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[ARSCLIST] Fwd: [ARSCLIST] Dynamic-frequency Range

  Regarding Karl's comments and questions about dynamic compression on Victor 
records of the late '30s and '40s and what cutters of the time could achieve:

  In fact, from about 1935 until 1939 Victor used less compression than other 
companies (in classical orchestral music). Their period of heavy compression 
seems to have begun with the resumption of recording after the Union ban, in 
late 1944. After that it got progressively worse. By about 1950 some 
recordings, especially of Stokowski and Munch and the BSO, were so compressed that there 
was essentially no dynamic range at all. (Munch's first Schumann Spring 
Symphony, LM-1190, is a particularly flagrant example.)

  The Victor 78s to which I referred above were another story. Even today, 
their dynamic range is arresting and vivid. Toscanini's 78s with the New York 
Philharmonic-Symphony in early 1936 are an excellent example. When the Beethoven 
7th was reissued on Camden CAL-352 in 1957, the notes were by Irving Kolodin. 
Referring to his review of the 78 set when it was new, he wrote for the LP:
"...my comment -- 'the volume range is excessively wide, resulting in almost 
inaudible pianissimos and shattering fortes'  -- [referred] to the limits of 
the reproductive means then available. But it was precisely the excesses, as 
they then seemed, which provided the resources for today's lifelike product. On 
average equipment, more will be heard than on the best of 1936; and on a 
typical hi-fi unit of today, an amazing replica of the bygone Philharmonic and its 
peerless chief emerges." Good early pressings of of those Toscanini/NYPSO 78s 
still sound vivid, nearly fifty years after what Kolodin wrote. Other good 
examples are Koussevitzky's Schumann Spring Symphony (M-655) and Lucien Caillet's 
orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition (Ormandy/Philadelphia, M-442). The 
latter is sonically mind-boggling.

  That was a deliberate policy then. Charles O'Connell, Victor's A&R chief at 
the time, wrote about it -- probably in his book The Other Side of the Record 
(I remember reading it but, sorry, I can't recall where). O'Connell wrote 
about his desire to get the most life-like recordings possible. Also about the 
complaints Victor got about it. Clearly the disc-cutters could do it and more, 
as the Columbia record of John Peel  by the Associated Glee Clubs of America at 
the Metropolitan Opera House in March 1925 demonstrates (50013-D).

  Don Tait


Thanks for the information...with more questions below.


On Thu, 19 Oct 2006, Aaron Z Snyder wrote:

> As for dynamic range, this too can vary all over the place. These recordings
> are probably more influenced by the performers themselves than by the
> limitations of the recording equipment. Obviously, one doesn't want a signal
> so loud that it would produce blasting on the recording; yet, one doesn't
> want s signal so low that it gets swamped by surface noise. Theoretically,
> acoustical recordings can have a considerably wide dynamic range (the only
> limiter is that mechanical extremes which the cutter can achieve), but that
> wasn't necessarily a desired effect.

I guess my question centers on the extremes the cutters of the time could
achieve. I am also reminded of some of the Victors from perhaps even the
late 30s through the 40s which used so much compression...some of the BSO
recordings in particular...when that compression (limiter use?) was not
really required by the limitations of the technology but seen as desirable
to compensate for the noise level?  Perhaps someone more informed might
know the rationale they had for the practice.

Then I am remind of that extreme case of the recording of the last
movement of the Vaughan Williams Sixth where for the first recording that
last movement, marked piano-pianissimo throughout, they raised the
recording level to improve the signal to noise ratio and ended up with
that last movement sounding as loud as the early movements which were, at
times, extremely loud...needless to say the composer rejected that first

Again, while I have never measured it, it seems to me that basic noise
level of the acoustic discs, coupled with the limitations of the materials
used and the ability of the needle to track would have provided a
substantive limitation to the available dynamic range and that one could
provide some average of the range.

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