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ARSCLIST  September 2014

ARSCLIST September 2014

Subject:

Re: Accidental stereo (again)

From:

Dave Burnham <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Fri, 5 Sep 2014 20:52:29 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (294 lines)

Mike, what an informative fact-filled posting!  One fact I would question, (and that's a little gentler than "challenge"), is the bandwidth of AM radio. I thought the rules limited a station to a bandwidth of 10k, permitting frequencies up to only 5k to prevent overlap into adjacent stations. 

db

Sent from my iPhone

> On Sep 5, 2014, at 8:05 PM, Michael Biel <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
> 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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