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SH Spotlight What is an RCA-VICTOR Orthophonic recording?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by hoover537, Jun 6, 2004.

  1. hoover537

    hoover537 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I have heard of Stereophonic, Monophonic, and Duophonic recordings. But what is a Orthophonic recording? I picked up an original RCA "New Orthophonic" High Fidelity recording from 1958 of "Elvis Golden Records" for 50 cents today at a thrift shop. It looked pretty trashed. but after a Disc Doctor treatment. It came out really nice. (Just a few crackle and pops) It sounds like mono to me. But it sounds good to these ears. My first 50's Elvis Presley LP. :thumbsup:
  2. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    Orthophonic was the Victor Talking Machine Company slogan in 1925 for their new recording process: Electric groove cutting via Western Electric microphones rather than the old acoustic horn.
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  3. Ed Bishop

    Ed Bishop Incredibly, I'm still here

    ...and until RCA Victor came up with 'LIVING STEREO' , that's what you would read on most of their '50s labels, too, including Red Seal shaded pups, I think also true for mono pressings during the LS days, IIRC....

    fortherecord likes this.
  4. hoover537

    hoover537 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Thank You Steve. 1925 Wow! I guess they kept that slogan until Stereo came around.
  5. hoover537

    hoover537 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Thanks Ed. You beat me to the punch!
  6. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host


    It was a big deal in 1925, that's for sure. I have the last acoustic Victor and the first electric Victor and it is a NIGHT AND DAY DIFFERENCE.

    In 1929 RCA (Radio Corp. of America) bought the Victor Talking Machine Company and it became RCA-Victor, they got it cheap because those RCA/NBC radios really cut into the record business..(In case anyone didn't know..)
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  7. hoover537

    hoover537 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Who was the last artist to use the acoustic? and the first artist to use the electric?
  8. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    So there.
    hoover537 likes this.
  9. seed_drill

    seed_drill Senior Member

    Tryon, NC, USA
    Also, it was reportedly called "Victor" because they won a patent infringement lawsuit against Berliner and Zonophone.

    I concur about the difference electric recording made. I was recently doing some needle drops of old Hillbilly records my great-grandfather bought. Some were acoustic and some electric, and the later just quantum leaped in volume and fidelity.
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  10. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    Agreed. I hate to trot this oft used example out again from 83 years ago but these guys really knew what they were doing. A One Mic Wonder.

  11. JRM

    JRM Forum Resident

    Eugene, Oregon
    Victor's first commercial electrical recording was made at the company's Camden, New Jersey studios on February 26, 1925. A group of eight popular Victor artists, Billy Murray, Frank Banta, Henry Burr, Albert Campbell, Frank Croxton, John Meyer, Monroe Silver, and Rudy Wiedoeft gathered to record "A Miniature Concert". Several takes were recorded by the old acoustic process, then additional takes were recorded electrically for test purposes. The electric recordings turned out well, and Victor issued the results that summer as the two sides of 12-inch 78 rpm record Victor 35753. [Wikipedia]

    This recording was produced as a test for the electrical recording system Victor had developed. None of the participants ever thought it would be released. However, the recording was so well done that it was issued in 1925. This is the earliest recorded electrical Victor released. [Archive.org].
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  12. HiFi Guy 008

    HiFi Guy 008 Forum Resident

    New England
    This is where the later Camden records originated? I ask because they had some great lp pressings.
  13. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    Reopened by request. Shouldn't have been closed in the first place. Grumble.
  14. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    Again reopened.
  15. Ken E.

    Ken E. Senior Member

    Best played with a mono cartridge?
  16. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    Yeah, L+R with a proper 78 stylus and of course, a bit off of RIAA, maybe +3@3k/6.
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  17. Saint Johnny

    Saint Johnny Forum Resident

    Asbury Park

    Camden is the name of a city in southern NJ on the west bank of the Delaware River directly across from Philadelphia, Pa.
    Camden was/is a city that was basically created by/for and kind of a recipient of the industrial revolution for both good and ill.
    RCA was headquartered in Camden thus they used the term/proper noun of Camden as a way to identify certain products that RCA was the inventor or innovator of.

    RCA Camden - Wikipedia
    Nipper Building - Wikipedia
    Last edited: May 7, 2020
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  18. Ed Casey

    Ed Casey Well-Known Member

    I can’t believe how good that Weems recording sounds. If this was possible in 1932, why are the RCA recordings I’ve heard up to the advent of Living Stereo recordings so bad? I’m thinking not only of the Miller and Shaw big band discs but Toscanini’s RCA’s mono Original Cast Albums. Is the Weems disc a fluke or are there more hidden gems out there?
  19. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    Well, I don't want to type the Juke Box Operators Of America story all over again, but it's safe to say that they made Victor "dumb down" their sound..
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  20. Ed Casey

    Ed Casey Well-Known Member

    Sorry for a typo. Suppose to read “but Toscanini’s and RCA’s mono Original Cast Albums”
  21. Ed Casey

    Ed Casey Well-Known Member

    Thanks. Will check that story out
  22. Devin

    Devin Time's Up

    Okay Steve, I'll type it for you:

    Steve wrote:

    In 1925, the Victor Talking Machine Co. (to boost sagging record sales) developed the Orthophonic System of recording and playback. In reality what they actually did was lease the new Bell Labs "Westrex" recording system using electricity and a microphone instead of the old acoustic horn. They paid $50,000.00 for the privilege which was a lot of money in those days. Soon, record sales revived because the new records were nice and loud, better sounding than the primitive radios of the day.

    The Victor Recording Studio #1 was located in the deconsecrated Trinity Baptist Church, 114, N. 5th Street, Camden, New Jersey. Victor bought the building around 1915 or 16. It was intended as just a storage facility but it sounded so good in there acoustically that the church was converted to a recording studio and named Building #22. Many of the best NJ recorded "Scroll" Victors from the 20's to the early '30's were recorded in that great sounding "wet" (meaning natural reverb) acoustic space.

    A "Scroll" Victor is an electrically recorded Victor record from 1925 to around 1938 when they modified the label. You can see the scroll around the edges of the label. Also look for the "VE" on the leadout area. That stands for Victor Electric. In other words, recorded with a microphone instead of a horn.

    Before the scroll label was the "Batwing" label that most of us have seen in thrift stores. These acoustic records have not much value and are always around. The Scroll label is quite collectable and most are scarce now in good shape. These records had nice volume and great fidelity. "Fats" Waller's jazz pipe organ records recorded here in 1929 have bass information that goes down to 30 cycles. Yes, 30 cycles. An amazing recording facility.

    That being said, the recording industry took a nosedive right after the Radio Corporation Of America bought the Victor Talking Machine Co. in 1929 (forming RCA-Victor). The depression meant that your dollar had to buy food and not a record. By 1934 however, ex-Brunswick A&R man Jack Kapp with British backing formed the American Decca Records Co. and Jack's friend from Brunswick BING CROSBY agreed to record for a royalty rate instead of a fixed salary and the records were sold for 35 cents instead of a dollar thereby saving the recording industry from ruin. Soon the RCA-Victor BLUEBIRD line was also introducing the 35 cent record and many "hot" race artists of the time issued new material on that label.

    This is where the story gets weird. The Jukebox operators started complaining that the Victor records recorded in the church were too loud and grating for their lousy sounding primitive jukeboxes of the time and they forced Victor to modify its recording process. To "dumb it down" as it were. So RCA-Victor stopped using the church and started using a different studio, this time with a FILTER on the signal to reduce the high end. This assured that the records could be played on the new jukeboxes which (thanks to Benny Goodman and the new Swing Era) were becoming very popular and could "break" a new hit even more than being played on the radio.

    You will notice at this time that the "wet" sounding records ended and the new "dry" era began; the studios all installed curtains, etc. to keep the sound from reverberating at all. The A&R people felt that if there was any ambiance to be added it would be done in the playback environment (like your home or wherever the jukebox was). Also in 1936 Victor started using the brand new RCA Ribbon microphones which soon became the microphone of choice for both radio broadcasting and recording. This microphone had a built-in mellow sound (and the closer you got to it the mellower it sounded).

    Well, by 1938, Victor's A&R man Eli Oberstein had had enough of those bad sounding records and ordered the recording filter removed. You can clearly hear the difference in those later swing records (like Goodman's SUGARFOOT STOMP and Miller's IN THE MOOD). It was like a veil had been lifted.

    We move on to the war years. The recording ban of 1942 stopped all new recording and in that time tastes changed. Big band jazz was on the way out and a softer, mellower post war sound emerged. Also, jazz was splintering in to Bebop, etc.

    When Eli Oberstein left Victor to form Varsity Records in 1940 the new A&R director at Victor didn't care how the records were made. After the ban was lifted in 1944, instead of recording on beeswax, a new electrical transcription style of recording at Victor came into being. This involved recording all takes at 33 1/3 RPM and then dubbing the approved take to 78. This, plus the engineer's overuse of the "flavor of the year" RCA optical film limiter, new wobbly recording curve and a "less is more" microphone technique pretty much ended the reign of the great Victor sound once and for all. By the time they started rebounding (around 1953-4) it was a whole new ballgame.

    By the way that famous church later served as a gym for RCA-Victor workers. Unfortunately the building was ultimately demolished (big surprise) and became a parking lot.
  23. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    Hey, thanks for that. I'm glad I didn't have to type it over again!
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  24. Devin

    Devin Time's Up

    No problem Steve. I found the story so fascinating that I copied it into a document for my own reference. Also sent a copy to my father (who worked at RCA in Camden NJ for decades). He was very impressed with your esoteric knowledge of these matters. Cheers!
  25. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    Cool. Glad I could amuse your dad. I’m just a treasure trove of useless knowledge.
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