Hi Bob:

For the Mercury Living Presence, the 3-track was indeed the master. Two machines were at the 
sessions, the A and B machines. The A reels were edited and then the 3-2 mix was made at mastering. 
Same was true for the CD's, by the way. No intermediate step as long as the 3-track masters were 

Since the Mercury 3-mic/3-track system was an expansion of the single-mic method, it was still 
centered (pun intended) around the single-mic pickup, the center channel. That was always set first 
and set to pick up the entire program. The sides were set up to add width and depth and height, 
hence a true stereo pickup. The center channel was bridged and fed to the full-track mono recorders. 
So what you have with a Mercury mono record, at least up until 1964, is the same thing you always 
had -- a single-mic pickup. The mono masters were edited separately, based on the stereo editing 
notes, and the mono disk master was cut separately, from the mono full-track master.

Now, when the stereo disk master was cut, a 2-track tape was made, bridged off the 3-2 mix buss 
headed to the disk-cutting chain. This tape could then be used to cut overseas production parts or 
make duped-reel masters or whatever. Thankfully, those tapes were archived along with masters and B 
reels from sessions. The Mercury CD's are more specific than any other reissues I've ever seen 
except maybe Mosaic jazz sets as to the exact source of the CD in the box. Collectors will note 
that, while most of the CD's were made from the 3-track master tapes, in some cases the only sources 
that could be located were the 2-tracks made at the time of disk-cutting. Collectors will also note 
several cases where the original LP was mastered from 3-track 35mm mag-film but only the 3-track 
tape could be located for the CD reissues. That 3-track tape is an original session tape, not a copy 
of the 3-track film, so the only difference in sound is the inherent difference in an Ampex 300-3 
vs. a Westrex 35mm 3-track.

In both the LP and CD mastering, the 3-2 mix was made by Wilma Cozart Fine, the producer. Just to be 
clear, she also had final say on the sound-field at the sessions.

Anyway, the whole idea of the Mercury method was, one mic per channel and no tape-generation-loss 
between recording session and release media. The Command team followed similar methods with Command 
Classics -- 3-track film master was edited and 3-2 mix was made at disk-cutting.

-- Tom Fine

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Bob Olhsson" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Wednesday, August 27, 2008 8:11 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Tape Degradation (was ELP Turntable & earlier RIAA EQ software)

> -----Original Message-----
> From George Brock-Nannestad: "...From interviewing the resident cutting
> engineer at EMI Denmark I know that he corrected many things on the master
> tapes he was presented with, in order to get a passable mechanical signal
> for the singles and LPs he mastered.
> We also know that the mixes available from mono and stereo, and single, EP
> and LP of the same selections were entirely different around 1960, and I
> suspect that in many cases the master tapes were basically the same. However
> I have not evidence for that..."
> There are several deterioration issues to consider.
> First off, international releases were generally sourced from tapes that are
> two or more analog generations down from the master tape. I understand this
> was done because of enormous duties on metal parts in most countries.
> Around 1960 most major label masters were mixed live to mono tape. Stereo
> was derived from a 3 track "safety" master which was typically divided into
> left, right and a vocal or soloist track. A notable exception was RCA Victor
> and later Monument Records engineer Bill Porter here in Nashville. He
> recorded a live stereo mix and folded that down to mono because he didn't
> care for the sound of the three track machines. A great disappointment is
> that the mono reissues of Roy Orbison's classic Monument recording "Oh
> Pretty Woman" sound way better than the stereo which suggests the original
> master has not been used for stereo.
> Another exception was Robert Fine who recorded to a three track machine and
> mixed it down to stereo in the mastering room. Maybe Tom knows if a mono
> master was generally recorded at the same time.
> Bob Olhsson Audio Mastery, Nashville TN
> Mastering, Audio for Picture, Mix Evaluation and Quality Control
> Over 40 years making people sound better than they ever imagined!
> 615.385.8051