From High Fidelity, May 1966, R. D. Darrell's 10th anniversary look back in his column "The Tape
Deck." He discussed the early days of pre-recorded tapes, but not in great detail.
I agree with his comments about the production and music quality on the early tapes before the major
labels started issuing ready-for-primetime content, based on what tapes I have. Amateur hour in
Sibera. One old tape I have is 30 minutes of a polka band that played regularly in a minor NYC
hotel, and it sounds like it was recorded in the parking garage. Almost as bad sound-wise, but
redeemed musically, were the early concert recordings of various midling to minor European
conductors and orchestras, usually sold by mail-order or subscription. Some of the early major-label
content also sounded terrible because people were learning how to make stereo recordings, but the
overall quality was more what had long been expected on grooved disks.
And then, too soon after tapes became a niche of decent-quality stereophony for the masses, the
quarter-track format took off. Then 8x duping speeds, as stereo LP production and manufacturing
rapidly improved. By the time Darrell wrote this, I would argue that it was much easier to set up a
high-quality stereo playback system for LPs and much, much easier to find consistently high quality
sound on the grooved disks, as opposed to high-speed duped quarter-track tapes and certainly
compared to the emerging cartridge-tape formats.
-- Tom Fine