The earliest tape I could find in the RCA vaults was from 1949.  Seth Winner once told me that he found a Toscanini concert recorded on tape by RCA in 1948, which is certainly possible (the musician's strike of 1948 meant there are almost no RCA commercial recordings from that year).  I found tapes for all the 1949 RCA Red Seal sessions I remastered (Heifetz, Horowitz, Kapell, Rubinstein, Monteux, Stokowski, Toscanini, etc.), except one.   I'm pretty certain that the Kapell/Dorati/DallasSO Prokofiev Piano Concerto No 3 session of January 7, 1949 was recorded only on wax and lacquer, not tape, but that could be due to the fact that it was recorded in Dallas, TX, or perhaps because it was done so early in 1949.  As an additional caveat, there are some 1949 and 1950 RCA classical recordings that today exist only on metal, but other recordings from those sessions exist on tape.

I never found any paperwork that discussed the switchover from wax to tape at RCA, nor whether some metals were dubs of tape or simultaneous recordings.  I do know that EMI started simultaneous recording with tape in October 1948, and that they eventually switched over to dubbing 78 metals from those sessions tapes.

Jon Samuels

 From: Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask] 
Sent: Friday, June 22, 2012 5:52 AM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Magnetic Tape/Recorders
I agree with Mike except to say that Capitol and Mercury started doing most recording onto tape in the 1948 timeframe. Capitol was one of the first customers for the Ampex 200 and later 300 model tape machines, at their studio in California (I don't think they had their own studio in NYC in those days). Mercury used three early adopters of tape recorders for much of their recording in the late 40's -- Radio Recorders in Hollywood, Universal Recording (Bill Putnam) in Chicago and Reeves Studios in NYC. Reeves was fully equipped to do both tape and disk recording in 1948, as detailed in a series of articles in one of the magazines of the day, reprinted by Fairchild (the main supplier of recording equipment to Reeves at that time).

That said, concurrent disk and tape recordings were often made, at least in the case of Mercury, based on session books I've seen. If a complete take yielded a master, then the disk was probably used for production because it was "direct cut" with a successful take. If editing was required, or re-recording (primative over-dubbing), then tape was more likely used for the convenience and fidelity. I don't think there were any hard and fast rules, everyone was learning and experimenting.

Hopefully Dennis Rooney and others will chime in about Columbia and RCA. I do think they were more conservative about switching over to tape.

Mike is correct that in reality, there was nothing new under the sun. Hollywood had perfected sound-on-sound, re-recording and mixing techniques and equipment in the early days of optical film recording with rooms of motor-locked optical dubbers.

By the way, ARSC member Scott Smith has written a superb series of articles of (IATSE) 695 Quarterly magazine. Googling on "When Sound Was Reel" (Scott's series title) yields the site right away. Here's the link to all the past issues:
Scott's series started right with the first issue in Spring 2009, and continues in the current issue (link to that on the front page). Relavant to this thread, see Scott's article on the transition from optical to magnetic recording in Hollywood.

-- Tom Fine

----- Original Message ----- From: "Michael Biel" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, June 22, 2012 12:45 AM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Magnetic Tape/Recorders

You've asked a bunch of questions that have been discussed here many
times, and it is tough to go through it all again.  Last question first,
overdubbing was possible way before tape recording.  It was common
practice in film production, and was even done on disc.  Even Les Paul
was doing it on disc before he started using tape.

In a quick oversimplified paragraph, in general, broadcasters started
using tape before the record companies.  Jack Mullen was recording Bing
Crosby's Philco Radio Time from the second season on tape -- the first
season was recorded and edited on disc.  ABC did their Daylight Saving
Time delay recordings on tape in 48.  For various reasons the major
record companies stayed with disc mastering into 1950-51 with occasional
uses of tape from 49 on.  But all the first year or two of LPs were disc
dubs with one major exception.  Murrow & Friendly's "I Can Hear It Now"
was tape mastered and edited, with release in late Nov 1948 on LP & 78.
"South Pacific" is said to be Columbia's first major session with tape
used as a back-up in 49.  One of the CDs was issued off the tape, but
had to be recalled because they used a shortened take of "Carefully
Taught".  I think they went back to the disc masters after that for the
CDs.  Tape was used more in 50 and 51, but by 52 and 53 just about
everything was being mastered on tape.

There have been books written on the equipment and there are plenty of
websites.  The Brush Soundmirror was one of the first portable machines
in 1947, and RangerTone, Magnacord, Stetchel-Carlson, and of course
AMPEX followed in the next year, among others.

Mike Biel  [log in to unmask]

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [ARSCLIST] Magnetic Tape/Recorders
From: rod smear <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Thu, June 21, 2012 9:57 pm
To: [log in to unmask]

Reading about the Spanish Civil War here, I'm reminded of a book I've
finished reading, called ZigZag, about WW II british spy/espionage, and
to wondering about the German magnetic tape machines that were found in
Germany during/after the war. What were the first U.S. record companies
use this medium for recording? When? Anyone know the progression of
in this field? Equipment? Wasn't this the beginning of having the
to overdub easily?