Author Topic: RCA Records  (Read 364 times)

Bill

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RCA Records
« on: May 09, 2017, 08:15:13 PM »
I have a question.  It's probable a dumb one but I have no clue so I'm asking.

I was at a yard sale the other day and ran across a large selection of records. Naturally I looked and discovered that RCA has more that one color of label one the record.  Does anyone know why?  Is there a difference in quality?  There were red, blue and green.

Thanks,
Bill

TC Chris

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Re: RCA Records
« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2017, 09:09:18 PM »
I have a question.  It's probable a dumb one but I have no clue so I'm asking.

I was at a yard sale the other day and ran across a large selection of records. Naturally I looked and discovered that RCA has more that one color of label one the record.  Does anyone know why?  Is there a difference in quality?  There were red, blue and green.

Thanks,
Bill


The Red Seal was their prestige classical music line.  I don't recall what the others were.  Some of the early RCA (and Mercury, and Command) stereo classical recordings are prized today for their realistic sound.  They tended to use few microphones, carefully placed. Later they could multi-rack and use multiple mics and then along came "Dynagroove" and other foolishness.  It's an example of the recording version of Occam's razor--simpler is often better.

Chris Campbell

Bill

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Re: RCA Records
« Reply #2 on: May 10, 2017, 08:44:47 AM »
Thanks Chris!  Now I wish I could remember what types of music were on the other colors.

Bill

electra225

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Re: RCA Records
« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2017, 09:08:13 AM »
RCA had Red Seal, Camden and regular black label RCA.  The Red Seal was mostly classical stuff.  Camden was their "has beens, seconds" B-label.  Most every record company had one.  Columbia had Harmony, Decca had Vocalion, Mercury had Mercury Wing, and so on.  Nothing wrong with the music on RCA Camden.  Much of the early Camden material was electronically reprocessed for stereo.  A lot of early re-issue material, much of it originally released on 78's.  Then the good old black label RCA.  Lots of audiophile types knock Dynagroove.  I find that criticism unfair.  Nothing wrong with Dynagroove.  Dynagroove along with "360 Sound" from Columbia and "Full Spectrum Sound" from Decca introduced a signal to reduce noise when played on a specific player.  The RCA New Vista instruments would decode this signal to reduce noise, while other instruments would reproduce the factory-induced "noise" and it sounded like tape hiss.  As old and worn as most of the old records are today, this makes little difference.  Processing records to digital will totally eliminate it.  I find RCA and Decca to be the most noise-free records still around.  Columbia and Capitol were terrible when they were knew as far as noise goes and have not gotten better with time.  There were five different versions or RCA black label records produced.  Mono, Stereo, Living Stereo, Stereo Dynagroove and Mono Dynagroove.  All five versions were available one year, 1963.  I have an Eddy Arnold record "Cattle Call", a Duane Eddy record "Twang A Country Guitar" in all five versions.  RCA started the Nashville sound craze in 1960 with Hank Locklin's recording of "Please Help Me I'm Falling".

RCA's "Living Stereo" and the 1963-only version of Stereo Dynagroove had the best separation and "sound stage" (stereo presence) of any records ever produced, particularly when reproduced on a Magnavox stereo.  "Hyper stereo" with radical separation of instruments and vocals were a feature of these recordings.  Many audiophiles hate these features.  Many Owen Bradley produced Decca recordings were almost as good, but NOBODY beat RCA at audio recordings, especially country music recordings.

RCA Camden had a blue label.  Later, after Dynagroove had run its course, RCA introduced "Dynaflex" that was not a very good idea, IMHO.  These records were extremely thin and flimsy.  They did not work well on a changer.  They were relatively noise-free and had better fidelity than Dynagroove.  They were designed to track well on lightweight magnetic cartridges and did not play well, track well or last long played on a cheap "kiddie" type player.  Dynaflex was available in blue-label Camden and yellow-label RCA formats.  RCA changed its black label to yellow sometime in the 1968-69 era.  Most of the Red Label material I have is mono. 

RCA figured out fairly quickly that producing five versions of every RCA recording was sure to send the bean counters into vapor lock.  Why five versions?  To satisfy the complaints about noise in Dynagroove recordings played on non-RCA instruments.  They produced the Mono and Stereo versions without Dynagroove noise reduction to be played on non-RCA instruments.  Living Stereo was in its final year in 1963. 
If it ain't broke, call me.  I can break it....

Bill

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Re: RCA Records
« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2017, 11:05:20 AM »
Thanks Greg!

I knew that all record companies had another label, I did not know that RCA had 5.  I thought that "Living Stereo" and Dynagroove was just a marketing thing.  Interesting, I leaned something new today.  What I found interesting with the 3 different colors labels from RCA that I found is that the labels were identical except the color.  Red, Blue, Green.  They did not say Camden but just the RCA look we are all used to seeing.  Now I wish I would have bought one of each just to really compare.  I might swing by the house and see if they are still having a yard sale this weekend.

Bill

Ken Doyle

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Re: RCA Records
« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2017, 12:05:38 PM »
Using red for classical, black for popular, and purple for the international series goes way back to the very beginning of Victor records in the early 1900s.

In the 1940s, Columbia used red for popular and blue for classical.

Dynagroove, as I understand it, was designed to make up for the tracking error of a typical RCA record changer tonearm.  When played on a quality turntable with little tracking error, Dynagroove hurts more than it helps.

TC Chris

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Re: RCA Records
« Reply #6 on: May 10, 2017, 09:08:36 PM »
Using red for classical, black for popular, and purple for the international series goes way back to the very beginning of Victor records in the early 1900s.

In the 1940s, Columbia used red for popular and blue for classical.

Dynagroove, as I understand it, was designed to make up for the tracking error of a typical RCA record changer tonearm.  When played on a quality turntable with little tracking error, Dynagroove hurts more than it helps.

Yeah, Dynagroove was intended to sound good on lower-quality equipment.  I bought a disc at the thrift shop a couple weeks back--a classical disc--the piano sounds like a child's toy piano. 

And the classical Living Stereo discs were not recorded in hyper-stereo, ping-pong style.  They were done with careful microphone placement to capture large ensembles accurately.  Same with Mercury's Living Presence recordings.  In college in the mid-60s the campus bookstore had a big sale on Mercury classical discs.  They were all cut-outs.  I bought quite a few, but now wish that I'd bought ten times as many. 

Chris Campbell

electra225

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Re: RCA Records
« Reply #7 on: May 10, 2017, 11:19:35 PM »
Dynagroove was introduced to be compatible with RCA's New Vista instruments.  Advertised as the first use of computers in recording.  Dynagroove gives the audiophiles something to talk about.  I like Dynagroove.  Most people in the day must have, since RCA sold lots of them and lots of them still exist and the ones I have sound okay to me.

Chris, I think we're on the same page, just saying it differently.
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Bill

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Re: RCA Records
« Reply #8 on: May 12, 2017, 10:19:38 AM »
So to continue with my dumb questions......

Not including the hi-end records which company produced the highest quality records?  I know my ears can't really tell the difference between say RCA or Columbia, but I'm really not that fussy. I just listen to music to enjoy the music not be critical of how it was recorded or how a particular instrument is not produced at the right frequency on the record.  The only thing that drives me nuts is a scratch on a record that you keep hearing over and over again.  Any thoughts?

Bill

AstroSonic100

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Re: RCA Records
« Reply #9 on: May 12, 2017, 03:17:37 PM »
Using red for classical, black for popular, and purple for the international series goes way back to the very beginning of Victor records in the early 1900s.

In the 1940s, Columbia used red for popular and blue for classical.

Dynagroove, as I understand it, was designed to make up for the tracking error of a typical RCA record changer tonearm.  When played on a quality turntable with little tracking error, Dynagroove hurts more than it helps.

Around 1963 RCA introduced their vintage series.  They also used a purple label.  These albums were never issued in fake  (electronically reprocessed) stereo. 

The vintage series albums were for more historical jazz performances as well as more rare material.  Artists such as Sidney Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton, Earl Hines, Fats Waller and Duke Ellington to name a few.  Also recordings from earlier in the 20th century.

Around 1968, RCA redesigned their labels by changing the font for RCA, deleting nipper, and changed the color of labels across the board.  Popular material was issued on the orange label.  The purple used for the vintage series was dropped. The label for that series was orange with the words"Vintage Series" printed on the label. 

In the early 70s, the vintage series had a label all it's own.  RCA issued those recordings with a replica of the Victor scroll label which was first used for their electrically recorded 78s.

I own a lot of vintage series albums and have examples of all the issued labels.
Ray

TC Chris

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Re: RCA Records
« Reply #10 on: May 12, 2017, 06:36:39 PM »
So to continue with my dumb questions......

Not including the hi-end records which company produced the highest quality records?  I know my ears can't really tell the difference between say RCA or Columbia, but I'm really not that fussy. I just listen to music to enjoy the music not be critical of how it was recorded or how a particular instrument is not produced at the right frequency on the record.  The only thing that drives me nuts is a scratch on a record that you keep hearing over and over again.  Any thoughts?

Bill

I agree that the point is to listen to the music, not the recording engineer or technology, although I appreciate a high-quality recording.  Some historic ones, though, are always going to sound compromised.  It bothers me when radio announcers start apologizing when they play a 78.  Of course it's going to sound that way--it was recorded in 1932 (or whenever)!  We ought to be grateful that we can hear that artist at all!  It's like listening to the end of an FM radio program in the truck as I reach the very edge of the propagation range for the transmitter.  It gets all noisy but if the program material is good, I can listen through a lot of noise.

Chris Campbell

electra225

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Re: RCA Records
« Reply #11 on: May 12, 2017, 09:34:51 PM »
Nearly anything you can imagine is a hobby to somebody.  Part of my electronics/music hobby is studying the different recording techniques and putting those into historical prospective.  Trivia if you will.  I enjoy the music, trust me on that. 

We had a band teacher in high school, C.V. Harris, "Mr. Harris" to us kids.  He is still alive and well and in his 90's.  Part of his instruction was to play passages from the various orchestras, from big band to Bach and have us identify the band, the leader and the featured instrument and musician.  That was his passion as well.  I like to listen to a country album and figure out who is playing the bass, piano, drums, lead, that kind of thing.  I can usually tell within the first three bars of a song who the artist is.  As I read about the careers of the various country artists, particularly of the Nashville Sound era, I also pick up tidbits of information about the other aspects of country music like producers, sound engineers, equipment used, that kind of thing.  It's just something I enjoy studying and it enhances my musical experience.

I have certain records, mainly those recorded before 1966 or so, depending on label, that I like to play on a Magnavox stereo.  I have other records, typically those recorded after 1966 that I prefer to play on a lightweight magnetic cartridge.  They track better, they sound better to my ears.  I'm not sure if I can hear the difference between record labels in music material to any great degree.  But there are huge differences in surface noise and distortion.  As I have maintained in the past, the best are Decca, RCA, Dot and Mercury.  The worst is Columbia, Capitol, MGM and United Artists. 

Those old jazz artists from the 1930's did not record in stereo.  Electronically reprocessed stereo is not "fake" stereo.  It is real stereo.  It is just not "original" stereo, the material was not originally recorded in stereo.  Some electronically reprocessed stereo is pretty bad, just as some original stereo recordings are bad.  If you are listening to old Jazz artists on a re-issue RCA stereo record, it is quite probable that you are listening to an electronically reprocessed for stereo recording.  It is not fair to broadly swipe all electronic reprocessing with the same brush.
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walyfd

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Re: RCA Records
« Reply #12 on: May 13, 2017, 04:21:02 PM »
I'm listening to a 1963 Arthur Fiedler album in Dynagroove now.  I find the highs to be great but a tad stingy on the low end...  many of these same songs I have on other albums, r2r, cassette and cd. 

Said it before and I'll say it again--best recording was Enoch Light on the Command label.  London phase 4, Mercury living presence and UA wall to wall stereo were all very close.  Unfortunately, the subject matter doesn't appeal to most listeners.

The best live recording I've heard is Belafonte at Carnegie Hall.  That was simple RCA stereo.  Other Carnegie Hall recodings don't put you "there" like that one. 

TC Chris

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Re: RCA Records
« Reply #13 on: May 14, 2017, 05:42:57 PM »
Some of the old recordings that were issued in mono were actually recorded in stereo before they started issuing stereo 45/45 recordings.  Some of the reissues use the stereo tapes in real stereo.

Chris Campbell

Bill

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Re: RCA Records
« Reply #14 on: May 16, 2017, 07:29:07 PM »
Thanks to everyone, I have learned a lot.

Bill