That's remarkable. Even the portable rigs?
I guess the same is mostly true of tape recorders, with the weak link there being the magnetic
media. However, there are famous incidents like the Miles Davis "Kind of Blue" 3-track machine
running slow (which must have been something really out of whack with the machine's mechanics, given
that those Presto machines had AC capstan motors and every other machine in the room that day ran
on-speed, meaning the AC line frequency wasn't to blame).
The late Bob Eberenz told me that about 10% of magnetic tape had one problem or another back in the
day. Audiotape was usually slit well but sometimes had what my mother called "nodules" on the
surface, little bumps that cause low-frequency noise and, in the worst cases, dropouts. Scotch tape
would sometimes have oxide-shed problems, according to Bob. He said no one ever regretted running
two recorders in the Mercury truck, because there were definitely cases where one tape sounded much
better than the other. Also, Mark Wilder at Sony said that A and B reels sounded differently on most
of the Miles Davis sessions he remastered for the mono box set (see my review in the latest ARSC
So Mike, why didn't wax blanks have more problems? Was it the fact that cutting on wax is a
brute-force affair so there's more tolerance for media imperfections? In other words, the system is
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Michael Biel" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Thursday, September 04, 2014 3:45 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Accidental stereo (again)
> From: Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>
> Date: Thu, September 04, 2014 6:54 am
>> I've always been surprised that MOST big recording sessions
>> didn't involve backup recorders in the pre-tape era. I guess,
>> during the depression, musicians cost less than backup equipment.
>> It's ironic that once tape came along, it became standard practice
>> among anyone who could afford it to run two machines at expensive
>> recording sessions
> Here's the answer. Do you know how often there were disc cutting
> failures in the pre-tape era? NONE. Or practically none. You can look
> at the ledgers. It is amazing to consider, but disc cutting whether on
> wax or lacquer was nearly perfect throughout the history of recording.
> Do you know why they sometimes DID run back-up machines when they were
> cutting to 78 masters? It was to be able to have a second master to use
> of an expected big hit for when the first master wore out. Again the
> ledgers show it. The back-up masters are not used until the regular
> master wore out.
> It was not the expense of the back-up equipment. It was the expense of
> the WAXES. And the processing of the waxes. Many companies during the
> depression only cut one take. Or, if they knew they did not like the
> first take and did record a second take, the first take was not even
> processed, and the wax was shaved and reused. Sometimes immediately.
> Mike Biel [log in to unmask]