It isn't an easy question to answer as to which was better at RCA, tape or disc. In 1949 recordings, I never found both a metal part and a tape for the same matrix. Some were missing both, and only existed in tape dubs. The 1949 and 1950 metal parts did not have the tell-tale sign of starting up surface noise at the beginning of the disc, which would indicate a dub, but that's not in and of itself absolute proof that they not dubs from tape. Most 1949 recordings, tape or disc, did not have particularly good sound. Sound in 1950 was better on both tape and discs. If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say that the 1949 disc recordings were not dubbed from tape, but that the 1950 disc recordings were. As far as comparing 1950 tapes to 1947 metals (the last known year for recording only onto disc), I'd say the tape sound is marginally better. Some 1947 metals have fantastic sound, but the 1950 tapes are more uniformly good. And tape sound
improved from 1950 through 1953 (when RCA starting recording binaurally).
As a tangentially related point, when RCA made simultaneous lacquer and wax disc recordings (which was not done uniformly at RCA like it was done at Columbia), the lacquer discs are noticeably sonically superior.
From: Don Cox <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Friday, June 22, 2012 3:26 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Magnetic Tape/Recorders
On 22/06/2012, Jon Samuels wrote:
> The earliest tape I could find in the RCA vaults was from 1949. Seth
> Winner once told me that he found a Toscanini concert recorded on tape
> by RCA in 1948, which is certainly possible (the musician's strike of
> 1948 meant there are almost no RCA commercial recordings from that
> year). I found tapes for all the 1949 RCA Red Seal sessions I
> remastered (Heifetz, Horowitz, Kapell, Rubinstein, Monteux, Stokowski,
> Toscanini, etc.), except one. I'm pretty certain that the
> Kapell/Dorati/DallasSO Prokofiev Piano Concerto No 3 session of
> January 7, 1949 was recorded only on wax and lacquer, not tape, but
> that could be due to the fact that it was recorded in Dallas, TX, or
> perhaps because it was done so early in 1949. As an additional caveat,
> there are some 1949 and 1950 RCA classical recordings that today exist
> only on metal, but other recordings from those sessions exist on tape.
At that early period, would you say (having presumably listened to both)
that the tape had better or worse sound than the discs?
I have seen it suggested that Heifetz sounded better on disc than on
tape. (At least, in the early 50s).
> I never found any paperwork that discussed the switchover from wax to
> tape at RCA, nor whether some metals were dubs of tape or simultaneous
> recordings. I do know that EMI started simultaneous recording with
> tape in October 1948, and that they eventually switched over to
> dubbing 78 metals from those sessions tapes.
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