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pre-1970's era recording Dynamic Microphones
Old 2nd September 2007
  #1
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pre-1970's era recording

obviously, innovations and the development of technology made sound quality improve, but I'm still a little bit confused as to why sound recordings before 1970 had such low fidelity.

according to http://history.sandiego.edu/GEN/reco...rophones2.html - the 630A omnidirectional mic from 1938 had a frequency response of 30hz-15khz .. yet sound recordings from then sound nothing like a recording I can get today out of my crappy soundcard and an SM58

Old 2nd September 2007
  #2
Gear Maniac
 

Well,

Since the 60's, and if we are talking microphones, the 40's, little has improved in recording technology itself.

What has changed is is to simplfy grossly, the mixing aesthetics and master tape-> consumer chain. Of which the non-generation lossy and noiseless digital technology in all fairness has quite a bit of the honour.

People with accsess to master tapes of the great recordings from the 50's, 60's and 70's are not too impressed by todays fidelity to put it lightly.
Old 2nd September 2007
  #3
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Live to stereo or mono were often great before 1970. "Produced" recordings were often pretty bad sounding because of multiple analog tape generations. That ended with the introduction of 16 track around 1970.
Old 3rd September 2007
  #4
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absrec's Avatar
 

Someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think back in the days of vinyl, the mastering process included high and low frequency limiting so as to not damage the cutting head. Could this have something to do with it?

-Aaron
Old 3rd September 2007
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rhythmic5 View Post
... yet sound recordings from then sound nothing like a recording I can get today out of my crappy soundcard and an SM58

i have big band recordings from the 40's, some bling-era sinatra, some 50's jazz, maybe some late 60's beatles... they all sound incredible. you will never in a billion years produce a recording as sweet using your crappy soundcard and an sm58.

maybe we just have different concepts and experiences of 'fidelity'.


gregoire
del
ubk
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Old 3rd September 2007
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by u b k View Post
maybe we just have different concepts and experiences of 'fidelity'
YouTube - Take the 'A' Train= - 1930s

YouTube - Joe Henderson - Take the A Train= -
1990's ?

i mean like, higher sound quality or something
Old 3rd September 2007
  #7
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Empire Prod's Avatar
 

Look where the mics are in the two different examples you posted.
This is before the advent of close mic techniques.
Old 3rd September 2007
  #8
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this is kind of a silly thread...I mean, anyone who has heard a quality pressing of Nat King Cole's "After Midnight" LP could never argue that hi-fi recordings weren't made before 1970. I just think that you haven't heard many things pre-1970....

Also, the modern youtube clip had tons of hiss at the begining. Using video vs film clips played through a flash plugin may not be the best point of reference. Besides, the Duke clip was from a kinescope, which is a low quality film shot of a telivision screen and speaker. The "source" for that clip is second generation! (oxymoron)

Actual Ellington records from 1958 are incredible.
Old 3rd September 2007
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rhythmic5 View Post
obviously, innovations and the development of technology made sound quality improve, but I'm still a little bit confused as to why sound recordings before 1970 had such low fidelity.

.....yet sound recordings from then sound nothing like a recording I can get today out of my crappy soundcard and an SM58

Can you produce a Led Zeppelin II or an Electric Ladyland by Jimi? These are both 1969 and IMO there haven't been many albums that can top these.

Also a Billie Holiday vocal is just downright amazing. When I was about 15 when I first got into Zep I often wondered why the drums sounded so much better than the stuff in the 90's. II's drum sound was just FAT and Large! What more could you ask for. I don't know if anybody can produce that sound with a soundcard.
Old 3rd September 2007
  #10
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There were mastering mills that lopped off the lows and highs but most major label work was flat between at least 40 and 15kHz.
Old 3rd September 2007
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson View Post
There were mastering mills that lopped off the lows and highs but most major label work was flat between at least 40 and 15kHz.
So was the high end roll off a soft curve, or are we talking about serious limiting over 15k?
Old 3rd September 2007
  #12
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Be on the lookout for crappy mastering jobs. They're out there...rerecorded & repackaged. Pure evil...

The stuff that was already "classic" when the CD hit in the early 80's got its digital transfer in the first few years...when conversions & customary procedures for A/D transfers to CD were still being developed. AFAIK, some of those are still being pressed today -- or, at the very least, nobody ever bothered to go back to the tapes and do another A/D with updated equipment and procedures. Oops.

I, for one, was blown away (in a good way) by the audio quality on >some< of the Elvis "Singles" remasters.

Also, keep in mind that earlier productions were documentarian -- not about MAKING a sound so much as CAPTURING it. Even if engineers pay lip service to that concept these days, I don't think too many actually approach it that way -- maybe elements of that philosophy make their way through the process, but the artists of the 50's and 60's (and, to a lesser extent, the 70's and 80's) were professional musicians, week in and week out, record deal or not. They knew how to play and how to entertain. There just HAPPENED to be a mic in the room on the recording date.

So I doubt the onus was on getting the massive scooped-mids kick drum or the subsonic lows on the bass -- neither of which actually reflect reality unless your reality is represented by putting your ears INSIDE the kick drum...

(Not that I've ever close-mic'd drums, scooped mids on kicks and toms, or DI'ed a bass with thick compression or anything...)
Old 3rd September 2007
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rhythmic5 View Post
i mean like, higher sound quality or something

youtube? my man, you have to sit with me some time and listen to some vinyl; if you're going to talk about pre-1970's recordings, you would do well to evaluate them in the form they were intended to be heard, on a system that can showcase all that they have to offer. i got some brubeck from the early 60's, sounds like the players are right there in the room with you, every frequency is present and the textures are like buttah.

even so, despite the uber-crappiness of youtube, i prefer the 30's clip you posted. i wouldn't call it 'higher fidelity', but i find it more interesting and enjoyable to listen to. that may be because i much prefer the arrangement and performance of the 30's clip, which opens up a whole other can of worms about what matters most in recording.

still, my take is that you simply haven't heard reference recordings from the decades prior to the 70's coming thru a sound system that makes you want to cry. i triple dare you to come up with a vocal recording, using any equipment available anywhere, that sounds like frank in his heyday.


gregoire
del
ubk
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Old 3rd September 2007
  #14
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How about... umm I don't know, "Kind Of Blue?" 1959.

We've all heard that one. Tape hiss aside, it's sound quality is pretty amazing. There's a lot of great sounding Jazz records, from the 50's through the 60's, and some crappy sounding ones. Performances and musicality aside, does a modern Kenny G record "sound" better than "Kind Of Blue"?

Definitions get in the way. You may be confusing "High Fidelity" with "Hyped". The name of this thread should likely be changed to "I don't like the sound of old-timey records. Wah."

A lot of people think Steely Dan records sound amazing. I personally don't care for them, but a lot of people consider Aja to be a benchmark for good production. Is it High-Fidelity? Do they sound like people in a room playing music together? Does each instrument sound like a true and natural representation of the instrument in a room?

No. Absolutely not. The lack of "Fidelity" for lack a better word, is what people like so much about those records. (Surely it's not the music! )


Ever track a modern band? Do your rough mixes sound amazing to you? Probably not, or they'd be the final mixes! When do they sound good? When you've EQ'd to distort the tonal balance of each instrument, compressed to compromise the dynamic range, and rode the fader to upset the natural between player..

There's plenty of close micing on "Kind of Blue". Would the sound have been more accurate, and literally more "Hi-Fidelity" if they were placed in a room and recorded with an single stereo pair? Yes. Would this sound as "good" to you? Probably not.

I wouldn't knock the 1930's Ellington footage. Just imagine, that's a single mic, positioned far from the band, cut directly to Lacquer, and you can still hear a clear and faithful reproduction of every instrument. In a way, that's pretty amazing in and of itself. Here's what you're not hearing: hyped tops and upper midrange, extended highs, lack of noise. What makes it sound "bad" to you is the overall tonal balance and general lack of control.

You'd get a much better understanding of the progression of raw technology by listening to classical music. Again, there are good and bad sounding Classical recordings from any era, but once you get to the 50's and 60's there's a lot of amazing sounding stuff. However, even in this style there are preferred techniques and tonal balances that easily "date" these recording, even for an uneducated listener. If something has a sonic imprint that sounds "old" the average person will immediately associate that with "worse" regardless of whether or not it's a more accurate representation of the source material.
Old 3rd September 2007
  #15
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I agree it's a taste thing. No medium will ever sound like a live performance, so what do you want? I love my Henry Mancini records, Peter Gunn etc, low rider oldies, and have you heard the newer Roy Ayers stuff compared to his 60's/70's stuff? Same thing with Brian Auger/Tower of Power, newer CD's don't sound as "good" to me, even if the frequency response is higher etc. etc. I think a huge part of what the poster meant relates to technique, before multitracking; just hanging a mic or two from the ceiling.
Old 3rd September 2007
  #16
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Back in the day it was totally about mic selection an mic placement. That's pretty much all the guys had to work with and with this rather limited toolbox managed to create astounding results. In Merry Olde England the BBC guys were referred to as BALANCE engineers, as that was pretty much their whole gig...
Old 3rd September 2007
  #17
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Doesn't vinyl loose sounds over the years as well? Like the higher frequencies?
Old 3rd September 2007
  #18
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Bouncing, Pre-Mixing, as far as multi-tracks go. I hear generation loss.
The master tape would have top end loss after several spins.
Later they started working off slaves to cut down the wear.
Blue Thumb Productions-Audio Production Facilities

Stiff, I think it is "LOSE" not "LOOSE" sounds over the years.
Old 3rd September 2007
  #19
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The quality of the end product in Pop Rock production could be argued, but I was listening to a Lucia Di Lammermoor recording from 1950s the other day (it was on a Decca release I think, need to go and check again cos the CD cover was not around) but the recording quality sounded just outstanding to me. Simply superior. No other words to describe it.

B.
Old 3rd September 2007
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rhythmic5 View Post
obviously, innovations and the development of technology made sound quality improve, but I'm still a little bit confused as to why sound recordings before 1970 had such low fidelity.

according to http://history.sandiego.edu/GEN/reco...rophones2.html - the 630A omnidirectional mic from 1938 had a frequency response of 30hz-15khz .. yet sound recordings from then sound nothing like a recording I can get today out of my crappy soundcard and an SM58

first of all... you're out of your mind. Second of all, what sound recordings from 1938 have you heard? were they recordings made on Tape? or were they cut strait to vinyl? or were they done on a wire recorder?
thirdly, what does fidelity mean to you?

you might try doing some searches on this board about the quality of modern recordings. you might see how many people on this board see "fidelity" in a different way.

there are plenty of good recordings before 1970. Everything Joe Meek did, Phil spector, the Beatles(for gods sake), Buddy holly!!!! those recordings sound pretty rad.
Old 3rd September 2007
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by u b k View Post
i have big band recordings from the 40's, some bling-era sinatra, some 50's jazz, maybe some late 60's beatles... they all sound incredible. you will never in a billion years produce a recording as sweet using your crappy soundcard and an sm58.

maybe we just have different concepts and experiences of 'fidelity'.


gregoire
del
ubk
.
hear hear, can you say rca and western electric?
Old 3rd September 2007
  #22
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"Kind of Blue" just totally floors me every time. Not many recordings I prefer sonically.
Old 3rd September 2007
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FossilTooth View Post
The name of this thread should likely be changed to "I don't like the sound of old-timey records. Wah."
completely uncalled for, im not in any way attempting to express dislike for old recordings ..

i just wanted to know what differs between recording in that era and recording now (or mixing)

Quote:
first of all... you're out of your mind. Second of all, what sound recordings from 1938 have you heard? were they recordings made on Tape? or were they cut strait to vinyl? or were they done on a wire recorder?
thirdly, what does fidelity mean to you?
ive only heard recordings cut to vinyl like most people .. fidelity meaning the accuracy in which a sound is reproduced (the duke ellington recordings ive heard from 1938 sound thin, lack high end, in comparison to modern recordings of the same songs)
Old 3rd September 2007
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by patrox247 View Post
So was the high end roll off a soft curve, or are we talking about serious limiting over 15k?
It dropped like a rock at 15k. because the size of the cutting stylus limited the response. Westrex stereo heads had kind of a fluffy high end above 8k, sort of like a dynamic mike but the Neumanns were pretty flat.
Old 3rd September 2007
  #25
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Check anything Impulse/ABC-Impulse put out in the late 50's, early-mid 60's. The John Klemmer records of that period are some of my personal favorites..
Old 4th September 2007
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson View Post
It dropped like a rock at 15k. because the size of the cutting stylus limited the response. Westrex stereo heads had kind of a fluffy high end above 8k, sort of like a dynamic mike but the Neumanns were pretty flat.
Thanks for the info
Old 4th September 2007
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rhythmic5 View Post
completely uncalled for, im not in any way attempting to express dislike for old recordings ..

i just wanted to know what differs between recording in that era and recording now (or mixing)



ive only heard recordings cut to vinyl like most people .. fidelity meaning the accuracy in which a sound is reproduced (the duke ellington recordings ive heard from 1938 sound thin, lack high end, in comparison to modern recordings of the same songs)
well, Duke probably wasn't using all the great technology we got from the Germans after WW2.

anyway, I'd say you kinda answered your own question too. why do edison wax cylinders have such poor fidelity in comparison to recordings made in 1938?

there were obvious technological advances, using vinyl instead of wax, the advent of magnetic tape, as well as the refinement of Tube technology.

I would alsmost agree with you if you had said 1950. but joe meek and phil spector recorded stuff in the 50s that you couldn't even emulate for fidelity with your 58 and cheap soundcard... not even in your wildest dreams.
listen to a buddy holly album and then tell me you can make your recordings sound that good.
Old 4th September 2007
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by u b k View Post
<snip>
i triple dare you to come up with a vocal recording, using any equipment available anywhere, that sounds like frank in his heyday.


gregoire
del
ubk
.

Err uhm, Straight to a triple dare ? NO double dog - double dare first ? What about protocol ? Nothing left now but triple dog, triple dare.

Nevermind, I just read the entire question.
Old 4th September 2007
  #29
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Mike Derrick's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by area51recording View Post
Back in the day it was totally about mic selection an mic placement. That's pretty much all the guys had to work with and with this rather limited toolbox managed to create astounding results. In Merry Olde England the BBC guys were referred to as BALANCE engineers, as that was pretty much their whole gig...
...and another crucial element,...not mentioned enough imho,...THE ROOM.

I'm old enough to remember the musician/band scuttlebutt back when I was a young'n knee high to a grasshopper (think my grandpa used to say that.) "We're gonna record at such and such a studio, they've got a great sounding room."
Old 4th September 2007
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rhythmic5 View Post
YouTube - Take the 'A' Train= - 1930s

YouTube - Joe Henderson - Take the A Train= -
1990's ?

i mean like, higher sound quality or something
Gorgeous...love the part in the first video where two trumpet players on the top row are chitchatting away while their buddy next to them is blowing his lungs out with his trumpet solo...
RR
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