As I understand the history, the original listening device for electronically-generated audio was
"earphones." Going back to crystal radios. I think the original iteration was exactly what was used
for the earpiece on early telephone sets (a carbon device?). Then came what were essentially
earphones at the end of horns, the first "loudspeakers," so radios could be heard by several people
at the same time. Then came field-coil speakers. Then came dynamic speakers.
I think location recording was monitored with "earphones" throughout the mono electrical-recording
era, although playback from lacquers may have involved speakers (probably not until the 1940s, but I
might be wrong about that).
Headphones kept evolving for professional audio and broadcasting all along, but I think they hit a
note with consumers in the stereo era. Remember the baby boomer kids with big Koss closed-back
'phones in 70's college dorm rooms? For my generation, headphones were part of the Walkman, so they
were a big part of our youth (people forget how liberating super-portable "personal stereo" was,
given that the previous choice was boomboxes, which weren't as tolerated in suburban homes as they
were on inner city streets, plus nothing enhanced that alienated suburban white kid teenage thing
more than putting on the Walkman 'phones, cranking up the punk rock and sneering! ;) ). When the
iPod came along, we got to a new phase of ultra-portability, now heard through earbuds or
bass-enhanced Beats-style phones.
To my ears, the worst music for headphone listening is hard-panned early stereo like Blue Note
stereo mixes or stereo Beatles mixes pre-Abbey Road. Old "binaural" material works fine. I suspect,
aside from collector-fetish cache, one of the reasons many mono mixes of popular and jazz titles are
being reissued in modern times has to do with earbud/Beats listening. The mono sounds superior in
that setting vs the hard-panned stereo.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "DAVID BURNHAM" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Thursday, September 04, 2014 11:05 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Accidental stereo (again)
>I just read most of the information in your attachments, Tom; I would love to hear the Reginald
>Foort Organ record that is shown. I did not quite understand how Cook's twin groove records
>provide superior mono compatibility because if you play either groove you'll only get one channel,
>and if you use a Cook stereo arm to play both channels and mix them to mono, the best you'll get is
>as good as a single 45/45 groove but most likely a microscopic misallignment of the arms will cause
>a phase shift. The author does say, (I don't know if this is modern writing or historic), that
>binaural cannot be properly listened to using speakers because of both channels getting to both
>ears - exactly what we were discussing.
> I'm not sure but I don't believe earphones were ever used to listen to music before the
> introduction of Stereo. Mono sounds very poor on headphones - the source of sound is in the
> middle of your head. So the message I get from this is that in the earliest days of "Stereo"
> recording the intent was that it should be listened to on earphones.
> On Thursday, September 4, 2014 5:14:48 PM, Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>I am pretty sure (based on photos and somewhat sketchy descriptions in magazine articles) that
>>Cook's early stereo recordings were made with 2 widely spaced mics onto a Magnecorder
>>2-track. He is always shown monitoring with headphones. To me, this is clearly "binaural"
>>methodology, which will only sound good through headphones. On speakers, there will be a very weak
>>center, unless the speakers are spaced at headphone distance (ie right next to each other).
>>Now, I don't know whether Cook changed his setup or method when he came up with the dual-channel
>>cutting and playback systems.
>>Here is a bunch of material on Emory Cook that I gave to Chris Sanchez to write up in his
>>Preservation Sound blog:
>>-- Tom Fine
>>----- Original Message -----
>>From: "Michael Biel" <[log in to unmask]>
>>To: <[log in to unmask]>
>>Sent: Thursday, September 04, 2014 4:19 PM
>>Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Accidental stereo (again)
>>> On 04/09/2014, Tom Fine wrote:
>>>> I think, in the early stereo days, only Emory Cook consistently
>>>> recorded true "binaural" tapes, in other words those designed to be
>>>> listened to through headphones only.
>>> Are you sure of that. My experience is exactly the opposite. Cook
>>> produced exactly one CD. It was a demonstration of a re-processing
>>> technique, and you had to sign an agreement not to copy it in order to
>>> get it. the first track is a female blues singer. For about 30 seconds
>>> the small combo is heard on the right track in mono with nothing on the
>>> left channel until she starts to sing. It is like those Elvis and
>>> Beatles tapes meant for mix-down, but this is what Cook chose to start
>>> his demo CD.
>>> Because his dual groove system used a radial playback arm, he knew there
>>> would be phase shift problems. Plus the two bands were cut with
>>> different EQ curves. Thus it was vital that there be as little "center"
>>> channel as possible, that there be nothing that was strongly heard in
>>> both channels. I've got about 20 discs but no arm for them. When he
>>> did come out with single-groove stereo LPs the separation was extreme.
>>> Remember, this is the guy who did the atmospherics albums with two radio
>>> receivers hundreds of miles apart. When he recorded the folk groups he
>>> stuck two mikes down in front of two different parts of the group. I
>>> don't think he separated them into two rooms like RCA did that time when
>>> they split a group into two studios a city block apart, but listening to
>>> these with headphones leaves a hole in the middle where your head used
>>> to be. Maybe some of his classical recordings used mikes close
>>> together, but that was a minority of his catalog.
>>> Mike Biel [log in to unmask]