, but the turn-around time would still not be huge.

Please let me repeat that the intent of this Information Document is specifically to discuss stylus dimensions appropriate for the different media to be found in archives. It is not intended to be a tutorial document on how to use stylii.

I see; if you permit me an analogy in what is clearly a US mindset: precise instructions of which gun to use, but no word about them being dangerous in the hands of the uninitiated.

And I must protest: the present document is not about USing stylii but about CHOOSing an appropriate stylus, and my new insight says, "we must not choose a worn stylus". It must have seemed self-evident at the time, but we live in different times now. But obviously I can kick myself for not having realised earlier the real and growing need to spell everything out.

Accordingly I cannot consider your comments on stylus wear and stylus cleaning to be appropriate for this document as it is currently written.

No, I rather think the whole document is inappropriate; this after due consideration, the details of which I have given you. In other words, the document as such is irrelevant in an environment that is in principle physically capable of playing a mechanical record but has no experience. We did not see it in that perspective when the work was initiated; we might have realised it at the end, but we did not (and neither did IASA TC in 2009 in its second edition of the document IASA-TC04).

Please reply by the end of the comment period if this reply is not acceptable to you. You may also ask us to consider your comments again for the next revision of the document.

My reply remains the same: stop this document and let us create a new and better one. One directed to the responsible use of mechanical replay. If AES wishes to behave responsibly a Working Group will be created. For some obscure reason the AES disbanded the team that had experience in these matters; let us hope there has at least been some financial benefit to the AES. Alternatively, just follow the text on the front page of the circulated document:

"However, dissenting comments may be published with the document".

You would call my argued rejection a "dissenting comment", would you not? No other Working Group members are required for a dissenting comment, it does not have to be approved, that is the whole point of it being a dissenting comment. Hence such a comment can be entered without convening a group. Shall I phrase a suitably neutral comment? I mean, less verbose than the present mail? Where in the document would you place such a comment?

I shall chase down some more participants in the old SC-03-02, not just the writing group, and circulate our correspondence to them. Of course, analogue may be so out of fashion that nobody cares or can afford to care. But then the Information Document as it stands is equally irrelevant. In that case, again: No reaffirmation!

Reply from M Yonge, AES Standards Manager, 2013-08-12

Dear George,

This public Call for Comment specifically concerns the reaffirmation of AES-16id.

I note your various replies and I find that they do not address the issue that your earlier comments are out of scope for AES-16id.

I note your desire, among others, for a new document to present a recommended practice on phono playback. A procedure exists to propose such work.

This is explained at: http://www.aes.org/standards/development/project-initiation.cfm

An on-line form on this page provides a clean way to make a specific proposal, with a justification and detailed scope. The Steering Committee of the AESSC may authorize the formation of a group to do this work provided that they are confident that the work will be completed in a reasonable timescale.

Please reply by the end of the comment period if this reply is not acceptable to you. You may also ask us to consider your comments again for the next revision of the document.

Sincerely,

Mark Yonge
AES Standards Manager

Third comment follow-up received from George Brock-Nannestad, 2013-08-12

Dear Mark, Thank you for answering partially the queries that were either explicit or implicit in my previous replies.

You have answered the question of how to create or try to create for instance a publication on recommended practice on phono playback. This is good information, and for us, who may be specialists in certain technical fields but not conversant with the etiquette of standards work, it is essential in the situation.

You have not answered the query concerning what happens in the Reaffirmation process, now that there is a dissenting voice, specifically recommending that the document AES-16id be not reaffirmed. Will it be reaffirmed, nonetheless?

You have also not answered my query concerning what is to be understood by the phrasing on the front page of said document, namely

"However, dissenting comments may be published with the document".

I proposed (and still do) to phrase a neutral warning against the un-initiated use of the document. I need you to tell me what the correct form of a dissenting comment is, in order that it may be published with the document. Alternatively, you can send us a proposed phrasing.

< ... >

Sorry to be so much trouble, but then I believe that international standards work with huge commercial interests might be much more complicated.

Kind regards,

George

Reply from M Yonge, Chair, SC-00, 2013-08-12

Dear George,

I apologise if my meaning hasn't been clear. Let me summarise:

The Call for comment (CFC) concerns the reaffirmation of AES-16id-2010 "AES information document for transfer technologies - Stylus dimensions and selection", and nothing else.

On 2013-07-31, you commented that you would prefer that AES-16id was not reaffirmed, citing a need for further information to guide users of stylii regarding stylus wear and cleanliness.

In reply I pointed out that the CFC was for reaffirmation, not revision, and that the document was to specifically to discuss stylus dimensions. I pointed out that a future revision of this document could be possible.

On 2013-08-01 you commented further regarding a need for guidance for users of stylii and suggesting that this information document should not stand alone.

In my reply, considering only the status of AES-16id, I pointed out that unless this document is reaffirmed, it would not be available for revision. I pointed out again that your proposal to include guidance for users of stylii was outside the intended purpose - the scope - of the document, and rejected your comment against reaffirmation.

Today, you again pressed the need for guidance for users of stylii. I replied again stating that this was outside the present scope of AES-16id and suggesting a way by which such a tutorial document could be created. I again recommend that you consider this.

If you really believe that it would be damaging to continue to publish AES-16id as it stands, please let me know now, with your technical reasoning behind your objection. We will then be able to make a decision with the best available information.

Please understand that AESC procedures require a resolution. If it is decided that the document cannot be published, and there is no proposal for revision, or a supporting document, to address the technical issues raised in your objection, the only alternative available will be a further procedure to withdraw it entirely.

My preference is to reaffirm this document on the grounds that the information it contains to describe nominal stylus dimensions continues to be useful - all options then remain available for the future.

As matters stand, I believe you have not argued a case for not reaffirming this document.

Please reply by the end of the comment period if this reply is not acceptable to you. You may also ask us to consider your comments again for the next revision of the document.

Sincerely,

Mark Yonge
AES Standards Manager

Fourth comment follow-up received from George Brock-Nannestad, 2013-08-12

Dear Mark,

I think I am getting more and more of it!

I still think there are outstanding questions of a formal nature that you have not replied to, but I will let others read our exchange and draw their own conclusions.

If I understand it correctly, you have not only with due support in the rules rejected my wish out of ignorance to have the document revised NOW, but you have apparently also rejected my comment against reaffirmation as such. This was not clear to me. I shall argue specifically for the NON-affirmation of the present document:

It is my contention that the document as it stands is at best meaningless. When the work was initiated there was still useful knowhow in archives of the basics of the use of stylii; less knowhow at the end when the document was first published, and the writing group was either blind to this fact, or perhaps prevented from addressing this by being closed down. The knowhow is not replenished, as evidenced by the positions for archive technicians presently advertised.

The reason that the document is not only meaningless but also dangerous without any mention whatsoever about the condition of the stylus lies in the contact between stylus and groove (this is well documented by AES publications almost too numerous to list, but if required I will do it). The stylus actually deforms the material of the record during reproduction. Preferably elastically, but in practice also plastically. For this reason, for instance the Rodgers & Hammerstein archive at the NY Public Library from the 1970s had a limit to the number of times per day a specific track on a vinyl record could be reproduced - it was considered that the overnight rest would permit the material to relax and creep back.

This running indentation is visible on the many SEM photographs published in the literature. And those were obtained using the rounded, smooth, and polished surface of an unworn stylus. The moment a stylus shows a flattening of a part of the surface that is in contact with the groove, there is an edge between the flat part and the surrounding rounded, smooth, and polished surface. The flats are highly polished, too, and the edge has a much smaller radius of curvature, and so its ability to indent is much larger. As the wear of the stylus progresses, this smaller radius of curvature becomes a cutting edge that is extremely damaging to the high frequency content of the mechanical recording, deforming it permanently. This means that a single reproduction with a worn stylus will permanently ruin the groove.

An unworn stylus of the wrong dimension will not ride ideally in the groove, but as it is completely rounded, smooth, and polished whereever it is in contact with the groove, it will not damage it, although the sound obtained will be less than ideal.

In conclusion, grabbing a stylus from a set of stylii according to the present information in AES-16id-2010 "AES information document for transfer technologies - Stylus dimensions and selection" for use on a particular mechanical recording may permanently ruin the recording.

But I will hold you to your statement below, which I quote:

"If it is decided that the document cannot be published, and there is no proposal for revision, or a supporting document, to address the technical issues raised in your objection, the only alternative available will be a further procedure to withdraw it entirely."

I would declare that my first mail to you dated 31 July 2013 did contain a proposal for revision, and it did contain three supporting documents. I also gave you the option to publish a dissenting comment according to the cover text of the very document.

I would prefer a clean slate, i.e. to withdraw the document entirely. However, on one condition I am willing to take your advice:

"My preference is to reaffirm this document on the grounds that the information it contains to describe nominal stylus dimensions continues to be useful - all options then remain available for the future."

The condition is that a future revision is guaranteed by the Standards Committee. A revision to be initiated no later than at the upcoming 135th Convention in New York. I would not mind to have the document suspended in the interim period, if that is within the rules.

So, my conclusion is, in the order of preference:

1) complete withdrawal based on non-reaffirmation
2) reaffirmation, conditional on a revision initiated no later than 17-20 October 2013.

Best wishes,
George

Reply from M Yonge, AES Standards Manager, 2013-08-13

Dear George,

You continue to argue eloquently that the stylus-using world needs advice from the AES on how not to use worn or dirty stylii. And I have no disagreement with this.

However you have not persuaded me that the document as it stands, with its limited scope of describing stylus sizes for different mechanical media, is useless or dangerous.

One point I should have clarified before, although I felt that it was not mysterious. Wording in the formal text on the first page of the published Information Document does indeed state, "An AES information document implies the same consensus as an AES standard. However, dissenting comments may be published with the document". This is describing the difference between an AES standard and an information document. This wording is part of the published document and, if there had been dissenting comments when the document was published following due process in 2010 they would have been included. There were none. To include new text at this stage will require a revision of the document and subject to the same due-process publication.

I do not have the authority to negotiate conditions on the conduct of a Call for Comment. However you, or any other individual, have the power to request a revision of this document, or a new document, as I have previously said. You suggest that you have already done this, but I cannot accept your informal suggestions as a basis for forming a due-process group to discuss and complete a new or revised document. The information you will need is at: http://www.aes.org/standards/development/project-initiation.cfm

Sincerely,

Mark Yonge
AES Standards Manager

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