Have you ever wondered how they made those great RCA Living Stereo recordings?

This is really interesting. It is a film on the making of a RCA Living Stereo recording, 1956, Tchaikovsky’s Romeo & Juliet - Fantasy Charles Munch the BSO.
It begins with the recording in Symphony Hall. You can see the placement of the microphones and the tape recorders in the control room. It even shows where all those priceless tapes are stored. It includes much detail in the actual disc making process. Folks who have the vinyl versions of these records should find this part especially interesting.

It is remarkable that such wonderful recordings were made with so simple equipment and so little of it.

I also found the following article interesting It is famed RCA recording pair Jack Pfeiffer and Lewis Layton experience of recording Artur Rubinstein


Thanks for sharing this as it will be a welcome addition to my copy of Jonathan Valin’s the Living Stereo: RCA Bible. While I have no exact count I can say I have quite a few of the original RCA Shaded Dogs, as well as the mono releases, which also sound quite good.

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Interesting video. Does anyone know how long magnetic tape master recordings are viable? I had a bunch of home recorded VHS tapes from the mid 80’s that have all degraded too far to convert to any other format and had to be thrown out.

Great find.

It will always fascinate me how much better we are at recording than playback. These recordings still sound great.

At the time, no one had a clue how good they could sound on the playback equipment which would come along later.

My bet is these recordings will still be competitive in yet another 60 years.

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There’s also another “Living Stereo bible” by Dietrich Brakemeier, not sure if it’s only available in German.

So are those active monitors? I thought I saw some controls on the sides of them.

This played after the RCA Video :

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Depends in part on how they were stored. Decades, certainly. Sometimes many. Though the recordings degrade over time as the coating eventually flakes off the backing, and magnetic fields lose their charges. I personally had some reel to reel multitracks from the early 80’s that I had to have baked (the studio literally puts them in a low oven for some period) to aid in them sticking together long enough to go through a transfer to digital.


35mm Tape & the Mercury Living Presence Recordings - YouTube


Thanks Beef. Does anyone still use tape as a music recording medium or does all new music go directly to a hard drive or other non volatile memory device?

IMO, it’s the rare modern recording that can better the sound of the RCA Living Stereos and the Mercury 35mm Living Presence records. They were amazing.

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Yes, some do. Actually the place I took the tapes for transfer was Electrical Audio, Steve Albini’s studio. I’d searched everywhere for a deck to rent (this stuff was on half-inch 8 track) and couldn’t find one. Not many years before that, you could still rent them around Chicago. Steve is a notorious tape freak - the place’s walls are lined with reel to reel decks he just couldn’t pass up.

He still records to tape primarily, and it is a reason people go to his place. People do it for the bandwidth, fidelity and just Purely for the Sound of it.

On the other hand, people use even very lo-fi decks like cassettes to process overly sterile sounds, and morph them into something more organic and interesting. Something that is somewhat random in a way that digital is not.

Another process is simply passing signal through a good reel to reel deck to impart the sound of the electronics.

Tape emulation plugins used in digital recording and mixing are also hugely popular.


Very interesting. I am always interested in the nuts and bolts of processes that I have no experience or knowledge of. So does that mean that if the first stop is a hard drive not tape that the signal is then considered “digital”?
Thanks again

I read somewhere that it’s also (besides storage) depending on the tape itself. There must have been good and bad brands and types in any era. Certain vintage tapes seem to degrade much slower than other modern tapes used.

No doubt. The tape manufacturers went through their materials, “methods” and “formulas” like any other manufacturer. Nobody knew in advance whether they would hold up over decades or not.

Correct. It all always starts out analog and ends up analog. Can’t get around that. So on the one hand, it is still possible to do something entirely analog. Record to tape, play back and mix from tape, to tape.

In digital, it is about how soon you go to digital (go through an ADC/record on a computer) and how much you spend time in the digital domain in the middle.

So a popular hybrid process is to record to multitrack tape - also called “tracking” - all analog to that point, so whatever you do after that, you’ve captured the sound inherent in that medium.


I find interesting how well digital captures the sound of tape and vinyl.

As an example, Michael Fremer records the sound of different cartridges, etc. and then posts the digital files so his readers can compare the sound.

Similarly, as Mr. Beef points out, sound engineers will run a track (such as an electric guitar or drums) through a tape deck to get the sound of tape and record this sound digitally. You hear the sound of tape in the digital recording.

Another great example is the subject of this thread. One can listen to CDs of the RCA Living Stereo recordings and hear the sound of an orchestra captured on tape, replete with the warmth, gentle compression, etc. which comes with tape.

This is not good or bad, just intriguing.

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Strictly as a point of interest I wonder how much money it would cost for me and the band to make a 33-1/3 LP starting from scratch and maybe making 500 pressings? I know it’s a loaded question but it looks like painstaking work.

Call around in your area. The RCA video takes pains to make it look like what they were doing was rocket science space-age stuff, but that was largely for commercial purposes.

And yeah - reminds me of when people would ask me as a video producer, “How much to make a 30-second Commercial?” My usual response was, “Typically between $2,000 and $200,000”.:stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes: But that was back in the day when the average 30 second TV spot done through an Agency was $300k.

It would be a fun project.