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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") - Kolumne
1. QUARTER-TRACK (die neue Vierspur-Technik)

I'm still waiting. Waiting, that is, for the RCA Victor tape cartridge, a year old (Anmerkung : vorgestellt in 1958) and not yet born. Here it is the first anniversary of my enthusiastic article on the subject and it might seem, as of now, that my direct alternative guess had come true  - "the RCA cartridge will pop onto the market - in the middle of a sea of stereo discs - fizzle awhile and die with a wet plop."

It didn't even get to fizzle; it hasn't had the opportunity. "Maybe its coming was timed unfortunately," I continued, and was I right. It was timed so that if the stereo disc succeeded, it wouldn't have a chance.

Die Ankündigung vom Mai 1958

Last I heard, RCA was going to make a big pronouncement on the cartridge during May 1958. Not a peep yet and May is departed.

Before that, it was to be out for the Xmas rush, 1958. It wasn't. But, as mentioned before, the spark of life is still aglow; RCA engineers have been actively demonstrating their cartridge right through this spring in various hi-fi clubs, engineering gatherings, and the like.

Nope, I don't expect the RCA cartridge is dead yet, in spite of the 100% official silence, up to this writing. And I still think it's good. Having read over my remarks of last July 1958 (Audio ETC) I find them still convincing and don't feel inclined to take back a single word of the basic argument.

Moreover, though the cartridge itself is incommunicado these days, the technical development in tape recording that made it possible is very much alive - the quarter-track tape system, as it is now called.

Quarter-Track is not standing still at all

Things aren't standing still at all in quarter-track. Indeed, RCA aside, the developments have been quite fast and furious. To begin with, most of the 1959 home tape recorders came out with provision included for playing quarter-track tapes, and for recording the same, mono or even in stereo.

Though RCA got the cold shoulder, the quarter-track system itself didn't. Quarter-track recorded stereo tapes are out, too, on ordinary reels.

The smaller quarter-track heads - the main technical revolution involved - are being used dual-purpose, to play the older half-track tapes as well as their own kind, via mechanical adjustments that are relatively clumsy but, for the time being, effective enough.

In some situations, the opposite is being promoted, i.e. the playing of quarter-track recordings by existing half-track heads - a poor idea since a halftrack head scans too much blank tape and thereby produces an uncomfortable quantity of background hiss. (This from a helpful correspondent who tried it. He also says that one track plays at a lower level than the other, making for more hiss in the balancing.) Anyhow - the quarter-track system has invaded the home machine field in force and it's there to stay.

Er hatte es geahnt, das mit der Philips CC Kassette in 1963

We've only seen the beginning. I feel now, as I did a year ago, that we are in for another complete revolution here and I suspect that in a few years quarter-track tape will entirely replace half-track for home use, whether in an automatic magazine or on plain old fashioned reels or, perchance in some other arrangement still to be launched.

Our present standard half-track tape, along with its counterpart in two-track stereo, will gradually become less and less "standard", more and more secondary, like the 78 record and the 3-mil stylus.

We'll have both systems for quite awhile, and maybe both magazine and plain reels in one machine, later on - but the quarter-track equipment will gradually take over until, one fine day, there'll be a rash of new home tape recorders that won't even play half track tapes at all. Not too far off.

Ich werde mir auch einen 4-Spur Recorder kaufen

I'm about to acquire a quarter-track home recorder for experiment and expect to report on it, for whatever interest it may prove to have, later in the year.

Meanwhile, though, I'm off on a prophesying binge -  and I haven't even used a quarter-track machine. But the signs and circumstances are multiplying and I don't need to wait, in order to see fundamental sense in the new quarter-track standard, whether it is via magazines or the thread-it-by-hand system.

First, it obviously was not a public failure that held up the RCA quarter-track stereo tape cartridge. The public never got to try it, and few have ever heard it. A few hi-fi demonstrations, here and there, are hardly going to make or break such a development.

Clearly, something didn't pan out as anticipated, and the only thing that matters, as I see it, is that the change in RCA plans should not be construed as affecting quarter-track tape's value, generally. Far from it.

Sollte die RCA Kassette mit der Stereo-Disc konkurieren ?

Maybe RCA did hope to get its stereo cartridge in ahead of the then-doubtful stereo disc and so decided to launch the two at once in 1958 (the press got it in June, 1958), to cover any eventuality.

Maybe the tape machine makers did put a crimp in the big plan by refusing to a man to rush forth with magazine tape players for 1959 (i.e., autumn, 1958). They declined (though they had the RCA specs back in January of 1958) and instead came out with the quarter-track heads, minus the magazine.

It hardly seems as if this is what RCA had hoped for, to put it mildly. In any case, all this is now water under the bridge, tape past the capstan, and the tape cartridge, as of this writing, enters its second year in the deep freeze.

It can still be of immense importance, just the same, and with quarter-track itself gaining ground, RCA's position is improving day by day.

Über die Vorteile der 4-Spur Technik

Now howcome I'm so positive about all this? I bared a good deal of my thinking on the new system last July (1958 - look up your back copy) but it seems a proper time now, in the interim present, to point out again why quarter-track remains a good bet.

The biggest reason is simply that it represents a basic improvement in tape quality - that is, in quality relative to the amount of tape used.

In this sense, quality has been virtually doubled, and doubled again, via the jump from two tracks to four along with the reduction of tape speed to 3 3/4 ips from 7 1/2. This change relates to the similar change that occurred about five years ago with Ampex's narrow-gap heads.

Yes, I know that right now there's a big storm going on over the merits of 7" vs. 3" ips in quarter track, but I'll wait until later for my own decision on that - the subject is still too half-baked. I'm more interested in the longer-range implications of quarter track, both as to width of track and speed.

Upward Revamping

What this amounts to, then, is another revamping upward in the whole tape hierarchy of speeds and qualities, a sort of slipping of a cog in the basic ratio, towards better performance.

I don't need to bother with the technical details except to mention the ultra-narrow-gap quarter-track head that is the prime ingredient. (Better tape, better transport mechanisms, more know-how in the mechanical configurations of tape heads, are other factors that come to mind.)

In effect, the basic quality of the older 7 1/2-ips home tape now is available at half the speed and on double the tracks. Maybe it isn't quite equal, yet - and the groans of many a hobbyist are to be heard throughout the land.

But the solid work is already accomplished and a good deal of quarter-track sound is already equal to the run of half-track tape sound during the last few years.

Rückblick auf den ersten Heim-Recorder 1948

Remember that when tape first came out for the home around 1948, the practical limit for the upper frequencies on 7-ips tape was generally at from 7.000 to 8.000 cps. We all know how indefinite such terminology can be; but we all can remember, too, if we're old enough, the muffled sound of those first home 7-ips tapes.

Even the original Magnecorder, a pioneer home instrument though designed for professional use, didn't bother to claim much more than the usual 8.000 cps top for its seven-and-a-half speed.

Then came Ampex's narrower gap, with the 400 and later the 600 line, and all at once we had sound at 7 1/2-ips that was very nearly equivalent to that at 15", the professional standard.

For the last few years, the speeds have been realigning themselves on this newer basis. In the home, 7 1/2-ips is the high-quality, wide-range tape speed and 3-ips is the economy, not-so-hi-fi speed, taking the old 8.000-cps limit over for itself.

The original 3" speed, which I remember as unbearably muddy in the early days (and unsteady, too) with a top of around 4.000 cps at best, is now the secondary speed that to all intents and purposes equals the original 7". At the bottom, the lowly 1 7/8 ips is the minimum-practicality, "voice frequency" speed.

And now - quarter-track and another jump. Just as 7 1/2 was hiked up to approximate the hi-fi sound of fifteen-inch professional tape, so 3" is now hiked up to approximate the now-standard hi-fi 7". As far as I can judge, the jump is just as extensive as that earlier jump.

Wir kennen die Schwächen von 4-Spur alle

The bugs aren't gone yet by any means and quarter-track perhaps isn't yet as reliable as standard 7 1/2. The background noise may sometimes be too high, the distortion level not as satisfactory, the frequency range a bit restricted, the alignment not always solid and sure. (Cross-talk is generally not a problem, since it occurs mostly in the heads themselves and quarter-track heads are spaced further apart - by one intervening track - than standard halftrack heads.) These are all problems-of-the-moment. They've existed before. They'll be ironed out - they have been ironed out already in many new machines.

Newer and Better

In the long run, then, what with constant improvement, there's every reason to suppose that quarter-track 3 3/4 ips sound may soon generally equal present standard halftrack 7 1/2 sound, right down the line. I can't see how it will be otherwise.

There are inherent disadvantages to slower speeds and narrower tracks, but we must prove that they are insurmountable in practice before we condemn the new system as unworkable. I don't think they are.

Indeed, one of the most persuasive arguments in favor of quarter-track tape was suggested to me by the maker of some of the new quarter-track recorded stereo tapes and confirmed by an Audio correspondent who had bought one to try and had heard it played via Ampex quarter-track equipment.

"The quality seemed to me to be just as high as the best of the conventional stereo tapes, and a good deal higher than some I have heard - and own! The tape hiss is very low . . .", he writes, and there you have it in a nutshell. As the tape's producer puts it, the best argument of all in favor of quarter-track is simply that it is new.

The very factor of newness tends to put it ahead of older half-track sound, in spite of theoretical disadvantages. Newer, in these fast-moving days, means more advanced, even in the face of seemingly huge problems.

It happens all the time. Engineering ingenuity being what it is, disadvantageous products one after the other tend to end up even better than their more favorable predecessors.

Rückblick auf die ersten "LPs" von 1948

It happened with the LP, whose difficulties were so overwhelming back in 1948 that many engineers proved to themselves and all who would listen that it was unworkable and inferior.

It was - just as they said. But it also had enormous potential advantages, notably in its musical and sales aspects, and its faults were soon overcome to the point where in practice it was far superior to the old 78.

Auch mit der Stereo-Disc gibt es noch Probleme

So, too, with the stereo disc, already. It isn't technically superior yet, but the much-groaned-over complexities of last fall already seem years back, and the best stereo discs are now pretty much equal to the best monos even though ideally the mono record is still the simpler, better product.

Mind you, the 78-rpm disc (particularly microgroove) is still ideally better than any 33 1/3-rpm LP, in its basic potentialities. Practically, it's a very dead duck.

The stereo cartridge is perhaps a classic example. With four terminals instead of two, a double element, single stylus, a two-way response instead of one-dimensional, it presented appalling complications as compared to the relatively simple mono cartridge.

Inherently, the stereo cartridge is a lulu of a problem; inherently, the mono cartridge is "better" by far.

Yet already, in actual practice, our best stereo cartridges are as good as the best monos of a few years back - perhaps better. Inevitably, the stereo cartridge will end up well ahead.

Wieder zurück zur 4-Spur Technik

So will quarter-track tape, for all its present faults and its inherent inferiorities. Just wait and see. It's bound to win even if RCA's tape magazine never gets launched at all.

It'll win, first, because it is fundamentally "better", speed for speed, tape for tape, with sound quality to match standard two-track tape at a quarter the cost.

Secondly, it'll win because its inherent faults are inherently reducible - perfectible, if you wish. It'll get better and better; it can get better and better.

And thirdly, quarter-track tape brings all this and stereo too. It is the first tape development to equate stereo tape with stereo disc in terms of cost for the home. And it keeps the advantage of home recording, adds the new possibility of stereo recording as well.

We'll see. I may run into practical trouble when I myself get directly involved in quarter-track - who knows. I may curse and groan and wish I'd never tried it; but even a lot of trouble will leave me still convinced that this is the home tape system of the future. The bugs, when and if, are merely temporary, incidental, unimportant.
Let's hope I don't have to say that too often.


One of the headaches for us record collectors during the first seven or eight months of stereo disc was the obvious hassle going on within company after company as to what recorded material should be issued in stereo form, and when.

As everybody knows, there was a huge backlog of accumulated stereo material ready to go and virtually all new recording was being done both in stereo and mono form - to be sure. But how much stereo could be absorbed by the public, if released on disc?

That was the BIG question.

Wird sich die Stereo Disc durchsetzen ?

And there were complications, too, in the fact that a large part of the backlog had been already issued in mono form (or on stereo tape) and thus was technically "old" stuff. How would the public take to these seeming re-issues of oldies, long familiar?

And what was to be done about the brand new releases - would the stereo market take stereos one for one along with mono? Obviously not at the beginning. But when?

And what should be done with the unreleased stereo versions that would keep piling up higher and higher, like surplus corn and wheat in the farm belt? More backlog with every day that passed.

Well, it was a matter for gray hairs. A few companies brashly jumped straight at the beginning into one-for-one dual releases - and surely lived to regret it, what with the "sour stereo disc lemons" that were squeezed painfully out of the presses during those first hectic months!

Einge sind einfach ins kalte (Stereo-) Wasser gesprungen

A few companies, London in particular and most notably, threw everything they had into a stereo-or-nothing policy, practically shelving the mono business right from the start. It could be managed - for awhile, at least, if stereo turned out a success.

But most record companies moseyed along with a variety of compromise policies, tinkering with every combination imaginable between the poles of no stereo and all-stereo.

Only a few outfits dared come straight out with stereo-mono dual releases as a regular thing; the rest kept us wildly guessing - would there be a stereo version later on? Probably the company itself didn't know, hadn't decided; didn't want to decide - yet.

If the market would bear it, maybe in a few months ... And, 'tother way around, many a stereo disc spectacular was launched on its own, to see what might happen, with the mono version (if any) trailing far in the background, on a maybe basis.

Was passiert mit den "alten" Stereo Aufnahmen ?

All this time, mind you, and still as of this moment, there has been the continuing question, what shall we do with the earlier stereo master material, the big backlog ?

It has been coming out in driblets, or in small batches and, I'm forced to observe, the announcements haven't always been quite clear as to whether the stuff is new or "old."

To tell the truth, it doesn't really matter, so long as the original tape was a good one and the disc is up to par too. Only the record reviewers tear their hair seriously about such matters. (Now, is this the one I reviewed in mono two years ago and said it stank? Or is it a new recording?)

It's only natural, I guess, for the genial sales people to cover their tracks a bit here, just in case, playing "hocus pocus" with numbers and cover art so you really can't tell the new releases from the re-releases.

It does indicate a certain lack of confidence in the wary record buyer, who may decide that anything older than three months must be utterly unplayable. Just don't tell him, then, and he'll never know.

Es gibt sehr wohl gute alte Stereo-Masterbänder

Yet the fact is that many of the older stereo master tapes stand up extremely well to later competition, even on a mere two tracks. They can pass for brand new, strictly on their own merits.

But a much more important thought is simply that if the original mono versions are still available in the catalogue, then the stereo alternative should most certainly be there too - since it brings with it a decided musical improvement in the impact of the recording.

If you'll look at it in this light, I am sure you'll be delighted to rush out and buy up the stereo re-releases of as many of your favorite monos as appear in that form. A bargain! After all, most record buyers get to know their favorite items like familiar friends.

Imagine being able to replace that Number One, top-rated war horse you bought years ago, the one you've played so many times it practically wheezes, with a brand new disc of the selfsame performance, as familiar as ever, but now in stereo. Terrific.
I recommend this line of thought to the record companies' public relations people.

Und jetzt zur Politik von "Capitol Records"

And with that thought I come to the item that started all this, the new policy at Capitol, which embodies all I have said in a highly satisfactory re-vamping of its former system of releases.

Formerly, Capitol (and Angel too) released stereo and mono discs more or less separately, as the developing market seemed to allow. New stereo discs for each month were listed apart from new monos; you weren't always sure whether both versions were being released together even when in fact they were.

All a part of the inevitable "hocus pocus" mentioned above, and what with a mono and a stereo release list, popular and classical (and some other categories too), for each of three labels every month, things were getting really pretty complicated. (Fortunately, the stereo tape releases of some of the same material slacked off as the discs increased.)

In den Katalogen gibts jetzt Mono und Stereo

Now, Capitol puts all its "cards" straight on the printed page for all of us, each month. Every recording is listed with two columns of record numbers off to its left, headed Monophonic and Stereophonic -  and the catalogue numbers, incidentally, are the same, as with RCA Victor and a few others.

Better still, though, the notation "Previously Released" is put under the mono column when the stereo is a re-issue - and no shilly-shallying about it. Capitol has faith in its older recordings (and so do I).

If there is no stereo version, for one reason or another, the notation "none" is put down, plainly for all to see. After all, there's still a lot of top-notch mono material being issued.

I've just been through my own card catalogue and am gratified to find that a number of the April, 1959, Capitol stereo releases were out in mono form as far back as 1956. Some of the best records in the Capitol catalogue, at that.

Why, somebody may be asking me, don't you mention the other companies that do the same thing in their announcements? Vox, for example, or RCA Victor. Both of these companies have listed mono and stereo releases side by side for quite awhile.

Well, you see, it's significant to me that Capitol didn't - and now does. It indicates a very important development in Capitol's thinking and, by reflection, an even more important development in stereo disc itself, these last crucial months.

Stereo, my friends, is a success.

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