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Interviews and Stories
Preserving the stories of significant individuals in sound recording generally and magnetic recording specifically is a major project of MOMSR. The Museum’s goal is to document the stories of those persons who contributed significant inventions, manufactured equipment and who engineered and produced audio recordings, especially in the areas of music, broadcast, film/video and science. These interviews will be available on MOMSR’s web site and in the permanent facility when it is created. These interviews have also been made available to the Audio Engineering Society (AES) and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (Grammy’s).
Ampex - Les Paul - Octopus - Tapesonic
I became fascinated with the work of Mr. Sam Miller of Premier Electronic Labs at 382 Lafayette St, in NYC. He almost single handily manufactured the Tapesonic line of tape machines as you undoubtedly are aware. I have 5 examples of the Tapesonic machines in my collection. I have I also became enamored with Ampex machines which were unobtainable for me as a kid. Dept of defense surplus to the rescue when I was in college in the early 70's. I obtained a pair of Ampex 401's that groomed me on professional equipment. I really learned those electronics well and it paid off some years later when I became close personal friends with Les Paul (because of his association with things Ampex) and had the honor or repairing and restoring some of the recording electronics on his famous Octopus (8 CH) that featured 350 electronics which are very similar to the 400 series machines electronics. Thanks again for your excellent story telling about magnetic recording. I believe it fate that I was allowed to have my way with a Pentron 9T3 tape recorder at the tender age of 5 that directed me to a life long career with magnetic recording. I am a 38 year veteran TV maintenance technician with Fox TV, WNYW TV, NY, Ch 5, DT44. Besides magnetic recording I have had a lifelong interest in the history of photographic aka optical sound recording as was used in the motion picture industry for many years.
Ken deGruchy, Fox TV, WNYW TV, NY, Ch 5, DT44
Ampex Electronics Ltd. [AEL] the UK manufacturing plant
It was the Ampex bit that got my attention, as I worked for Ampex Electronics Ltd. [AEL] the UK manufacturing plant. & Ampex ( GB ) Ltd, [AGBL] the UK sales and service. When working for AEL, I worked on the UK designed AG20 / now there's a story! I was a senior test engineer and a year later got my Degree 'equivalent' in industrial electronics. Further work at AEL was on model 300, Model 351, AG350, AG440, and on video - VR5003 & VR7803. I then got a job with AGBL, as one of two audio service engineers, working on consumer and pro audio products. These were on consumer were 2003, 853, 1153, 2153, 753, 1453, (the '3' means 50Hz mains & 230 Volts line voltage) On the pro side, all the models that I worked on at AEL, of course the 601, although rare in the UK, plus the the multitrack versions of, AG350 and AG440. Then along came the MM100 8 & 16 tracks. Because the kit was reliable, I had spare time and worked on video VR5003, VR7803, 650, and on instrumentation FR1300. Well I got my 5 year service tie pin from AGBL, six happy years with Ampex. It was the time to move into audio system design!
Thanks for a look at the vintage kit - much enjoyed,
in the UK
Ampex 300 in collection has 402/403 electronics
I looked at your very nice collection of older Ampex recorders. It's interesting, in your presentation of the Ampex model 300, both in your display and in your Ampex timeline, you do not mention that the 300 in your collection is attached to a 402/403 electronics. This is of course, not an original concept. I wonder who did that.. The original 300 had the "bathtub" electronics that was a 6SN7 push pull design as output stage as opposed to the 6C5/6J5 single ended of the 403 you show.
Personally, I believe that the 403 electronics is the best sounding tube electronics that Ampex produced ( but not having heard the 200A electronics, or its later modification) and because of that I'm actually running at home a stereo 350 transport feeding two 403 amplifier units. The best of all worlds I believe, of a great transport with the best sounding electronics INHO. Never really liked the 350 electronics sound and a bit better the triode 351 .
Anyway, Just for the sake of the "science of history" you might want to mention that your display of the 300 model is a mutation (like my 350 ).
great work Thanks, Uriel Tsachor June 28, 2014
Ampex AG 20
The AG 20 is a prototype model. It was a small high quality machine made for field use ( interviewing, live recording etc. ) and then able to be connected to broadcast or other equipment through DIN connectors. I heard that the development costs were extraordinary for the time and only 2 or 3 models were ever completed.. My father managed the European and some other international locations and acquired a unit with it's rechargeable battery and separate transformer ( multiple power sources. The AG 20 project was one of the many under his management, during his years at Ampex, coming out of the English location near Reading. The project was abandoned ( business decision ) and given over to the Swiss competition. At the time they made some advertising with para shootists recording during free fall. I was at the airfield during one of the attempts ( I was about 15 at the time, living in England, after leaving Sunnyvale ). The fidelity is exceptional, the mono-head records the entire width of the tape, I believe. I also have the original manual with schematics. There are a couple citations on the Internet and I read that a unit ( the only other one i have read about) may have sold on EBay in 2008? The other units I have are for home or professional use. One has a sliding louvered wooden doors. I will forward the actual model numbers on the other models. Growing up in Sunnyvale and England during this time was very dynamic, being close to the first in many areas of audio and video recording developments. I will consider a price for the unit (s), it is hard to value a rare object like this and I think it's historical value is perhaps the more significant part. I'll forward some pictures also. There is a lot of history involved with my father ( James T. Walsh, also ) he worked for Ampex from 1959 to about 1971? and was managing director for Europe. Asia, Africa for many years ( 66. - 71).
Regards Jim Walsh
Ampex • Bing Crosby Enterprises
Robert "Bob" Phillips - Bob began working in television in Los Angeles while in high school. In 1951, the television work conflicted with his school work so he was forced to only work weekends. Luckily, he was referred to a job that resulted in his working for John T. "Jack" Mullin. He was recruited to do bench work as Mullin had broken his arm. Instead of being a temporary job, Bob went on to work for Mullin for 6 years.
"The work involved building the first practical video recorder so that Bing Crosby could record his TV shows on magnetic tape just as he was doing with his radio programs. I was the fourth member of the team that consisted of Jack Mullin and Wayne Johnson. The third member was Gene Brown who was the machinist. About a week before, they had demonstrated to the news media what has been described as the first TV picture to have been recorded on tape."
Bob has a wonderful summary of his work with Mullin and available from the link below.
I was involved in a number of projects in the Hollywood area. I am now trying to create a false picture of the Crosby CBS recording room where I worked. I have not been able to find a photo of it. The Ampex 300 that you indicate that Capital bought from Crosby was probably one of the machines in that room. We had three Ampex 300s in the CBS facility; however, there was a second case with the electronics. This unit is now mounted on a frame behind the top plate in your photo.
I like what you are doing and think that this period was an important one for the broadcasting and recording industries. As I read through yours and other histories, I keep finding gems that help put the true picture together. My paper does not address the audio side of the picture in detail, since my main involvement with Crosby was the video tape recorder. However, the audio side does seem to have more interest. I am still involved with Bing Crosby Enterprises in their efforts to restore his recordings. I am the last person that knows much about how they were done. You can find some info on this at:
My best wishes go out to you and your project,
The following is from the IEEE Global History Network & with the assistance of Bing Crosby Enterprises
First-Hand:Bing Crosby and the Recording Revolution
December 18th 1947
BING CROSBY SIGNS BIG SAN CARLOS DEAL
Takes Over Full Output of New Recording Device
By GEORGE W. WHITESELL Times Staff Correspondent
SAN CARLOS, Dec. 18.—Announcement of the first contract upon a new tape recording process that probably will revolutionize the broadcasting industry was made here today by the Ampex Electric corporation, which said that the contract has been completed with Crosby Enterprises, Inc., headed-by radio's foremost personality, Bing Crosby.
Final completion of the contract was made by Crosby's brother and business manager. Everett Crosby, and T. I. Moseley, owner of the Dalmo-Victor corporation. Moseley and A. M. Poniatoff are the largest stockholders in Ampex corporation. A quartet of men at the local plant, Forrest Smith, manager; Charles McSharry, office manager; Harold Lindsay and Myron Stolaroff, engineers, jointly made the announcement of the perfection of the tape recording device which will be distributed by Crosby Enterprises with the entire first year's output already sold to the American Broadcasting Company.
A demonstration of the new recorder, a shining 900-pound cabinet with two quietly whirring 35-minute tape reels on its top, left auditors breathless. Music and voices reproduced on the thin, brown plastic tape were more real than the sound of music or persons standing in the same room.
An uncanny, almost ghostlike effect in which the actual breathing of musicians and singers could be detected marks the tremendous almost ''open-end" sound range of the reproduction which also has-hitherto hidden qualities in the middle-register of sound made electrically, audible for the first time. It is the highest fidelity ever achieved by electrical engineers.
Also new to recording is the ability of the tape to be reduplicated or "dubbed" without any loss in fidelity. A re-recording may be made by the machine from its own tape in an infinite progression of times without any loss whatever, where ordinary disc recording loses nearly 20 per cent of quality on each successive re-recording. The tape moves through the recorder so fast that it may be slowed down for editing, splicing and "dubbing" without the splicing being audible, thus uncovering a big short cut for all radio transcription.
Crosby's interest in the new process stems from his own decision, made over a year ago, to record all of his programs instead of making "live"' broadcasts. This object was endangered by quality losses in recording until last summer when Crosby began to record his shows on German-built tape machines which had been improved by the W. A. Palmer company of San Francisco. These tape recordings were placed upon wax transcriptions for distribution and use by the American Broadcasting company and its affiliated stations. Starting in 1948, the entire Crosby show will be recorded on the far more advanced Ampex recorder. These shows will also be re-transcribed to wax discs, probably until April, when it is hoped that high fidelity stations will have sufficient Ampex equipment to allow broadcasts directly from the tape.
Engineers Lindsay and Stolaroff, who have developed the new process, say that the effects of the new high fidelity transcription will he readily apparent on existing radio sets of the AM type and even better on FM broadcasts. Both said that the average AM home radio is capable of much better reproduction than present broadcast signals will allow. Smith said that a chief worry now, here as well as throughout the entire broadcast industry, is what effect the recording ban set for January 1 by Caesar Petrillo and his national musicians union will have upon transcribed broadcasts. "We don't know the answer here," said Smith. From Los Angeles, however, today comes word that there is close liaison between Everett Crosby and Petrillo.
The Ampex instruments have been experimentally recording the Crosby broadcasts since October, it was revealed, and Bing Crosby was said to have personally ordered the connection between Ampex and Crosby Enterprises.
One of the astonishing effects of the new recordings in revealing full quality of spoken voices will probably cause top-flight radio announcers to change their methods of speech. The unctuous, richly furred voices of the announcers will have to approach more closely the normal since the exaggerated characteristics developed for present radio sound "over-done and silly" under the new recording process.
Smith said that the present plans of Ampex will be limited for the first year to production of high precision recording and play-back machines with an initial order of 500 of these to be completed. This, he said, cannot be done under normal mass production methods because of the precision elements involved. He said that the San Carlos plant will employ about 30 highest type electrical workers on the production.
Meanwhile the Ampex plant here is tapering off on production of electric motors for airplanes. It has been engaged in this work since war days when the plant was also busy in making radar parts. Smith estimates that a switch-over to the recording device manufacturing will start in about four weeks.
The plant is located at 1155 Howard street in San Carlos. Smith said that the research on the recording device has been under way for more than a year. He also said that production of home recorders on a mass basis is under consideration but that it will be at least a year before this field is entered.
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