John Mullin’s Amazing Ampex Adventure

Narrative as told by the pioneer audio engineer John T. Mullin:

IN 1944-LIKE THOUSANDS Of other GIs just before D Day-I was in England.Because of my  background in electronics, I was assigned to the Signal Corps, troubleshooting a probem the Army was having with radio receivers that were picking up severe interference from the radar installations that blanketed Britain.

I became so intrigued with what I was doing that I would work until two or three in the morning. I wanted music while I worked. The BBCJack Mullin with the first Ampexes broadcasts filled the bill until midnight, when they left the air. Then, fishing around the dial in search of further entertainment, I soon discovered that the German stations apparently were on the air twenty-four hours a day. They broadcast symphony concerts in the middle of the night-music that was very well played, and obviously by very large orchestras. I had some experience with broadcast music and knew what “canned” music sounded like. The American networks wouldn’t permit the use of recordings in the early 1940s, because they claimed the quality was inferior. You could always spot the surface noise and the relatively short playing time of commercial 78-rpm discs.Even transcriptions had some needle scratch and a limited frequency response. There was none of this in the music coming from Germany. The frequency response was comparable to that of a live broadcast, and a selection might continue for a quarter of an hour or more without interruption.



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