Category Archives: Connecticut Audio History

Content! We got fresh content! 1940 RCA Sound System Proposal: Complete Documentation

Man how long has it been since i’ve posted some actual historical archival material? Months? Years? The problem is not a lack of new documents; quite the opposite.  I’ve amassed, and continue to horde, so much of this stuff that its totally fkkn overwhelming.  I need like an intern or seven to even have a chance of getting thru all this stuff before leave this earth.  So yeah instead i’ve been on Instagram instead.  It’s so much faster and easier and WTF even is a blog anyway?

DOWNLOAD A COMPLETE 13pp 1940 RCA SOUND SYSTEM PROPOSAL:  1940_RCA_PA_Proposal

Somethings, tho, are just too weird and interesting to ignore.  I found this jacketed proposal package for a 1940 church PA system.  Just the sort of audio historical flotsam that probably no one else ever bothered to preserve.  I can’t stand to see this stuff lost.  So here ya go.  If you ever wondered what those gigantic RCA amps and weird 77 variants cost new, who bought em, and how much those UrSoundBros got paid to install it… ANSWERS WITHIN.  enjoy. CR

Rock Scene mag c. 1980 presents: The Connecticut Rock Report

RockSceneMag_Sept1980_coverDo YOU think Ted Nugent is sexxxy?

“ROCK SCENE” was a musician-oriented newsprint rag published out of Bethany CT from 1973 – 1982.  Now, Bethany is a sorta non-place just north of New Haven perhaps most notable for its Book Barn.   So the fact a new-wave/punk-loving magazine came out of here back in the day is pretty amazing.  NEways, I was flipping thru some cartons of old garbage at the Flea Mkt recently and I came across the 09/80 issue. Top story: CONNECTICUT ROCK REPORT.

DOWNLOAD THE 1980 CT ROCK REPORT: CT_Rock_1980

Being a rocker in CT is kinda like being a (what) in (where).  So, CT rockers of ’80: we salute you.  You are our past, and our future.

Crayons_FlyingtigersAbove: The Crayons.  The Flying Tigers

PArt2Above: Lytes; Eyes; Fast Fingers (Ewwwww (-Ed)); Jett

Part3Above: Napi Brown; Toys; The Orange Group

Part4Above: The Simms Brothers Band; Frankincense & Myrrh; Back To Earth Band

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BTW: some absolute nutcase, glob bless him, has scanned EVERY FKKN PAGE of EVERY FKKN ISSUE of ‘Rock Scene’ and you can waste a ton of  yr employer’s money by clicking this link

Reeves Sound Studios NYC (1933 – 197X)

Reeves_1948- Frances_Flaherty-Eugene_Ormandy-CRFAbove: Reeves studio A during music scoring for “Louisiana Story,” a 1949 Oscar nominee for Best Writing, Motion Picture Story. The soundtrack score, composed by Virgil Thomson, won a Pulitzer Prize.  L to R: co-director Frances Flaherty, conductor Eugene Ormandy, and C. Robert Fine, mixing engineer. (Source: T. Fine)

Considering that owner Hazard Reeves was the man responsible for introducing the magnetic soundtrack channel to motion-picture film, as well as being one of the developers of Cinerama, which prefigured both the stereo hi-fi music revolution and the IMAX film-format, there is surprisingly little information online regarding his Reeves Sound Studios (hf. RSS).  RSS was in operation from approx. 1933 – 1980, and although it was primarily a sound-for-picture facility, some important albums were cut there, including early efforts by Thelonius Monk, Charlie Parker, and John Coltrane.

Monk_at_ReevesMonk listens to playback at Reeves c. 1956.  Photo by E. Edwards.

PS dot com contributor T. Fine has provided some background on this important piece of recording history.  If any readers worked at RSS during its long history, please get in touch and tell us about it.

Reeves_1948-Eugene_Ormandy_conducts-Louisiana_StoryAbove: soundtrack recording session for “Louisiana Story” in 1948.  Eugene Ormandy is conducting the orchestra, with pickup via Altec 639 “Birdcage” microphones. (Source: T. Fine)

RSS opened its doors in 1933 (source: NYT). The earliest detailed account we have of its actual operation is a 1949 article by one Leon A. Wortman.

Click here to download a PDF of the article: Wortman-Fairchild_Studio_Design-low

Wortman’s piece(s) was originally published in the trade publication “FM AND TELEVISION” and subsequently re-published for promotional use by the Fairchild Recording Equipment Corporation.  T. Fine: “Reeves (Sound Studios) was full of Fairchild and Langevin gear. Buzz Reeves was good friends with Sherman Fairchild.”

Reeves_SchematicAbove: schematic for RSS circa 1949 (Wortman)

Reeves_ChannelA_cuttingroom_FAirReeves_B_roomReeves’ Room B c. 1949 (both above from Wortman)

Reeves_1948-CRF_Eugene_OrmandyAbove: Eugene Ormandy (L) and Bob Fine (R) work the Davens at RSS in 1948 (source: T. Fine)

T. Fine: “During the time my father worked for Hazard “Buzz” Reeves in the late 40s, he engineered jazz and classical records for Mercury and Norman Granz (who later founded Verve Records). Among the significant jazz recordings were “Charlie Parker with Strings,” some sides in Granz’s deluxe “The Jazz Scene” album, and Charlie Parker’s latin-jazz sides with Machito on Mercury.  Among the classical recordings for Mercury was the first U.S. use of the Neumann U-47 mic for orchestral recording: William Schuman’s “Judith” and “Undertow” performed by the Louisville Orchestra with Robert Whitney and William Schuman conducting.

“Here is a cut from the “Charlie Parker with Strings” sessions, followed by Charlie Parker with Machito and his Orchestra.

BobFine_ReevesCuttingRoomAbove: Bob Fine in the Reeves A cutting room, 1949.

Ed: Bob Fine would leave RSS in the early 1950s to build his own sound studio Fine Sound, which was purchased and then closed by Loews/MGM. In 1958, Bob Fine opened Fine Recording Studios on 57th Street.  You can read our account of Fine Recording Studios here and here.

T. Fine: “In the 50s, Reeves was the studio for a bunch of significant Riverside Records jazz recordings.

In a 2007 interview, Riverside founder/producer Orrin Keepnews (who’s still alive and in his 90s) talked about making a deal with Buzz Reeves to get the studio and engineer overnight at a cut rate if he block-booked chunks of days.”

“Not long after (1954), we made a long-term deal for a studio that was of great value to us..  (We) had become aware of Reeves Sound Studios in the East 40s. It was a big room—although easily brought down by screens and baffles to the small-group size we basically needed. The studio was used primarily for radio jingles and other advertising agency work. That meant it was rarely in use after daytime working hours. They agreed to give us almost unlimited time for a very low annual flat fee, provided our recording was basically done at night. It was a real meeting of needs. That low studio rate, and the quite reasonable union scale rates in that far-off deflationary period, made it possible for us to do a lot of recording with very little cash, which was a pretty essential factor in the early growth of Riverside.”  (source)

T. Fine: “It was perfect for jazz because Keepnews would have the guys come by to record after their club dates. He got a more relaxed but still tight feel than some of the Blue Note and Prestige sessions at Van Gelder, where the guys would often show up in daytime hours, off-kilter from their night-owl schedules.

“Reeves figured so prominantly in Riverside’s viability that some first-edition Riverside LP covers included a little graphic on the front boasting of “Riverside Reeves Spectrosonic High-Fidelity Engineering.” In the early stereo era, the “Stereosonic” replaced “Spectrosonic” in the logo.

“According to the Riverside Records discography located here, the sessions at Reeves began in late 1955 and continued until 1961.

TheloniusHimself (SOURCE)

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T. Fine: “In the 60s, Reeves turned more to sound-for-picture work, and they were an early TV-sound production center in NY. They later did a lot of sound mixing for videotaped productions, especially with WNET Public TV.  Reeves bought out Fine Recording in the early 70s, and Bob Fine then managed Reeves Cinetel Studios in the early 70s. One of the projects he worked on then was producing the sync’d sound masters for the simulcasts of Don Kirschner’s “In Concert” late-night weekly rock concert series.”

“RSS produced a 4-track 1/2″ tape that was sync’d to video by a 59.95 Hz signal on one track, stereo audio (fed to the simulcasting FM station) on two tracks and mono audio to feed the TV station audio (or mono radio) on the 4th track.”

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FirefoxScreenSnapz002T. Fine: “In 1972, Guidance Associates (still in business in Mt. Kisco NY) produced a filmstrip centered around RSS sound engineer Bill Brueckner. Bill’s work day described in the filmstrip involved putting the soundtrack together for a Cheetos TV commercial. The filmstrip shows images of a 1970’s sound-for-picture studio in action. Brueckner is shown working in two separate studios at Reeves. The studio where the commercial was made was the more modern studio. The console appears to be custom-made, probably using Langevin faders and internal parts. The second studio shown, where Brueckner is recording a voice-over later in the filmstrip, is older. Visible there are a Fairchild full-track tape machine, an Ampex 300 full-track, plus a very old mono console.”


T. Fine: “The filmstrip (with accompanying LP) was part of a set titled “People Who Work In Science,” probably aimed at middle school aged kids.  I found a mint-condition copy about 10 years ago; I assume a set was sent to my father since the ‘Sound Engineer’ strip was done at Reeves. I immediately transferred the LP, and eventually found someone to scan the filmstrip for me. Bill Wray, head of the AES Historical Committee and a retired Dolby exec, married the sound to the picture. He started out with side A of the LP, which has mid-range pitch manual-advance tones. He assembled the piece in Final Cut Pro and then laid over the side B audio, which had low-frequency auto-advance tones which I had notched out. We just recently finished it, got permission from the original publisher and posted it to the AES’ YouTube page. Thanks to Peter Haas for scanning the filmstrip and Jay McKnight for doing very good Photoshop cleanup on the images (the filmstrips were manufactured on that type of film stock that fades out to red over time).”

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And that’s pretty much all I have been able to uncover regarding Reeves Sound Studios.  Hazard Reeves himself was a very public figure with a great number of technologies and awards to his credit; he started sixty companies in his lifetime, won an Oscar, helped introduce the blender to American kitchens, and owned a major audio-tape manufacturing facility just a stones-throw away from where I grew up in Danbury Connecticut.

7-inch reel late 60s frontAbove: a 7″ reel of consumer-grade Reeves Soundcraft audiotape, manufactured on Great Pasture road in Danbury CT.  

10-inch reel 1957 front10-inch reel 1957 rearAbove and left: a 10″ reel of industrial-grade Reeves audiotape.  T. Fine: “Interesting data on the rear of the box. This was sound-for-picture music work done at Reeves Studio B. The engineer was “J.H.”, most likely Jack Higgins, the engineer who made most of the Riverside jazz records at Reeves. You see notes for “Pic-Sync Fairchild,” meaning the tape was recorded on one of the studio’s Fairchild tape machines using the Pic-Sync system, which used a tone modulated at 14kHz to sync with motion-picture cameras and projectors. I can’t fully interpret the take sheet, but it looks like they were scoring to picture, with timing marks indicating footage from the film projector.”

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HazardReeves_w_CineramaSoundHead_c1948Above: Hazard Reeves with a Cinerama 6-channel sound-head circa 1948

Cinerama_6_channel_console_C1952Above: an unknown audio engineer operates the 6-channel playback console at a Cinerama movie theater circa 1952.

The 3-camera, 3-projector, 6-channel surround-sound film format known as Cinerama has proven to be Hazard Reeves’ principal legacy.  There is a ton of information online regarding this far-ahead-of-its-time quirk of film history, so I won’t repeat any of that here.  But I would like to point out how interesting it is that although Reeves possessed the technology to create 6-track magnetic audio masters as early as 1948 (as evinced by the image above), he did not chose to apply this technology to music recording.  We can only assume that this was because the musical aesthetics of the day simply did not require it.  In 1948, live music was still the paradigm of musical-sound; there was evidently not sufficient demand to build a console and studio workflow that would allow for multitracking and overdubbing until a decade later, ever though the actual recording technology evidently existed.  This begs the question of what technologies we currently posses that could be put to the service of creating entirely new musical aesthetics, but which we are dismissive of, or simply blind to.

Nonetheless, Reeves’ diversified and energetic ventures reveal a man who boldly took advantage of the emerging technologies of his era to develop better and more effective communication products.   Reeve’s assessment of the relation between media form and media message is stated quite eloquently in this passage he wrote in the November 1982 SMPTE Journal:

PullQuote

Show, don’t tell.  That’s the message here. And ultimately this is remains the critical factor in creating meaningful artwork and communication, regardless of the tools and technologies used to produce it.

EML Synths of the 70s part II

EML_1976I came across a few more EML (Electronic Music Laboratories) bits that I will share with you.  I’ve written a little about EML before, as they were based in Connecticut and lets face it, I am never getting out of this state. Anyhow, click here for our first EML article, and click here for coverage of the 1976 EML SynthKey, which was likely the first synth with aftertouch.

I’ve yet to be contacted by anyone who worked at EML in the 70s.  Folks, if yr out there, drop a line…  the world needs to know…

EML_101_1972The EML model 101 synth

EML_100_1972The EML Model 100 synth

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Synare_PS_1976Bonus 70’s CT synth-times: The 1976 Synare PS by Star Systems of Stafford Springs CT.  Looks pretty righteous… anyone?

CBS Volumax and Audimax circa 1964

CBS_Audimax_1963 CBS_Volumax_1964 CBS_Limiters_1965CT!  CBS labs, Stamford, 1963 – 1965.   These CBS units still seem like the ugly ducklings of the vintage limiter market.  I have had 3 of the later solid-state audimax 4440’s in the basement for the past 3 years.  They work fine.  No one wants em!  Eventually these will be re-discovered by some hotshot mixer dude and prices will rise.  The 4440 is so goddamn complicated inside, its like a fkkn analog computer.  Anyone using the Audimax and/or Volumax lately?  Drop us a line and let us know…

Scully kit of the early 1960s

Scully_270How are y’all doing today…  long-time readers will know that there is a lot of Scully material on this site… Scully was a Bridgeport institution; I drive by the ole Scully plant everyday on my way to the studio.  Not sure what goes on in that large brick structure these days, but many years ago it was turning out most of the lathes that were cutting LP masters in the US.  Scully tape machines were never as ubiquitous as their lathes, but were a big part of the US recording scene nonetheless…  Scully was a small family-owned company that competed favorably with Ampex, and this itself is notable. Anyhow…  at left is the Scully 270 transport, and below, I found a couple of period adverts for the 280, which seems to have been their most successful tape-machine design, if the number of surviving units is any indication.  My friend Sal sold his 280 -two-track AND 4-track machines, together with carts and racks, for $1000 last year…  and it was hard to find a buyer even at that price.  I will probably forever regret not buying them myself, but…  you can’t have it all, can you…  Anyhow, if you are using a 280 these days, drop us a line and let us know whatcha think.

For more Scully info, click the links below:

The Scully Model 100 16-track machine

Larry Scully interview and history

The Scully 601 LP Lathe

What’s inside a Scully 280?

Scully_280_1964Scully_280_1965

Loft Model 440 Console on eBay

Loft_1

Several years ago we ran a couple of pieces about LOFT AUDIO, a 1970’s era Connecticut Pro Audio manufacturer.  LOFT founder Peter Nimirowski got in touch with us and provided some never-before seen factory photos and documentation.  Click here to read the initial PS dot com article, and then click here for the follow-up with Peter’s comments.  Anyhow, a decent-condition LOFT 440 Console has finally turned up on eBay, and if it wasn’t tax-time you know I’d be buying this thing.  As with any 40-year-old piece of audio equipment, caveat emptor.   Click here for the eBay auction. BTW, whatya think all those vintage-70’s API-type knobs are worth? Prolly close to the BIN price…

Loft_knobs Loft_Meters

UPDATED: Cook Labs Test Records Circa 1952

CookLabs_LP10_CoverSeveral weeks ago I ran an article on Emory Cook, binaural recording pioneer and Connecticut entrepreneur.  Click here to read that piece.  T.F. contributed the wonderful and very-hard-to-find resources for that article, and we follow up today with some scans of a notable early Cook Labs product: the LP10 test-record.  You can download several of these resources here:

Emery Cook – Test Records brochure

Emery Cook – Series 10LP test record sleeve

Emery Cook – Series 10LP data sheet

Emery Cook – Series 10 Test Record Technical Bulletin

Cook_feedbackCuttter************

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I have a small collection of Test LPs myself, but I know nothing about the history and development of this type of product. T.F. graciously provided some background in the comments section, and I have reproduced that text here to facilitate easier reading:

“The way I understand the history (of test records), both RCA and Columbia produced microgroove test records when they developed their microgroove formats (45RPM 7″ disk for RCA, 12″ and 10” 33 RPM disks for Columbia). But these test disks were for professional mastering places, playback equipment designers and manufacturers, etc.

The Cook record seems to have been aimed at both professionals and serious hobbyists who were building and/or setting up phono playback equipment. Cook was also clever with marketing, this record proved the quality of his cutting equipment. In the early days of the microgroove, I don’t think there were very many other options for the hobbyist beyond the Cook record.

In 1954, when the industry adopted the RIAA curve, a bunch of semi-professional “test and demo” records came along, sometimes including calibrated test tones and sometimes just including “tracking challenge” music and sound effects. There was another bevvy of “test record” releases when the stereo LP debuted in 1958. In the 70s, we had more.

From the early days of the stereo LP, the CBS Labs test records were the standard device for designing and building playback equipment.  The Command Stereo Test Record was made at Fine Recording. It includes calibrated tones to set level and check frequency response, as well as a phase test and a silent groove to test for rumble. Side two is a narrated tour of some Command pop tunes pointing out what to listen for, to determine if the cartridge is tracking correctly.

The most recent calibrated test record is from Analogue Productions. Its levels test out to be accurately described and it is well calibrated to the RIAA curve, so it’s quite useful for setting levels, balance and testing the frequency response of a cartridge. It’s also got a useful test for wow and flutter and a speed-check tone (which shows that many of the modern lower-priced belt-drive turntables don’t hold 33.3RPM due to cheap motors and cheap platter bearings). The Analogue Productions record is very well manufactured, on quite and pretty much tick-free vinyl.

One big thing that test records have shown me is how many cartridges have uneven channel-to-channel levels and sometimes uneven frequency response. In the lower priced world, you can’t beat the Denon DL-110, it’s super-flat and nearly identical channel-to-channel (3 different units tested, manufactured over a 10-year period).