Tag Archives: magnecord

The Fairchild Model 540 Mic Preamp/ variable EQ/ Cutterhead amp c. 1945


Extraordinarily rare, way ahead-of-its-time Fairchild mic preamp/ continuously-variable 2-band boost-eq/cutter-head amp from 1945.  Built as a limited-edition model, very few were made and this could be the only example remaining.  This one was (professionally, it appears) modified very long ago for use with a Magnecord (likely PT6) tape machine, unit is otherwise complete with tubes and a working, good-sounding Jensen Alnico PM8ct speaker.  Mic and line transformers appear to be Kenyons.  Unit removes from its road-case for standard rack-mounting.  Condition poor to fair; needs complete restoration.  With some work this could be the ultimate marquee-rack unit for your world-class studio.   Came to me on a trade and I have no other information on it; AFAIK, schematics are not available online but being as it is circa 1945 technology, it should be repairable by any experienced tech.  Fairchild_540_advert_1945Fairchild_539_540(above: catalog image with companion Fairchild #539 portable lathe)Fairchild_540_nameplate


Magnecord History: The Book: circa 1950

MagnecordIncCoverMagnecord, along with Ampex, was one of the first manufacturers of professional 15ips hi-fidelity tape machines in the world.  While not remembered as clearly as their rival, Magnecord built a tremendous number of machines, and many of them have survived to this day.  We have two at Gold Coast Recorders and after minimal repairs they still work just fine, nearly seventy years after their Chicago manufacture.

Magnecord_Advert_1950I picked up our two Magnecord PT6s at the Elephants Trunk flea market a few years ago for $25 each, and shortly after posting some new recordings made that I with the PT6s I was contacted by D. Boyers, son of Magnecord co-founder John Boyers.  D provided us with an incredible amount of impossible-to-find archival material from Magnecord; you can start to dig through it at this link.

Magncord_foundersFast forward to 2015: D. recently located a long-lost 45pp book that Magnecord created in 1950, presumably for the purpose of pitching new business to the US Government.  In his words:

“I have uncovered what appears to be a very complete book detailing several aspects of the very early years. This 45-page document provides an inside look at the roles of key personnel within the organization, including several photos of workers and assembly facilities in the early factory.

The book appears to have been put together in about 1950, four years after Magnecord was first organized, and it lists several of the early accomplishments of the fledgling company, including their first year of a million dollars in gross sales. (Back when that was serious money)”

You can download the entire 45pp volume (posted as five PDFs due to file size) at the links immediately below:  DOWNLOAD:






EngineeringDepartment_MagnecordThis book offers an incredible look into the very first days of professional magnetic recording as well as capturing the enterprising spirit of a young pro-audio company growing fast and seeing limitless possibilities ahead.  Enjoy –

MetalWork_magnecord Magnecord_Installation Magnecord_Army  FinalTestingStation_Magnecord DraftingRoom_MagnecordRecordHeads_Equalizers_magnecord

Rare Tony Schwartz Interview/Profile From “Better Listening Through Hi-Fi” July 1957

Tony Schwartz is a towering figure in the worlds of audio production, advertising, and media studies.  I recently came across a very obscure, AFAIK never-before-reproduced (feel free to prove me wrong here guys…) profile on Schwartz from the July 1957 issue of “Better Listening Through High Fidelity” magazine (h.f. ‘BLTHF’). As far as I can tell, BLTHF was an advertorial publication distributed gratis via electronics retailers in the 1950s.  The author of the piece is Robert Angus.


If you are not familiar with Schwartz’ work, read this basic profile here.  Schwartz ranks alongside such luminaries as Brian Eno, Janet Cardiff, Morton Subotnik, and not too many others in my personal  pantheon of audio greats.  Schwartz is widely recognized to be the first person to successfully conceptualize and properly exploit the possibilities of tape-recording-as-art.  Not music recording or music production, mind you, simply documentary tape-recording. Schwartz then took this hobby, essentially, and went on to create one of the most significant careers in the history of advertising and media production as a producer and director of commercials.  His most famous production, which I teach in not one but two of my classes at the Uni, is the spot known colloquially as ‘Daisy.’ If you have never seen this short piece of film, take sixty seconds to watch it below.  You will see a no-budg spot that many media pundits acknowledge as having possibly decided one of the most crucial presidential elections in US history, an election that, had it gone the other way, could (and yes this is a stretch) have significantly altered the course of all human history.  Watch the spot:

NEways…  so, so much has been written about ‘Daisy’ that there is literally no way I can add anything new to the conversation.  Which is partially why I was so thrilled to uncover SOMETHING about Schwartz-in-his-salad-days that seems to have been largely overlooked.  As far as ‘Daisy,’ a quick google search will reveal much more than I could offer at this point in the evening, two-drinks-in as-it-were.  One more point before I go… in case you were wondering what brand of tape machine Schwartz was using for his editing work in the 50s:

Yup that’s a Magnecord.  If you are interested in learning more about Schwartz, let the man himself speak to you.  I recommend first his excellent book “The Responsive Chord.” For a buck-o-five you got pretty little to lose and maybe a lot to gain…


I have an upcoming session with an artist who wants to keep the album all live, very raw.  I am expecting it will be a fun session.  The material has a classic RnB/blues vibe, so I am considering running some live mixes to GCR‘s circa 1950 Magnecord PT6 along with the Pro Tools multitrack.  But which brand of ancient 1/4″ tape to use?  Perhaps these circa 1952 audiotape ads will help decide the issue…

Magnecord Tape Machines used for early stereo experimentation

Above: an unpublished photo from the collection of David Hall, courtesy T. Fine.

T. Fine: “Bert Whyte was an early Magnecorder dealer located on Long Island NY. He was also an early enthusiast for making 2-channel staggered-head binaural recordings. Whyte was a friend of Bob Fine, the engineer responsible for the Mercury Living Presence single-mic mono recordings in the early 1950’s. Fine and David Hall (Mercury’s recording director at the time) let Whyte tag along on several recording trips to Chicago and Minneapolis, where Whyte made experimental 2-mic binaural recordings for his own personal use and to demonstrate the abilities of the Magnecorder. This photo shows White and his binaural rig in the front of Bob Fine’s recording truck. In the foreground at left is a portion of one of the two Fairchild full-track mono recorders used to make the Mercury recordings. Photo date is likely 1952 or 1953.

Bert Whyte went on to write an influential record-review column for Radio & TV News, later Electronics magazine. He was also a founder of Everest Records, where he oversaw engineering and recording of the well-regarded Everest classical records. After Everest went out of business, Whyte returned to journalism, writing for Audio Magazine from the 1960’s until Audio ceased publication. Whyte also continued to engineer and produce records over the years. Probably his best-known later recordings were the direct-to-disc records made for Crystal Clear Records in the late 70’s. At the Crystal Clear D2D recording of Virgil Fox, a parallel recording was made using the prototype Soundstream digital recorder. Those recordings were later released on CD, titled “The Digital Fox.” Whyte was an early enthusiast of digital recording, praising the Sony PCM-F1 recorder in the pages of Audio Magazine. He ran PCM-F1 backups of his direct-to-disc recordings in London, also for Crystal Clear Records.”

UPDATED: The Very Early Magnecord SD-1 Wire Recorder

Courtesy of PS dot com reader H. Layer come these images of his Magnecord SD-1 wire recorder.  Magnecord ran a respectable second to Ampex in the development and proliferation of professional audio-tape recorders in the Unites States in the 1940s and 1950s.  You can find a tremendous amount of information regarding the various Magnecord tape machines on PreservationSound.com (you might want to start here), as well as many recent recordings that I have made with my Magnecord PT6 machines.  Anyhow, it is a small but important footnote in Magnecord history that their first attempt at a recording device was not a tape recorder but instead a wire recorder.  H. Layer relates the following:

“Years ago I acquired Magnecord’s only wire recorder, the SD-1.  After considerable research, I found out that Russ Tinkham (Ed: one of the four founders of Magnecord INC) was retired and living quite close to me …he was delighted to see the SD-1 after many decades and we became good friends. Photo of my SD-1 attached.”

SD-1 aspect fixed_B_100LAbove: helpful reader Art Scifrin provides come additional information concerning the SD-1.

Magnecord PT6 c.1950 used in contemporary music production

It never ceases to amaze me how many people navigate to this website as a result of searching for Magnecord tape-machine information.  Until I bought a pair of PT6 machines last year, I had no awareness of them; since then, I am continually discovering more and more evidence of the role that Magnecord played in mid-twentieth century broadcasting and recording in the United States.  Moreover, my two machines (previously owned by the University of Connecticut; purchased by me last year for $25/each) now work great after I performed some restoration work.  This is no mean feat for sixty-year-old tape recorders which were subjected to the harsh treatment of student-recordists for untold decades.  Anyhow, you can hear some early test-recordings that I made with the PT6 shortly after I restored them:  listen here and here.    Since I recorded that version of “Hallelujah,”  my two PT6’s  have been parked in the entryway of our studio Gold Coast Recorders.    Clients often inquire about them, surprised to learn that they are in fact functional; but it was not until last week that they actually got used on a session.   Take a listen to the track below and you can hear some of the wonderful music of Keith Restaurant.  Keith’s been a frequent visitor to Gold Coast since we opened our doors in April and he makes music that you might call minimalist, or noise music, or process music;  it’s inherently impossible to categorize.  With this sort of ‘organized sound,’ every listener needs to find his/her own way in.  The following piece is from a set he recorded called ‘computer music.’  You are hearing a single live take of several performers manipulating the harddrives and power supplies of live laptop computers, amplified with induction mics and guitar amplifiers.  The Magnecord PT6 is the primary recording medium, and several generations of re-amping and re-tracking (via our UREI 809 studio playback monitors) in the big live room at Gold Coast were layered to create the overall piece.

LISTEN: KR_CmptrMx_Track2.mp3

Since the sounds that composer Keith Restaurant organize in this music have essentially no reference point (I.E., none of them are sounds that you or I would have heard before), every element of the production process is incredibly important in creating meaning.  In this way, the Magnecord PT6, with it’s peculiar frequency response, distortions, and flutter, is being used in a very significant way; it is a primary component of the sound, rather than an ‘effect.’  This contribution is intensified by the multiple-generations of recording and re-recording via the PT6.  It is also interesting to note than even in the longer (4:00) piece, the PT6 deviated less than 250ms over 4:00 relative to the Pro Tools safety copy.  This is great news for anyone who wants to fold one of these into their working process.

You can learn more about Keith Restaurant at his blog.


Magnecord Historical Archive Material Part VI

Today we’ll wrap up our series of original-source documents pertaining to Magnecord corporation, one of the pioneers of high-fidelity recording.

Click each link below to download the corresponding issue of ‘Magnecord INC,’ the company’s in-house publication.






As I noted earlier in this series, these documents are fascinating because they reveal a culture beginning to grasp the potential of affordable, widely accessible audio-recording.  Each issue of ‘Magnecord, INC’ describes what were essentially new-ideas as far as recording and playing-back sound in various artistic and commercial/industrial applications.  Consider the example above: the New Haven fire dep’t circ 1951.  Notice that there is no mention in this piece about enhancing public health and/or safety: here, the Magenecorder is being used to “..protect() the city and the fire department against complaints.”  While I am not saying that this was the birth of ‘PYA,’ aka, ‘Protect Your Ass,’ it’s certainly an example of an early milestone.  “This call is being recorded for quality and training purposes.”  Here’s where it began…

So many tape recorders.  So much tape.  So much to record.