In Reply to: When did stereo arrive? posted by kvkmak on September 26, 2002 at 10:50:26:
Stereo recording actually dates back to 1931. Alan Blumlein, arguably the greatest genius in the history of audio, applied for a patent covering the recording, reproduction, and transmission of what he called "binaural" sound on December 14, 1931. Blumlein's system used two microphones and two speakers, just like today's stereo systems.
Keller at Bell Labs was producing stereo recordings at about the same time as Blumlein. This is what led to the Fantasia sound track. Olson and Wolff at RCA also experimented with stereo sound at this time. Stereo was "in the air" by 1930 at least.
These early stereo experiments were largely based on the findings of Fletcher at Western Electric, who had experimented with binaural hearing in the early '20s (and possibly even earlier). At about the same time, Alexanderson at GE experimented with stereo sound.
There is an LP that was released in the 70s or 80s that has some of the experimental stereo Bell Labs recordings on it. One of my employees had a copy and the sound was quite good. The recordings were made somewhere from the late 30s to the late 40s. If I recall right the conductor was Stowkowski (Leopold! :P)
These are thought to be some of the earliest stereo recordings.
Fantasia is considered to be the first commercial use of stereo.
RCA released the 'staggered head' pre-recorded tapes as early as 1954. Also Sprach Zarathustra was one of the very first.
'In line' prerecorded tapes began to appear a few years later.
The earliest public demonstration of the binaural effect (so far as I am aware) occurred at the Paris Electrical Exhibition of 1881. Each person was provided with two "receivers" that picked up the sound from two "transmitters" located a distance apart on an opera stage. The transmitters were Ader microphones and the receivers were Bell telephones. The listeners were able to localize the position of instruments on the stage.
In America, Western Electric's work on this effect inaugurated the "silver age" of stereo (post WWI), while RCA inaugurated the "golden age" of stereo (post WWII).
That's the short story. For the long story, see my series of articles just now starting in Vacuum Tube Valley (www.vacuumtube.com): "Contest for High Fidelity: Western Electric vs RCA."
70 years later, Blumlien (aka "crossed figure-of-eights") is still a great technique. The lower two octaves become attenuated to some degree, but imaging is ridiculous.
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