SH Spotlight What is the difference between a multi-track tape, a "mixdown" and a master tape?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Steve Hoffman, Nov 30, 2006.

  1. Paul Chang

    Paul Chang Forum Old Boy, Former Senior Member Has-Been

    Steve,

    In the case of RCA's Living Stereo three-track tapes, were they "rough mixes", i.e. not the final masters? Were their original sessions in three channels also?
     
  2. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    Three track originals in the case of RCA were not "masters", no. At least in the Golden Age they were not. An RCA engineer would sooner roll his mother for a dime than to cut from the three track tape; it was unfinished (missing the essential EQ and other goodies needed for disk mastering).

    Where modern reissue companies fall down today is when they cut "LIVING STEREO" reissues from the three track work parts and wonder why people complain that they don't have that great old sound...
     
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  3. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

  4. Paul Chang

    Paul Chang Forum Old Boy, Former Senior Member Has-Been

    Oh I wish those reissue companies would listen and use the essential EQ and "other goodies". IIRC you talked about this some time ago, Steve.

    Three seemed a magic number then. Once I had a conversation with Robert the Mr. Record about the reason behind recording in three channels. He said in the early days of stereo, records companies weren't sure how many channels to have. I guess by recording in three tracks they could always reduce to two.
     
  5. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    Decca from 1958 to around 1963 cut stereo LP's directly from a three track tape. Indeed, they were the only company that actually utilized the three track format for what it was invented for. Every other company made a reduction mix and cut from that. Silly, but the three track format was obsolete the day it was invented. Later the three and four track tapes would be "mixed" to stereo and mono in the George Martin EMI/Chuck Britz Western Recording Studios fashion (adjusting final levels, adding echo, etc).
     
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  6. lukpac

    lukpac Senior Member

    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    Like I said earlier, not the Mercury Living Presence stuff:

    http://www.soundfountain.com/amb/mercury.html

     
  7. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    Luke,

    If you believe the spin, I have some land off the Santa Monica Pier to sell you.

    My earlier comments on the Mercury series stands. If you are interested in collecting the original LP's make sure you get the first cut.
     
  8. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    Some of the charm of the original RCA-Victor Living Stereo LP's came from the three track to two track reduction mix (a tube mix with special EQ, tube optical compression, etc.) and the quirky but quite musical sounding tubed Scully/Westrex cutting system. Take those out of the equation you have a dynamic but rather cold sounding work part. Add those ingredients back in (no matter how much you might feel they "degrade" or change the sound of the three track tape) and you have the SOUND of an RCA Living Stereo LP. That is the sound that collectors pay $500.00 per LP for.

    Don't forget to watch this if you collect or like old RCA recordings:


    "How RCA-Victor LP records are made."

    http://www.archive.org/details/SoundAndTheS

    From this old thread:

    http://www.stevehoffman.tv/forums/showthread.php?t=68559
     
  9. Paul Chang

    Paul Chang Forum Old Boy, Former Senior Member Has-Been

    Thanks for the links, Steve. I was thinking even older threads. I first saw the "Living Stereo" and "Command Performance" movies through this thread in 2002. How time flies!
    http://www.stevehoffman.tv/forums/showthread.php?t=2368

    But it's always refreshing to watch them again. It makes me want to press my own records. :winkgrin:

    You already explained the problem of using the RCA three-track work parts for reissues here back in 2004. They probably won't listen as long as their records receive raving reviews and generate good sales. :sigh:
    http://www.stevehoffman.tv/forums/showthread.php?t=36312
     
  10. lukpac

    lukpac Senior Member

    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    Huh? You're saying the new reissues are *not* mastered from the 3-track tapes?
     
  11. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    The LP 180 gram reissues are NOT, that is correct.

    They were mastered from the vintage two track stereo dubdown cutting masters (that aren't supposed to exist because they add tape hiss, etc., heh.:))

    Click here to see pictures of the original two track 1/4" tapes from Bob Fine Recording along with Willem Makkee, cutting engineer... Don't believe all the spin about three-track cutting, etc.; makes a good story but in reality, record cutting is a bitch and without a 1/4" tape and a machine with a proper preview head, forget it!

    http://store.acousticsounds.com/living20thcentury.cfm
     
  12. lukpac

    lukpac Senior Member

    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI


    What about the CDs?
     
  13. SiriusB

    SiriusB New Member

    Location:
    New York
    The CDs must have been mixed down -- so what are the alternatives? Mixing directly to a glass master?
     
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  14. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    The CD's were mastered from new digital mixes directly from the three-track 1/2" tape or 35mm fullcoat mags, yes. The SACD's have the three channels right there on the disc for surround sound players.

    Note, if the 35mm mags are anything like the Everest mags they are practically turning to vinegar. The three track 1/2" backup tapes made on Scotch 111 are still as good as the day they were recorded however.
     
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  15. Joe 1956

    Joe 1956 New Member

    Location:
    Tennessee
    From what this noob has seen of several threads, many two tracks have been treated like.... thrown away? :eek:

    So how have been/are the original multi tracks viewed? As the Holy Grail, or rotting away?
     
  16. lukpac

    lukpac Senior Member

    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    Depends on the artist/company.

    Just don't put your tapes in a wood-framed furniture warehouse.
     
  17. Paul Chang

    Paul Chang Forum Old Boy, Former Senior Member Has-Been

    But one will need to have three matching front channel loudspeakers to get the right sound. Not many people will set up a surround system like that. (I may if I have the space and the gear and my wife approves it. :cool: )
    Couldn't they preserve the 35 mm magnetic films in the same way as for movie film prints?
     
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  18. Grant

    Grant Hmmmm....

    Location:
    United States
    ...with no sprinkler system!:eek:
     
  19. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    No, they probably mixed to a DAT.
     
  20. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    Too far gone by now. Don't really know the status of the Mercury titles but most of the Everest titles are sand now. The analog back ups play just fine though (and I think they sound better). The 35mm recording system (in my opinion) was a dog from the start; a true gimmick.
     
  21. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Location:
    Lodi, New Jersey
    Didn't the 35mm mag (or the recorders) have a different character to the sound, compared to tape in general, Steve?
     
  22. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    Well, a more "in your face" type of sound, very Hi-Fi and impressive (at first) but after a while it gets to be too much. Perfect for recording film music scores of the era though; not so great for classical music that has some subtlety.
     
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  23. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Location:
    Lodi, New Jersey
    Thanks Steve. I always thought music recorded for movies back in the day sounded "different", but I never put two and two together why. A couple of weeks ago I was playing Sinatra's '63 version of "You Brought a New Kind of Love To Me" while Chuck Granata was here. He said something about how the sound on the horns, etc., sounded "different" because of the 35mm mag, compared to tape.
     
  24. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    Chuck is right! I've worked with the stuff a lot, usually decomposing (cough, cough, choke). It's a great sound but not for classical music with subtle dynamics, etc. in my opinion.
     
  25. Pinknik

    Pinknik Senior Member

    Does mag track stuff get vinegar syndrome? I don't know, but it seems like a surface that the magnetic coating would be prone to fall off of after a long time, especially under poor storage conditions. That said, having seen Cinerama, it can be impressive for movie soundtracks. No subtlety required there, I suppose. :)
     

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