Dear Tom,

The comment you quote ("we always used this third-generation tape to cut
LPs so it's good enough.") was certainly true of Columbia Special Products
and (from comments to me from those who worked on RCA Victor material)
RCA/BMG CDs. I can attest that as of 1991, Sony Classical via Tom Frost and
Gunther Breest decreed that all CD reissues be produced from original
edited masters (3-track 1/2") and unedited safeties when needed. "Two
tracks" were henceforth despised as unsuitable. Pre-tape source was to
originate from surviving lacquer masters. There was a halfhearted
admonition to consult the original released Lp version as a remastering
guide, but in practice the intention was to optimize the superior quality,
hitherto unheard, of the edited originals. Such editions as Bruno Walter,
Glenn Gould and the "Royal Edition" Bernstein series reflected that
production philosophy. From 1992, I supervised the search for original
surviving source, housed at IMAR in Rosendale, NY and effected the
re-organization of the stored material to improve retrieval success. The
release schedule was heavy and I made usually two and sometimes three trips
to the facility to locate needed source. Many stereo masters were
discovered that had never appeared on Lp. The source for Masterworks
Heritage was considerably more problematical but all releases in the line
came from the earliest material that could be found. The 1903 Grand Opera
Series was the most complicated and time-consuming production of the series
but is something that I am particularly proud of. I only wish that we had
the digital tools that have emerged in the two decades since Seth Winner
and I began working to achieve the best sound possible from as many copies
of original discs and two surviving metals as could be gathered.


On Wed, Mar 26, 2014 at 8:02 AM, Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>wrote:

> Unless a producer is willing to make a 3-2 mix every time a new mass-media
> master is made, you have to make a 2-track "cutting master." It's worth
> noting that almost all overseas LP issues of Mercury Living Presence, as
> well as all reel tapes, record-club LPs and some LP reissues were made from
> second-generation (or later) tapes. At the original LP cutting sessions,
> the 3-2 mix sent to the LP cutter was also recorded to 2-track tapes. These
> were then sent to overseas affiliates, sometimes dubs of these tapes (3rd
> generation) were sent overseas. Dubs (3rd generation) were sent to the
> record clubs (which cut their own, lower-level, squashed-dynamics
> versions), and reel tapes were at least third generation, usually 4th
> generation.
> Notable exception to these trends are some early stereo-era EMI releases
> of Mercury albums. In those cases, EMI was sent either laquers or metal
> parts to press at their plants. These records contain "FR" (Fine Recording)
> notations in the deadwax. I don't think this MO was followed during the
> whole time EMI was issuing stereo Mercury material. When Philips bought
> Mercury and took over European pressing and distribution, they worked from
> 2-track (second generation) tapes, and cut their own LPs (at lower average
> levels but with the same dynamics as USA Mercury LPs).
> I have long argued (and get very little traction with people who can make
> the changes) that all releases (CD, downloads, LPs, etc) should clearly
> state their source. The stupid three-letter codes on CDs are useless, they
> are a way to cover up using multi-generation tapes or inferior digital
> transcodes.
> Also, people who were in the reissue business in the 90s will back me up
> on this, it's not an overstatement to say that Mercury Living Presence CDs
> raised the bar on truth-in-advertising and reissue practices in general.
> When MLP succeeded in the marketplace and received rave reviews, everyone
> started going back as close to session tapes as they could, and the general
> quality of reissue CDs improved. It happened first with classical, then
> jazz, then blues/country/rock/etc. Credit definitely goes to the
> vault-diggers at the big labels, who dug in and found master media instead
> of relying on "we always used this third-generation tape to cut LPs so it's
> good enough." The later 90s advent of the DAW meant that first-generation
> session tapes could be transferred and re-edited, as long as reliable
> original edit notes still existed. To their credit, Sony and BMG made very
> audible improvements in their classical reissues if one compares
> first-generation and latest-generation CDs. Two great examples are RCA
> Living Stereos from the early "Gold Seal" days vs the hybrid SACDs, and
> Columbia recordings of Szell/Cleveland from the "Great Performances" early
> era discs vs. Dennis Rooney's Masterworks Heritage CDs. EMI also improved
> between early era and "Great Recordings of the Century" versions, but I
> don't like the Abbey Road love affair with hiss-reduction DSP. I'll always
> prefer original dynamics and "air" with the tape hiss.
> -- Tom Fine
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Carl Pultz" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 7:32 AM
> Subject: [ARSCLIST] When's a master a master?
>  There is another way to look at it. Those work-parts were left alone so
>> preserved from repeated use. They didn't suffer as the Decca Ring Cycle
>> apparently did (an assumption there as to why that's all worn out). Once a
>> really good release format came along, they were rested and ready. Also,
>> if
>> the originals had been lost, there were lots of secondary sources. The
>> pity
>> is it took so long, and buyers were denied superior product for years.
>> Treating the 2-track mix as the "master" also makes sense given the
>> occasional disaster that had to be addressed. The patching of stereo
>> masters
>> with bits from mono takes points to that. I'm thinking of Munch La Mer and
>> Reiner Symph Domestica; there may have been more or different examples.
>> Were the originals edited? Or was that left to the mix down masters?
>> Again,
>> posterity might have been served by not cutting up the originals. More
>> work
>> for Jon and Mark, et al. Hats off to them in any case. The complete Reiner
>> box is like a gift from heaven.
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
>> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Tom Fine
>> Sent: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 6:17 AM
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Fwd: [ARSCLIST] "Why Vinyl Is the Only Worthwhile
>> Way to Own Music"
>> As far as I know, the only RCA Living Stereo issues that are all from
>> first-generation tapes are the BMG SACD/CD discs. Jon Samuels and Mark
>> Donahue will correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that all of
>> the 3-track session tapes were mixed to 2-tracks, which were then edited
>> into "master" tapes. And, a third generation dub was often used to cut
>> LPs.
>> For the earliest stereo recordings, the ones made on the RCA 2-track
>> machine
>> at 30IPS, at least the earliest stereo LPs were cut from first-generation
>> tapes. Later LPs may have been cut from dubs (they must have been, because
>> the first generation tapes were still in good playing condition 50 years
>> later).....

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