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ARSCLIST  July 2007

ARSCLIST July 2007

Subject:

Re: off-topic: guilty pleasure in hi-fi demo records

From:

Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 16 Jul 2007 08:11:41 -0400

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text/plain

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Hi-fi demo records got the benefit of a double-dip. Around 1954, the hi-fi fad among consumers was 
reaching a fever pitch. There were magazines dedicated to hobby of building up a good-sounding 
system, building large speakers (which are ideal in a monophonic system so the sound seems to come 
from a whole section of the room), record reviews, etc. By then, for the major record companies, 
recording sessions to tape was ubiquitous, high-quality European condenser mics had been discovered, 
there were outstanding recording studios and venues and the craft of recording excellent quality 
sound for long-playing records was well-honed. So around that time, but some earlier, the first crop 
of "show off yer new hifi system" records came out. RCA and I think Capitol took the approach seen 
on "An Adventure In High Fidelity", which is combine specially orchestrated music with various tones 
and a technical explaination. This format still lives today in examples like Stereophile's series of 
"sampler CD's." Another approach, taken by Mercury in the early days, was to produce benchmark 
examples of music recordings, which the critics and hi-fi showrooms would then latch onto as 
demonstration examples of what a good system could reproduce. The monophonic Dorati "1812 Overture" 
record was one such example, selling over 100,000 copies in its day.

Then, fast-forward to 1958, and along comes the stereo LP. An opening for a whole new crop of "show 
off yer newfangled stereo system" records. These came hard and fast from all directions. Probably 
the best-selling early example, again focused on music rather than tones and technical text, was 
Enoch Light's "Persuasive Percussion" (1959), which sold over 400,000 copies by 1962 (source: NY 
Times article from that time). The Mercury stereo "1812 Overture" was one of the earliest RIAA 
certified Gold records (over 500,000 sales) -- and the reissue CD went on to sell more than 500,000 
worldwide also.

When CD's came out, there came a whole new market for "show off yer newfangled digital system" 
recordings. Then, in more recent times, there's been more of a race to the bottom on sound quality 
with most genres and "artists." The lossy-compression iPod and net-streaming world has hastened the 
trend.

-- Tom Fine

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "rodbrown" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, July 16, 2007 4:16 AM
Subject: [ARSCLIST] off-topic: guilty pleasure in hi-fi demo records


> Hi all,
>
> I'm timidly un-lurking for a moment because I have a question for which I'm sure the ARSClist 
> subscribership would have a broad range of useful, informed opinions.
>
> I've recently become reacquainted with an LP I really enjoyed as a kid: "An Adventure In High 
> Fidelity", subtitled "A 'New Orthophonic' High Fidelity Recording." This is an RCA Victor boxed 
> set, LM-1802. I find I still enjoy hearing this old record.
>
> It purports to present great-sounding (monaural) classical and semi-classical music, but also 
> offers some very entertaining pop instrumentals. It's an interesting listen, full of ear-catching, 
> exotic sounds, highs and lows, softs and louds. It tries to be all things to a broad range of 
> listeners, and doesn't fail too badly, seems to me.
>
> I'm sure there must be any number of similar efforts committed to vinyl by various companies who 
> sought to interest the public in a particular label, or a brand of equipment, or a supposed 
> technical breakthrough. Was this record a better-than-average example of a genre? Would any of you 
> care to mention any fond recollections on this type of recording? Any recommendations?
>
> (I'm presently a little less interested in LPs full of pink noise or selected sine waves [the more 
> technically-oriented 'test' records] though those can be intriguing too.)
>
> I'd be pleased to hear from you.
>
> Thanks,
> Rod
> 

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