A couple of points:
1. Ampex dominated the duping-equipment market in the US during the time mass-duped reels were
in-print. Until their late-60's bin-loop duplicators, all of their duplicator electronics were
tubed, both playback (master) and record (slaves). These things were common enough that you see the
record electronics come up on ebay from time to time, although many ended up in dumpsters. The
bin-loop system was designed for 8-tracks, with a 1-inch master running in an endless loop.
2. Your point about off-center pressings is absolutely correct, but this was not a common problem
for the RCA plant where most of the coveted Shaded Dog and Mercury records were pressed. I've also
not seen much of this from Columbia "golden era" records of the same time. Some of the third-party
pressers were chronically off-center, but this was usually not the classical market of that era
except for the dirt-cheap rack-jobber junk that no one wants today anyway.
3. In the case of 1/2-track reels, there is rarely if ever a non-adjustable azimuth problem. There
are cases I've come across where there was a noisy tube in the duper that day. In the 2-track era,
everyone of note seemed to be using good tape stock, so I haven't run across country-lane disasters
like Ampex and Bel Canto regularly turned out later on. The Ampex dupers didn't hold azimuth
spectacularly -- they are basically 300-type transports moving at high speed, with all the tape-path
issues of the 300 and 350 decks, but azimuth stability is not as big an issue as high noise levels
and strange frequency spectrum performances due to the EQ compromises of high-speed duping.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Steven Smolian" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Thursday, March 10, 2011 5:39 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Mercury Madness
> 1/2 track tapes were made on devices that used tubes. For those interested
> in shaded dogs, etc., in the early pressings where this is also an
> attribute, tape has the great advantage of being in equally good or better
> sound. It is not subject to the problems introduced by disc cutting- not
> necessarily on the manufacturing end but on that of the consumer who wants
> superior results without the need for a fancy turntable and cartridge and
> the ceremony that goes along with setting up such equipment, record
> cleaning, etc. Tapes are never off-center, though we are all aware of the
> problems introduced by bad duplication and poor maintenance of the playback
> Since this is a high end market, there is often serious competition for
> choice examples.
> Steve Smolian
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of carlstephen koto
> Sent: Thursday, March 10, 2011 5:29 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Mercury Madness
> On Mar 9, 2011, at 7:47 PM, Tom Fine wrote:
>> It's hard to put a value on artifacts when it comes to collectors, so
> that could explain part of it.
>> -- Tom Fine
> For the most part, I think Tom put his finger on it with the statement
> above. IMHO, what we're seeing with the most insane prices are the
> activities of completest collectors.
> The craziest prices I've seen for commercial reel to reels have been rock in
> general and Pink Floyd releases in particular. A while back a 1/4 track
> 7.5ips tape of "Meddle" (said to be a Japanese issue) was sold for a BIN
> price of,.. hold onto your hats ladies and gents,.. $4299!
> Another PF tape, "Atom Heart Mother", went through a heated bidding war and
> ended up selling for over $2k!
> I've also seen several of the more popular jazz recordings such as "Waltz
> for Debby" and "Kind of Blue" sell for well over $500.
> After checking the eBay histories of many of the "winning bidders" I saw no
> other reel to reel tape purchases and doubt that many of these folks even
> own machines to listen to these tapes.
> Regarding these classical releases, I do have a number of them myself but
> refuse to pay these kind of prices for them. The last couple of years has
> seen a steady increase in the starting and selling prices of these old 1/2
> tracks. Most of these old tapes I have were purchased for under $20 and many
> for less than $10. Those same releases now regularly sell for $70-$150.
> And while I do enjoy listening to the ones I have once or twice a year, the
> prices they now sell for will keep me from buying any more.
> As to why these folks are paying such prices for these 1/2 track Mercuries
> and RCAs, my guess is that they expect far more than these tapes can
> deliver. A couple of years ago there were several bidders on these items who
> seemed to be competing with each other. They also seemed to have endless
> funds to do so (I followed the activities of a couple who regularly spent
> $2k a week on tape purchases). This drove up the prices and after these
> bidders stopped, the high prices remained.
> If these high prices add to the interest and expectations of these tapes I
> can only guess.
> On the other hand, I do have nearly all the Barclay-Crocker tapes (I paid an
> average of $12-$13 for each) and I do listen to them regularly. I realize
> that if I wish to complete my collection of these tapes, I'll have to bit
> the bullet and pay much higher prices now.
> Fortunately, with these tapes, the prices rise for a few months then go back
> down to more reasonable levels for a bit.
> Carl Stephen Koto
>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Roderic G Stephens"
>> <[log in to unmask]>
>> To: <[log in to unmask]>
>> Sent: Wednesday, March 09, 2011 10:08 PM
>> Subject: [ARSCLIST] Mercury Madness
>> Hello All,
>> This is something that Tom should be able to address. It is a really a
> tribute to Tom's mom and dad's historic recordings, but this resurgence of
> recognition and value truly shows that they did something special. I've
> found that Amazon is offering excellent re-masterings of the Mercury Living
> Presence series including some even in SACD, although those are, of course,
> 3-track. The prices are in the $6-12 range depending if used or new. My
> first question is, who is doing the re-mastering, and Tom, are you involved?
> The personal reviews on Amazon are mostly all five stars by those who have
> purchased them. My second query has to do with the original two track reel
> to reel tapes that are currently being sold on eBay. Can you believe that
> today, the Antal Dorati recording of Brahm's Variations on a Theme of Haydn,
> MVS5-25 sold for $202.50?!! Not only does the CD remaster have that tune,
> but it also includes the Enesco: Romanian Rhapsody No.
>> 2. In addition, tape MDS5-3, Bizet: Carmen Suite and L'Arlesienne Suite
> No. 1 sold for $305! So, what is the reason for this madness? Pondering, Rod