I don't know what other company releases it may have preceded but Decca/London's first digital recording was a Christmas record by The Bach Choir directed by David Willcocks.
I'm surprised about the Mahler 7th! I was sure I had that recording as a 2 LP set in 1981 and was impressed by the clean sound - particularly in the 2nd movement.
> From: Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Sent: Friday, November 9, 2012 12:01:35 PM
>Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Early digital recording history -- RCA's first (according to Billboard)
>Ye olde Billboard via Google Books yields another tidbit ...
>Levine/CSO - Mahler #7 was RCA's first digital recording. Medinah Temple, July 1980. The Soundstream system was used, and according to Billboard interviews with both producer Thomas Z. Shepard and Soundstream head Thomas Stockham, it was a more elaborate setup than previous Soundstream projects. Stockham said that his tape machine (a Honeywell instrumentation recorder) was capable of up to 8 tracks, although the typical Soundstream setup was 4 tracks and usually (in the case of Telarc at least), it was duplicate stereo sends. For the Levine/CSO recording, Soundstream was sent 8 channels from RCA's recording setup. So two Soundstream electronics units were sync'd together and the 8 separate digital signals were fed to the tape recorder. One can imagine how slow the editing was with 8 tracks loaded into the DEC computer. This was all probably pushing the capabilities of the Soundstream system. According to several different interwebs sources, the record
wasn't released until 1982. I wonder if there had to be some R&D at Soundstream to get the project edited and mastered?
>-- Tom Fine