SH Spotlight Difference in early 1930's recording techniques. Isham Jones & his Orchestra BRUNSWICK vs. VICTOR

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Steve Hoffman, Jan 3, 2018.

  1. action pact

    action pact ^^ Sandy Warner, "The Exotica Girl"

    I agree that the '32 Ted Weems recording is balanced just a bit better than the more reverby '32 Isham Jones recording, although the drier '30 Brunswick recording sounds astoundingly good for the era. All three of these are highly listenable! Whoever did the transfers did a really nice job too.

    Now I gotta keep my eyes open for Isham Jones 78s... I typically don't buy white dance band 78s, but those two samples are very enjoyable.

    I have a set of 78s of Bix & Tram sides from the '20s, issued during the ASCAP recording boycott. These sides were pressed from the original '20s stampers and pressed onto superior '40s shellac, and the fidelity is remarkable, very lifelike and present. You can hear the sound echoing off the back wall of the room!

    It's thrilling to hear 90-year-old recordings sound so 3D. This is exactly what Steve refers to when he describes "bringing the dead back to life."

    Here's a video I posted a few years ago, which some of you might enjoy. The sound is picked up by the mic on my phone and not recorded direct, but you can still get a sense of how good this record sounds:

  2. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    More responses to this thread than I expected. Good. It's important to visit earlier eras in recorded music. It didn't all start in the 1950s..
  3. action pact

    action pact ^^ Sandy Warner, "The Exotica Girl"

    Right, it started in the '70s. :(
    nasa09 and The Beave like this.
  4. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    Classic one microphone setup, the band members themselves are moved around like chess pieces to get the best balance. A Victor Talking Machine Co. trademark recording style.
    onlyacanvasky likes this.
  5. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    No, a one microphone recording! Recorded 12 years before the standardized VU meter was invented!
  6. Jesse Reiswig

    Jesse Reiswig Active Member

    I agree. I prefer the dry, upfront, in-your-face sound of this recording as well.
  7. action pact

    action pact ^^ Sandy Warner, "The Exotica Girl"

    It's interesting to me that they were using more than one mic that early. I always kinda assumed that they started using multiple mics in, oh, the late '40s maybe? I never really thought about it much before.

    On a related topic, any idea how drums were typically mic'd in the '40s? Even on airchecks of Charlie Parker live, the bass drum and snare are always pretty dynamic, so I'm guessing that there was more than one mic used.
  8. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    Drums were not miked in the 1940s.
    thrivingonariff likes this.
  9. action pact

    action pact ^^ Sandy Warner, "The Exotica Girl"

    Some neat images from the olden days...



  10. action pact

    action pact ^^ Sandy Warner, "The Exotica Girl"

    Wow. How did they manage to pick up the bass drum so loud'n'proud on those early bop records?
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2018
  11. action pact

    action pact ^^ Sandy Warner, "The Exotica Girl"

    Early tape recorders, Berlin, 1944:

    Joe F and crispi like this.
  12. action pact

    action pact ^^ Sandy Warner, "The Exotica Girl"

    1920 Phillips Miller optical recorder (!!)

    Joe F and adad like this.
  13. thrivingonariff

    thrivingonariff Forum Resident

    I'd be interested to know how those 40s sessions (live or studio) were mic'd.
  14. Grant

    Grant A Musical Free-Spirit

    This does sound fuller, but the truth is that it just gave me an earache.
  15. HILO

    HILO Well-Known Member

    I agree, to my ears this 1932 Ted Weems sounds the best.I collect a lot of early hot Hawaiian,and love the Columbia Sound for strings.I may have mentioned this before but I have heard some great recordings from the OKEH Truetone method.And just picked up a late Edision elctrobeam that is a surprisingly well recorded.Edison was just about out of the 78 record business at this point.But they came thru in spades.
    To our host Steve,anything you can add on the 78 recording history is always appreciated.
    Steve Hoffman likes this.
  16. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

  17. action pact

    action pact ^^ Sandy Warner, "The Exotica Girl"

  18. Amazing work from the Victor engineers! Living in Australia, I’m lucky enough to have an Australian EMI Laminated pressing of this from the original metal (the engineer’s scratchings are pressed into the label!) and it just roars off the disc like no CD transfer I’ve ever heard.
  19. Another “sound” of the 20s was the early Vocalion electric sound. It can be a bit fatiguing on the ears, best heard in short bursts like Louis tearing it up with Erskine Tate’s Vendome Orchestra.

    They’d changed to a more conventional system by the time of that Isham Jones recording at the top of the thread but this was 1926, the early days of electric recording - everyone was still feeling their way, some better than others
  20. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    Western Electric recording systems were only given to Victor and Columbia in 1925. Other companies had to wait until 1927 to get electric recording. Okeh stayed acoustic (Trutone) until 1927, Brunswick/Vocalion invented the LIGHT RAY method of recording without a conventional WE microphone. Your Vocalion is a LIGHT RAY recording. Totally overloaded, but charming.

    All Brunswick/Vocalion recordings from 1925 until the middle of 1927 (and sometimes later) are LIGHT RAY recordings. A unique sound, much improved over acoustic recording but totally distorted, mostly, especially on peaks or horns.
    Mr. Explorer and onlyacanvasky like this.
  21. And just for good measure, the flip side of that 78. Turn it up and listen to the WHOMPHs of air when the entire band plays one note stabs in perfect unison during the piano solo from 1:30.

    That passage is an example of a great working band with no sloppiness, nobody coming in early or late, just BANG - BANG - BANG, all together on one note. When a whole big band can do that the power is massive.
    peter1, Mr. Explorer and GerryO like this.
  22. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    Brunswick 1925 press release:


    The advent of electrical recording made it possible to record in a natural way without the severe limitations of the old method. There are two essentially different types of electrical recording: One, the light ray method used exclusively by the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company, and the other, the microphonic method used with variations by other record manufacturers. The microphonic method is very similar to the manner of broadcasting through a microphone in a radio studio, only, of course, the sound waves are permanently preserved on a record instead of being sent out on the air.

    The light ray method is by far the most sensitive and flexible method known to science. It has enabled the recording of 30,000 childrens’ [sic] voices singing a Mass at the time of the recent Eucharistic Congress in Chicago. It will record vibrations as low as 16 per second, and as high as 21,000 per second—any audible sound. The recording instrument used in making a record under the light ray process is called the Palatrope—Palatrope meaning “dancing beam of light.”

    The sun at its meridian height sends powerful beams of light through the window, and you marvel at the dust particles which you can see dancing through the light rays. Can you imagine photographing those dust particles? It would indeed be a sensitive operation, and yet, the operation of the Palatrope does almost that. A powerful beam of light is centered on a minute crystal mirror (weighing one two-hundredth part of a milogram [sic]) very much smaller than the head of a pin. This delicate mirror, which is held in place by a magnetic force, is vibrated by sound waves and will respond to the slightest whisper. The mirror reflects the powerful light playing upon it, and as the sound waves vibrate, the mirror of reflected light dances to and fro. This dancing beam of light acts upon an electric magnetic wire, and a weak electrical impulse is set up. This electrical impulse is carried over wires to an amplifying unit, and thence to a cutting device which cuts the wax, although it takes a few moments to describe the process—the action is instantaneous. The cutting device and the little mirrors are vibrating in positive sympathy, just as the pulse beats in sympathy with the heart, and the resultant record is so near the original interpretation of the artist that when reproduced with the same measure of perfection, one cannot be sure whether the artist of the record sends the music to the ear.

    Just as the telephone—the phonograph—the radio—electricity itself—were in their days amazing new revelations that advanced by giant strides ahead of previous achievements, so the new process of recording electrically steps far ahead of the old mechanical method and enables us to enjoy the music of our choice without any limitation whatsoever.
    peter1, Mr. Explorer, JohnO and 4 others like this.
  23. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    Note this is 1941. For earlier records, different mic, same idea.
  24. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    Here is my favorite Brunswick/Vocalion LIGHT RAY recording. You can hear the loudness of the band totally overwhelm the system early on but no matter, it's intense and exciting.

    Remember, they had no "recording console" and no volume control other than to move the musicians as far away as possible. So, a string quartet might record well on this system but when King Oliver's band comes in, total overload!

    When Joe Oliver's muted solo comes in you can clearly hear that he is WAY BACK in the room! Probably to keep the thing from blowing up. The band (and Oliver) was paid exactly five dollars for this recording.

  25. action pact

    action pact ^^ Sandy Warner, "The Exotica Girl"

    That's some bedrock stuff, right there.
    Mr. Explorer and onlyacanvasky like this.

Share This Page