SH Spotlight A reminder about recording terminology --- TAPE HISS

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Steve Hoffman, Sep 14, 2006.

  1. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter


    Just a reminder, recording tape first started to be used by the MAJOR American record labels only in 1949 after the union "recording ban" of 1948 was over. Capitol and Decca started in May of 1949 and Columbia and RCA-Victor soon after. The smaller labels like Chess, Sun, etc. did not start actually using recording tape in their own studios until 1953-55. Anything recorded BEFORE that time would have been done to acetate disk or wax biscuits.

    When you talk here on the Forum about a song from the 1940's having "tape hiss", well, you mean something else.

    Okie dokie? It's confusing to some..

  2. gotityet0

    gotityet0 vinyl nut

    Well put:righton:
  3. bhazen

    bhazen Magical Mystery Tourist

    Newcastle, WA
    Acetate snarl?
  4. -=Rudy=-

    -=Rudy=- ♪♫♪♫♫♪♪♫♪♪ Staff

    Shellac swoosh. :D
  5. HGN2001

    HGN2001 Mystery Picture Member

    Waxy yellow buildup?

  6. 93curr

    93curr Senior Member

    There are ************* snakes in this ************* recording studio!
  7. Digital-G

    Digital-G Forum Resident

    Dayton, OH
    "There are ************* snakes in this ************* recording studio!"

    :laugh: :laugh: :laugh:
  8. TSmithPage

    TSmithPage Ex Post Facto Member

    Lexington, KY
    Well, Steve just answered a question I just had for myself. I was playing his Nat King cole Hits DCC and at least one of the tracks sounded like he used a vinyl master. Since I know he always gets the master tapes when they're available, I wondered what the deal was on those tracks. Now I see they must have been recordings that predated tape.
  9. Another Side

    Another Side Forum Resident

    San Francisco
    Steve, magnetic tape was around before 1949. Why didn't the labels begin using it earlier? Was it because of the recording ban? Or was the technology just not up to snuff initially?
  10. Another Side

    Another Side Forum Resident

    San Francisco
    All the original Nat King Cole Trio recordings on that CD (with Oscar Moore on guitar) – like Straighten Up, Route 66, etc. - were recorded before they used magnetic tape.
  11. bresna

    bresna Forum Resident

    York, Maine
    Is that a Buddy Rich quote?

    :laugh: :laugh:
  12. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    Not much before. Bing Crosby got Decca to use the Ampex (they had the third machine, ABC had the other two to tape the Bing Crosby radio show). Other companies followed when they discovered that a master could be spliced to save it if an ending went wrong, etc. HOWEVER, most studios including Decca only used mag tape as a safety backup. Everything was still cut LIVE to wax or acetate well into the early 1950's....
  13. Another Side

    Another Side Forum Resident

    San Francisco
    That's amazing! I didn't realize that. So somewhere out there are 78's that sound better than the "back up" magnetic tape!

    I do know, however, that during the 1948 recording ban, many amateur recordings were made of Charlie Parker and others. Was that tape different than the magnetic tape the labels used the following year.
  14. Doug Sclar

    Doug Sclar Forum Legend

    The OC
    John Mullin brought a tape deck back from Germany after the war which is what led to Bing Crosby and Ampex getting interested. Apparently Hitler used them during the war to prerecord speeches and disguise his locations. There had been tape recordors before that time, but they generally used DC bias which resulted in high distortion and generally poor recordings. The German machine used AC bias, and that was the thing that made tape recorders suitable for professional recordings.

    Having a tape recorder was one thing. Finding tape for it was another thing altogether. That led to further delays.
  15. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    Thanks, Doug.

    It's an interesting story, isn't it?
  16. Perisphere

    Perisphere Forum Resident

    Some of the earliest tape used by amateurs here was paper base. 3M began producing it in 1947 for the Brush BK-401 Soundmirror tape recorder, introduced that year. They produced Scotch type 100 for a black oxide tape, 101 for red oxide tape, with suffixes A or B according to, respectively, oxide facing in (toward the center of the reel, which became standard) or oxide facing out. (Some of the examples of this early tape I have seen, and transferred, actually came on plastic six-spoke reels that still had footage markings from when they had been made from molds once used to produce plastic 8mm film reels!) Brush and Audio Devices also marketed paper base tape (often sold at first on steel or aluminum reels) into the early 1950s. Scotch phased it out by the mid-'50s. They introduced the famous 111 tape (acetate base) in 1948, which became the first 'standard' tape. They produced it until 1973.

    It looks to me like the adoption of tape by the major labels didn't happen until the introduction of the Ampex 300 in the spring of 1949. Is this reasonably accurate?
  17. lou

    lou Senior Member

    How did they make records from an acetate disc? Or was that just to record something to later play on radio, directly from the acetate?
  18. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    Totally, yes, but most of the big studios used the 200. It was a big monster though.
  19. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    You cut the acetate at 33 1/3 on a 16" disc. You pick the "OK'D" take and rerecord it to 78 RPM. Crude but it worked. Better way was to waste wax (as Jack Kapp used to say) and cut direct to 78 RPM discs.
  20. MikeP5877

    MikeP5877 Non-essential

    Reminds me of that old saying - "shellac swoosh is our friend"!
  21. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Lodi, New Jersey
    Didn't the 300 come after the 200?
  22. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    Yeah, 1949 for the 300, 1947 for the 200...

    Attached Files:

  23. apileocole

    apileocole Lush Life Gort

    If you're interested, I may elaborate, in as it concerns Nat's catalog. Someone may correct if I get anything fudged here, I'm gonna type right through this... In the late 1930's in the US, when Nat began recording, there were essentially 5 media onto which you could record:

    1) 78 rpm disc, mono of course. This was the most common medium in the music biz and is the same format as the release media.
    2) Optical film. This was the most common medium in the movie biz after the early 1930's. The movie biz and music biz obviously had totally different approaches to recording. The movie biz would record using multiple optical film tracks during sessions, which would be mixed down to mono for release. For example the multis for 1944's Meet Me In St. Louis survived and were used to make a stereo mix in the 1990's. I guess one might say that in many ways, the movie biz was more like the modern music biz.
    3) 33 rpm 16" disc, mono of course. The original discs were glass iirc but otherwise resembled the microgrove LP more than a 78. This medium, longer playing and higher fidelity than the 78, was generally used for transcriptions (for radio) and optionally to "cover" entire sessions. For releases to radio, selections would be dubbed to another disc, and for releases on consumer media, 78 shellac, selections would be dubbed to a 78 disc.
    4) Wire recorders, which were not a good medium and not used in studios.
    5) Acetate discs. Within the biz, they might be used to make single or small number copies to hand out say to the artist or producer. Amateurs used what you might say were "portable" disc cutters. They wear easy.

    Nat's 40's sessions, for Capitol and for radio transcriptions, were recorded on #3, the 33 rpm 16" discs, starting from the founding of Capitol (1943) to the introduction of tape (1949). Over the years, many of the 16"-ers were dubbed to another disc, or later, to tape, usually the master takes only iirc.

    Many of the glass discs were destroyed over the years, intentionally and unintentionally. Many still survive. The Complete Captiol Recordings of The Nat King Cole Trio on Mosaic used those first gen 16" session masters whenever they existed, which was most of the set, luckily, and used the tape dubs or disc dubs when they had to. The DCC of course also used the best surviving source for the pre-tape tracks.

    After 1949, Nat's sessions were recorded to mono tape, and starting in 1956 at the Tower, in both mono and stereo on occasion (simultaineous, both stereo and mono tapes are first gen).

    The 1945 session Nat did with Buddy Rich, An Anatomy of a Jazz Session, was recorded on #3 and the CD (Black Lion label iirc) is a transfer of the whole extant session from those 16" discs.

    Mno, a detail here: in the case of Nat anyway, the tape was used simultaneously with a disc. The tapes are first gen. They sound absolutely fantastic in the Mosaic set, where the tapes survive, which is almost all of 'em! The early tape machines were not that reliable and the tape was an unknown yet in durability etc. Therefore they took the precaution of recording to both disc and tape, and if not, to make a copy of the tape to disc. Some labels copied the disc to tape, but it appears all the early tapes of Nat are first gen. Either way, as Steve says, the tape was considered "backup" and the disc considered the master. Tape proved itself over the coming years and they phased out recording to disc.

    Now that was a great product.
  24. TSmithPage

    TSmithPage Ex Post Facto Member

    Lexington, KY
    Always interested to read more about Nat. Thanks.
  25. Perisphere

    Perisphere Forum Resident

    I wonder why the Ampex 200(A) seemingly wasn't embraced by the major labels, but the 300 was? Price ($4000 in 1948 dollars)? Performance? Format (30 ips, oxide facing out, aka 'B' wind, versus 15 ips, oxide facing in, aka 'A' wind for the 300 et seq.)? From what I understand the 200(A) was a considerable improvement over the machine it was modeled on, the AEG/Telefunken Magnetophon K4, and sounded better than any other recorder then in existence.

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