View Full Version : First digital recordings?

10-05-2004, 10:26 PM
I was listening to a few cds that were analog recordings from back in the 1970s, some were very good and seemed to have decent dynamics and others seemed compressed/shallow. No doubt some of the recording engeneers were more skilled then others and the equipment used might of made a difference. When were the first digital recordings released?

Mr. Widget
10-05-2004, 10:41 PM
The first LPs that I remember that were digitally recorded came out around 1977. There were two prominent digital recording systems one by Soundstream and another by 3M. At the time they were all the rage. The LPs still had surface noise, but no tape hiss! It also allowed Telarc to record the now infamous canons with their shockingly low low frequency content intact.

Now almost 30 years later, I have quite a different view of them. I was playing an LP the other night and thought it sounded rather flat and two dimensional, kind of like most of my CDs. When I read the liner notes I saw that it was in fact originally digitally recorded.

I do find newer CDs and CDs that have been more recently "remastered" to sound significantly better than the early digital stuff.


10-05-2004, 10:46 PM
Originally posted by majick47
When were the first digital recordings released?

I don't know the answer to your question exactly, but I wanted to add to the discussion by saying that it may be the best early digital recordings went to vinyl. I have a Telarc LP of Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring, Rodeo and Fanfare for the Common Man from 1982, and it is dyno-mite. The dust jacket says that the sampling rate was 50,000. I think that is higher than could be fitted onto the early CD's. Anyone else have any of these digital-based LP's?


Mr. Widget
10-05-2004, 10:50 PM
Originally posted by speakerdave
Anyone else have any of these digital-based LP's?

I unfortunately have a few. (see above) :(


10-05-2004, 11:05 PM
Originally posted by Mr. Widget
I unfortunately have a few.
Well, that's a problem easily remedied.

The Copland is a good recording, very listenable, good dynamics. It is Soundstream. I have a few others, but I don't recall what they are right now. I have just put on a Philips digital of Kiri Tekanawa, Mozart Arias. The jacket does not give any information about the recording. It does not seem to be up to the Telarc or other recordings of her voice which are all analogue, so maybe it is a matter of systems. It is also well-known that during that time period the major labels were over-equipped with microphones and mixing boards, which definitely had a flattening effect on the sound.


Mr. Widget
10-06-2004, 12:53 AM
Originally posted by speakerdave
Well, that's a problem easily remedied.

Not really. The LP that I was referring to, Joe Jackson's Body and Soul, is one I really like and I still enjoy it, but I will never be able to get an analog version that preserves the sense of space and air that his earlier albums have. They were recorded with the same band and by the same producer but are all analog.

To be fair, Telarc is an audiophile label and they do produce some very well recorded albums... a few clinkers too, but many are very good. I bet if they had recorded the same performances of their early albums on a dialed in Studer and released an SACD of them today they would be even better in the depth and air department. They would have that bit of tape hiss though.

My gripe is that there are many albums of the late 70s and early 80s that are sonically limited due to the artist's buying the hype and prematurely jumping on board with the then new technology.


10-06-2004, 06:16 AM
OK. Got it. I don't think I have any pop or rock digital vinyl. The few I have are classical, among the last vinyl albums I bought. I had never felt they were outstanding recordings in any way except for the complete lack of tape hiss, which since the advent of the Dolby era I had not felt was much of a problem anyway. The Telarc Copland was in a batch of used vinyl I picked up somewhere recently and it was a pleasant surprise. I think the first time I played it was the Saturday morning I checked out the 4333A's with the 2225's installed. The kettle drums woke me up.

Originally posted by Mr. Widget
I bet if they had recorded the same performances of their early albums on a dialed in Studer and released an SACD of them today they would be even better in the depth and air department. They would have that bit of tape hiss though.
I haven't been noticing tape hiss on my remastered analogue SACD's, or on the XRCD's, for that matter. Maybe I haven't been paying attention. It certainly hasn't been intrusive. I have the bad habit sometimes of tuning out irrelevancies and listening to the music. I will be looking for it now.


10-07-2004, 07:41 AM
I think the first commercially available digital recording was of Pipe Organist extraodinaire, Virgil Fox, recorded on Soundstream by Bert Whyte (of Audio magazine). I have a copy and would have to dig it out to check the date, I think it was done in the mid to late seventies. Have to give it a spin, I haven't heard it for years.

I agree with Widget, the new remastered SACD's are pretty awesome.

10-08-2004, 10:57 PM
These are just a few, there are many others.

Dr. Thomas Stockham begins to experiment with digital tape recording.

Denon demonstrates 18-bit PCM stereo recording using a helical-scan video recorder.

3M develops a prototype digital tape recorder based on their Isoloop transport.
Sample Rate: 62,000 samples per second
Quantization: 13 bit linear encoding
Tape Velocity: 60 inches per second

Digital tape recording begins to take hold in professional audio studios.

Dr. Stockham of Soundstream makes the first 16-bit digital recording in the U.S. at the Santa Fe Opera.

3M, Mitsubishi, Sony and Studer each introduces a multitrack digital recorder.

Philips demonstrates the Compact Disc (CD).