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Re: [ARSCLIST] Wishing for old tapes, was Yet another great box set from Mosaic
The history of recording technologies is, when they first come in they don't generally produce as
good results as the "old ways." But, if widely adopted, progress in both methods and technologies
lead to quick sonic improvements. So, my point is, if magnetic recording had been widely adopted in
the 1930's, breakthroughs would have happened and quality would have rapidly improved, just like
what happened after WWII.
By the way, it's a statement about the craft of recording, something my father used to always talk
about, that new technologies often don't produce as good as the "old ways." The true craftsmen are
usually expert at the older methods (it has taken time to hone their craft) and there's a learning
curve with anything new and very different (and craftsmen adapt and become expert in the new
technologies). If I recall correctly the interesting booklet with the AES CD of the German tapes
from before and during WWII, the engineer who experimented most with tape recording and 2-channel
stereo tried many different techniques and took several tests to come up with optimal levels and mic
placement. In other words, he honed his craft. Which comes back to my point -- if tape had been
widely adopted earlier, the craft would have progressed earlier.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Richard L. Hess" <arclists@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Friday, April 18, 2008 7:44 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Wishing for old tapes, was Yet another great box set from Mosaic
At 06:20 PM 2008-04-18, Tom Fine wrote:
It's too bad that the newfangled Magnetofon never made it over here in the late 1930's. So much
good music was made in the last decade of 78's and almost all of it would sound better if it had
been recorded on tape. The flipside of course is that those tapes might well be dust now...
This is a complex and not-clear-cut issue. I have transferred second generation Magnetophon tapes
from 1946 and there is a fair amount of distortion on them -- not DC bias distortion but an
obvious lack of understanding of the tape's compression/overload characteristics.
While there is some excellent sound -- the AES stereo CD from second generation Magnetophon tapes
sounds better than the material I did from 1946 -- the process/conditions/operator knowledge was
very variable, as was the tape.
There is a huge jump in quality with Mullin's electronics -- think of what he did was sort of like
the Aria electronics of its day. He changed the original AEG electronics -- in fact, all he
brought back from Germany were tapes, heads, and transports.
The 1946 / 1947 material that Mullin recorded sounds really, really good.
In the late 1930s, AEG did bring a machine to GE -- being a related company -- and GE turned up
their nose at it. They appeared to be suffering from a huge case of NIH from all I've read. I
can't cite exact quotes right now, but I think the memo has been published someplace.
So it wasn't as if the opportunity wasn't there, it wasn't exercised. Meanwhile Semi Begun at
Brush and Marvin Camras at Armour were doing things, but Brush's work was low end and Camras was
stuck in wire, I think, at least during WWII.
Apparently several Magnetophons were brought back, including Orr and Ranger, in addition to
Mullin's two. We know where Mullin's two still are.
So while it's a good wish, it wasn't to be and the results might have been uneven and perhaps even
disappointing. Everything seemed to fall into place in 1946/47.
Oh, and the vast majority of the WWII era German tapes are still marginally playable -- at least
the ones that I have seen. The Magnetophonband Typ L which is the homogeneous PVC material still
works well, although its magnetic characteristics are, ummm, interesting by today's standards.
Magnetophonband Typ C if stored in the original metal cans is at grave risk of vinegar syndrome --
it is a coated acetate material.
I even played one reel of 1930s carbonyl iron tape from Jack's collection, but it had nothing but
tones on it. It's the gray tape.
Anyway, I'm glad everyone likes the Mosaic box set!
Be careful, the tape is 6.5 mm wide, not 6.35 mm.
Richard L. Hess email: richard@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Aurora, Ontario, Canada (905) 713 6733 1-877-TAPE-FIX
Detailed contact information: http://www.richardhess.com/tape/contact.htm
Quality tape transfers -- even from hard-to-play tapes.