When Did Recording Go Digital?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by andrewz, Apr 21, 2007.

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  1. andrewz

    andrewz Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Columbus, Georgia
    I know CDs came out around 1983/1984, but I've never actually read when exactly digital recording started. Late 70s maybe? Did they use digital tapes or what?
     
  2. Metoo

    Metoo Forum Hall Of Fame

    Location:
    Spain (EU)
    IIRC, in the eighties.
     
  3. Doug Sclar

    Doug Sclar Forum Legend

    Location:
    The OC
    The first digital multitrack pop recording was Ry Cooder's 'Bob Till You Drop' back in 1979. There were digital recordings before that though they were generally only 2 tracks. I'm sure there were a few digital multi tracks before Ry, but not by much. I think the first multitrack machine was around 78, or at least that's the first I remember hearing of one.

    2 track digital stereo recordings started a few years earlier. IIRC, Thomas Stockholm had the first digital machine and that was as early as 75.
     
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  4. JBStephens

    JBStephens I don't "like", "share", "tweet", or CARE. In Memoriam

    Location:
    South Mountain, NC
    Late 1970's. Digital recording with the "Soundstream" system, then to vinyl. Remember that Telarc "1812 overture"...? That was a MUST-HAVE!

    Or do you mean digital consoles and ProTools and all that?
     
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  5. EddieVanHalen

    EddieVanHalen Well-Known Member

    1972 if my memory serves me well. I think the first PCM digital studio tape recorder was Denon's DN-023R.
    Most of these early digital recorders comprised of two units, one with all the control and A/D and D/A conversion and a second one with the tape transport.
    On the late 70's the fashion was to use a digital "procesor" (A/D and D/A conversion, level controls...) with a video tape recorder to store the data-hungry PCM stream, an example of this was Sony's PCM1.
    If my memory keeps serving me well early digital recorders were 12 or 14 bit systems and on the late 70's 16 bit recorders first appeared.

    Just to finish, first motion picture soundtrack to be fully recorded on digital (Sony) equipment: Star Trek The Motion Picture, from 1979.
     
  6. SilentCries

    SilentCries New Member

    Location:
    NOLA
    Klaus Schulze released his first digital recording in 1980 ("Dig It"), but it was not the first.
     
  7. varispeed

    varispeed what if?

    Location:
    Los Angeles Ca
    I saw that first 3m 32 track digital recorder ($250,000) at New York AES in 77or so and it was the first one I noticed. It seemed within three months, every major studio was grabbing them. Up until then, the soundstream (or whatever it was called) seemed to be for niche classical stuff.

    I also remember in 80 or 81, the Sony F1 and Technics SH100 came out (I grabbed the Technics) and THAT was a whole new world for those of us not able to afford the 3m. The Sony/Technics allowed one to capture digital stereo mixes onto video tape via converters. Glorious 14 bit in the case of the Technics. After years with tape I was ecstatic every day there in the early 80's.....ah...no noise...no hiss...beautiful beautiful (you had to be there I guess).
     
  8. TimB

    TimB A proud Pop Schlock Fan

    Location:
    Galion, Ohio USA
    Wel I do not know if this helps but

    Ma Bell did the first digital voice in 1948, and yes it was with vacum tubes, the first T1 line in actual phone service was 1962 between St Louis and CHicago. So I am sure that Bell Labs in that time frame actually recorded things digitally. As far as commerical releases, I suspect that the early 70's as mentioned before. I have heard that some were as early as 1972.
    The reason Ma Bell was looking to go digital was to actually save money and improve long distance quality. The saving money was reduced copper lines, only 4 at that time were needed for a T1 one line which carried 24 voice channels. The improvement came with the repeaters. The analog repeaters always added electronic distortion and added noise to the noise floor. Digital repeaters were simply repeating electronic pulses at one frequency, and a digital repeater does not add analog noise.


    Tim
     
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  9. coopmv

    coopmv Newton 1/30/2001 - 8/31/2011

    Location:
    CT, USA
    I think the first digital recordings appeared on vinyl around 78 or 79 but they were classical music recordings.
     
  10. Ron Stone

    Ron Stone Offending Member

    Location:
    Deep Maryland
    I remember a big deal being made of BOP TILL YOU DROP and TUSK.
     
  11. Gardo

    Gardo Forum Resident

    Location:
    Virginia
  12. shokhead

    shokhead Forum Resident

    Location:
    Long Beach,SoCa
    80's,79,80,72,late 70's,48.
     
  13. Ron Stone

    Ron Stone Offending Member

    Location:
    Deep Maryland
    From Wikipedia:

    Commercial digital recording of classical and jazz music began in the early 1970s, pioneered by Japanese companies such as Denon, the BBC, and British record label Decca (who in the mid-70s developed digital audio recorders of their own design for mastering of their albums), although experimental recordings exist from the 1960s. The first 16-bit PCM recording in the United States was made by Thomas Stockham at the Santa Fe Opera in 1976 on a Soundstream recorder. In most cases there was no mixing stage involved; a stereo digital recording was made and used unaltered as the master tape for subsequent commercial release. These unmixed digital recordings are still described as DDD since the technology involved is purely digital . . .

    The first entirely digitally recorded (DDD) popular music album was Ry Cooder's BOP TILL YOU DROP, recorded in late 1978. It was unmixed, being recorded straight to a two-track 3M digital recorder in the studio. Many other top recording artists were early adherents of digital recording. Stevie Wonder adopted the technology in early 1979 for JOURNEY THROUGH THE SECRET LIFE OF PLANTS and used it on all later recordings . . . An early example of an analogue recording that was digitally mixed is Fleetwood Mac's 1979 release TUSK.
     
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  14. coopmv

    coopmv Newton 1/30/2001 - 8/31/2011

    Location:
    CT, USA
    I think that very first digital recordings on vinyl I bought was the Mendelssohn
    Italian Symphony by the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra on the London label. My initial impression was it sounded much more dynamic than any other classical LP recordings I had.
     
  15. Doug Sclar

    Doug Sclar Forum Legend

    Location:
    The OC
    Interesting about Secret Life of Plants. I was in the studio with Stevie for parts of that one. I had just installed the new MCI 600C board at Lyon Studio the month before he came in, and I assure you we had no digital machines there. OTOH, only a small amount of the record was recorded there, but we definitely used a 2" 24tk analog machine. :confused:
     
  16. Metoo

    Metoo Forum Hall Of Fame

    Location:
    Spain (EU)
    Maybe "The Secret Life of Plants" went digital when he came across the digitalis plant. It must have been a heart jolting experience. ;) :D
     
  17. His Masters Vice

    His Masters Vice W.C. Fields Forever

    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    Stevie Wonder's Journey through the Secret Life of Plants was recorded about 3 months after Bop Till You Drop ... certainly it's supposed to have been recorded digitally. :shrug:

    There were certainly classical recordings on 2 track digital going back to around 1973.

    TimB is right that Ma Bell was experimenting with digital back in the 1940s. Earlier, back in 1943, they developed SIGSALY as a method of digitally encrypting voice transmissions (see (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SIGSALY). This was the first practical application of PCM, which had been patented back in the 30s. Before then some work had been done using PAM (pulse amplitude modulation).
     
  18. Doug Sclar

    Doug Sclar Forum Legend

    Location:
    The OC
    Well Stevie was in our studio in Jun 79. We had just built a new control room and I installed all the gear in May 79. I think Bop was recorded in 78 but released in 79.

    We did overdubs on SLOP, mainly vocals and the Dream Machine. But those were done analog. They brought their analog 2" tape down for us to overdub onto.

    Perhaps the record was mixed digitally.

    I installed every piece of gear there, and was there for all the Stevie sessions. We had no digital recorders there. What I can't remember is if we used the Ampex 1100 or if we had installed the Otari which replaced it, but I'm thinking it was still the 1100.

    edit: Just checked my records and it was definitely the MM 1100.
     
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  19. His Masters Vice

    His Masters Vice W.C. Fields Forever

    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    Cool, thanks for the insights Doug! :righton:

    I wasn't doubting you, it was just a surprise to learn the facts. I guess Stevie's first all digital album was "Hotter Than July"
     
  20. punkrok78

    punkrok78 Forum Resident

    the mass move to digital must have also been economic reasons right ??
     
  21. MichaelR

    MichaelR New Member

    Looks like it was more expensive at the time, but it was the "way of the future" - and no noise etc..


    Michael
     
  22. KevinP

    KevinP Forum introvert

    Location:
    Wellington , NZ
    Related question: when was it that recording became almost entirely a digital procedure? Well into the CD age, new albums were still being recorded on analogue equipment.

    I know there have always been, and still are, exceptions as a recent thread noted, but by and large, when did analogue become the rare exception?

    Perhaps around the time that the major studios stopped making LPs and concentrated on CDs?
     
  23. 16/44.1

    16/44.1 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Netherlands.
    Absolutely correct :righton:.
     
  24. seventeen

    seventeen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Paris, France
    PIL live in tokyo 1983 was the first live album recorded and mixed in digital. It sounds great, even thought the performances are ****.
     
  25. MichaelR

    MichaelR New Member

    Quite a lot of music is still recorded onto tape - and analogue compressors etc are still used all the time - especially for recording. Even a large percentage of commercial releases are mixed on analogue desks.

    It is becoming more common to mix "in the box" or digitally though.
     
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