Sound reproduction via a noncontact surface mapping technique has great potential for sound archives, aiming to digitize content from early sound recordings such as wax cylinders, which may otherwise be “unplayable” with a stylus. If the noncontact techniques are to be considered a viable solution for sound archivists, a method for quantifying the quality of the reproduced signal needs to be developed. In this study, a specially produced test cylinder recording, encoded with sinusoids, provides the basis for the first quantitative analysis of signal reproduction from the noncontact full surface mapping method. The sampling and resolution of the measurement system are considered with respect to the requirements for digital archiving of cylinder recordings. Two different methods of audio signal estimation from a discrete groove cross section are described and rated in terms of signal-to-noise ratio and total harmonic distortion. Noncontact and stylus methods of sound reproduction are then compared using the same test cylinder. It is shown that noncontact methods appear to have distinct advantages over stylus reproduction, in terms of reduced harmonic distortion and lower frequency modulation
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