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Author Topic: Columbia Stereo Tapes - A brief history  (Read 6352 times)

Offline reel zealot

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Columbia Stereo Tapes - A brief history
« on: February 08, 2009, 08:41:21 PM »
Columbia Stereo Tapes were first offered in 1958 in 2-track editions. (1) An early catalog listed 66 tapes from Sammy Kaye, Leonard Bernstein, and West Side Story original cast. Prior to the introduction of high speed duplicating machines, early 2 track tapes were duplicated in real time.  Pastmasters lists all Columbia 2 track tapes with the last one listed being THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN with Andre Kostelanetz (GCB152). 2-track tapes were discontinued in 1962.

Columbia introduced four track tapes in 1962(?). The first four track tape listed was CQ300 (Johnny Mathis? Greatest Hits).  Tape numbers were sequential through MQ1197? with CQ for Popular, MQ for Masterworks (Classical), and OQ for Original Cast. All ?Q? tapes were 7 1/2ips, not just classical. Eventhough they were duplicated at higher speeds, many are excellent.  Unfortunately, it?s not possible to tell if a particular release was duplicated early (tend to be much better quality) or late in the Columbia House years.
In about 1972, Columbia started duplicating all popular tapes at 3 ? while continuing to release both classical and Original Cast at 7 1/2ips. Columbia stopped releasing any new issues on open reel in mid 1973. In August 1974, Columbia stopped offering reel tapes entirely except through the Columbia Tape Club. Although they considered releasing Dolby Quadraphonic tapes, none ever materialized.
Thought one of the best late Columbia tapes was Bernstein's Mass.

Sometime in the 60s, Columbia started offering reel to reel tapes through it?s Tape Club, Columbia House. Although this brought tapes from many labels not otherwise available, almost all popular tapes were 3 ?.  I have found a couple of popular tapes that were mistakenly(?) duped at 7 1/2ips. From Columbia House such labels as Geffen, MCA, Polydor, United Artist, Arista, in addition to Columbia and Epic after Columbia stopped offering tapes for retail sale.  Except in a few cases, all classical tapes were released at 7 1/2ips from Columbia House from Columbia (then CBS), Columbia/Melodyia, London, Nonesuch, Vanguard, and Vox.

For the most part, all Columbia House made tapes start with the number 1R1 or R11. Unfortunately, some tapes offered by Ampex, GRT or Stereotape at 7 1/2ips and/or Dolby were available through Columbia House at 3 3/4 at much poorer quality. At the same time, several tapes were only ever available through Columbia House, e.g Three Dog Nights and many London Solti recordings. Remarkably, Columbia House continued to offer reel tapes until 1983. Interestingly, tapes made in last 3 ? years are of excellent quality exhibiting a much higher quality reproduction with a brighter presence using a noticeably better tape.  This applies to both classical and popular.

Hope this helps.

(1)   Pastmasters, www.pastmasters.us/2track/columbia.html


Glenn Yoritomo

Offline Ben

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Re: Columbia Stereo Tapes - A brief history
« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2009, 09:47:57 PM »
What came first?  4 Track tapes or 4 track machines.
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Offline steveidosound

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Re: Columbia Stereo Tapes - A brief history
« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2009, 01:09:34 AM »
What came first?  4 Track tapes or 4 track machines.

Not to be cute, but 1/2 track mono machines begat machines with an additional 1/2 track mono head spaced at a certain distance, which begat the "staggered head" 2 track stereo standard by routing the 2nd channel to external electronics. Then the stacked 2 channel head machines and tapes were introduced, still typically without the stereo recording capability and using external electronics for the 2nd playback channel.
Then, I think the 1/4 track machines were introduced, with the ability to record on either track in mono and again the outboard electronics for the 2nd channel. Probably just about concurrently, the 1/4 track stereo tapes were introduced, then finally more machines began to incorporate stereo record/playback electronics. Allthough there were exceptions to the rule, with US consumer home machines this all took place in the short era roughly between 1954 and 1962.   
« Last Edit: February 09, 2009, 01:11:19 AM by steveidosound »
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Offline Ben

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Re: Columbia Stereo Tapes - A brief history
« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2009, 02:22:20 PM »
I was trying to find here if this was the start of the 'buy the new format' marketing plan started with the music industry. When did they stop making mono tapes?
1962 ish?
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Offline steveidosound

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Re: Columbia Stereo Tapes - A brief history
« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2009, 07:25:29 PM »
I was trying to find here if this was the start of the 'buy the new format' marketing plan started with the music industry. When did they stop making mono tapes?
1962 ish?

They really never made many mono prerecorded tapes according to those here on the forum.
R2R stereo was one of the first "buy the new format" pitches but most of it was new music that didn't exist in stereo recordings before that. New music in stereo was the point.
Before that (he said veering rapidly off topic) there were the 45/33 "speed wars" with Columbia (have to make it fit here somehow) on the 33 side and RCA on the 45 side getting you to replace material you owned on 78s. That might have been the first big "buy the new format" push.
I don't think the transition from cylinders to flat discs had as much common material.
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Offline Ben

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Re: Columbia Stereo Tapes - A brief history
« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2009, 10:38:28 PM »
I suspect  people just re-recorded for the most part. Still I suspect the marketing
of Cd's vs LP's was the shadiest marketing practice I can think of.
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