The earliest RCA stereo (or more accurately, binaural) recording

The earliest RCA stereo (or more accurately, binaural) recordings were indeed experimental, recorded by a different crew, using different equipment.  The simultaneously recorded mono was considered the master, and the producer of the mono recording was in charge of the recording, not the stereo producer.  (Don't forget, that RCA didn't even issue the stereo versions on LP until 1958.)  Also, there was only one binaural rig available, so some orchestral recordings were only done in mono, even as late as 1955.  Starting in 1955, the binaural became the master, and the mono became a mixdown of the binaural.

The one area I disagree with you is in the sound.  Many RCA binaurals, if one can find the original tapes, sound spectacular.  Some of the monos also have extraordinary sound, but all things being equal, given a choice between the two, I would choose the binaural in most cases.

Jon Samuels

On Wednesday, March 26, 2014 11:51 AM, Dave Burnham <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
It is my understanding that the earliest RCA stereo recordings were little more than experiments and were recorded by a different crew using different mikes and equipment. The resulting sound was very inferior to the mono equivalents. Compare mono/stereo versions of "Also sprach...", and Liebermann's "Concerto for Jazz Band...." by Reiner. 


Sent from my iPhone

> On Mar 26, 2014, at 6:17 AM, Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 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).
> RCA began using 3-track session recorders circa 1956. So the 1954 and 1955 stereo recordings were all or almost all 2-track and the first-generation LPs were almost all cut from first-generation tapes.
> It is also my understanding that Columbia was late to stereo, but jumped right in with 3-track, so all of their stereo LPs were cut from second-generation or later 2-track tapes.
> Back in the day, people either couldn't hear the sound degradation from each generation of tape dubbing, or refused to acknowledge it, or felt it was minimal and harmless compared to disk-to-disk or disk-to-tape dubbing they had probably done earlier in their careers.
> -- Tom Fine
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Carl Pultz" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 5:48 AM
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Fwd: [ARSCLIST] "Why Vinyl Is the Only Worthwhile Way to Own Music"
>> OMG. The horror is finally revealed. Did this also apply to the .5
>> "audiophile" LP series? They sounded lousy to me.
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
>> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Jon Samuels
>> Sent: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 11:41 AM
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Fwd: [ARSCLIST] "Why Vinyl Is the Only Worthwhile
>> Way to Own Music"
>> Early CD transfers had another problem. At RCA (and, from what I
>> understand, to differeing degrees at other record companies), edited reels
>> from the recording sessions were never used in the early CD days. The main
>> reason had to do with bookkeeping (and Jack Pfeiffer's belief that no one
>> could hear the difference, and therefore was not worth the trouble to track
>> down, find and physically restore the edited masters). From it's earliest
>> LP days, RCA maintained a system where every LP side (and later every CD)
>> had to have its' own tape. That meant that if an LP was re-issued with a
>> different number, the later LP master would at best be a first-generation
>> dub of the previous LP. Unfortunately, they took this a couple of steps
>> further. Three-track (and higher) masters were always mixed down to 2-track
>> for the LP. (One of the reasons this was done was to deliberately reduce
>> the dynamic range in the LP master before the cutting stage.) Each new
>> re-issue's tape master was a dub of the most recently released LP tape
>> master, not the original one. They continued this practice with early CDs.
>> Also, in later LP years, they often dubbed early 30 ips tape masters to 15
>> ips, and used those for later LPs with the same issue numbers. The
>> consequences of these factors was that early CD masters were sometimes as
>> much as seven or eight generations down from the original session tapes.
>> (It also explains why collectors often prefer earlier LP issues.)
>> The first RCA CDs that used the edited session tapes (called workparts in
>> RCA parlance) rather than dubs as their source material were the Artur (now
>> Arthur) Rubinstein CD series released in 1984, which was produced on CD by
>> Max Wilcox. That didn't become pretty much standard practice around RCA/BMG
>> until around 1988/9 (and even then, not in every instance).
>> This doesn't even allow for the improvement in the quality of digital gear
>> over the past thirty years (a subject written about here many times).
>> Best,
>> Jon Samuels