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ARSCLIST  August 2012

ARSCLIST August 2012

Subject:

Re: Digital History Query

From:

David Lewis <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Wed, 8 Aug 2012 09:44:00 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (120 lines)

Lou Judson wrote:
> and Betamax is not describe[d] further in the article. So there was a 2"
digital recorder prototype, but it was not a Betamax... was it?

It isn't? What about:

"In 1975, Sony put the Betamax VCR on the market. At the same time, Sony
had been working to market an optical videodisc (laser disc) which was
developed by Philips. Described as "a record that plays a picture," and
having a diameter of thirty inches, the same as a conventional LP record,
this "large platter" was developed by Senri Miyaoka, the same person who
had developed the Trinitron color TV. Deputy President Iwama remarked to
Miyaoka, "Sony must have optical technology in the coming age of
electronics." Encouraged by Iwama, Miyaoka assembled a team of engineers to
develop an optical recording system, selecting members from within the 2nd
Development Division.

In spring 1976, Doi and his colleagues delivered a prototype of the PCM-1
to Miyaoka and his team and asked them to make a disc, which could record
digital audio. This disc was probably the first digital audio disc
prototype in the world.

The type of signals recorded by the Betamax and the video disc were the
same, meaning that the PCM-1, which had been developed as an adapter for
the Betamax, could also be used as an adapter for the video disc player. At
this time, Doi's plan was to connect the videodisc player to the PCM-1,
thus creating a digital audio disc. The sound quality of the Betamax was
relatively high, so this seemed like a reasonable plan. When Doi and his
colleagues tested the disc they had developed; however, they felt as if hit
with a sledgehammer. What they heard was the complete opposite of their
expectations. Far from producing a clear sound, the disc produced a poor
disconnected sound against a background of static and could barely be heard.

After looking into the causes, Doi made three decisions. The first was to
use the PCM-1, which they had been preparing to launch in the autumn of
that year, as an adapter exclusively for Betamax...."

>>>

There are all kinds of problems with this article; for example, a standard
LP is certainly not 30 inches wide. A lot of it can be attributed to the
fact that this is a Japanese-language article translated into English,
though
it does provide part of the Japanese corporate memory on Sony's early
experiments in digital audio. I expect to glean additional wisdom for Tom
Fine's article once I have the time to read it, and admit I have no
expertise
in this area. Though I do protest that to my ears "Cheap Trick at Budokan"
did sound like nothing else when I first heard it, and that was the general
consensus in the room when the import version arrived. It wasn't that we
were Americans and not used to the brightness of Japanese recordings; the
recording had greater depth, was louder and the drums had real presence and
power. Remember, I didn't like the band when I first heard it as the style
was too close to what I considered commercial junk at the time -- but I was
floored by the quality of the recording. And this was a period when live
albums by rock bands were very common; "Frampton Comes Alive" prompted
a flood of double live albums by various acts looking to move forward two
notches on their contracts, and most of them sounded, and were, terrible.

Of course it is difficult to recreate as a milestone, because by now "Cheap
Trick at Budokan" is so well known, and as an album it has sunk into the
collective memory as something no longer remarkable other than what it is
as content. Tom has clarified that it is probably in no way digital, but
that does not explain why it sounded so different from other products in
1978, or to what was meant by "Sony Stereo." Whereas with Lou Reed's "Take
No Prisoners," also from 1978, we know why that sounded diferent;
because Lou was using those weird, head-shaped German microphones,
something noted on the album itself.

The Japanese Sony article is unfortunately free of mention of specific
recordings relating to the stages of development in digital, save the
encounter with Karajan, and then it was just to "a rehearsal [from]
Salzburg," recorded some months before. One thing I can confidently
single out about this project is that before Sony didn't play much of a
role in the US market in terms of software, apart from producing CBS' blank
cassettes. "Cheap Trick at Budokan" was never intended for the US market,
and the domestic US release was prompted by the fact that the import moved
30K units, which was well more than any of their US studio albums had done
to that time. I've never heard the American LP, but the cover art is not as
crisp in terms of repro and I'll bet that the disc doesn't sound quite the
same as the import did either.

UD
Lebanon, OH

On Wed, Aug 8, 2012 at 8:15 AM, Lou Judson <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Just to save others time researching; The article says this:
> <
> snip!>
>
> and Betamax is not describer further in the article. So there was a 2"
> digital recorder prototype, but it was not a Betamax... was it? Kind of
> like having an 18 wheeler Chevy; I never saw one!
>
> If one were looking for that specific CD how would one ID it - does it
> have a label number? Sounds interesting.
> <L>
> Lou Judson
> Intuitive Audio
> 415-883-2689
>
> On Aug 7, 2012, at 2:03 PM, David Lewis wrote:
>
> > Is it possible that digital was somewhere in the chain of "Cheap Trick at
> > Budokan." Historically it is possible:
> >
> > http://www.sony.net/SonyInfo/CorporateInfo/History/SonyHistory/2-07.html
> >
> > The PCM-1 was in use and already being marketed by April of 1978 when
> > the Budokan concerts were recorded. At that time, Sony was using 2"
> Betamax
> > tapes;
> > the disc was being developed, but was not putting out acceptable results
> > yet as either a recording or playback format. However, April 1978 is a
> bit
> > before the
> > fateful meeting with Karajan mentioned in this corporate history.
>

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