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Deal All,
    To reply to some of Shiffy's questions, using my little grey cell (no
books to hand) :
(1) Western Electric disc-recording certainly wasn't exclusive to record-
companies by 1927, when the first synchronous sound films using discs began
to be made.
(2) Having done disc-cutting myself (for radio and in my own studio), I can
tell you that, whenever a "take" goes wrong, it always seems to do so within
the first thirty seconds. Therefore there would always be a number of
partially-used waxes lying around, which could be used creatively in two
ways :
(a) As instant-playback media, to help musicians and producers work towards
a sound or a tempo or a balance which would be suitable for the 78rpm
medium. (However the two major companies here - UK EMI and UK Decca -
generally said that something to be processed into metal would *never* be
played, at least in the days of wax).
(b) In the 1930s, such waxes might be used for mastering smaller-diameter
discs. Here in Britain we had many makes specialising in 8-inch or 7-inch
78s for sale in stores such as Woolworth's.
(3) Many years later, when microgroove began to be used, my own researches
show that when (say) 78 media were moved to 45 or 33, *the same equalisation
was used* in the days before tape-mastering! This in turn suggests that in
the late 1940s, cutting-engineers were using the same method for testing a
disc-cutter as I used. The idea was to record some sound (almost any sound
would do), and play it back two or three revolutions later while the
wax/lacquer was still being cut. Then switch the sound to *the pickup*. The
sound would then go round and round through the playback and recording
processes, and any faults anywhere would soon become magnified and show up
clearly, eliminating the problem of the hiss of the vacuum pipe masking
subtleties.
(4) Again, stuff sent for processing was not meant to be played, but I
occasionally sent lacquers to the factory after playing one or two suspect
passages, and never had any complaints.
Peter Copeland
former Conservation Manager,
British Library Sound Archive.

-----Original Message-----
From: Art Shifrin [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: 05 May 2004 21:10
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Robert Johnson recording equipment query

Without having adequate ARC engineering documentation, and or detailed
photographs of the session in progress, only a speculative description will
be possible.

At the very least, the recording set up would have been comprised of:

cutting lathe
cutting head & stylus
recording amplifier
microphone
media

When doing this kind of research, it's advisable to test your conclusions.
If one were to get as far as deducing the make & model #'s of the lathe,
cutter, amp & mic.  Then, trade journals and catalogues should then be
consulted to confirm that the equipment that is tentatively thought to be
ID'd even existed at that time.

Another possible source of information about which companies were using
which equipment would be papers (published contemporarily or in retrospect)
in Journals of the AES and SMPE (now SMPTE).  Publicity photos published in
trade and record journals might also help deduce what was being used by a
given company at a given time.

This raises a question that I'd never before thought about.  Assuming that
its use of Western Electric electrical recording equipment by U.S. Columbia
and its affiliated labels was initially exclusive, by when were they able to
use their own designs, or other manufacturers' equipment?

Here's another question about pre-tape recording sessions: playback on site
/ in the studio of the masters.  I have a SMPE Journal circa 1929 which
describes a W.E. playback arm & pickup that was specifically designed to non
destructively playback wax masters to assure quality control prior to
plating and pressing.  Was this done  by commerical record company
engineers?  Did the practice apply to lacquers once they replaced wax?  Was
it done in non W.E. equipped studios?

Having spent so much time with Raymond Scott and Jack Poppele (founding
chief engineer of WOR)  some 30 years ago, I intensely regret that I didn't
ask them more specific questions about the technology that they were then
using.

Shiffy


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