Tag Archives: tape machines

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:

Magnecord_1950_part_1

Magnecord_1950_part_2

Magnecord_1950_part_3

Magnecord_1950_part_4

Magnecord_1950_part_5

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

Highlights from the 1970 AES Convention, Los Angeles, CA

GRT_deckabove: the GRT 500 audio-tape evaluator c. 1970

Just in case you were too-young/too-hypothetical to have attended, we are pleased to bring you highlights from the 1970 convention of the Audio Engineering Society (via ye olde DB Magazine, r.i.p.).   You can download the whole shebang here…

DOWNLOAD: AES_1970_DB_mag

…and we’ve also reproduced it below for your browsing enjoyment.  Products on offer at that time include: mixing consoles from Electrodyne, Gately, Quad-Eight, Spectra-sonics, Fairchild, Langevin, and Altec.  Opamp labs had kits on offer as well.  Tape machines include 3M, Otari ‘of Japan,’ Teac 7030, GRT 500, Norelco (Phillips) pro-51, Sony Superscope TC-850, and Ampex. Dolby’s model 360 N/R system debuted, as did the Melcor ‘all electronic’ reverb and the Urei LA-3. New microphones on offer included the Electro-voice DS-35 and the Shure SM-53.

AES_1970_1AES_1970_2AES_1970_3AES_1970_4AES_1970_5AES_1970_6AES_1970_7AES_1970_8

Fostex “Creative Sound Systems” 1981 full catalog

Fostex_250Download the complete 12pp Fostex “Creative Sound Systems” 1981 (???) catalog:

DOWNLOAD: Fostex_1981_Catalog

Models covered in great detail include: Fostex A-8, A-4, A-2 1/4″ tape machines; Fostex 250 cassette four-track; and the Fostex 350 8x4x2 mixer.

Fostex_350_MixerInteresting feature on the 350 – and something that’s not at all obvious from the top surface – it has 2 stereo RIAA phono preamps which are patchable on the rear of the unit, presumably to whichever inputs or external gear you like.

I’ve uploaded a ton of information on these machines before (see here, here, and here), so dig back if you want more commentary…  otherwise i’ll let the catalog speak for itself…

Fostex_A4Fostx_A8 Fostex_A2

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

Stephens Electronics, maker of the 40-track analog multitrack machine (1973)

Stephens_40_track_1973Commercially-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?

moodyPensive lady

draggingDrags 132lb tape deck along beach

GreekNonsensical ‘greek’ placeholder copy tells us nothing

headlineHeadline hails the freaks

Aphrodite FowlerThere’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.

Stephens_ad_1974Any of y’all using these machines nowadays?

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.

Magnetic Film Recording (1953)

The Hallen Corp magnetic film-recorder circa 1953.  A bargain at $13,000! (adjusted for inflation)

The Stancil-Hoffman magnetic-film recorder circa 1953.

Everyone (that reads this website…) is aware that magnetic wire recording gave way to magnetic tape recording, which gave way to magnetic discs, which are currently being slowly phased-out in favor of motionless ‘solid-state’ memory (via i-am-typing-this-on-maybe-my-last-macbook-that-will-have-a-spinning-harddrive).  Progress is rarely purely sequential though, and just as there was the short-lived metal-tape recorder of the 1930s (see this previous post for info), the Ampex/Magnecord dominated early magnetic-tape era was challenged (for fidelity, at least) by magnetic film recorders.  Aside from their heavy endorsement from Fine Recording, I don’t know much about these machines.  Are any still in use?  What made them superior to magnetic tape, and why?  Let us know…