The Case of the Ruinous RFI

In the fall of 2013, I happened upon a set of classic Sherlock Holmes radio broadcasts in a second-hand record shop which instantly sparked a curiosity within me. I’d never previously read the novels or heard any of the radio programs, and wanted to properly initiate myself into the world of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Amusingly, I was also oblivious to the then-recent television dramatization starring a one, Benedict Cumberbatch. (Still entirely off my radar.)

CBS basil-rathbone-and-nigel-bruce-on-radio

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And so, I did what any man would do in my position – I tracked down a copy of the mammoth Annotated Sherlock Holmes single-volume first edition hardcover in its oversize slipcase. It is, perhaps, a coffee table book, in that it is nearly the size of a coffee table. The treasure of a book is fully-illustrated and complete with annotated notes and maps of the where the stories take place.

Annotated Sherlock Holmes sm

My search continued with the acquisition of several classic radio dramas –

The Mercury Theater’s The Immortal Sherlock Holmes from September 25th, 1938

CBS Radio Mystery Theater – The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes 83 CD set (1939-1947)

Complete-Sherlock-Holmes-Sir-Arthur-Conan-Doyle-unabridged-compact-discs-Naxos-Audiobooks

and The BBC’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes 79 CD set (1989-1998)

BBC Radio

Also, for audiobook fans, you can take your pick from either the 2001 Alec Reid Recordings’ 60 CD Edition read by John Telfer, or the more recent (and certainly more manageable) MP3 CD of the 2014 Audie Award Winning Brilliance Audio Heirloom Collection as read by Simon Vance.

Brilliance Audoibooks

While I’m a tremendous fan of old time radio and I absolutely recognize the cultural significance of Basil Rathbone’s performances as Holmes, I found the BBC radio dramas from the 80s and 90s more my style and happily forked over 4.67GB of my hard-earned private tracker ratio for all 79 discs of the series.

Much to my dismay I found that the lady or gent who so kindly ripped this massive library of CDs to share them with the world neglected to account for the subtle but stubbornly-persistent RFI interference his PC was generating which had apparently transferred onto every minute of the catalog.

I searched high and low in all corners of every tracker on the net, but to no avail. It appeared that this gentleman’s rip is the de-facto source audio for every circulating copy of the Holmes radio dramas.

EMI RFI

I even attempted to screen out the noise via Audacity. I tried noise reduction filters, limiting, leveling, and repairing the waveform. Sadly, the pulsing static persistently penetrated every part of their performance.

Over the past two years I’ve repeatedly tried to listen to and enjoy A Study in Scarlet, but could not make it through 30 minutes without closing the file in frustration. A keen ear is a curse in a circumstance like this.

Still there is a happy ending to my tale of woe – This morning I played the Scarlet episode for my girlfriend and she posed an interesting (though likely obvious) question –

“Have you tried playing any of the other of the 79 discs?”

YouDontSayBlackSS

So… funny story… it appears that, disc 1 aside, the remaining discs are entirely RFI-free. In two years, it had never occurred to me to expand the size of my survey set.

And so concludes the Case of the Ruinous RFI. I am looking forward to spend my spring in the company of Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson.

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