During the past year the Boston Symphony has had the great fortune to receive gifts of audio equipment that is making it possible for Archives to play back and evaluate its extensive collection of radio broadcast tapes. The BSO's collection of more than 6,000 ten-inch reel-to-reel radio broadcast tapes document concerts by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall and Tanglewood that date back to the 1950s.

One of the greatest challenges in dealing with this collection has been the fact that over the years these tapes were recorded in a variety of different formats that require specialized equipment that is increasingly obsolete.

Thanks to the special efforts of John F. Allen of High Performance Stereo in Newton, MA, the Archives has received some important gifts of audio equipment that enable these tapes to be properly played back for the first time in years.

Mr. Allen was a longtime friend of WGBH engineer William Busiek, the local audio pioneer who engineered the Boston Symphony Orchestra concerts for over 40 years. When Mr. Allen learned that the BSO no longer had the equipment needed to playback any of the master tapes encoded with Dolby noise reduction or any of the four-channel tapes, he offered to help. It just so happened that he knew individuals who had all the needed equipment and who would be willing to donate it to the Boston Symphony.

First, Mr. Willis Johnson (Tivoli Enterprises, of Downers Grove, Illinois) has donated four CAT-22 Dolby noise reduction modules. These critical modules are required during the playback of many of our master tapes to decode Dolby’s noise reduction.

The Dolby noise reduction system was developed by Ray Dolby in the 1960s to help reduce tape hiss and lower distortion. It was a major development in the history of recorded audio and the Boston Symphony was quick to incorporate its use.

To complete the restoration of the Archives’ Dolby system, Mr. Ray Dolby and Mr. Ioan Allen, (Dolby Laboratories, Inc. of San Francisco, California) have donated four CAT-360 chassis that provide the power and connections for the CAT-22 Dolby noise reduction modules. Dolby Laboratories’ New York City facilities provided the full reconditioning of these units at no charge.

In the 1970s the Boston Symphony Orchestra helped pioneer 4-channel recording, and was the first orchestra to broadcast its concerts in 4-channel stereophonic sound.

The 1/2 inch four-channel master tapes of these concerts would remain unplayable were it not for the generosity of Mr. Dick Burwin (Burwin Technologies, of Lexington, MA). Mr. Burwin has donated a customized 3M tape recorder that (along with the Dolby decoders) enables us to play our hundreds of 1/2 inch quadraphonic tapes from this time period.

In addition to these gifts of equipment, Mr. Gerald Kraft of Weston, Massachusetts, has made available to the Archives, his extensive collection of radio concert tapes he recorded off the air during the 1950s and 1960s. Most of the master tapes of the BSO concerts during this period were lost in a terrible fire that destroyed the studios of WGBH.

Mr. Kraft’s tapes were recorded on a one-of-a-kind handmade tape recorder that was years ahead of its time. These tapes are of very high quality. The use of Mr. Kraft’s tapes will help the Archives fill in gaps in our collection that were thought to be lost forever.

The Boston Symphony is extremely grateful to all those who have provided these important donations in support of our Archives and appreciates the efforts of Mr. John Allen for making all the arrangements.