I once went into debt to acquire one of these beautiful machines and wish I didn't sell it in the early 80s. At the time, it was still possible to rock up (!) to some concerts, set up a pair of mikes and start recording. Try that today and you will probably thrown out or end up in jail for the night!
There is obviously no better medium that a first or second copy of live or studio recorded material. Proof, if you needed one, is that there a new proliferation of re-releases of master tapes onto Blu-Ray or DVD-A or as 96/24 0r even better, 192/24 digital files, or new pressings of 180g vinyls. The reason is that it is a very good way to get back to the source of the original recording with minimum alterations, and in some cases, with the proper digital processing, an increase of quality on the original, as noise is reduced and various artefacts removed.
For the real aficionado, with some deep pockets preferably, the ultimate treat is to acquire a copy on these master on tape and to play them back on refurbished/upgraded original equipment from the era.
So, as our festive season gift, I thought I would assemble for you a collection of photos of tape recorders gleaned from the web or from my personal collection of photos taken on shows. Both the CES and the RMAF we had a good collection of stands using tapes and tape recorders as their primary source! A sign of the times? I let you be the judge of this...
On a technical side, it is to be noted that most machines were limited to 15kHz bandwidth until the 70s, and we have to credit the Japanese manufacturers to push the boundaries with semi pro machines claiming a bandwidth exceeding 25kHz. Analog tape is also quite forgiving for accepting peak levels without generating too much distortion, then improving dynamic range in the process if managed smarly. Furthermore, the disc cutter had a certain tolerance in pushing the levels into the red just enough to gain a few dBs of dynamic range, without compromising the spacing between adjacent grooves. Kit Lambert, the producer of The Who, was famous for instructing Brian Carroll to "keep the needles in the red" on the VU-meters!
From the US of A
And from France...
As most of us, after Uni, I got a job, married, bought a house, had my first boy, and basically speaker design was still there, but in the background. There was a venture into making special solid state preamps for the film industry, but that was not very successful, to say the least...
I worked for a while for the importer of Stellavox, the only competitor to Nagra, and got quite a kick out of selling these beautiful machines, eventually buying one for myself, and going places to record live music with it.
Eventually, I joined Hewlett-Packard in their Test & Measurement Division, and that changed my life, as suddenly, I was making good money, was exposed to the most up-to-date technology, and had access to some very sophisticated gear, including impedance meters and FFT analysers.
And I met a friend, Pierre, who would be the trigger for my next commercial project.
It was the time when the MIDI systems were introduced, still based on turntables, and most of the time, supplied with speakers in plastic boxes that were not doing justice to these miniaturised Japanese electronics that were quite decent.
So, an idea started to germinate in my mind: there probably was a market for a small speaker of the highest quality, at a decent price, to replace these speakers supplied with these MIDI systems...
Our next post will take through the genesis of these little marvels.
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.