The History of Presto Recording Corporation: Innovations in Vinyl and Tape Recording Technology
Founded in 1915, the Presto Products Company established the Presto Recording Corporation in 1933, which was incorporated in the state of New York in March 1934 by Morris Gruber, George Saliba, Aaron Benjamin, and Mr. Sholes.
Presto's most noteworthy contribution was the development of the Presto Model 41A disc cutter, which was favored by independent record labels for its ability to produce superior quality vinyl records. Operating as a precise instrument, the Model 41A used a vacuum system to ensure a clean cutting environment, resulting in records that exhibited remarkable clarity and detail.
Another significant innovation by Presto was the lacquer coated instantaneous recording disc, which transformed the world of broadcasting and recording. This cutting-edge technology enabled the creation of high-quality LP and 78 recordings that could be played back instantly on any home turntable, eliminating the need for an intermediate submaster that previous commercial recording techniques required.
Presto quickly became the world's leading manufacturer of instantaneous sound recording equipment and discs. However, as a privately held company, Presto faced competition and labor issues in the early 1950s.
Initially located at 139 W 19th Street in New York City, Presto eventually expanded to occupy three floors on 55th Street off Broadway. By 1940, part of its operation had moved to Paramus, NJ, and in 1948, the company constructed a new building behind the older one at Rt 4 and Forrest Avenue.
During World War II, Presto played a critical role in government and military production. Thanks to George Saliba's connections with MIT, Presto secured contracts to build Location/Range finding equipment, which was installed in NY harbor to detect submarines. The company also designed test equipment for Radar installations and Long Range Navigation for overseas lend-lease. Additionally, Presto developed navigation simulation equipment for the Marines in preparation for the Invasion of Japan. These contributions earned Presto the esteemed Army-Navy "E" award for its assistance in the war effort.
After the war, Presto realized the need to expand beyond its reliance on disc recording equipment. Through a contact involved with the Nuremberg Trials and friends with the principals at Presto, two German military tape recorders were sent to the company. Although the brand was unknown, they were likely Magnetophone recorders, built with a rugged three-motor design. This event marked Presto's entry into the tape recorder field.
However, with Bing Crosby Enterprises already invested in Ampex's development of the tape recorder around the same time, Presto found itself playing catch-up and never achieved the same level of success and acceptance as Ampex. Many broadcast stations that owned Presto disc equipment did purchase their tape recorders. Presto remained committed to its three-motor design and never ventured into the home consumer market.
In addition to their disc and tape recording equipment, Presto produced a range of high-quality recording amplifiers, playback turntables, mixers, and other broadcast equipment. One notable example was the 90A amplifier/mixer, which made its debut in 1947 and is believed to have been the first commercially manufactured recording mixer.