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ARSCLIST  September 2012

ARSCLIST September 2012

Subject:

Re: early stereophony

From:

Don Cox <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Fri, 28 Sep 2012 08:56:27 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

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text/plain (97 lines)

On 27/09/2012, Dennis Rooney wrote:

> I never read Mike Gray's account in TAS, but here are some thoughts
> about Columbia based on what I encountered doing CD reissues for Sony
> Classical. Let me preface them by noting that my experience focused
> almost exclusively on Masterworks division source.
> 
> By the mid fifties, Columbia manufactured an excellent Lp physically
> and their mono disc mastering was unexceptionable. However, their
> focus was on mass sales, especially their Columbia Record Club which
> enabled them to dominate the U.S. market. They emphasized a quality
> product and had introduced the "360" phonograph in response to the
> burgeoning interest in "hi-fi". Nevertheless, engineering was not at
> the forefront of their image. An unwritten rule governed Columbia's
> disc mastering: "Make it loud, make it present", and the product
> reflected it, as it had done since CBS bought the label in 1938.
> 
> From that time, when mastering began to be done on 16-1/2" lacquers,
> the assumption was always that the master would INVARIABLY be
> subjected to post-production, and it continued throughout the Lp era.
> Whereas Mercury pursued a very different ideal, one as close to the
> master as possible, Columbia never intended the master to be anything
> but raw material. EQ, reverb, gain riding and compression all
> contributed to the released Columbia product from 78rpm to stereo.
> When I began doing CD reissues of Masterworks material, I was
> encouraged to always use master generation source. Much of it had been
> stored for years and often resisted discovery. But Columbia had been
> careful to preserve session tapes, which meant that enough material
> existed to fix problems due to wear in the edited originals. In the
> case of pre-tape material, I was successful in locating original
> lacquer source, a surprisingly large amount of which had survived in
> storage for four decades and more in excellent condition.
> 
> Working with master material, I was pleased to discover a level of
> audio quality that was far more sophisticated than what the commercial
> releases suggested. Analogue tape was out of the picture by that time
> and careful a/d transfers could be further improved by digital
> noise-reduction software and editing. Use of CEDAR to aid in correct
> stylus selection before transfer yielded a s/n quotient where the
> lacquers were very often quieter than the original chain. Most tapes
> survived in very good condition. Blocking was almost never encountered
> and the mostly 3M type 111 and Audiotape that had been used had
> survived extremely well. Binder hydrolysis wasn't a factor until Ampex
> tapes began to be used in the eighties.
> 
> Goddard Lieberson was immensely influential in the story of Columbia
> Masterworks but he was a producer who had faith in his engineers and
> they achieved the results you hear. Producers and engineers were not
> named on Columbia records for many years. The brand was the focus.
> Howard Scott was a principal producer of Masterworks recordings
> throughout the fifties. He recorded in New York with Fred Plaut (they
> did Glenn Gould, Isaac Stern, the NY Phil., etc.), and in Philadelphia
> and Cleveland, with a road crew that usually comprised Harold Chapman
> ("Chappy") and later Buddy Graham as balance engineers. and Ajutor
> {"Pappy"} Theroux as tape operator. Chappy was probably the only
> engineer Columbia had who truly understood stereophony. His setups
> have a cohensiveness that suggests a superior ability to place
> microphones. Pappy was a veteran who had been around a long time but
> not, I think, in the acoustic era. He arrived in advance of the
> sessions to set up and test the lathes and then the tape recorders.
> 
> If they were not on the cutting edge of stereophony, those men all
> were careful craftsman and the studio practices they pursued made
> Columbia a very well run shop. It was easy for me to fix a bad splice
> in SONIC but knowing how they often had achieved success with limited
> means gave new respect to their "old-fashioned" ways.
> 
> The reason Szell went to Epic was only partially to not dilute
> Ormandy's sales. Epic had been created to release the Philips
> recordings that were available when Columbia ended its exchange
> agreement with EMI in 1952. Philips, a relative newcomer, wanted a
> U.S. presence. But Willem van Otterloo, Eugen Jochum and Eduard van
> Beinum had little or no U.S. identity. It was decided that the label
> needed a major orchestra and conductor at the top of the roster and
> Szell was chosen. When Bernstein began to make headway against Ormandy
> on Columbia, the wisdom of that decision was plain.
> 
> As I believe I wrote earlier, Columbia was resistant to stereo. Plaut
> particularly doubted that stereo discs would be an important part of
> the label's sales. 1/4-in two track stereo recordings began in the
> Masterworks Division with Berstein's MESSIAH in Dec. 1956. Columbia
> finally got a three-channel 1/2-in. Ampex machine, just one at first,
> in summer 1957. Afterwards, sessions were often recorded in mono (a&b
> sets), 2-channel stereo (or binaural, c&d sets) and one 3-channel with
> a different mix than the binaurual. As soon as more three-track
> machines arrived, the 1/4-in sets were discontinued.
> 
> This post is longer than I originally intended. Mea culpa.
> 

Thanks for a very informative post which was not a word too long.

Regards
-- 
Don Cox
[log in to unmask]

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