Commercially-released albums were made on 24-track tape machines for a very long period of time, approximately 1971 – 1995. Now, before 24-track machines were available there was always the possibility of ping-pong’ing, which can get you 8 solid-sounding tracks on a 4-track machine (and at least 20 on an 8-track) , and at some point in the 70s engineers were able to lockup two 24-track machines to get, I imagine, 46 tracks of audio plus timecode. But as early as 1973, Stephens Electronics of Burbank offered another solution: a 40-track, 30 IPS 2″ tape machine that still promised 40 – 2oK response. Users of these machines apparently included Leon Russell and Roy Thomas Baker; can anyone positively confirm any well-known records that were made on the Stephens 40-track?
A helpful dude has made the original Stephens catalog/spec sheet available online; click here to download the PDF (not my link).
Let’s get back to that advert tho… WTF is going on here?
There’s clearly some sort of Venus/Aphrodite metaphor at work here, but what exactly IT ALL MEANS remains a mystery (at left, a painting of Aphrodite by Fowler). I could find one other similar-period Stephens advert, and it’s a little quirky, but not as bizarre as beach-lady.
Many former Stephens users report that the machines compare well to Studer and Ampex in terms of sonics. They were also designed for utmost mechanical and electronic reliability; designer John Stephens apparently had a background in aerospace engineering. The machines seem to be few and far between these days, commanding prices well above that of similar vintage Studers.