Jump to content
Gibson Brands Forums
Sign in to follow this  
cody78

Guitar tones on 1950's - 80's records

Recommended Posts

I'm not sure if this has been covered before on the forum, but has anyone ever wondered about the 'holy grail' tone of a '58 - '60 Les Paul and how it REALLY sounded live in the studio before being recorded and released on records back in the 50's through to the 80's. The advancement in recording techniques in this time period were huge, so can people really aspire to get the tone Lester, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton or Duane Allman did on those old recordings? Surely, because of limitations in the recording process and sound reproduction at the time, the real 'live' guitar tone was not captured on albums from these time periods? I would say it wasn't until the 90's that recording techniques & studio production really started to get closer to the live sound of an instument. A good example of this could be the sound of Jimmy Page's 'burst on the old Led Zep recordings compared to how it sounded on Page and Plant's 1998 recording Walking into Clarkesdale, or the Live at the Greek record he did with the Black Crowes. His tone was so much clearer on the later recordings and you could really hear his guitar much more defined - almost as it would sound in person.

 

These questions came to mind as so many players seem to get pretty obsessive when it comes to tone and how they want to sound like 'that' player from years ago. I read a review the other day of a Gibson Tal Farlow and the reviewer said they were surprised how much better the guitar sounded compared to how it was on the old Tal records. Well, those records were recorded many years and did not closely reproduce the actual tone of Tal's guitar at the time. The same could be said of all players on forums who are on some eternal quest for the tone of a '58 - '60 Les Paul or any other legendary guitar. Surely a lot of it is mystique and total nonsense? A good sound/ tone is achieved by the player and his or her technique and ability, but a lot of people seem to think buying a particular guitar will make them sound great even if they are not that skilled as a player.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think that perhaps you're underestimating the quality of the old analog recording gear. From at least the early 60's the abilities of the best gear was astounding. The range of frequency was easily beyond that of the human ear, with all of the associated complimentary dynamics present to give a very real representation of the recorded material. Shortcomings were more at the reproduction end, unless you were privileged to have access to the best audiophile equipment. There are more disadvantages to modern digital audio than there are advantages, in terms of accurate analog representation, which, after all, is how we hear.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think, too, what you're hearing "Live" now, is much better PA's! Much cleaner, and clearer, especially when most

everything is mic'd, now. There's a more concentrated effort, on everyone's part, to reproduce each player's "tone,"

more accurately, than PA's of the past were capable of. And, the sound engineers, running those PA's are better, too.

More experienced, with much better "sound gear!" Even the mic's used, had their own "sound/voicing," some

of which is still preferred today. "Analog" ain't all bad!! IMHO, as always. A LOT of the recorded tone,

was done in the mixing console, or "the board!"

 

Back in those days, especially the '60's, you had Fender, Vox! And, somewhat later, that decade Marshall("Plexi"),

HiWatt, Orange, etc. However, recordings were often done on smaller amps, even Supro's, Small Fender's (tweed,

and "Blackface" models) which have a different tone, even still. Page used Vox Super Beatle amps, in the studio,

as well as many other models, SS and "Tube!" He still sounded like Jimmy Page! For years, people thought Led

Zeppelin I was a Les Paul through a Marshall. When in Fact, it was a Telecaster, through a Supro amp!

 

So, I for one, don't get too hung up, on matching the tone on a record! As long as I can get close, and a decent "feel"

of the music, I'm good! Most of the audience (bar, club, or Arena) don't know, or care about, the differences, anyway.

 

[biggrin]

 

CB

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think that perhaps you're underestimating the quality of the old analog recording gear.

This is true.

 

When it comes to sound quality in absolute terms, there is more information, and more accurate information, in the older tape masters than the digital equipment used starting in the 90's with the "digital revolution". And on state-of-the-art playback systems (which many would NOT justify buying), it is really, really easy to hear and obvious to the average listener.

 

What makes the digital "better" isn't the sound quality, but the accessibility and ease of use to more people. Another way of putting it, is the skills required are less. Therefore, less expensive, more compatible system to system, and the "smaller guy" don't have to spend the big bucks to sound as good as the "big" guys.

 

While it isn't as noticed, playback systems and formats are down in quality too. Even a simple cassette tape is capable of holding more info than a 16 bit CD, and the MP3 formats hold half that information. We don't notice, or care, because we are using computers more and more for playback systems, as opposed to buying and using playback systems that "test" the amount of info and accuracy of recordings.

 

In short, we are using less capable systems in order to make sound good less capable formats. Thus, less "fidelity" is demanded for recording of masters, and not aimed for.

 

The reality is, that Jimmy Page's track, or tracks, that are recorded to an analog tape somewhere, whether mixed into a master, or exiting still as just tracks on a tape, sound very, VERY close to the actual event. It's just a matter of having access to a playback system to hear it on (provided you have access to the tapes). But, just imagine.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Actually, if you want to experience some of the above, find a stereo shop that sells very expensive equipment for what seems like truly stupid money. They should have at least one "reference" system hooked up in a listening room. Take a few of your favorite records if you have them, or listen to what they have.

 

You might just be blown away by just how much info and "accuracy" is contained even in a record.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
...if you want to experience some of the above, find a stereo shop that sells very expensive equipment...

I was going to type much the same thing.

 

One of my best friends at secondary school back in the mid-late '70s spent every holiday working in such a shop. He didn't get paid in money - he got paid in equipment.

Smart move. By the time he went to uni he had one of the best system I've heard to this day. Linn LP12/Ittok/Koetsu Rosewood; Quad 44/405-2; Quad ESL 57s.

 

It so happened that the hi-fi shop was almost directly opposite the best record dealership and we used to take our prospective new albums across the road to hear them.

First album I ever heard through their 'reference' set-up was Joni Mitchell's 'Hejira'. Astonishing. It convinced me that a high-quality system really was worth the money.

Which, of course, was the whole point of the shop demonstrating stuff on their reference system in the first place...

 

Consequently I bought a used Quad-based system myself (33; 303; FM3) which was used to drive a pair of Spendor BC-1s.

The Quad stuff was 'retired' (into the attic) quite a while ago as it was beginning to fail but the BC-1s (designed to be used as studio reference monitors) are still here 40 years on.

 

I really should get the Quad stuff overhauled; it sounded wonderful.

 

P.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When you think of the age of recordings and that people spend all that money now to get a sound that was so basic back then. It's stupid.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I always wondered how much of the original sound end's on a record.

Not only guitars, all instruments and very importartant voice of the singer.

I have experienced it a few times that hearing someone sing on stage was disappointing. And then there is the opposite example, some only sound really good when performing live.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was going to type much the same thing.

 

One of my best friends at secondary school back in the mid-late '70s spent every holiday working in such a shop. He didn't get paid in money - he got paid in equipment.

Smart move. By the time he went to uni he had one of the best system I've heard to this day. Linn LP12/Ittok/Koetsu Rosewood; Quad 44/405-2; Quad ESL 57s.

 

It so happened that the hi-fi shop was almost directly opposite the best record dealership and we used to take our prospective new albums across the road to hear them.

First album I ever heard through their 'reference' set-up was Joni Mitchell's 'Hejira'. Astonishing. It convinced me that a high-quality system really was worth the money.

Which, of course, was the whole point of the shop demonstrating stuff on their reference system in the first place...

 

Consequently I bought a used Quad-based system myself (33; 303; FM3) which was used to drive a pair of Spendor BC-1s.

The Quad stuff was 'retired' (into the attic) quite a while ago as it was beginning to fail but the BC-1s (designed to be used as studio reference monitors) are still here 40 years on.

 

I really should get the Quad stuff overhauled; it sounded wonderful.

 

P.

I still have my Linn LP12 in storage under my bed!! Awaiting a long needed tune-up which is very expensive here in Adelaide, and my Fidelity Research moving coil cartridge needs looking at but I have to send it away interstate for some ungodly amount of money to be assessed/ overhauled. [cursing]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Jimmy Page sold a lot of Les Pauls using a tele...".

 

A guy that much resembles a hobbit, lives up Lehminstah MA way, 199...7, somewhere around there? Philly Phall guitar show.

 

I laughed. Hard. Well, we all did. But to be fair, it WAS after 11am, so we were probably hammered. I know, a little late getting started but we were all getting older.

 

rct

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Lots of very informed and interesting replies - thanks [thumbup]

 

Looking at the comments I see that it seems to be the reproduction of the recording where the quality lowered. I'd love to hear the original tapes of some of my favourite old records on high end sound gear for sure. Another thought I had though is about the statement which was printed on CD albums when they first came out to do with 'preserving the sound of the original master tapes, but limitations at the source reveal things they couldn't fix' - it was something along those lines. Wouldn't that mean that the original masters were not always closely accurate to the sound in the studio? I find these things very interesting as I've never studied production and just have some basic knowledge of studios.

 

Regarding Page, I just used his 'burst as an example, and my thought could be applied to any guitar. I know he recorded parts with Telecasters, Strats and various other guitars over the years. If I recall correctly he started using his No. 1 LP for some of the recording of Led Zep II and Whole Lotta Love was done on his Custom before it was stolen in the following years, but the first album was his Tele and he used that on the Stairway solo and other tunes later in the bands career. In terms of tone I was thinking how the recorded sound seemed to improve from the 70's to the 90's. Since I've Been Loving You could be used as an example as I'm pretty sure it was recorded originally on his No.1. You all know this tune very well I'm sure, but listen to the sound differences from 1970's III to 1994's No Quarter. I know the No Quarter record was recorded live, but Page's LP just sounds even more crisp and clear to my ears. I'm not saying analog is bad at all btw, it's just it would be interesting to hear some of those albums re-recorded in 2015 and hear the differences of the guitar tones and also drums, bass, keys & vocals too.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Lots of very informed and interesting replies - thanks [thumbup]

 

Looking at the comments I see that it seems to be the reproduction of the recording where the quality lowered. I'd love to hear the original tapes of some of my favourite old records on high end sound gear for sure. Another thought I had though is about the statement which was printed on CD albums when they first came out to do with 'preserving the sound of the original master tapes, but limitations at the source reveal things they couldn't fix' - it was something along those lines. Wouldn't that mean that the original masters were not always closely accurate to the sound in the studio? I find these things very interesting as I've never studied production and just have some basic knowledge of studios.

 

Regarding Page, I just used his 'burst as an example, and my thought could be applied to any guitar. I know he recorded parts with Telecasters, Strats and various other guitars over the years. If I recall correctly he started using his No. 1 LP for some of the recording of Led Zep II and Whole Lotta Love was done on his 1957 Custom before it was stolen in the following years, but the first album was his Tele and he used that on the Stairway solo and other tunes later in the bands career. In terms of tone I was thinking how the recorded sound seemed to improve from the 70's to the 90's. Since I've Been Loving You could be used as an example as I'm pretty sure it was recorded originally on his No.1. You all know this tune very well I'm sure, but listen to the sound differences from 1970's III to 1994's No Quarter. I know the No Quarter record was recorded live, but Page's LP just sounds even more crisp and clear to my ears. I'm not saying analog is bad at all btw, it's just it would be interesting to hear some of those albums re-recorded in 2015 and hear the differences of the guitar tones and also drums, bass, keys & vocals too.

Sony did a REALLY good job marketing the CD as a format, convincing regular folks to replace their record collections with CD's.

 

On the one hand, they were better for a lot of people, mostly because by that time, most had very low-quality stereo systems, and in particular, record players. The market was mostly big-box stores who had replaced stereo shops, so most folks looked for and bought the least expensive systems they could, as opposed to, say, McIntosh.

 

A cheap CD player played through a cheap stereo systems DOES sound better than a cheap record player.

 

On the "audiophile" side of it, what drove the market was spending thousands of dollars on a CD player trying to sound as good as a record player. An amazing feat, so if you had a CD player that actually came close....

 

There was a MAJOR "audiophile" resurgence right around the 90's, mainly because, regular folks re-discovered records and record players. Companies started offering turntables, cartridges, and tonearms for expensive and cheap, of quality, and what got folks addicted, was it was pretty easy to convince someone as they re-discovered records. Basically, after hearing CD's for a few years, being convinced they were "better", just hearing a record again on a half-good turntable was like a revelation.

 

You don't really need to hear the original tapes. There is a LOT of info that is contained in the grooves of a record. Enough to convince you that what's on the tapes is good.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Lots of very informed and interesting replies - thanks [thumbup]

 

Looking at the comments I see that it seems to be the reproduction of the recording where the quality lowered. I'd love to hear the original tapes of some of my favourite old records on high end sound gear for sure. Another thought I had though is about the statement which was printed on CD albums when they first came out to do with 'preserving the sound of the original master tapes, but limitations at the source reveal things they couldn't fix' - it was something along those lines. Wouldn't that mean that the original masters were not always closely accurate to the sound in the studio? I find these things very interesting as I've never studied production and just have some basic knowledge of studios.

 

 

 

The problem is that the tape itself degrades over time, that's what they were talking about.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The problem is that the tape itself degrades over time, that's what they were talking about.

Also, tape noise, or "hiss".

 

Both are true.

 

Also true, that there are many recordings put to disc, especially when they first came out, that were very, very old.

 

But the main thing, is that we were led to believe by statements such as these that the CD was a better way to go, as in more revealing, and more accurate. Which is NOT true.

 

A tape would have to degrade a LOT before the 16 bit 44.1 digital was more capable, in ANY way.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So much misinformation in this thread.

 

People. Get this through your heads. Sound is all just waves. Waves have two components. X and Y. Both analog and digital recordings produce distortion (also known as noise, also known as all that matters in this debate) in the actual waveforms being recorded or reproduced, they simply do it in different ways.

 

The idea of a simple cassette tape (which, on average, has a frequency response around 16KHz) holding more information (What's that even supposed to mean? Less noise? Better frequency response?) than your average 44KHz 16 bit CD (which, with proper dithering, has an infinite gradation - just like analog - and a 22KHz frequency response) is laughable at best. Certainly, 44KHz, 16 bit audio has its limitations (only 4dB to hide aliasing noise in), but a correctly mastered recording will sound no different than an analog one, and a properly dithered and filtered CD recording (which can be a rare occurrence, specifically with older recordings) is capable of a lower noise level (read: all that matters) than the microphones or amplifiers themselves.

 

Please read this. Actually, read everything under the 'myths' section.

 

Steve Albini does not now, nor did he ever, record digitally, so the analog versus digital argument doesn't even apply to Walking into Clarksdale in the first place. That his recording of Jimmy Page's guitar sounds more like the live instrumentation boils down to a difference in philosophy: Steve sees the engineer's job as one of producing the most accurate reproduction of the actual sound as is possible, whereas a lot of your 'producers' of yore wanted to impress people with their ability to have their own 'sound' imposed on whatever band they were recording. I'll take Steve, thanks!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You'll be needing a hell of a lot of dithering to get infinite graduation. Imposdible to achieve. Also, cassette tape has nothing to do with masters. Bigger tape , higher speeds, more headroom. Not to mention things like digital encoding/ decoding, etc. all introducing error along the way. Digital is a , for simplification, graphical representation of analog signals. Points plotted along a sine wave, then the dots joined. The greater the sample rate , the closer the approximation Dithering is smudging the rough edges. Try listening to the CD of a favourite album A/B'd to the vinyl. Vast difference in the transients and the dynamics. As stated by others here, digital is great for cheapening the whole audio process. Great sound for less bucks. You want better sound, you go analogue.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Listening to performers live? Analogue vs Digital recording technology?

I thought the whole point was to get hammered and get a groove on.

A significant overachievement in this case would be vomiting on your girlfriend.

However, vomiting on the stadium pitch was somehow cool.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So much misinformation in this thread.

 

People. Get this through your heads. Sound is all just waves. Waves have two components. X and Y. Both analog and digital recordings produce distortion (also known as noise, also known as all that matters in this debate) in the actual waveforms being recorded or reproduced, they simply do it in different ways.

 

The idea of a simple cassette tape (which, on average, has a frequency response around 16KHz) holding more information (What's that even supposed to mean? Less noise? Better frequency response?) than your average 44KHz 16 bit CD

 

 

What mis-information are you referring to?

 

There is more to sound reproduction than simply "waves", and frequency response, for that matter. But, I'm sure you know that.

 

For one, our methods of measuring frequency response are usually flawed, and only tell part of the story. I have listened to plenty of components, equipment, that measures a very good frequency response, but when actually playing music, simply doesn't happen.

 

For practical purposes, who cares if something doesn't produce a sound beyond our ability to hear?

 

Where I get my particular BS, is from a previous hobby of making cassette tapes for pleasure. Had a nice collection of Nakamichi cassette decks. I preferred to plug into them direct from the source. For example, D/A converter into deck, or phono amp into deck, rather than using more cables and switches of a pre-amp.

 

Now, what that does with a Nak deck, is give one the ability to hear the tape right as it was made, or by-pass with a switch. So, a guy can actually hear the very tape as it goes. Can compare.

 

The CD player, which was Theta stuff (not the top-of the-line, but close...I know it was a DATA 2, and the DA was a IIIA, basic or something- the one right below the GEN Va), still, 5k worth, it was pretty darned good. Not the 30k Levinson, but hey.

 

THAT into the tape, you could hear the noise floor in an A/B. But all the detail, even the imaging and depth, was the same. virtually no loss. (of corse, the Vandersteen speakers aren't known to be the last word in imaging. And maybe the Quicksilver 90's weren't the best either).

 

Same recording from the record player, and there is significant loss in the A/B from source to tape. The record player has WAY more detail, clarity, info, whatever you want to call it. "Fidelity". Compared to the CD player.

 

What actually did make all this a fun part of the hobby, is it's REAL EASY to make a tape from a record that sounds SIGNIFICANTLY better than the same album played through the CD playback system. And more fun still, giving these tapes to friends, a tape recorded this way sounds far better played through a cheap (but adjusted) tape player than an average CD player.

 

So I'm hearing more fidelity from a cassette tape (recorded from a record player) than (any) 16 bit format CD player is capable of reproducing. What am I missing here?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Brilliantly put, Stein! You nailed exactly what I was referring to. I've also had several top-end decks, my first being an Aiwa 6900G. This one had twin Needle VU meters, and you manually calibrated the deck to each individual tape you used. Best results came from Cobalt tapes, which unfortunately weren't around for long! The results from that deck were astounding. I'm mystfied by the statement from that prior post about it all being about noise, nonsense. It's a complicated compendium of many factors, and super-aural frequencies do factor into it as well as audible frequencies, along with Wow, Flutter, THD, etc, etc, as you obviously know. The point is that analogue isn't perfect, it's just a better representation of natural. Another point not often made is the change in the way we listen to our music, and it's quite an important one. Digital allows one to audition and skip tracks at whim, so it becomes a ' listen to my fsvourite song' scenario. Consequently, unlike the good 'ol days when it was too laborious to do that and one listened to a whole side of an LP and often found that the 'lesser' songs were the best song, we no longer do this . Albums were painstakingly arranged artistically around this premise. Who of us now doesn't just listen to an Ipod playlist, usually iin a lossy format to save space. The art of albums has all but vanished. Woe to us all.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Brilliantly put, Stein! You nailed exactly what I was referring to. I've also had several top-end decks, my first being an Aiwa 6900G. This one had twin Needle VU meters, and you manually calibrated the deck to each individual tape you used. Best results came from Cobalt tapes, which unfortunately weren't around for long! The results from that deck were astounding.

Well, these days, we can't really find ANY good tape, can we?

 

Which might matter if there were any cassette players around to play one on.

 

I still got one- an LX-5 that happens to be one of the best recorders/players I ever had go through me. Unfortunately, it doesn't allow for adjustment as it has no tone generators. I don't have those any more. But alas, STILL, it's only good for playing tapes on it that I already have.

 

The thing with cassettes, they are small and slow. SO...they have to be adjusted PERFECT, because the mechanics of it are more micro in nature. Small gaps in the heads make for more fidelity and info, but at the cost of being more prone to degradation from mis-alignment. But, when it's all right, there is a LOT of information, fidelity, that a cassette is capable of.

 

But, I digress. You make a very good point, that reel-to-reel, with wider tracks and faster speeds, holds a lot of fidelity WAY beyond a cassette. And it's far, far more than what is being used for playback these days. Heck, any era.

 

Most have never owned a playback system capable of "proving" any of this, how "good" and accurate sound can be recorded and reproduced. And actually, many, especially this generation, have not even HEARD it from anything.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, these days, we can't really find ANY good tape, can we?

 

Which might matter if there were any cassette players around to play one on.

 

I still got one- an LX-5 that happens to be one of the best recorders/players I ever had go through me. Unfortunately, it doesn't allow for adjustment as it has no tone generators. I don't have those any more. But alas, STILL, it's only good for playing tapes on it that I already have.

 

The thing with cassettes, they are small and slow. SO...they have to be adjusted PERFECT, because the mechanics of it are more micro in nature. Small gaps in the heads make for more fidelity and info, but at the cost of being more prone to degradation from mis-alignment. But, when it's all right, there is a LOT of information, fidelity, that a cassette is capable of.

 

But, I digress. You make a very good point, that reel-to-reel, with wider tracks and faster speeds, holds a lot of fidelity WAY beyond a cassette. And it's far, far more than what is being used for playback these days. Heck, any era.

 

Most have never owned a playback system capable of "proving" any of this, how "good" and accurate sound can be recorded and reproduced. And actually, many, especially this generation, have not even HEARD it from anything.

I still have that Aiwa, which , incidentally was the deck of choice for a sound engineering school where I live, in storage. It's also a beautiful looking piece of gear, all anodised aluminium and glass faces- gorgeous! You don't see equipment like that anymore.I also have a later generation flagship Yamaha from the late 80's still. Both need belts, etc. I can't bear to part with them! By the way, you win with the Nakamichi! Weren't they great decks?! And , in reference to your last paragraph, I suspect that many who leap to the defence of digital are from that generation to whom you refer. All book learnin' and no empirical experience.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

... of course, their ears may be still functioning at something near optimal level, which may well trump all of the above mate. [laugh]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...