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Re: [ARSCLIST] PreRecorded Tape Duplicators

Hi Mike:

As I mentioned in my first reply to Steve, Leon Wortman's operation was definitely mono, circa 1952. There were definitely mass-duped commercial half-track mono tapes sold in the pre-1956 years, and the first 2-track stereo consumer record/play decks from Ampex, the A series, only recorded in half-track mono. This makes perfect sense from a 1955 perspective since radio and LPs were only available in mono. It also was a big plus for the record companies since the consumer could not easily copy his friend's $20 2-track reel! The later (1958-ish) 900 series added a second record channel.

Perhaps of interest to Steve and other younger collectors of these old magnetic media relics, Ampex's first consumer-oriented machine was the play-only deck based on the 600 transport. It was in a nice wooden case and they also sold wood-case versions of the 620 amplified speakers to go with it. They made a nice "wow, this is stereo" demo tape for that machine that featured some of RCA's earliest stereo material. Their later demo tape, for the A series machines, included material from RCA, Concertapes, Livingston and Omegatapes. That demo tape was also done in quarter-track to accompany the later 1200 series machines. The A, 900 and 1200 machines were all the same belt-drive transports. The later F series was a varient with some improvements. The audio quality was actually very good on those machines (quality Ampex heads, tube electronics similar to the 351 circuits and using Telefunken and Mullard tubes, even decent quality microphone preamps minus transformer-balanced inputs), but the transports were awful -- even in their day, despite golden-tinged memories to the contrary. The pro/broadcast 600 series portable decks had _slightly_ better transports but still wow/flutter-prone belt drives. Even back when these machines were new, people who wanted and made high-quality music recordings used the heavy duty but not-so-portable 300 and 350 type machines with their heavy-duty transports.

-- Tom Fine

PS -- one interesting topic for a study on taping and copyrights might be to look at how advertising treated the taping of copyright material over the years. Early Ampex literature emphasized using microphones to tape Little Johnny's recital and made mention of taping radio programs and records. By the 1980's, TDK used to run ads on The King Biscuit Flower Hour and other radio shows featuring a guy who had a huge LP collection "but I only play them once," to tape onto a TDK SA cassette that was his prime playback medium. But by the end of the cassette era, everyone talked freely about handing out "mix tapes" and "giving your buddies tapes" of favorite albums. Ads for blank cassettes and cassette decks rarely if ever featured the act of recording a live event. I wonder if all of this reflected the public's declining respect for copyright or if it fed it, and also if it fed the reaction of copyright holders, which was to create the current draconian and non-standard US copyright system?

----- Original Message ----- From: "Michael Biel" <mbiel@xxxxxxxxx>
To: <ARSCLIST@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Thursday, April 09, 2009 6:32 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] PreRecorded Tape Duplicators

Early on in the 2-track days, there was a brief format war between Magnecord's staggered tracks and Ampex's stacked tracks. Ampex used its market-share muscle to quickly kill the staggered format, and Ampex personnel argued vehemently for a standard format in several industry publications and meetings of the time. I have a few staggered-format tapes. As long as the tape itself isn't too warped/shrunken, I've had good success fixing the staggering in Soundforge, and ending up with a properly-phased stereo image. In some cases, adjustment was required every 10 minutes or so, but that was with somewhat warped tapes.
-- Tom Fine

carlstephen koto wrote:

I do have a few staggered heads, 1/2 tracks (The Atlantic) and I'll do as you suggested and transfer them in my editing software.

Steve Koto

If you have an Otari it is easier than that. On probably all but the later Mark IV versions (but maybe even on them) the record and play heads are the proper distance apart (I think it is 1 1/8 inch.) So all you have to do is put the back track in Sel-Rep and the other track in Repro and the tracks are in sync. Of course if the tape has stretched or shrunk it will need further adjustment. That is the reason why the staggered-head system was rejected by most in the first place!

In the US, I think Ampex owned the "plug and play" duplication market into the 60's.

Actually the proper phrase from the pre-computer day is "Turn-key". All the client has to do is turn the key to open his door and all the equipment has been installed ready to use.

It should also be added to this history that there were some monaural pre-recorded tapes sold going back to 1951 and possibly even earlier. RCA Victor had a series of mono pre-recorded tapes that pre-date and continued to run parallel to their stereo tapes. (I have their first mono tape and it has a printed leader.) They did not fall into the trap of making the same recording available in both mono and stereo tape. If it had been mastered in mono, it was sold in mono. If it had been mastered in stereo, it was sold in stereo. And there are several things that were on stereo tape that never made it to stereo LP.
Mike Biel mbiel@xxxxxxxxx

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