First Demonstration of Hi-Fi Tape Technology in US

May 16, 1946

Jack Mullin, an electrical engineer and US Army Signal Corps veteran in World War II, gives the first demonstration of a high-fidelity tape recording in the United States at an Institute of Radio Engineers meeting in San Francisco. He was able to demonstrate that a recorded jazz band sounded virtually identical to a live one during this demo, impressing the many engineers in attendance.

While stationed in England early in the war, Mullin had discovered that German radio was able to broadcast symphony recordings in superior quality to anything he had heard before. He later had the opportunity to examine captured German electronic equipment and discovered the AEG Magnetophon audiotape recorder, which had been in use on German radio since 1941. He received permission to take two of the recorders and blank tape back home after he left the Army in 1946 as “war souvenirs”. He then refined and fitted the German machines with “American electronics”.

In 1947 Mullin would catch the ear of Bing Crosby’s technical producer, who was looking for a way to broadcast Crosby’s recordings in better quality since his show, Philco Radio Time, was losing ratings due to the poor quality of recorded audio at the time. Mullin was brought on as Crosby’s chief engineer and the recordings made by Mullin were a hit with listeners. Crosby invested $50,000 in Ampex, which was at the time was a small 6-person electronics firm working with Mullin to develop commercialized versions of Mullin’s modified Magnetophons. Ampex and Mullin would forever change the recording industry with the Ampex Model 200A, first shipped in 1948. 60 years later at the 50th Grammy Awards, Ampex received the Technical Grammy Award, in recognization for having “revolutionized the radio and recording industries”.