Recording in the 1960s

Posted November 30, 2007
Courtesy: Jack Blanchard

In the 60's we mixed almost everything down to stereo and to mono. The mono was specifically for 45 radio singles. The originals sounded beautiful and rich ... hi-fi.

When they were mastered for AM radio, which was mono, they were much lower quality. Here's why: First the singles were reduced to midrange, where the human hearing is most efficient... like the cb radio frequencies. This gave them what we called "apparent loudness". Then they were run through compressors and especially limiters, clipping off a lot of the sound, in order to pack more level into the single, and make your record sound louder on the air.

This became a rat race, because everybody was doing it, so the integrity of the original music was lost... flattened and pounded and cookie-cut into lo-fi commercial radio singles. The LP albums were usually stereo and much better in sound quality.

Recording back then, when we started, was not so primitive. We sang into Telefunken condenser mikes, we had 3 or 4 track wide tape running then at 15 ips, We had several kinds of reverb...including elaborate echo chambers. These were highly engineered, shellacked rooms, with a speaker at one end, and a movable condenser mike on a track. No two flat surfaces were parallel to each other, to prevent standing waves. They sounded as good or better than today's digital echo/verbs, but a lot of conservative producers were afraid of them.

People made fine masters and released crappy singles, and the public accepted the system because they were trained to. Now people think that was the way music sounded back then. It was better than that.

Back to the "Take Note" Main Page