Still more useful info. Thanks!
Did one or more of the UK or maybe one or more on the continent rock-oriented studios have 3M?
Wasn't one of Phil Collins' early 80s albums done digitally, maybe in Switzerland or Germany?
I remember seeing a demo of the 3M system at the AES in NYC, either 1979 or 1980, whichever year
they were there at the Waldorf Astoria (this was before the Javits Center was built, and now,
ironically, a modern AES could easily fit back in the Waldorf with much room to spare). 3M was
handing out a packet that was LP sized in an LP style gatefold jacket. I kept it for years but
stupidly tossed it along with many other vintage brochures and catalogs when I moved out after
One other 3M tidbit picked up from old Billboard articles. As I reported and sourced for my ARSCJ
article, that Sound80 record made on the prototype 3M system that won the Grammy was supposed to be
a direct-to-disk session. There were equipment problems, and the producers decided they liked the
sound of the 3M digital better than what was coming off the D2D lathes, according to pro-sound press
reports at the time. In Billboard, the producer elaborated somewhat, and was quoted with some
hindsight since the record had already won a Grammy. The producer stated that they were using a
parallel tape system because the Copland "Apalachian Spring" required a 25-minute side, which was
nearly impossible with manual D2D cutting (although, back in the Mercury days, George Piros was
essentially cutting D2D since he had no preview head or computerized margin control; the system
employed for both Mercury and Command with "live" 3-2 mixing to the disk cutter was that the
producer acted as a "human preview head", reading ahead in the score and using hand signals to tell
George when loud or soft parts were coming up so he could tighten or loosen the margin and depth
controls). So, at Sound80, a rehearsal take was recorded to tape and then sync'd with the live D2D
recording, with the tape running through a preview head and thus controlling the Neumann computer.
The producer reported to Billboard that the system did work, they were able to cut more than one
complete take and fit it to a playable LP side, but "everyone" preferred the sound of the 3M digital
master, so that was used to cut the release product (although he stated that an approved D2D master
also existed, but I've never seen a retail copy, only the "direct to digital" version that won the
Grammy). By the time the producer was interviewed by Billboard, Sound80 studios was equipped with a
non-prototype 32-track 3M system, and a central theme of the article was that more recordings were
scheduled with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.
As we've discussed on this list before, the Billboard archive at Google Books is very helpful. Alas,
in recent months they've reduced the resolution and the zooming, navigation options. If Billboard
would charge a halfway reasonable price, I bet they could easily sell their archive on DVD disc or
USB flash drive to more than a few people and institutions. Their MO is to charge ridiculous amounts
for low-quality photocopies of old articles, based on first-hand experience.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Goran Finnberg" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, November 09, 2012 8:17 AM
Subject: [ARSCLIST] Early digital recording history -- a couple of followups
> Tom Fine:
>> 4. Based on what I gathered from Billboard and other research,
>> it seems like 3M sold a couple of dozen 32-track plus 2/4-track
>> mastering decks in the U.S.,
>> I imagine they sold a handful or more machines to DGG and I'm
>> not sure if there were other European users.
> Polar Music Studios here in Sweden aka "ABBA" the pop group owned two 32
> tracks and two 2/4 tracks machines.
> Polar Music Studios are no more but the 3M units are still available if my
> memory serves me by contacting http://www.mastersofaudio.se/ which is Polar
> Music Mastering in a new guise.
> Best regards,
> Goran Finnberg
> The Mastering Room AB
> E-mail: [log in to unmask]
> Learn from the mistakes of others, you can never live long enough to
> make them all yourself. - John Luther
> (")_(") Smurfen:RIP