Sound Bites… Wire Recorders

Wire recorders appeared on the market in the late 1920s, predating magnetic tape by a decade (the earliest commercially produced magnetic tape recorders were made in Germany in the nineteen thirties).


Wire recorders used a… well, a wire, believe it or not, which were imprinted with a magnetic field to store sound. Interestingly, I believe it’s the most stable medium for sound recording, and wires can often still be played back seventy or even eighty years after use.

The sound is thin and trebly, so after tape recorders became widely available, wire recorders tended to be used as Dictaphones rather than for music.

I bought Funky’s beautiful recorder from a South African client a dozen or so years ago. He sent me a photo and I fell in love with the art-deco styling and ‘shell’ microphone so made him an offer of five hundred pounds, I recall – probably more than it was (and is) worth; I have no idea. It turned up in beautiful condition complete with tapes and mic and has adorned various corners of our rambling premises ever since. Visitors might notice it at the bottom of a display cabinet in the shop or they might not, but it gives me daily pleasure – it really is a beautiful reminder of an age when technology not only performed well and was built to last, it also had an aesthetic appeal. But then, I’m probably just a sad old man.