Thanks to Carl Pultz for his kind words about my Reiner program. Later
postings have expressed the desire that I comment on Columbia's recording
technique from the forties. It was usually two stood mics in front of the
orchestra with highlight mics for ww and brass. The 44 was most often
encountered at that time. The 77s came later. Columbia invariably miced ww
too much on their orchestral recordings, a fault that persisted for decades
and was often cited reprovingly in reviews. In Reiner/PSO's case, Syria
Mosque recorded drily despite its size (as did Northrop Auditorium for
MSO/Mitropoulos), and the spotlight mics only dried everything further. I
never contemplated adding reverb because the sound of the masters really
didn't need it The audio quality was usually fine, especially the extended
frequency range. Most of the lacquers were in excellent condition, both As
and Bs. The use of the Western Electric 9A pickup helped to minimize
playback damage; in fact, most of the discs did not exhibit any degradation
on that score.
As to equalizing highlight mics on the road, my surmise is that it wasn't
done. The road crew in the pre-tape days was a balance engineer, two lathe
operators and a producer. A primitive mixer was used to set balances before
the sessions commenced.
When the Columbia lacquers were properly played back, only the mildest
noise-reduction needed to be applied. In many cases; the lacquers proved
quieter than the recording chain up to the cutter head. I am firmly in
agreement with Ken Wilkinson in attesting to the superiority of disc over
tape in my more than half century of comparative listening. Tape recording
was never intended as a mastering medium but a time-shifting medium.
Nevertheless, its practical advantages, e.g. editability, greater ease of
use, soon tipped the balance in its favor, but it was not superior audio
quality that did it. Both William Bachmann and Emory Cook demonstrated that
there was no difference in excursion between a heated stylus in free air or
in acetate lacquer.
That attitude clearly contradicts Tom Fine's assertion of the negative
expressed elsewhere; however, I know what I have heard. *De gustibus non
est disputandum*. However, I am grateful for Tom's high opinion of
To David Burnham's comment re Ysaÿe, we were extraordinarily fortunate to
discover that the negative masters of all but two of the original
recordings had survived in the metal parts inventory. We played most of
them back successfully with a bi-radial stylus. Where mothers existed, we
grew new stampers and had pressings made. The makeweight items on the CD
with the Cincinnati Symphony were done from laminated pressings. I am
extremely proud of that CD and my role in its creation. Along with the 1903
Grand Opera Series. Had we possessed in 1994 and 1995 the tools we have
today, even better sound could have been extracted from those acoustic
As to Randy Lane's query re the Bruno Walter Edition on Sony Classical, it
was produced from original 3-track masters and safeties of the stereo
sessions, and 1/4-in. tapes of the mono recordings, with additional lacquer
disc source for the earliest of his American Columbias. As the work was
done well, I'd be surprised in today's environment if the extant masters
were the basis of the budget reissue.
And here I must close.
On Sun, Sep 20, 2015 at 10:11 AM, Carl Pultz <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> I'd like to send sincere thanks for to Dennis Rooney for his talk and
> demonstration of the Reiner Columbia recordings at ARSC NY,
> &feature=youtu.be, and to Kim Peach for sharing it. The work Dennis and
> did twenty years ago is astonishing. It completely passed me by at the
> Even via MP4, the results are incredible, so I can imagine what the
> transfers must sound like. They certainly break down my stereo-centrism.
> Fascinating too is Dennis' comment about the virtue of lacquer discs vs.
> tape. I recall a late interview with Kenneth Wilkinson, who said the best
> reproduction he'd ever heard was from disc, not from tape.
> How much do we know about the microphone technique Columbia used at that
> time? There is a photo of Stravinsky recording with Cleveland ca. 1952-55.
> The only mic visible is a RCA 44, well back of the podium. I have to go
> and listen to those for evidence of other pickups, but the Reiners have
> evidence of wind spotlighting. Is it likely that in the 1940s ribbon mics
> would be the primary tools? My experience with ribbons for such use
> that their falling high frequency response must have been compensated,
> the strong and very clear high-end on those lacquers. Quite a feat to do
> that and maintain low enough noise floor. I guess that would have been a
> limiting factor for how many mics could be used, although at a time when
> noise was referenced to shellac, a little hiss may not have bothered
> TIA to anyone who can replace my speculations with facts.
> Carl Pultz
> Alembic Productions
> Rochester, NY
> www.alembicproductions.com <http://www.alembicproductions.com>
1006 Langer Way
Delray Beach, FL 33483