When Vinyl Ruled — 2002 Edition

AES Historical Exhibit, "When Vinyl Ruled -- 2002 Edition"

At the AES 113th Convention in Los Angeles, 2002-10-05...08

by Dale Manquen and Bob Crow

1   Equipment Displayed:  Record lathes, turntables, console component display boards, Vitaphone records that were once used to synchronize sound with film, Western Electric 'D-spec' record cutting lathe, Western Electric record turntable and arm, cylinder records, record cutting heads, Cook twin-groove records and tone arm, tonearms, phono cartridges, powered monitor speakers from the 50's and 60's, vintage microphones, ATR Services ATR-102 1" two track, Wes Dooley's Ampex Model 201 (Ampex' 1949 update of the 200A).

2   Exhibitors/Participants/Contributors (in alphabetical order):  Nick Bergh, John Chester, David Gordon, Kevin Gray, Ken Hirsh, Len Horwitz, Irv Joel, Don King, Dale Manquen, Jay McKnight, Paul McManus, Stan Ricker, Al Grundy, Shelley Herman, Mike Spitz, Greg Orton, Steve Smith, and Jim Webb. My apologies to anyone I forgot.

3   Discussion:

a   Jim Webb discussed his pick of 12 microphones that changed history.  Don King provided several of these microphones for display, including an RCA 44, RCA 77, Western Electric 639, Unidyne 555, Neumann U47, M49 and others.  A detailed writeup of Jim's picks is here.

b   Paul McManus brought, discussed and demonstrated four different tube and transistor type powered monitors -- an Ampex 620, Ampex SA10, and two different NAGRA's.  All speakers were tone leveled, then Paul played music from his nearby NAGRA tape machine.  Most of the audience had a tough time picking a winner.

c   Jay McKnight chaired the AES Historical Committee Meeting on Monday that ran from 1300 hrs to 1430.  He noted that the Historical Committee currently has a heavy tape recorder focus -- but should also extend itself into other areas.
    Irv Joel has successfully videotaped many significant oral history interviews with contributors to the audio profession -- and continues to do so.  Plans for how this material will be distributed are being developed.  Streaming web audio (as a minimum) is planned.
    Dale Manquen reported on the success of his negotiations with the Ampex Corporation to have them host Ampex audio related material on their servers.  Help is needed to contribute material, scan documents and ultimately construct some sort of system to access this information.

d   Kevin Gray, Stan Ricker and Al Grundy presented 65 Powerpoint slides that explained how vinyl records are made.  Some of the tradeoffs made in record mastering were outlined.  Interesting facts cited:
  1)  From 1994 to 2000, the number of vinyl records produced rose 20%...
  2)  With careful attention to mastering, a S/N ratio of about 80 dB is achievable in vinyl.

e   Dale Manquen gave a brief presentation on tape recorder head construction.  This was followed by an in-depth four-person panel discussion made up of:  Dale, Mike Spitz (ATR Services), Steve Smith (Quantegy tape), Greg Orton (Flux Magnetics).  Greg took us from the ground up -- head gaps, head bumps, lamination thickness, ferrite heads...  Steve talked about tape thickness effects and sticky shed problems.  Mike Spitz said that he once considered manufacturing an entirely new high performance tape recorder, but found the project ultimately to be uneconomical.  He stated that about 3000 ATRs were made and probably 2500 are still out there, so he'll have plenty to do for a long time.

f   There was an attempt to discuss the evolution of recording consoles by David Gordon, but the computer containing the slides kept locking up.  The solution was to gather 'round the computer.

e   Our 'Special Event' on Sunday was a presentation by Dick May, Restorations Manager of Warner Bros. Records, on the history of talking movies.  October 6th was the 75th anniversary of the premier of Al Jolson in "The Jazz Singer", the first feature movie with spoken dialog. The presentation included numerous clips from several early movies and short subjects with synchronized music and voice.

Special Thanks
        This room would not have happened without the hard work of Robert-Eric Gaskell of AEA.
        JBL provided the powered monitors and the video projector.
        We appreciate the efforts of all the Student Members who helped throughout the show.
        Thanks to Bob Crow for preparing the first draft of this report for me.

Ver 1, Update 2014-07-10 mfw&jm

AES - Audio Engineering Society