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Author Topic: the 2 track era  (Read 16845 times)

Offline steveidosound

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the 2 track era
« on: November 30, 2011, 08:09:33 am »
Anybody ever research  the year and label issue of the first 2 track stereo pre-recorded tapes and also what were the last ones to be issued before 4 track took over completely in, I would guess, the early 60s?
Steve Williams

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Offline docb

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Re: the 2 track era
« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2011, 11:56:01 am »
Staggered or in-line?

("What do you mean? An African or European swallow?")
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Offline ironbut

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Re: the 2 track era
« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2011, 02:58:35 pm »
Hi Steve,

The earliest commercial tapes I have listed in my catalogs is 1956. I'm not sure about stereo but the 1958 Harrison Tape Guide (winter) has more stereo tapes listed than mono (single and dual track).
I believe that the Harrison Guides started in 1957 and were up to 6 issues a year by '58 and oddly enough, the Winter 1958 catalog is 58 pages long. 27 pages of it is stereo listing.
Regarding the staggered/in line heads question, many companies who produced staggered head stereo tapes (like Livingston), continued to do so even after they began to release "in line" 2 tracks (at least for a while). This kind of blurs that cut off date.

There was a discussion of commercial tape releases on the ARSC list about a year back (IIRC). I don't there was a solid answer on exactly who and when the first tape releases made it to the public but the darts kept hitting 1956 (although we guessed there might have been some "special releases" which weren't sold to the general public,.. worlds fairs/special events/speeches etc).

Regarding the last 2 track tapes that were released, I heard of some folks calling themselves The Tape Project that are still hangin in there.
Seriously, I'll check my catalogs and add a reply to this thread sometime in the near future (it'll give me a good excuse to clean up my scans).
steve koto
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Offline MylesAstor

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Re: the 2 track era
« Reply #3 on: November 30, 2011, 10:02:12 pm »
Not exactly but what I remember are that R2R tape reviews came out in Stereo Review and High Fidelity about two years before stereo LPs. I think the first (Audio Fidelity) LP review was in '57.
Myles B. Astor
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Offline steveidosound

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Re: the 2 track era
« Reply #4 on: November 30, 2011, 11:53:43 pm »
Not exactly but what I remember are that R2R tape reviews came out in Stereo Review and High Fidelity about two years before stereo LPs. I think the first (Audio Fidelity) LP review was in '57.

Yup, about 1-2 years before the stereo Lp.

As to staggered or inline, I think staggered was first by a bit but not sure why I think I know that. Magnecord and VM had players.

 The Ampex home player was about 55 or 56 also.

I just wanted to know if anyone had any idea when RCA, Columbia etc. (or any of the smaller guys) stopped production in favor of 4 track. Did some linger till the mid 60s for example, making both?

I would call the Tape Project more of a "revival" of the format, but really it is the extension of the pro master tape into the high end "consumer" world. But I guess a stereo Ampex player was "high end" for the mid 50s !
Steve Williams

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Offline stellavox

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Re: the 2 track era
« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2011, 07:18:42 pm »
I just checked my 2 track list, as I remembered that I had listed the earliest listed dates for some of the recordings/labels.

Audiosphere wins!  It's first tapes were issued in May of 1954!.  Looks like the Boston label followed sometime in 1955.

Charles

Offline ironbut

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Re: the 2 track era
« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2011, 07:36:49 pm »
Excellent Charles!
I was hoping you'd see this thread. I took a quick glance at your list but didn't see any dates ( I guess I shoulda looked a little closer!).
Do you remember the earliest Harrison Tape Guides you saw?
steve koto
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Offline steveidosound

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Re: the 2 track era
« Reply #7 on: December 03, 2011, 12:18:52 am »
Yes, but not to be _too_ insistent, when did it end? When were the last of the 2 tracks listed? I mean, were there any smaller labels that soldiered on with the format well into the 60s for example? I know some of the majors issued in both formats, but did they do it "serial" or "parallel" at least for some period.

BTW, the 1st  Ampex 2 track inline home deck was based on the 600 series transport. It was called the 612 and could be used with 2ea. 620 powered speakers for a complete portable stereo playback system.
http://reel2reeltexas.com/vinAd56Ampex612Rev.jpg [nofollow]
Yes, I have one, along with the speakers - in need of restoration  - of  course...
There was also apparently a version in furniture finish wooden cabinets as well.
(see lower right corner of 1st image or this one -
http://reel2reeltexas.com/vinAd56Ampex612-1.jpg [nofollow]
I think these would qualify as the first stereophonic devices for home playback - except if VM had a mono recorder with stereo companion amp / speaker out before that. It would have been staggered format as was the Magnecord which was THE 1st stereo recorder I think.

OK, from the Voice of Music website faq -

Q7-5: I have a switch on my V-M tape recorder with two positions called ?Stacked? and ?Staggered?. What does it do?

A7-5: First, a little history. The very first stereo format was on reel to reel tape! V-M Corporation offered a conversion kit for the venerable Model 700 in 1955 - some three years before stereo records and five years before stereo FM broadcasts! The first format? Very simple - take a second half track monaural head, turn it upside down, and mount it to the right of the existing monaural head. Connect it up with another pre-amp and you have the ?staggered? stereo tape format! The tapes were recorded with the starting points of the ?L? and ?R? tracks ?staggered? so that both signals would be in sync when picked up by the playback heads. This format is also called ?offset?. In 1958, as magnetic head manufacturing capabilities improved, the ?stacked? or ?in-line? format was invented - and remained the broadcast standard for many years - the so-called ?half track stereo? format. The V-M Model 714 was a hit because it had a switch to play both the newer ?stacked? and older ?staggered? formats. In November of 1959, V-M brought out the Model 720, one of the first on the market to play the new ?quarter track? stereo tapes.


aaand a reference to the Magnecord PT6-BN (for binaural) tape machine, which while not a consumer machine, seems to have pre-dated all. -
http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~hl/s.html [nofollow]
« Last Edit: December 03, 2011, 12:40:04 am by steveidosound »
Steve Williams

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Offline ironbut

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Re: the 2 track era
« Reply #8 on: December 03, 2011, 01:41:55 am »
Wow, great stuff Steve!
Just looking at those two mono cartridges on one arm makes my head hurt.

I did look at my Harrison Catalogs but unfortunately, I'm missing the critical years for this inquiry. I also looked through most of my 1/2 track tapes but unfortunately, only a few are dated.
It would appear that the RCA releases are dated. Maybe one of the other members here who has a number of the 1/2 track RCA's could post the latest dates listed and the recordings. We could cross check to see if the same release was being made in 1/4 track the same or an earlier year.

BTW, "Direct to Tape" releases were supposed to be available in several forms. 1/4 track, 1/2 track,  7.5 or 15 ips, Dolby B, C or DBX encoded. These were made in the early '80s. The only ones I've had any personal experience with have all been 7.5ips, 1/4 track and either Dolby B or DBX encoded.(also available on cassette and digital cassettes).
steve koto
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Offline stellavox

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Re: the 2 track era - when did it end
« Reply #9 on: December 05, 2011, 09:21:47 am »
Steve,

I don't know if there was any "definitive" end to the era - I'd say that they/it just "petered out" -  due to plummeting sales -  once the four-tracks hit the scene in quantity.  My best guess would be around 1960. 

To be more precise - If someone wants to research when the "major" labels started issuing four-tracks - then either take that year or add one year to it.

On my list, I put certain "other" information, like dates, under the label heading before the individual titles.  Got most of the dates by looking back through early issues of the monthly "Tape Recording" magazine (or whatever it was called) to see when companies started advertising their wares.

Regarding "Direct to Tape", I did buy a few of their 15ips, 2 track offerings - with no encoding.  As I remember, they didn't have too many.  Got a organ tape which was nice but couldn't stand the music on the pop tape.

Charles
« Last Edit: December 05, 2011, 09:26:16 am by stellavox »

Offline ironbut

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Re: the 2 track era
« Reply #10 on: December 05, 2011, 01:53:49 pm »
I think I've got the same organ Direct to Tape (Norman MacKenzie at Trinity Cathedral) except mine is  1/4 track, 7.5ips and Dolby B encoded. I'm glad to hear that they actually did make some 1/2 track, 15ips tapes and it wasn't just something that was printed on the boxes.

For others that don't know, Direct to Tape was cut from the typical "audiophile" releases cloth of the time (early-mid 80's) The music is performed by artists who generally didn't have recording contracts (often up and coming) in halls with interesting acoustics. Even the artwork reminds me of the Mark Levinson Labs records which were released around the same time (IIRC).
At least with the ones I've heard (all 1/4 track,7.5ips), there isn't anything that special with these releases and many of the Barclay-Crockers sound better to me.

edit;
I found that DTR is still in business and that they specialize in organ music (so it would be a surprise if Charles and my tapes are the same release). Here's the linky;

http://www.dtrmusic.com/

« Last Edit: December 05, 2011, 02:03:53 pm by ironbut »
steve koto
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Offline docb

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Re: the 2 track era
« Reply #11 on: December 05, 2011, 03:01:31 pm »
One should note that DTR is a misnomer these days. More like DTHD (direct to hard disk)
Dan "Doc B." Schmalle
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Offline Listens2tubes

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Re: the 2 track era
« Reply #12 on: December 05, 2011, 06:48:00 pm »
I wish DTR would release some 2-track 15ips of heir tape archive. 
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Offline astrotoy

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Re: the 2 track era
« Reply #13 on: December 07, 2011, 12:53:26 pm »
I bought 6 DTR R2R releases when they first came out. They were all in 4Tr 1/4in format. Unfortunately, ALL of them have suffered from Sticky Tape Syndrome and have been junked after baking and copying.  Larry
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Offline steveidosound

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Re: the 2 track era
« Reply #14 on: December 17, 2011, 02:27:29 pm »
So I visited our wonderful Computer History museum here in the Silicon Valley recently and noticed that they had in their display showing the evolution of memory devices an example of consumer magnetic reel to reel pre-recorded tape. Not just any reel mind you, but a 2 track copy of  Brubeck's "Time Out"  just stuck there on the wall near the much bigger reels of early computer data tape.
So, when I got home I decided to see if any examples existed on eBay. One was there so I decided to watch it.
I thought my prediction of a couple of hundred dollars was outlandish.
It ultimately sold for -  $$$ SIX HUNDRED AND SEVENTY SIX DOLLARS !!!
I knew that some 2 tracks had been going out of sight, but that is the most ridiculous thing I ever heard of !
There must be crazy amounts of money out there somewhere chasing the small supply of these sorts of things.

P.S. ! Just looked under completed items and a  2 track copy of Miles Davis - Kind of Blue  from the same seller went for - wait for it -  $770.00 !
« Last Edit: December 17, 2011, 02:34:36 pm by steveidosound »
Steve Williams

you don't want to know what equipment I listen to...