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Erläuterungen zu diesen US-AUDIO Seiten der 1950er Jahre

Die hier stehenden amerikanischen Artikel aus 1959 (aus der US-AUDIO) sind teilweise sehr gewöhnungsbedürftig, weil sie erstens aus einer längst vergangenen Zeit stammen und zweitens, weil dort in den USA ganz "anders" gedacht wurde als bei uns in Old Germany oder in Europa.

Vergleichbar mit unseren deutschen Hifi-Magazinen etwa ab 1962 ist jedoch, daß auch diese Zeitschrift ihre Anzeigen- Kunden und -Leser (be- oder ab- ?) werben mußte. - Weiterhin sind die Dimensionen des amerikanischen Kontinents mit den unseren hier in Europa nicht vergleichbar. - Ein Redaktions-"Trip" von New York nach Los Angeles oder Chicago oder gar in die Wüste nach Las-Vegas zu einer der CES- Audio- "Shows" war - auch mit dem Flugzeug - immer noch eine Weltreise. Und jede Ausstellung oder "Messe" wurde als "Show" deklariert. Und natürlich, in USA musste alles "Show" sein, um beim Publikum einige Aufmerksamkeit zu erzeugen.

Der Autor Edward Tatnall Canby schreibt jeden Monat "AUDIO"

Sowohl in den monatlichen EDITOR's REVIEW's als auch in den monatlichen ETC's lesen wir ein Stück amerikanischer Gesellschaftsgeschichte vom Ende der 1950er Jahre. Dazu gehören auch die frühen monatlichen Schallplattenbesprechungen, in denen sehr viel Wissen rund um die Musik, die Gesellschaft und die Hifi-Technik eingeflochten wird.


AUDIO ETC ("Edward Tatnall Canby") - < Stereo Hoopla >
- ein Pamphlet über die verblödete Werbung mit "Stereo"

Ive been watching the stereo ads lately and I've been answering questions right and left, from the laymen and layladies all around me. I'm hoping, hard, that stereo doesn't come right out (wird nicht herauskommen) and kill itself dead (und sich selbst töten), from sheer exaggeration, wishful thinking and a contempt for the average man's common sense.

In sheer irritation I've been cutting out clippings from the newspapers and magazines and I'm ready right now to come to a very impartial boil - indeed, I've been boiling away all over the place on and off for quite awhile.

I am now, of course, "sold" on stereo myself and am quite willing to spend all the time I must, in order to sell it in what seem to me to be its legitimate terms, in the interest of music listeners of all sorts. But I can't cope with the present competition in the selling department. I can only get mad at it, because it does stereo so much harm.

Stereo, like any other development, is less than perfection itself and always will be. In its early stages it has extra problems. In all its stages, from now until Doomsday, it will continue to be more complicated, more inconvenient, and to present more problems all around than plain, mono hi-fi.

This is nothing to be surprised about, nor to avoid. A reasonable human being will accept it - if the game is worth the candle. People will go to a lot of trouble and plenty of inconvenience - if they are convinced it is worth their while.

Doomed Boom?

Well, it is worthwhile, in stereo. That's what a lot of us now understand. But how the public is ever to be convinced via the present all-out, three-pronged offensive upon common sense, I do not know. It works this way and all three prongs are deadly.

  • (1) Exaggerate stereo's marvels out of all sense and proportion. (Pretty soon nobody will believe you - right or wrong.)
  • (2) Play down stereo's complications, disguise the extras, as if they didn't exist. (They do, and people find out quicMy enough.)
  • (3) Compromise the actual stereo equipment for convenience, as if stereo's basic necessities didn't matter. (They do matter, if you want stereo itself.)


three points

Just push hard enough on these three points and you'll kill stereo as neatly as stereo photography was killed, a few years back. The parallel isn't as far-fetched as you might think.

I have been taking stereo photos since 1929 and am thus somewhat of an expert (and my pictures aren't bad, either). The medium is fascinating, rewarding, unusual, different - and somewhat limited. It requires a lot more technique than you might think, in the taking - it is inconvenient in the looking, via hand viewers (but the
pictures are unbeatable, like nothing else on earth).

Stereo projection, especially, is difficult and tricky. But it works and can be enjoyed immensely (as I have much reason to know), if you use common sense. But you must work at it, study it. Why not?

All of a sudden, around 1952, stereo hit the big time in photography. All of a sudden, the same three prongs went into high-power action.

  • (1) It was marvelous - wonderful, etc etc.
  • (2) It was so easy, so simple, so utterly fun.
  • (3) You didn't need to worry about technical complications - just point your cheap camera and smile. For awhile, stereo buzzed happily. People bit, they believed, trustingly.


new stereo business has vanished

Now, the entire new stereo business has vanished. It took about three years, and we're right back where we were before the "boom" - with those who really know about it still in there, the reputable makers who have more faith (and had it before the boom) still confidently selling their stuff, the rest all gone.

The important thing is that stereo pictures are still wonderful, if you use your head, understand the problems, the challenges, the opportunities. Plenty of photographers do. I take nothing else and I will not give up because a mere boom went bust. It was a doomed boom, if you wish, because it was so grossly, horribly mishandled by the all-or-nothing boys. They got nothing, and it serves them right.

Is the same true of stereo sound's sudden big boom?

Is it boom and bust, here too?

All I can say is that, though the stakes are very much higher in this boom and the utility of the actual product much more general, it could happen here too, and may well happen if things don't settle down pretty soon to a more reasonable pitch of intelligibility and responsibility. Stereo is good, but it can be run into the ground easily enough.

And Say We Did ...

Of course, stereo has to be sold. But, if I may turn to an old and very apt phrase, don't, please, sell it down the river. Somehow, we must inject a bit of sensible reason into all this stereo hoopla before it is too late.

Somebody will have to get together with someone else of a sane and reasonable temperament and set up a few rules and precepts as to what is good for the stereo industry - or else.

If all stereo sound is "superb," if Heaven-on-earth is available at all prices from $4,500 to $29.95, then our descriptive powers are in the usual and well-known advertising limbo and we might as well quit.

If there aren't going to be any extras admitted, if all problems are to be ignored, then we are being brave ostriches, hiding from something that won't hurt us a "bit if we just look at it. Stereo problems aren't too much, if you face up to them and quit the ostrich act.

If we are to falsify the stereo effect itself by outrageous compromises, denying its very nature, then we can't expect people to accept the many legitimate compromises that can be made with profit and pleasure all along the line, getting the best out of each situation, reasonably and ingeniously. This can be done - but unscrupulous stereo equipment designing can kill the whole thing, and destroy the public's confidence in useful compromise - which, after all, is the very stuff of life.

Our present stereo troubles begin

Our present stereo troubles begin with violent exaggeration and, actually, this is the easiest to accept. People are well used to simple excess of verbiage. They discount it automatically, almost as fast as you turn it out. We can resign ourselves to the superlatives (and the dangling comparatives, the equipment that has "more," that is "better," than something always left unmentioned). We'll get along.

But when the complexities and the extras are deliberately camouflaged, things begin to get bad.

Stereo does, you'll admit, require two separate sound channels, one way or the other. What on earth is the use, then, of misleading or confusing the buyer on this basic necessity? But that is what I see. right and left, blatantly. It's easy. Just advertise a one-piece "stereo phonograph," with a one-piece price. Don't say much about that second speaker, or second amplifier-speaker. Just put it in very small type so it won't be noticed.

The promotor's urge towards this easy white lie can be measured neatly by the size of his small type. In some ads, it is virtually invisible. But a reputable advertiser shows a picture of the second system as well as of the first, with prices on both, and is content with no more than that harmless little sugar-pill word, "ONLY." Only $49.50 for the extra speaker - or maybe only $449.50.

Just take a look at the current stereo ads in the magazines, if you want to check me on this. How many of them make it absolutely clear as to whether a second system is required and, if so, what it looks like, contains, costs? Some do, many don't.

The general idea is as of old - let's not and say we did. Let's bamboozle the silly public. Well, some of the public can be fooled some of the time. . . .

Not So Separate

But there's a more serious matter, involving one of those unfortunate inconveniences of the stereo principle, the necessity for two separated sound sources. No separation, no stereo.

Is there any argument about this? Not much, between you and me. We take it for granted that if there's to be stereo we must present our ears with two speaker-sources. We must somehow achieve separation for any normal home listening.

Whether it is by eight feet or fourteen feet depends on the situation; if we are forced to, we might even haul in the speakers to a six-foot spread, but not one of us would be likely to call this less than a compromise, except in a very small room for very close-up listening.

And so I find myself almost speechless (well, not quite ...) when I discover that the problem of separation is being widely "solved" in very much the same manner as that of extra cost. Just pretend it isn't there.

If speaker separation is an inconvenience (which it surely is), then let's just forget all about it. Or almost. Let's not and say we did. Let's have our cake and eat it too.

Let's gleefully toss out the baby with the bath. All we have to do is to bring the stereo speakers right up close together.

This isn't fantasy at all.

Ah - so many practical problems can be solved that way! The closer the speakers, the less the inconvenience. While we're at it, we might as well eat all of our cake and put the two speaker systems straight into one cabinet. Wonderful simplification! Saves the entire cost of a second cabinet and brings stereo right down to a level with the ultra-convenient monophonic phono.

This isn't fantasy at all. Before my very eyes, these days, I'm seeing ad after ad promoting what purports to be stereo in a one-cabinet form. And here again, the boldness of the manufacturer is measurable by the degree of actual speaker separation that he promotes as his "superb, full stereo realism," for the living room.
In fact, if you were to go by the newspaper ads you'd conclude that virtually all of our fine, new stereo was housed in single cabinets. You see more pictures of single boxes than you do of two - because it looks better, cheaper, simpler. People might be scared of two - so don't show them.

The singles are of three sorts, adding more confusion, (a) single cabinets which require a second speaker, or speaker-amplifier, discreetly unmentioned or lost in small type; (b) single cabinets with "complete" stereo insides, including two speaker systems, already built-in, and (c) the same with optional (wise idea) plugs for attaching an outside second system. (That way, you might hope to hear stereo).

And to cap all of this, there is a new utter confusion resulting from our flamboyant sales baloney of past years - the multi-speaker "hi-fi."

Then, it was "has five speakers" and so it did, of all sizes, shapes and qualities. Now, it still has five speakers, or three or two, but nobody bothers to explain whether they are all on one channel, or divvied up between two channels. If it has two speakers, does it have two channels?

Who knows!

Who knows! I've already got into stereo discussions of no less than monumental confusion with people who start by saying "But I thought you only needed two speakers and this phonograph has three; so why do I have to get still more?" Oof!

More reaping of crops of confusion, more birds coming home to roost. It really is a mess, and the blame goes squarely to past and present publicity, which aims to sell but not to instruct. OK, sell away, but at your own risk.

Grades of Degradation

Now to be sure, there are grades of degradation in the picture, and even in this fine simplification involved in stereo speaker separation. A little bit of separation, for goodness' sake, is better than none at all. But if I may say so, the grades would seem mainly to be determined not so much by the maker's conscience, in respect to stereo effect, as by the dictates of cabinetry.

Yes, the big de luxe stereo "hi-fis," $500 or so, rare old woods, crafted and custom, manage to get a plausible separation, maybe as great as five feet or even a bit more. Depends on the cabinet. You don't measure the cabinet to fit stereo's needs, you measure your stereo to fit the cabinet. And if you purchase one of these costly behemoths (shades of C. G. Burke's "eelectic phonograph!") you may thus have most of the glories of superb (and true) stereo sound, provided you sit up real close, for a proper stereo angle. Fine for a small room (though most of them, of course, go into palatial Living rooms dozens of feet wide and long).

But it's when we descend to the lower price levels - and to the bulk of presently advertised home stereo equipment - that the have-your-cake-and-eat-it boys really go to town. The lower the price, the smaller the cabinet, and the narrower the stereo separation between speakers. Compromise? The plain fact is that in large numbers of such machines there is no "compromise" at all; the speakers are simply mounted wherever the expediency of the moment allows, no matter how close.

I'll grant that there are many shades of practicality and quite some degree of legitimate compromise, given the circumstances - such ingenuities as the swing-out speakers mounted in the sides of the single cabinet, for slightly wider separation, or the curved reflector systems in some high-priced one-piece units; also the side-door reflectors, aiming side-mounted speakers forward at a reasonably wide separation (but not really nearly enough). These devices and others not so good tend to help with the basic separation problem. Other systems of auxiliary speakers do even more, but put them aside for another discussion.

You are almost shouting at me, by this time, that obviously the only answer to the problems of separation is two speaker systems in separate cabinets. Of course! Natch! That's what any sensible, component-minded audiofan will do without a second thought and it is the only way to have stereo separation without compromise at all.

It's relatively cheap, too.

But the home "hi-fi" industry is bound and set to maintain its traditional forms through thick and thin (wide and narrow, I should say) and so it simply has to produce stereo out of one cabinet, separation or no. The wish is father to the thought - let's not and say we did. And the extremes of present non-separated stereo are something to behold, let alone hear.

It's so simple. One well-advertised stereo phonograph now is boasting about its two self-contained 8-inch speaker systems. They're mounted up front in a table cabinet side by side, angled outward a bit for finer stereo realism and all that. This is what I deduce, anyhow, from the ads I've studied. If I have things right, this machine is no bigger than most ordinary table models - it is an ordinary table model - and its two speakers, if in truth they are two-channel, are separated by perhaps half an inch at the edges! Their centers are all of nine or ten inches apart. Some living room stereo!

Now just how you are supposed to hear the superb stereo sound generated by these two speakers the ad doesn't say. Natch, you just listen. But, I suggest, if you will put your nose down on the table about seven inches in front of the speaker you may get some of the stereo effect. Or perhaps you'd do as well if you placed the machine exactly at a point midway between two blank walls about five feet apart (say, in a corridor) and stood at the apex of the reflected beams. Then you might get a distinct sensation of stereo separation.
In the average living room, I suspect, owners of this fine phonograph, though they may rejoice in the knowledge that they are listening to superb stereo sound, will actually hear none of it. But the darned thing plays music, after all, and what more do most people want? They'll never know the difference. Or will they) That's the big question.

Die getrennten Regler und die Werbung

Then, to pass on to other features, there's the advertised stereo phono - I think it's the same one - which boasts as a special stereo feature a separate volume control for each channel and a separate tone control. Now I ask you, does this or doesn't this render you speechless?

Here our engineers have been sweating their hearts out for months and months trying to manage two stereo signals from one set of controls; here, all of us critics, like me, (Audio, ETC, August 1958, p. 11) have tried to use dual controls and have long since given up - and now, this marvelous new phonograph presents us with separate volume controls as a special feature! I swoon at the mere thought.

And for Pete's sake, just tell me why anybody would want two separate tone controls, one for each channel? That's perhaps the zaniest stereo "feature" of the year. (Unless, of course, the idea was to use one tone control to touch up the FM half of an AM-FM stereo broadcast, degrading the FM signal to sound like the AM. Could use it for that.)

Meine häßlichen Gedanken

I've just had a horrible, ugly thought. Now I think I know why this phonograph is built in such a peculiar fashion. Rather than design a new stereo system, the company maybe had a bright idea: just mount two of the old-model phono chassis inside one cabinet, volume control, tone control and all. Hook up your stereo cartridge to both of them and you're in business, with special stereo features - two volume controls, two tone controls. I'll betcha ...... Anyhow, it's a good way to use up surplus obsolete inventory.

Then there's the new portable AM-FM stereo radio System, two units and you can hold either of them in one hand, by the looks of them.

For a moment, I thought that the single AM-FM unit was a complete stereo system; it has two speakers in it, after all, as well as two separate tuners; AM and FM. But this manufacturer does us a service by showing a second picture, the matching stereo amplifier-speaker unit, and in between the two is a small drawing showing both units hooked together. Thus incipient confusion is avoided here, at least for those who stop to look and read.

I object on principle to only one aspect of this particular ad - it reads, in part, "Stereo radio is here. . . ." and on the side it says "build a home music system around stereo radio." Well, maybe this is merely hopeful thinking. Stereo radio isn't here quite yet, I'd say. See last month. Doesn't say whether there's a multiplex outlet in this unit.

Useful Compromise

Enuf (genug) said for the moment. I seem to have let loose my spleen for this month, at least. If you want more info of this sort just open the pages of any magazine or newspaper. Stereo is everywhere, and misleading confusion goes right along with it, in every degree from mild to blatant. I'll only add a few words of special emphasis, for fear that I may lead you off on an unintended track.

I'm not against compromise in sound reproduction and I'm not against "hi-fi" home equipment, non-component type, as such. I won't use it, nor recommend it, nor have I in the past; but I think it continues to have its place, especially in the lower price brackets, for those who have to have the simple sort of equipment to please themselves.

But compromise must be ingenious, constructive, honest, useful, if it is to be legitimate. Much home equipment is legitimately compromised in many ways, under the circumstances. The line between outrageous compromise and legitimate compromise is awfully hard to pin down, and the same applies to stereo.

No - I don't wish to wipe the standard home equipment off the scene, in favor of our own components. Impractical, unnecessary, impossible. But I do deplore the extremes of compromise, the extremes of misleading advertising, that are now making up the bulk of mass stereo publicity. The unpleasantness extends into the component field, which is not exactly lily white in these respects though far better than the mass-production area.

Nobody can hope to purify stereo advertising and stereo equipment design to the point of utter perfection and honesty. But something had better be done towards at least a thorough house cleaning, or stereo really will be doomed.

Here, just to amuse you, are two ads I copied clown recently out of a swank magazine. Just the words, not the fancy pictures. One cost almost $500. The other was $180. The pictures were pretty.

What struck me as interesting, though, was the different approach of the copywriters. One of them had this to say:

"The voice of music, heard stereophonically, speaks of the sound of life, recreates the original performance (gotta get that in ...), adds such dimension to pleasure that the simple act of listening is an enobling experience."

Somebody burnt a quart of midnight oil on that one. Sounds awfully noble to me, but it doesn't tell anything about the speaker separation. In fact it doesn't tell you anything at all of any practical use. "Speaks of the sound of life," my eye! The sound of life; by the way, will cost you 180 bucks.

The other ad, for a much more expensive stereo console, was decidedly more to the point and I commend both the writer and the company, which happens to be Pilot.

"The new So-and-so, with its companion model 180 speaker (straight to the essential point, you see ...) is a complete stereophonic system of identifiable components - the very same demanded for custom stereo installations. Locate these instruments in any room of your home, tune in an FM-AM stereo broadcast, and ..."

Well, better leave it there. The rest is a bit sticky. Nevertheless, and in spite of a bit of pardonable exaggeration, this ad is what I call a reasonable one under the circumstances, as is the equipment itself.

Maybe it isn't what you would buy (and your component system will be cheaper, part for part) but it does have the essentials and it lists them, part by part, in the specs and the description. It will not mislead the gullible public in any serious way through it isn't exactly a thrift item.

If we could just get a bit more straight honesty into stereo advertising and into stereo building too, we would build up a whalo of a lot more confidence in a system that is worth the confidence. Is it not ? as the French say. Or as we say - right ?

- Werbung Dezent -
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