Regarding tape vs. disk ...
1. in the very early days of commercial tape recording in the US, the electronic distortion going
into a tape head and going into a disk cutterhead were about the same. We don't have any
brand-new-like tapes from that era to playback now and really test about the magnetic media being a
lower-distortion carrier than the etched groove. In the case of working with used/vault-stored music
masters from the late 1940's and early 1950's, it's entirely possible that an unscratched and
well-preserved laquer disk, direct-cut from the same source as a tape from that era, will today
sound better than the tape. The paper-backed and acetate-backed tapes have well-known physical
life-span issues, and many were not stored optimally over the years. Furthermore, magnetic tape is
susceptible to damage from magnetic fields, and lacquer disks are not. Net-net, 60-70 years down the
line, it's possible and in fact likely that a disk source made from the same recording buss as a
tape source in that time era might sound better with proper playback. But, at the time, when the
tape was fresh, I submit that the playback equipment of the day would greatly favor the tape.
2. no matter how you cut it, disk recording and playback is compromised by the fact that it's a
mechanical system very much observant f the laws of physics. Lacquer disks are known to have
"memory," where the groove closes back slightly within the first short time period after cutting. A
disk played back for listening in 1945 sustained damaged right then and there, irreparable damage,
due to the heavy and non-compliant playback systems of the time, they essentially re-etched parts of
the groove. There are ways to somewhat mitigate this, tracking in other parts of the groove with a
compliant modern stylus for instance.
3. where the disk is likely to shine vs. tape of that era is in the transient attack and time-smear
areas. Simply put, excellent direct-to-disk recordings of that period did not have the problems that
scrape-flutter and other mechanical differences in each tape pass cause. However, this can be fixed
today -- Plangent Process. I do think the combination of direct-to-disk recording and the groove
velocities allowed by 78RPM can produce the "tactile" sense that disk fans talk about, and tape of
that era would come up short in comparison -- aside from the mechanical time-smear issues, the disks
could accomodate greater short-term dynamics that would reproduce on a system with adequate speed
and power, whereas tape would saturate and brickwall-limit the dyanmics due to the physics of
4. I can't understand how anyone would prefer rumble and whoosh groove noise over tape hiss. All
recordings of that era were noisy, but tape was less so. I submit that a person who can't hear and
is not at least somewhat annoyed by the rumble has inadequate bass response in their playback
One man's opinions ...
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Carl Pultz" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Sunday, September 20, 2015 10:11 AM
Subject: [ARSCLIST] Reiner/Pittsburgh
> 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 Seth
> did twenty years ago is astonishing. It completely passed me by at the time.
> 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 back
> 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 suggests
> that their falling high frequency response must have been compensated, given
> 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 anyone.
> TIA to anyone who can replace my speculations with facts.
> Carl Pultz
> Alembic Productions
> Rochester, NY
> www.alembicproductions.com <http://www.alembicproductions.com>