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ARSCLIST  January 2009

ARSCLIST January 2009

Subject:

Re: Magnetic Recording History (was OTR online?

From:

"Richard L. Hess" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 2 Jan 2009 13:26:28 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (181 lines)

For the record, the full name of AMPEX's founder 
is Alexander M. Poniatoff. It is my understanding 
that AMPEX came from Poniatoff's initials plus 
the first two letters of the word EXcellence.

At 03:27 AM 2009-01-02, Michael Biel wrote:

>Second, that Hitler story is laughable.  Hitler 
>would "be" where ever the broadcast announcer 
>said he was!!!  Besides, Hitler was not making 
>many speeches during the war.  The sound quality 
>of distant radio reception would mask any 
>differences between a speech recorded on tape and a speech recorded on disc.

The version of this story that I heard was that 
Mullin and other Signal Corpsmen heard late night 
orchestra broadcasts of some length and thought 
that the sound quality was better than any 
long-form transcription device they had so they 
were interested in learning about this German 
technology after the war. They thought the 
recordings sounded live, but wondered if even 
Hitler would schedule musicians to play in the middle of the night.

I concur with Tony that early AM radio sounded 
much better than what we hear today. I recall 
owning a tube Zenith AM/FM radio that was 
reasonably high-fidelity in the 1950s--even on 
AM, and having my first exposure to the "Texaco 
Metropolitan Opera Radio Network" via WOR on the AM band.

>Lastly, the entire first season of Philco Radio 
>Time was recorded and edited on DISC.  Tape was 
>only used for mastering and editing starting in 
>the second season, and even then the tapes were dubbed to disc for broadcast.

The first show recorded on tape was broadcast 
1947-10-01 (which was the start of the 1947-1948 
season). While the original tape went missing 
from the Ampex Collection prior to it being 
transferred to Stanford (it would be on a 14" 
Ampex NAB-hub reel in all likelihood), excellent 
2nd generation copies remain. One of those has 
been digitized and delivered to the Stanford Ampex Collection.

No one at ABC wanted to risk going with tape 
live-to-air due to the fragility of the early 
tapes with multiple splices as well as having 
only two of Mullin's modified Magnetophons to 
play them on. Mullin shipped the transports and 
heads home but did not bother with the 
electronics as he saw improvements that he could 
make right away. Mullin's electronics have one 
additional tube as compared to the original AEG 
electronics with AC bias that he left behind.

At 10:51 AM 2009-01-02, Anthony Baldwin wrote:

>In Germany this situation changed irrevocably in 1941 when AEG
>engineers von Braunmühl and Weber stumbled across AC tape bias, where
>the addition of an inaudible high-frequency tone resulted in a
>striking improvement in sound quality — something that was radical
>enough to be discernible in prerecorded German AM broadcasts, if the
>BBC's Caversham Park wartime monitoring reports are to be credited.
>
>In fact, this is not so hard to believe, as the generous bandwidth of
>national AM channels in the 1930s and '40s offered a far higher level
>of AM fidelity than we're used to today. Nazi speeches aside, the
>technical leap forward was most glaringly obvious in prerecorded
>broadcasts by the likes of Fürtwängler and the Berlin Philharmonic,
>as recent CD reissues have adequately confirmed.

For a more detailed discussion, please see
Engel, Friedrich Karl. 
<http://www.richardhess.com/tape/history/Engel--Walter_Weber_2006.pdf>Walter 
Weber's Technical Innovation at the Reichs-Rundfunk-Gesellschaft
and
Engel, Friedrich Karl and Peter Hammar, 
<http://www.richardhess.com/tape/history/Engel_Hammar--Magnetic_Tape_History.pdf>A 
Selected History of Magnetic Recording

There may be additional items of interest at 
http://www.richardhess.com/tape/history/

>While Jack Mullen may have been able to kickstart Ampex by sending
>home a couple of these liberated machines in bits via the no-doubt
>bemused Army Post Office, the final broadcast requirement for tape —
>superior editability — was only really achieved when the notoriously
>fragile German acetate-backed "paper" tape could be abandoned in
>1947-48 in favor of 3M's new, sturdier #111 stock. From that moment
>on tape was definitely superior to disc as a studio medium, even if
>Bing's transcriptions were still pressed up as discs.

That is partially true in that the German tape 
that Mullin brought back was fragile but more in 
the context that he had only about fifty reels 
(most of which survive in various states of 
repair in the Stanford Ampex Collection) and they 
were cut and spliced and recut and respliced 
until 3M came up to speed with tape 
manufacturing. Audio Devices also supplied some 
tape at this time or shortly thereafter (we found 
some spliced in with some of the German tape).

However, paper tape was abandoned circa 1935 in 
Germany while it was still made for the Brush 
Soundmirror and sold directly by 3M (Scotch) 
until some time in the 1950s in North America. 
Utah recorders in Canada also sold paper tape.

The German tape from 1935-1944 was an 
acetate-based tape called Magnetophonband Typ C. 
The factory where this was manufactured was 
destroyed in an industrial accident (not a 
war-related explosion) and from 1944 until the 
end of the war, only homogeneous PVC 
Magnetophonband Typ L tape was available. In the 
Typ L tape, the gamma ferric oxide was embedded 
in the PVC matrix and not coated on the basefilm 
like current and preceding tapes. The "Typ L" 
refers to IG Farben's trade name "Luvitherm" for 
their brand of PVC, just as "Mylar" became 
perhaps better known than PET for this later basefilm.
http://www.wipo.int/ipdl/en/madrid/key.jsp?KEY=453247
http://heritage.dupont.com/touchpoints/tp_1952/overview.shtml

Most of the Magnetophonband tape has survived 
well. Some of the Typ C is starting to exhibit 
signs of vinegar syndrome, but this has occurred 
mostly with ones stored in the steel film-style 
cans than in the cardboard (press board?) boxes that most of them came in.

Some of the Typ L tape is showing some structural 
weakness and, as with many plastic films, shows a 
tendency to tear when edge nicks have occurred. 
Sometimes, splices would catch at the tape edge 
and start a long tear at a very shallow diagonal. 
In one case, the tear was about half a metre 
long. Repeated playing of this tape on the 
less-than-completely gentle original Magentophon 
in the Pavek collection has caused some pinholes 
to occur in the Typ L tape where clumps of the 
oxide material have fallen out of the PVC film matrix.

You may also enjoy reading my paper on the 
playback effort for some of these tapes. As of 
2008-08, all of these have been delivered to both 
Stanford and the Pavek Museum and we included 101 
(IIRC) different items in the collection, most 
were on the original Magnetophonband. These have 
been ingested into Stanford's Digital Repository 
system. I am not sure about access.
Hess, Richard L. 
<http://www.aes.org/journal/suppmat/hess_2001_7.pdf>The 
Jack Mullin/Bill Palmer Tape Restoration Project

Since there was additional material in the Pavek 
Museum collection, including Magnetophonband from 
other collectors, I concatenated the the 
Mullin-Palmer collection, the Mullin family 
collection, and the Pavek collection plus a few 
other related items into one collection for the 
sake of looking at these early tapes. The 
original material for the Mullin-Palmer 
collection resides at Stanford, while the Mullin 
family collection is retained by the family, and 
the Pavek retains its own collection. I have 
recorded the 1947-10-01 show back onto some 
new-old-stock Magentophonband Typ L for 
demonstrations at the Pavek and I need to make 
one or two more copies for them on NOS material I still have from the Pavek.

Cheers,

Richard

Richard L. Hess                   email: [log in to unmask]
Aurora, Ontario, Canada       (905) 713 6733     1-877-TAPE-FIX
Detailed contact information: http://www.richardhess.com/tape/contact.htm
Quality tape transfers -- even from hard-to-play tapes. 

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