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"Vintage" recording quality
#988916 08/08/03 09:41 PM
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Hope this is the right place to ask this question!

I've been wondering for some time now about the huge variation in the quality of music recordings in the late 60s and early 70s. Primarily, why some bands/artists sounded great on record, while other artists sounded like garbage. Not musical quality, but in sound quality. To a certain extent, I'm thinking mostly of the harder rock bands.

What makes this more puzzling to me is that some of these artists with the "bad" sound were artists who had been around for at least a few albums. And yet they put out albums where the guitar sounds thin, with no "oomph" to it.

And at the same time, a brand new band like Rush comes out in 1974, and has what, to my ears, is a much better, richer, more powerful sound.

I would think that by the time a reasonably successful band has 2-3 albums under their belt, they would have spent some money to upgrade to top-notch equipment that would provide them with a full, pleasing tone. Yet they still end up with a guitar tone that sounds like a miced 15W practice amp and a cheap guitar.

At the same time, a band like Rush comes out with a debut album that sounds full and vibrant. And these guys were coming off the bar circuit, not off world tours. Yet they still managed to create a high-quality recording that sounded as if they were using all the best equipment, and lots of it.

Now, I'm well aware that there was quite a bit of rapid advancement in sound and recording technology during that period; it's probable that every recording studio in the world didn't upgrade their old equipment at the same time. So there was likely some hit and miss from one studio to another. Yet I would think that an established band would be able to afford to locate and utilize an up-to-date studio and the best equipment so as to present their art in the most advantageous manner. If a band coming straight out of the bar circuit could achieve such good results, why couldn't an established band do it when they have more resources available?

Did Rush simply get very lucky and manage to find a top-notch studio right off the bat? Was their first producer a visionary? Or were some of the more well-established artists simply complacent in their success and see no need to change what they'd been doing since 1968?

I confess that I'm probably a bit biased by my love of Rush's music, but I still think the overall sound quality of their first couple albums is just beyond some of the other stuff that came out at the time.

What got me thinking about this is the enthusiasm many guitarists and bassists have for "vintage" equipment and "vintage" tone. When I hear the word "vintage" applied to electric guitar-based music, I think "50s & 60s". And frankly, I find that most of those "vintage" recordings do not flatter the tone of the guitars, and seriously wonder why people would want to reproduce that kind of weak sound.

Re: "Vintage" recording quality
#988917 08/09/03 03:53 AM
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I am speachless!


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Re: "Vintage" recording quality
#988918 08/09/03 06:42 AM
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Um, okay, but...

;\)

Re: "Vintage" recording quality
#988919 08/09/03 10:10 AM
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Rik

Do you think recording gear has gotten any better since 1960, speaking in a way of sound quality?
Do you think guitars got better?

The best sounding mics that are used today were designed more than 50 year ago.

A new Neumann M149 has a capsule that was designed in 1947.

You're mainly talking about guitar sound, what about the Rush drumsound and vocals?

Which Marshall amps are the best sounding? The newer or the old ones? And what about Fender amps?

QUOTE:
Yet they still end up with a guitar tone that sounds like a miced 15W practice amp and a cheap guitar.

I've recorded great guitarists who used a very small practice amp and had a killer sound with it.

Top master engineer Dough Sax of Sheffield Lab had an interview a couple of years back in which he said: the audio technology is the only technology where quality hasn't improved the last 40 years. On the contrary, it has gotten worse.

Now you should listen to the Frank Sinatra recordings from the early sixties, or Nat King Cole.

Speaking of sound quality, listen to the SACD of 'Kind of Blue' by Miles Davis, or 'Dark Side Of The Moon' by Pink Floyd.

Cheers, Han


The alchemy of the masters moving molecules of air, we capture by moving particles of iron, so that the poetry of the ancients will echo into the future.
Re: "Vintage" recording quality
#988920 08/09/03 09:34 PM
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Naturally, I realize that "tone quality" is a somewhat subjective area. What one guitarist thinks sounds great, another will think sounds terrible. So I realize that the "fault" here probably lies mostly with the guitarists themselves.

But I thought I'd ask the question here, because my question had to do with the sound on recordings. I wasn't sure how much the recording studio/engineer/producer had to do with it. Since I was only 8 years old in 1974, I naturally never got to see any of these acts live back then and so have no idea what they sounded like live.

But I've also heard that mic placement, as well as the volume of the original signal can affect how the sound translates to tape. Sure, I can coax a good tone out of a small practice amp, but I've noticed that it sounds far better if I crank the amp, than if I try to play at low volume. At higher volumes, the guitar's overtones are enhanced, and that enriches the overall tone.

I read where Judas Priest was very unhappy with the sound of their first album (Rocka Rolla, 1974), saying that, "It sounded like we recorded it in a garbage can." Which is one thing that led me to think that the studio itself had something to do with it. It sounds like those guys knew what they wanted to sound like, and that sound didn't come across on the record. They blamed the record comapny and the studio - because that's who made the final determination as to what the record should sound like. There is a distinct difference in quality between their second and third albums, when they switched record companies.

On the other hand, if I remember correctly, Rush recorded their debut album on their own dime, before they had a contract. Since they were paying for it themselves, they had the final say in how the finished product sounded. The album found its way into the hands of a Cleveland disc jockey, who gave it a lot of airplay, and that led to the record contract. Then the record company took the master tapes, if I remember correctly, and did a bit of remixing before re-releasing it. I wonder if those guys somehow managed to negotiate a contract that allowed them as artists more than the usual amount of control?

While microphones may not have changed a lot in the last 40 years, what about signal processing? Weren't a lot of the guitar effects pedals that are ubiquitous today just being invented in the late 60s - early 70s? So I can see where some guitarists had done a lot of experimentation with these effects, and others hadn't.

As far as vocals and drums, I've never really had a problem with the quality. As mics go, I understand that vocals were the first thing mics were devoloped for, so it's not surprising that vocal recording would be good. On drums, I have sort of been able to tell the difference between drums recorded with only one or two mics, and drums that were recorded with an individual mic for each drum. And after the invention of the electric bass, bass tone was usually pretty good on records (note the prominence of the bass in Motown recordings... and the Beatles). But guitars... I once read that the reason saxophones were so popular as solo instruments in 50s rock is because the guitar simply didn't come through as strong.

Could some of the difference come from the contrast between recording a band playing "live" in the studio, and a band recording each instrument individually?

Re: "Vintage" recording quality
#988921 08/09/03 11:53 PM
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Could some of the difference come from the contrast between recording a band playing "live" in the studio, and a band recording each instrument individually?

There's a significant difference in recording a band live in the studio (which I prefer) and the most used method, recording each instrument individually.

About the Judas Priest recordings: I've seen them live a number of times and that was so very different from the band I heard on their vinyls.
Their best sounding albums are the live albums 'Unleashed in the East' and the other one, I can't come up the title now.

Recording hasn't changed much IMO, of course the medium has changed from analog only, to mainly digital, but recording a band hasn't changed. Most engineers still use the same mics as engineers used many years ago. Like Sennheiser MD421's are still the best tom mics.

You can hear very great sounding music that was recorded to stereo at once, simply because there were no multitracks yet.

My best sounding guitar is a 1961 SG. The best amps I've ever heard were a Marshall from the early sixties and a small Fender tube amp from the same age.

Guitarists still stick to their heavy tube amps don't they. The POD is such a handy thing?

I have yet to hear a synth/sampler that sounds like a Hammond/Leslie.

I have yet to hear a sampled sound that sounds as rich as a Grand Piano.

I could go on forever.

Maybe you should post of Craigs board (SSS) in order to get more response, or on the Guitar forum.

Cheers, Han


The alchemy of the masters moving molecules of air, we capture by moving particles of iron, so that the poetry of the ancients will echo into the future.
Re: "Vintage" recording quality
#988922 08/10/03 10:10 PM
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[QUOTE]Originally posted by sign:
Recording hasn't changed much IMO, of course the medium has changed from analog only, to mainly digital, but recording a band hasn't changed. Most engineers still use the same mics as engineers used many years ago. Like Sennheiser MD421's are still the best tom mics.

All of this is true, but it is also true that there are many many many recordings of bigtime groups from the 60's, and 70's that are very poorly recorded.


My best sounding guitar is a 1961 SG. The best amps I've ever heard were a Marshall from the early sixties and a small Fender tube amp from the same age.


These are your opinions which is OK. But my opinion is I happen to hate the sound of SG's no matter what vintage (maybe you got a rare gem). I think it is a muddy dark honky sounding guitar. If I were to pick a vintage tone I like it would be an old Gibson Melody Maker or 1 out of 1000 strats or les pauls. But I think newer guitars generally sound better than older guitars. I worked a s a guitar tech in a major NYC are music store in the 70's. We had to go through 100 guitars to find one that played decently. These days you can pick up any PRS and have a the same great neck, action and fret finish.

As far as amps go, I liked Fender Princetons and Bassmans from the early 60's until the Mesa Boogie Mk II series came out. More recently the Fender Blues Junior smokes the older Princeton reverbs in terms of tone. And they don't buzz or cause electrical shocks when you touch a mic. There are plenty of new amps that sound as good or better than the old stuff.


I have yet to hear a synth/sampler that sounds like a Hammond/Leslie.

I totally agree


I have yet to hear a sampled sound that sounds as rich as a Grand Piano.

In person I agree, but a well recorded GigaStudio piano can sound better than a not so well recorded grand piano (which is essentially the same thing once its been recorded).

The original poster's point was that many older recordings sound poorly recorded. This has nothing to do with the equipment.

Re: "Vintage" recording quality
#988923 08/11/03 01:36 AM
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Quote:
The original poster's point was that many older recordings sound poorly recorded. This has nothing to do with the equipment.
Yeah, I'm specifically asking about recordings from the same era. I'm not talking about the difference in quality between 30+ years ago and now. I wonder why I can listen to two recordings, both released in the same year, and hear such a dramatic difference in guitar tone quality.

But as I mentioned earlier, "sound quality" is a highly subjective topic, so maybe I'm talking through my hat ;\)

Re: "Vintage" recording quality
#988924 08/11/03 08:26 AM
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I have to admit that I skip-read through this series of posts. But, I am hoping I got the gist of it...

I was reading some material written by D. W. Fearn (now a manufactuer of tube gear), regarding his studio experiances of the late 60's & early 70's. Basscally, he was noting the great anticipation of the soon-to-be-released transitor mixing consoles. As they finally became reality, this same phenomina of sound quality degredation followed. But, everyone was enchanted by the quiter, cooler consoles that had bell & whisles no one ever had at their finger tips, before. From what I could gather, Mr. Fearn began to become disenchanted with transister technology of some 30 years back, and began making lab-style studies of what happens to sound in the transister circt vs. the tube circuit. You can go to his site (www.dwfearn.com) and read his papers.

For what it is worth... my two copper Lincolns rubbing together...



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Re: "Vintage" recording quality
#988925 08/11/03 11:57 PM
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Audio Maverick

Thanks for that link!


The alchemy of the masters moving molecules of air, we capture by moving particles of iron, so that the poetry of the ancients will echo into the future.
Re: "Vintage" recording quality
#988926 08/12/03 04:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by steveD:

These are your opinions which is OK. But my opinion is I happen to hate the sound of SG's no matter what vintage (maybe you got a rare gem). I think it is a muddy dark honky sounding guitar.
My opinion is that I've never heard an SG that has a muddy dark tone...in and of itself... strange isn't it?


Kris
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Re: "Vintage" recording quality
#988927 08/23/03 05:23 AM
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Not to drag this fine thread in another whole
direction but...
Maybe it's got nothing to do with gear at all
and a lot more to do with fashionable technique
and "tonal sensibility". I recall reading that
in the early 70's when more complex per -
channel EQ's with parametric features became
commonplace, "fixing" the mic placement with
the EQ was "cool". But a lot of guys to be sure
were still doing it "old school" with the tedious
but far superior "placing o' de mic". There are
the "emperors new clothes" in what is a great
sound for a guitar or drum kit, just like the
BS that often sweeps in with a new box de jour.
Remember when you HADDA add some Aphex Aural
Exciter like it was ketchup or something?

I recall lots of debate about the Zep drum sound
contrasted with the super tight dry close mic'd
sound that so many other rock acts went with.
They all were using the same era gear but...


if it ain't broke don't fix it...
unless you need the overtime.
Re: "Vintage" recording quality
#988928 08/23/03 07:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Kris:
Quote:
Originally posted by steveD:

These are your opinions which is OK. But my opinion is I happen to hate the sound of SG's no matter what vintage (maybe you got a rare gem). I think it is a muddy dark honky sounding guitar.
My opinion is that I've never heard an SG that has a muddy dark tone...in and of itself... strange isn't it?
neither have i... i think SG's are badass. i have been wanting one lately.


alphajerk
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Re: "Vintage" recording quality
#988929 08/26/03 01:52 AM
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I'm surprised nobody has considered the art of mastering vinyl playing a part...Vinyl was (and, to a degree still is) totally dependent on the groove depth/width...16 minutes (or less) per side was considering the maximum length for an LP before the sound began to degrade...That may not seem like much but in those days "top 40" songs were usually about 2:30 - 2:45...That would allow for 7 songs per side...On, and on, and on...(Suppose I'm showing my age - \:o - I was MUCH older than 8 years old in 1974...Anyway, just an observation on my part...Excellent post providing much discussion leeway!


Chris - "Been there, Done that"
Re: "Vintage" recording quality
#988930 08/26/03 06:50 PM
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Chris

One of the first records I bought as a teenager was "Bye Bye Love" from The Everly Brothers on 78 rpm.

Talking about old farts! \:D

One of my girlfriends put her cute butt on that record many years ago and it cracked into at least some twelve pieces. Records like that are worth a small fortune now.

I still have many hundreds of vinyls and some of them are the rare Direct Cut records. Talking about good sound!!

Cheers, Han


The alchemy of the masters moving molecules of air, we capture by moving particles of iron, so that the poetry of the ancients will echo into the future.
Re: "Vintage" recording quality
#988931 08/26/03 07:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by sign:
Chris

One of the first records I bought as a teenager was "Bye Bye Love" from The Everly Brothers on 78 rpm.

Talking about old farts! \:D

One of my girlfriends put her cute butt on that record many years ago and it cracked into at least some twelve pieces. Records like that are worth a small fortune now.

I still have many hundreds of vinyls and some of them are the rare Direct Cut records. Talking about good sound!!

Cheers, Han
WOW! "Everly Bros." on a 78? Guess that WOULD be worth a fortune! I had no idea they released anything on 78 - I used to have a 45 of the same tune...Don't think it got cracked by a "cute butt"...Probably disappeared (with a good deal of the rest of my vinyl) when my first wife and I got a divorce... \:D


Chris - "Been there, Done that"

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