I dunno about digital mastering, but the 3M system was definitely first in rock, because it was a
true multi-track system that allowed punch-in and relatively easy editing. I was looking at old
Billboard mags via Google Books last night and picked up a couple of tidbits. Note these are
one-source, but the Ry Cooder tidbit is well known.
1. Stephen Stills recorded the first single session for rock music all-digital, using the 3M system.
This was at Warner Brother's studio out on in California, I think it was also called Amigo Studios
2. The first all-digital rock album was Ry Cooder's "Bop Til You Drop," which was recorded by Lee
Hirschberg at Warner Brothers using the 3M system. Hirschberg made a bunch of rock and pop albums in
that era using the 3M system, including Ricky Lee Jones' "Pirates."
3. 3M was very active getting their systems installed in California. They were in several major L.A.
and Hollywood studios by the end of 1980. As far as I can tell, they didn't get as wide adoption in
the big NYC studios. However, it was interesting to read that the first 3M system in NYC went into
Sound Ideas studio. Those who read by ARSCJ article may recognize that name -- it was where Denon's
system was used to make the first U.S. commercial digital recording, in November 1977. Archie Shepp
"On Green Dolphin Street" was the first album recorded, although Frank Foster's Denon album was
released earlier in Denon's numbering sequence.
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., with a heavy concentration in California.
I imagine they sold a handful or more machines to DGG and I'm not sure if there were other European
users. The total production run on the machines was probably less than 100, maybe less than 50, but
I could be wrong on that. I think as soon as the Japanese came out with multi-track, punch-in,
easily-edited systems they could easily kill 3M on price and thus won the day. Keep in mind that the
3M system sampled at 50kHz and I think all the Japanese systems stuck to the CD standard from Day 1,
so no sample-rate-conversion issues.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Randy A. Riddle" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Thursday, November 08, 2012 8:22 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Early digital recording history -- a couple of followups
> This discussion about the early days of digital recording and
> mastering is interesting.
> I'm curious about the switchover to digital for rock and pop. The
> first popular album I can recall being digitally mastered was
> "Syncronicity" by the Police on A&M. I also recall it was hard to get
> a good vinyl copy of Peter Gabriel's "So" that didn't have distortion
> - there seemed to be something about the way it was mastered from
> digital at the time.