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ARSCLIST  September 2014

ARSCLIST September 2014

Subject:

Re: Accidental stereo (again)

From:

Michael Biel <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Fri, 5 Sep 2014 17:05:13 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (295 lines)

This is such a long and complicated thread!  David discusses at this
point earphone and speaker monitoring in the early years and then later,
mixing in with Tom's Cook materials.  The early Western Electric
recordings at WE and then Victor/Columbia were monitored with the large
convex paper cone moving armature speakers.  They were as large as
36-inches.  Electrical playback at home was headphones with crystal sets
because that is all it could drive.  With tube sets the Magnavox horn
speakers were not bad, but there were some electromagnetic speakers like
the Peerless which supposedly had great bass response.  I have not been
that enamored with the RCA speakers in their radios, yet I have heard
their phonographs sounding great.  I have heard Atwater Kent radios from
1929 and later with fantastic sound -- rich bass and wideband reception
on AM passing through highs that could be 7 or 8 KHz.


I read the Cook papers that Tom linked in his article and it is obvious
that he monitored with headphones because he recorded in remote
locations (seashore is in one picture) and was also right there with the
musicians in his remote folk and jazz recordings.  You couldn't use
speakers, yet the same paper often discusses that the recordings would
be heard by speakers at home, not headphones.  He discusses setting mics
6 feet apart and the speakers six feet apart.  He gives wavelength
figures as his reasoning.  Yet he also talks about perspective heard in
headphones.  Both David and I seem to agree that spaced pairs are not
what is meant as headphone binaural, having the mikes 6 inches apart is.
(I'm trying to find the post where David said something like this.  I
don't want to put words in his mouth.)  Cook does seem to indicate that
nobody but him will listen to his recordings on headphones.  


David and several others gave their first stereo experiences which were
from the 1950s which is the same era as Cook.  Same with me.  In just
about every instance of demos there was an emphasis on hearing different
things on the two speakers, NOT fusing the sound to give you the
illusion of a phantom third channel or a continuous curtain of sound.  I
heard a couple of tape demos in 56 and 57, and when my sister got a
Columbia stereo phono in early 59, even though the machine's speakers
became a center bass channel when the two satellite speakers were used,
I never heard a balanced soundstage.  When I got my component set-up at
the end of the year as a Bar Mitvah present, my speakers were unbalanced
- the left channel was the Wollensak while the right channel was my mono
amp and corner-mount speaker.  All difference and no center.  Visiting a
friend who's father had a six foot wide stereo console, his demo to me
was some Command records.  'These babies are hand made, individually
hand cut."  I knew from that he was crazy.  "You better believe I expect
to hear different stuff coming out of the two sides -- I paid enough for
it!"  


Even the industry was unsure of the fusing of a phantom center channel. 
We now expect the solo vocalist to be in the center channel.  MANY early
stereo records placed the singer off to one side or the other because
they did not expect home units to fuse a center channel.  Exaggerated
separation was more important because cartridges only had 18-24 dB of
separation, and consoles -- which were very prevalent -- had speakers
too close together with a cabinet that was vibrated by both sets of
speakers.  While this should have promoted a curtain of sound with a
center channel, it didn't.  The emphasis was for L vs. R differences.


Tom is right when he says elsewhere that mono outsold stereo for many
years.  I went to all the annual NY HiFi shows in the early 60s, and I
think it took till 1962 or 63 for the audiophile stereo market to kick
in.  Columbia stuck with the multi-miked classical even then -- still
looking for separation. I think this all fits together -- you can't
separate the home playback equipment and the expectations of the average
consumer from the history of the recordings of the time.  The listening
experience was different then.



Mike Biel  [log in to unmask]

  -------- Original Message --------
 Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Accidental stereo (again)
 From: DAVID BURNHAM <[log in to unmask]>
 Date: Fri, September 05, 2014 10:58 am
 To: [log in to unmask]
 
 Thanks, Tom, interesting insight. I have no idea if early electrical
recording sessions were monitored on earphones or loudspeakers, but
certainly crystal sets always used an earphone. I assume, (and I might
be wrong), that electronic audio was born as a complete package -
pre-amp, power amp, electro-dynamic speaker, (one using an electro
magnet, not a permanent magnet), microphones, wires, cutting heads and
phono cartridges.
 
 My comment about earphone listening was referring to listening to
earphones for higher quality sound reproduction, without the
interference of the bad acoustics in most home listening environments
and to reproduce the early binaural recordings. I don't recall any
referrence to high quality head sets before the late '50s. I remember
all sorts of stereo demonstrations at the CNE, (Canadian National
Exhibition), both pre and post the development of the single groove
stereo disc, but they invariably used ear phones, (not a headset), where
you actually had to hold each ear phone to each ear. I think in the
earliest days of electronic reproduction the sound from speakers or ear
phones was pretty wretched. I have heard speakers from the '20s,
(speakers mounted in a round cookie tin shaped enclosure with grill
cloth on the front, or a long swan-neck shaped horn physically connected
to what is essentially an ear phone and they don't sound as good as
decent
 acoustic reproduction.
 
 db
 
 
 On Friday, September 5, 2014 7:13:15 AM, Tom Fine
<[log in to unmask]> wrote:
 
 
 >
 >
 >Hi Dave:
 >
 >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.
 >>
 >> db
 >>
 >>
 >> 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 
 >>>staggered-head
 >>>2-track. He is always shown monitoring with headphones. To me, this
is clearly "binaural" 
 >>>recording
 >>>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:
 >>>http://www.preservationsound.com/?p=5695
 >>>and
 >>>http://www.preservationsound.com/?p=6240
 >>>
 >>>-- 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]
 >>>>
 >>>>
 >>>>
 >>>>
 >>>
 >>>
 >>>
 >>
 >> 
 >
 >
 >

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