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Re: [ARSCLIST] PreRecorded Tape Duplicators
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
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
----- Original Message -----
From: "Michael Biel" <mbiel@xxxxxxxxx>
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.
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
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.
In the US, I think Ampex owned the "plug and play" duplication market into the 60's.
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