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Stereophonic sound, commonly called stereo, is the reproduction of sound using two or more independent audio channels through a symmetrical configuration of loudspeakers in such a way as to create the impression of sound heard from various directions, as in natural hearing. It is often contrasted with monophonic, or "mono" sound, where audio is in the form of one channel, often centered in the sound field (analogous to a visual field).

Stereo recordings are used in FM broadcasting and Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) and in several television systems. To record in stereo, sound engineers use various methods, including using two directional microphones, two parallel omnidirectional microphones, or more complex techniques. Several monophonic records, such as the original Broadway cast recordings of Oklahoma! (1943), Carousel (1945), and South Pacific (1949), were once reissued in "fake" stereo to create the impression that the sound was originally recorded in that medium.

The first stereo transmission was made telephonically by Clement Ader in 1881. The BBC made radio's first stereo broadcast in December 1925. In the 1930s, Alan Blumlein of EMI patented stereo records, stereo films, and also surround sound. Harvey Fletcher of Bell Laboratoriesmarker investigated techniques for stereophonic recording and reproduction. The first commercial motion picture to be exhibited with stereophonic sound was Walt Disney's Fantasia (1940). By the mid-1950s, multichannel sound was common for big-budget Hollywood motion pictures. In 1953, Remington Records began taping some of its sessions in stereo, with the first stereophonic phonograph discs available to the general public in 1958. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission announced stereophonic FM technical standards in April 1961, and licensed regular stereophonic FM radio broadcasting, to commence that same year. In 1984, multichannel television sound was adopted by the FCC as the U.S.marker standard for stereo television transmission.

Description

The word "stereophonic" — derived from the Greek, stereos = "solid" and phōnē = "sound" — was coined by Western Electric, by analogy with the word "stereoscopic". In popular usage, stereo usually means two-channel sound recording and sound reproduction using data for more than one speaker simultaneously. In technical usage, stereo or stereophony means sound recording and sound reproduction that uses stereographic projection to encode the relative positions of objects and events recorded. A stereo system can include any number of channels, such as the surround sound 5.1- and 6.1-channel systems used on high-end film and television productions. However, in common use it refers to systems with only two channels. The electronic device for playing back stereo sound is often referred to as a "stereo".

During two-channel stereo recording, two microphones are placed in strategically chosen locations relative to the sound source, with both recording simultaneously. The two recorded channels will be similar, but each will have distinct time-of-arrival and sound-pressure-level information. During playback, the listener's brain uses those subtle differences in timing and sound level to triangulate the positions of the recorded objects. Stereo recordings often cannot be played on monaural systems without a significant loss of fidelity. Since each microphone records each wavefront at a slightly different time, the wavefronts are out of phase; as a result, constructive and destructive interference can occur if both tracks are played back on the same speaker. This phenomenon is known as phase cancellation.

Recording methods

X-Y technique: intensity stereophony

X-Y stereo microphone placement.
Here, two directional microphones are at the same place, typically pointing at an angle between 90° and 135° to each other (see also "The Stereophonic Zoom" by Michael Williams). The stereo effect is achieved through differences in sound pressure level between two microphones. A difference in levels of 18 dB (16 to 20 dB) is needed for hearing the direction of a loudspeaker. Due to the lack of differences in time-of-arrival/phase ambiguities, the sonic characteristic of X-Y recordings has less sense of space and depth when compared to recordings employing an A-B setup. When two figure-eight microphones are used, facing ±45° with respect to the sound source, the X-Y setup is called a Blumlein Pair. The sonic image produced is realistic, almost "holographic". (See also acoustic intensity).

A-B technique: time-of-arrival stereophony

A-B stereo microphone placement.
This uses two parallel omnidirectional microphones some distance apart, capturing time-of-arrival stereo information as well as some level (amplitude) difference information—especially if employed in close proximity to the sound source(s). At a distance of about 60 cm (0.6 m), the time delay (time-of-arrival difference) for a signal reaching the first microphone and then the other one from the side is approximately 1.5 msec (1 to 2 msec). If you increase the distance between the microphones, you effectively decrease the pickup angle. At a 70 cm distance, it is approximately equivalent to the pickup angle of the near-coincident ORTF setup.

This technique can produce phase issues when the stereo signal is mixed to mono.

M/S technique: Mid/Side stereophony

Mid-Side stereo microphone technique.
This coincident technique employs a bidirectional microphone facing sideways and another microphone (generally a variety of cardioid, although Alan Blumlein described the usage of an omnidirectional transducer in his original patent) at an angle of 90°, facing the sound source. The left and right channels are produced through a simple matrix: Left = Mid + Side; Right = Mid − Side (the polarity-reversed side signal). This configuration produces a completely mono-compatible signal and, if the Mid and Side signals are recorded (rather than the matrixed Left and Right), the stereo width can be manipulated after the recording has taken place. This makes it especially useful for film-based projects.

Near-coincident technique: mixed stereophony

These techniques combine the principles of both A-B and X-Y (coincident pair) techniques. For example, the ORTF stereo technique of the Office de Radiodiffusion Télévision Française (Radio France) calls for a pair of cardioid microphones placed 17 cm apart at a total angle between microphones of 110°, which results in a stereophonic pickup angle of 96° (Stereo Recording Angle, or SRA). In the NOS stereo technique of the Nederlandse Omroep Stichting (Holland Radio), the total angle between microphones is 90° and the distance is 30 cm, thus capturing time-of-arrival stereo information as well as level information. It is noteworthy that the spacing of 17 cm has nothing to do with human ear distance. The recorded signals are generally intended for playback over stereo loudspeakers, not earphones.

Pseudo-stereo

In the course of restoration or remastering of monophonic records, various techniques of "pseudo-stereo", "quasi-stereo", or "rechanneled stereo" have been used to create the impression that the sound was originally recorded in stereo. These techniques first involved hardware methods (see Duophonic) or, more recently, a combination of hardware and software. Multitrack Studio, from Bremmers Audio Design (The Netherlands), uses special filters to achieve a pseudo-stereo effect: the "shelve" filter directs low frequencies to the left channel and high frequencies to the right channel, and the "comb" filter adds a small delay in signal timing between the two channels, a delay barely noticeable by ear (the comb filter allows range of manipulation between 0 and 100 milliseconds), but contributing to an effect of "widening" original "fattiness" of mono recording.

The special pseudo-stereo circuit—invented by Kishii and Noro, from Japan—was patented in the United Statesmarker in 2003, with already previously issued patents for similar devices. Artificial stereo techniques have been used to improve the listening experience of monophonic recordings or to make them more "saleable" in today's market, where people expect stereo. Some critics have expressed concern about the use of these methods.

Binaural recording

Engineers make a technical distinction between "binaural" and "stereophonic" recording. Of these, binaural recording is analogous to stereoscopic photography. In binaural recording, a pair of microphones is put inside a model of a human head that includes external ears and ear canals; each microphone is where the eardrum would be. The recording is then played back through headphones, so that each channel is presented independently, without mixing or crosstalk. Thus, each of the listener's eardrums is driven with a replica of the auditory signal it would have experienced at the recording location. The result is an accurate duplication of the auditory spatiality that would have been experienced by the listener had he or she been in the same place as the model head. Because of the inconvenience of wearing headphones, true binaural recordings have remained laboratory and audiophile curiosities. However "loudspeaker-binaural" listening is possible with Ambiophonics.

Playback

Stereophonic sound attempts to create an illusion of location for various sound sources (voices, instruments, etc.) within the original recording. The recording engineer's goal is usually to create a stereo "image" with localization information. When a stereophonic recording is heard through loudspeaker systems (rather than headphones), each ear, of course, hears sound from both speakers. The audio engineer may, and often does, use more than two microphones (sometimes many more) and may mix them down to two tracks in ways that exaggerate the separation of the instruments, in order to compensate for the mixture that occurs when listening via speakers.

Descriptions of stereophonic sound tend to stress the ability to localize the position of each instrument in space, but in reality, many people listen on playback systems that do a poor job of re-creating a stereo "image". Many listeners assume that "stereo" sound is "richer" or "fuller-sounding" than monophonic sound. This is inaccurate; stereo and mono can have equally detailed abilities to play recorded notes. The spatial illusion is what sets stereo recordings apart from mono recordings. When playing back stereo recordings, best results are obtained by using two speakers, in front of and equidistant from the listener, with the listener located on the center line between the two speakers. That is, an equilateral triangle is formed, with the angle between the two speakers 60 degrees as seen from the listener.

Vinyl records

In 1958, the first group of mass-produced stereo two-channel records was issued, by Audio Fidelity in the USA and Pye in Britain, using the Westrex "45/45" single-groove system. Whereas the stylus moves horizontally when reproducing a monophonic disk recording, on stereo records, the stylus moves vertically as well as horizontally. One could envision a system in which the left channel was recorded laterally, as on a monophonic recording, with the right channel information recorded with a "hill and dale" vertical motion; such systems were proposed but not adopted, due to their incompatibility with existing phono pickup designs (see below). In the Westrex system, each channel drives the cutting head at a 45-degree angle to the vertical. During playback, the combined signal is sensed by a left-channel coil mounted diagonally opposite the inner side of the groove and a right-channel coil mounted diagonally opposite the outer side of the groove.

The combined stylus motion is, in terms of the vector, the sum and difference of the two stereo channels. Effectively, all horizontal stylus motion conveys the L+R sum signal, and vertical stylus motion carries the L−R difference signal. The advantages of the 45/45 system are that it has greater compatibility with monophonic recording and playback systems. A monophonic cartridge will reproduce an equal blend of the left and right channels, instead of reproducing only one channel. Conversely, a stereo cartridge reproduces the lateral grooves of monophonic recording equally through both channels, rather than one channel. Also, it gives a more balanced sound, because the two channels have equal fidelity (rather than providing one higher-fidelity laterally recorded channel and one lower-fidelity vertically recorded channel). Overall, this approach may give higher fidelity, because the "difference" signal is usually of low power, and is thus less affected by the intrinsic distortion of "hill and dale"-style recording.

This system was invented by Alan Blumlein of EMI in 1931 and was patented the same year. EMI cut the first stereo test discs using the system in 1933, but it was not applied commercially until a quarter of a century later. Stereo sound provides a more natural listening experience, since the spatial location of the source of a sound is (at least in part) reproduced. In the 1960s, it was common practice to generate stereo versions of music from monophonic master tapes, which were normally marked "electronically reprocessed" or "electronically enhanced" stereo on track listings. These were generated by a variety of filtering techniques to try to separate out various elements; this left noticeable and unsatisfactory artifacts in the sound, typically sounding "phased".

The development of quadraphonic records was announced in 1971. These comprised four separate sound signals. This was achieved on the two stereo channels by electronic matrixing, where the additional channels were combined into the main signal. When the records were played, phase-detection circuits in the amplifiers were able to decode the signals into four separate channels. There were two main systems of matrixed quadrophonic records produced, confusingly named SQ (by CBS) and QS (by Sansui). They proved commercially unsuccessful, but were an important precursor to later surround sound systems, as seen in SACD and home cinema today. A different format, CD-4 (not to be confused with compact disc), by RCA, encoded rear channel information on an ultrasonic carrier, which required a special wideband cartridge to capture it on carefully calibrated pickup arm/turntable combinations. Typically, the high-frequency information inscribed onto these LPs wore off after only a few playings, and CD-4 was even less successful than the two matrixed formats.

Compact disc

The Red Book CD specification includes two channels by default, and so a mono recording on CD either has one empty channel, or else the same signal being relayed to both channels simultaneously.

Broadcasting

Radio

In FM broadcasting, the Zenith-GE pilot-tone stereo system is used throughout the world.

Because of the limited audio quality of the majority of AM receivers, and also because AM stereo receivers are relatively scarce, relatively few AM stations employ stereo. Various modulation schemes are used for AM stereo, of which the best-known is Motorola's C-QUAM, the official method for most countries in the world that transmit in AM stereo. More AM stations are adopting digital HD Radio, which allows the transmission of stereo sound on AM stations. For Digital Audio Broadcasting, MP2 audio streams are used. DAB is one of the Digital Radio formats that is used to broadcast Digital Audio over terrestrial broadcast networks or satellite networks. DAB is extended to video, and the new format is called DMB.

Television

For analog TV (PAL and NTSC), various modulation schemes are used in different parts of the world to broadcast more than one sound channel. These are sometimes used to provide two mono sound channels that are in different languages, rather than stereo. Multichannel television sound is used mainly in the Americas. NICAM is widely used in Europe, except in Germany, where Zweikanalton is used. The EIAJ FM/FM subcarrier system is used in Japan. For Digital TV, MP2 audio streams are widely used within MPEG-2 program streams.

History

1881

Clément Ader demonstrated the first two-channel audio system in Paris in 1881, with a series of telephone transmitters connected from the stage of the Paris Operamarker to a suite of rooms at the Paris Electrical Exhibition, where listeners could hear a live transmission of performances through receivers for each ear. Scientific American reported,
"Every one who has been fortunate enough to hear the telephones at the Palais de l'Industrie has remarked that, in listening with both ears at the two telephones, the sound takes a special character of relief and localization which a single receiver cannot produce… This phenomenon is very curious, it approximates to the theory of binauricular audition, and has never been applied, we believe, before to produce this remarkable illusion to which may almost be given the name of auditive perspective."
This two-channel telephonic process was commercialized in France from 1890 to 1932 as the Théâtrophone, and in England from 1895 to 1925 as the Electrophone. Both were services available by coin-operated receivers at hotels and cafés, or by subscription to private homes.

1930s

In the 1930s, Alan Blumlein at EMI patented stereo records, stereo films, and also surround sound.
The two stereophonic recording methods, using two channels and coincident microphone techniques (X-Y with bidirectional transducers/Blumlein setup + M/S stereophony), were developed by Blumlein at EMI in 1931 and patented in 1933. A stereo disc, using the two walls of the groove at right angles in order to carry the two channels, was cut at EMI in 1933, twenty-five years before that method became the standard for stereo phonograph discs. Harvey Fletcher of Bell Laboratoriesmarker investigated techniques for stereophonic recording and reproduction. One of the techniques investigated was the "wall of sound", which used an enormous array of microphones hung in a line across the front of an orchestra. Up to 80 microphones were used, and each fed a corresponding loudspeaker, placed in an identical position, in a separate listening room. Several stereophonic test recordings, using two microphones connected to two styli cutting two separate grooves on the same wax disc, were made with Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra at Philadelphia's Academy of Musicmarker in March 1932. The first (made on March 12, 1932), of Scriabin's Prometheus: Poem of Fire, is the earliest surviving stereo recording.


Bell Laboratories gave a demonstration of three-channel stereophonic sound on April 27, 1933, with a live transmission of the Philadelphia Orchestra from Philadelphiamarker to Constitution Hallmarker in Washington, D.C.marker Leopold Stokowski, normally the orchestra's conductor, was present in Constitution Hall to control the sound mix. Bell Labs also demonstrated binaural sound, using a dummy with microphones instead of ears, at the Chicago World's Fairmarker in 1933. The two signal were sent out over separate AM station bands.

1940 to 1970

The 1940 Carnegie Hall demonstration

The Carnegie Hallmarker demonstration by Bell Laboratoriesmarker on April 9 and 10, 1940, used three huge speaker systems. Synchronization was achieved by making the recordings in the form of three motion picture soundtracks recorded on a single piece of film. Because of dynamic range limitations, volume compression was used, with a fourth track being used to regulate volume expansion. The Dolby noise reduction system of the 1970s was a far more sophisticated version of a basically similar technique. The volume compression and expansion were not fully automatic, but were designed to allow manual studio "enhancement"; i.e., the artistic adjustment of overall volume and the relative volume of each track. The recordings had been made by the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Leopold Stokowski, who was always interested in sound reproduction technology. Stokowski personally participated in the "enhancement" of the sound.

The speakers used generated 1,500 watts of acoustic power, producing sound levels of up to 100 decibels, and the demonstration held the audience "spellbound, and at times not a little terrified", according to one report. Sergei Rachmaninoff, who was present at the demonstration, commented that it was "marvellous" but "somehow unmusical because of the loudness." "Take that Pictures at an Exhibition," he said. "I didn't know what it was until they got well into the piece. Too much 'enhancing', too much Stokowski."

Motion picture era

In 1937, Bell Laboratoriesmarker in New York City gave a demonstration of two-channel stereophonic motion pictures, developed by Bell Labs and Electrical Research Products, Inc. Conductor Leopold Stokowski recorded onto a nine-track sound system at the Academy of Musicmarker in Philadelphiamarker, during the making of the movie One Hundred Men and a Girl for Universal Pictures in 1937. The tracks were mixed down to one for the final soundtrack. In 1938, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer started using three tracks instead of one to record movie soundtracks, and very quickly upgraded to four tracks. One track was used for dialogue, two for music, and one for sound effects. The purpose for this form of multitrack recording was to make mixing down to a single optical track easier and was not intended to be a recording for stereophonic purposes. The very first binaural recording MGM made (although released in mono) was "It Never Rains But What It Pours" by Judy Garland, recorded on June 21, 1938, for the movie Love Finds Andy Hardy.

The first commercial motion picture to be exhibited with stereophonic sound was Walt Disney's Fantasia, released in November 1940, for which a specialized sound process (Fantasound) was developed. Fantasound used a separate film containing four optical sound tracks. Three of the tracks were audible, and the fourth track controlled the volume level of the theater's amplifiers. The film was not a financial success, however, and after two months of road-show exhibition in selected cities, its soundtrack was remixed into mono sound for general release. In the early 1940s, the forward-thinking Alfred Newman directed the construction of a sound stage equipped for multichannel recording for 20th Century Fox studios. Several soundtracks from this era still exist in their multichannel elements, some of which have been released on DVD, including How Green Was My Valley, Anna and the King of Siam, Sun Valley Serenade, and The Day the Earth Stood Still.

The advent of magnetic tape recording made high fidelity synchronized multichannel recording technically straightforward, though costly. By the early 1950s, all of the major studios were recording on magnetic 35 mm tape for mixing purposes. Motion picture theatres, however, are where the real introduction of stereophonic sound to the public occurred. Stereo sound was proven viable with the release of This is Cinerama on September 30, 1952. Cinerama was a spectacular widescreen process fully comparable to today's IMAX. Cinerama required several architectural specifications for the theatre of its presentation. Cinerama's audio soundtrack utilized seven discrete magnetic sound tracks: five behind the screen, plus two surround channels. The system was developed by Hazard E. Reeves, a pioneer in magnetic recording technology. By all accounts (including accounts by those who have experienced the process in rare recent showings), the sound was as spectacular as the picture, even excellent, by modern standards.

In April 1953, while This is Cinerama was still playing only in New York City, most moviegoing audiences heard stereophonic sound for the first time with the Warner Bros. 3-D film production of House of Wax, starring Vincent Price. The sound system, WarnerPhonic, was a combination of a 35 mm magnetic full-coat that contained Left-Center-Right, interlocked with the two dual-strip Polaroid system projectors, one of which carried an optical surround track and one that carried a mono backup track, should anything go wrong. Only two other films carried WarnerPhonic sound: the 3-D production of The Charge at Feather River, and Island in the Sky. The magnetic tracks to these films are considered lost. A large percentage of 3-D films carried variations on three-track magnetic sound. Among them were It Came from Outer Space; I, the Jury; The Stranger Wore a Gun; Inferno; Kiss Me, Kate; and many others.

Inspired by Cinerama, the movie industry moved quickly to create simpler and cheaper widescreen systems, such as 20th Century-Fox's CinemaScope, which used up to four magnetic sound tracks. Because of the standard 35 mm-size film, CinemaScope and its stereophonic sound was capable of being retrofitted into existing theatres. CinemaScope 55 was created by the same company in order to use a larger form of the system (55 mm instead of 35 mm), and was supposed to have had 6-track stereo. However, because the film needed a new, specially designed projector, the system proved impractical, and the two films made in it, Carousel and The King and I, were reduced to 35 mm CinemaScope. To compensate, the premiere engagement of Carousel used a six-track magnetic full-coat in an interlock, and a 1961 re-release of The King and I, with the film "blown up" to 70 mm, also used a six-track stereo soundtrack.

Cole Porter memorialized the era in the 1957 song Silk Stockings:
If Zanuck's latest picture were the good old-fashioned kind,
There'd be no one in front to look at Marilyn's behind.
If you want to hear applauding hands resound
You've gotta have glorious Technicolor,
Breathtaking Cinemascope and
Stereophonic sound.


However, after 1954, films recorded in stereo (except for those shown in Cinerama) carried an alternate mono track for theatres not ready or willing to re-equip for stereo. From then until about 1975, when Dolby Stereo was used for the first time in films, most motion pictures—even some from which stereophonic soundtrack albums were made, such as Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet—were still released in monaural sound, stereo being reserved almost exclusively for expensive musicals such as West Side Story, My Fair Lady, or Camelot; epics such as Ben-Hur or Cleopatra; or dramas with a strong reliance on sound effects or music, such as The Graduate, with its Simon and Garfunkel score. Today, virtually all films are released in stereophonic sound.

Producers often took advantage of the six magnetic soundtracks in 70 mm film, and productions shot in 65 mm (or 35 mm and then blown up to 70 mm) would be mixed for stereo, while the 35mm print-downs would be mono or four-track.

Consumer media

From 1940 to 1970, the progress of stereophonic sound was paced by the technical difficulties of recording and reproducing two or more channels in synchronization and by the economic and marketing issues of introducing new audio media and equipment. To a rough approximation, a stereo system cost twice as much as a monophonic system, since a stereo system had to be assembled by buying two preamplifiers, two amplifiers, and two speaker systems. It was not clear whether consumers would think the sound was so much better as to be worth twice the price.

In 1952, Emory Cook (1913–2002), who already had become famous by designing new feedback disk-cutter heads to improve sound from tape to vinyl, developed a "binaural" record. This record consisted of two separate channels, cut into two separate grooves running next to each other. Each groove needed a needle, and each needle was connected to a separate amplifier and speaker. This setup was intended to give a demonstration at a New York audio fair of Cook's cutter heads rather than to sell the record; but soon afterward, the demand for such recordings and the equipment to play it grew, and Cook Records began to produce such records commercially. Cook recorded a vast array of sounds, ranging from railroad sounds to thunderstorms. (The term "binaural" that Cook used should not be confused with the modern use of the word, where "binaural" is an inner-ear recording using small microphones placed in the ear. Cook used conventional microphones, but gave his stereo record the name "binaural" record.) By 1953, Cook had a catalog of about 25 stereo records for sale to audiophiles.

Stereo magnetic tape recording, using two recording and playback heads on standard 1/4-inch tape, was demonstrated in 1952. In 1953, Remington Records began taping some of its sessions in stereo, including performances by Thor Johnson and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Later that year, RCA Victor conducted some experimental stereo tapings with Leopold Stokowski and a group of New York musicians. In February 1954, RCA taped the Boston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Charles Münch, in a performance of Berlioz' Damnation of Faust, which led to regular stereo tapings by the company. Shortly afterwards, legendary conductor Arturo Toscanini's last two public concerts were recorded on stereophonic magnetic tape. They were, however, not released in stereo until 1987 and 2007, respectively. In the UK, Decca Records began taping in stereo in mid-1954. In 1954, companies such as Concertapes and RCA Victor began releasing stereophonic recordings on two-track prerecorded reel-to-reel magnetic tape, priced at twice the cost of monaural recordings. Serious audiophiles, the sort of people who would later be called "early adopters", bought them, and stereophonic sound came to at least some living rooms. Stereo recording became widespread in the music business by the fall of 1957.

The small record label Audio Fidelity Records released the first mass-produced stereophonic disc in November 1957. Sidney Frey, founder and president, had Westrex (owners of one of the two rival stereo disk-cutting systems) cut a disk for release before any of the major record labels. Side 1 was the Dukes of Dixieland, and Side 2 was railroad sound effects. On December 16, Frey advertised in the trade magazine Billboard that he would send a free copy to anyone in the industry who wrote to him on company letterhead.

That move generated a great deal of publicity; Frey promptly released four additional stereo disks. Dealers in stereo phonograph equipment had no choice but to demonstrate on Audio Fidelity Records. After the release of the demonstration disks, the other spur to the popularity of stereo disks was the reduction in price of a stereo magnetic cartridge, for playing the disks, from $250 to $29.95 in June 1958. The first mass-produced stereophonic discs available to the buying public came out in the summer of 1958, led by Audio Fidelity's Marching Along with the Phenomenal Dukes of Dixieland, Volume 3. By 1968, the major record labels stopped making monaural discs.

Early broadcasting

Radio: In December 1925, the BBC's experimental transmitting station, 5XX, in Daventry, Northamptonshiremarker, made radio's first stereo broadcast—a concert from Manchestermarker, conducted by Sir Hamilton Harty—with 5XX broadcasting the right channel nationally by long wave and local BBC stations broadcasting the left channel by medium wave. The BBC repeated the experiment in 1926, using 2LO in London and 5XX at Daventry. Following experimental FM stereo transmissions in the London area in 1958 and regular Saturday morning demonstration transmissions using TV sound and medium wave (AM) radio to provide the two channels, the first regular BBC transmissions using an FM stereo signal began on the BBC's Third Programme network on August 28, 1962.

Chicagomarker AM radio station WGNmarker (and its sister FM station, WGNB) collaborated on an hourlong stereophonic demonstration broadcast on May 22, 1952, with one audio channel broadcast by the AM station and the other audio channel by the FM station. New York City's WQXR initiated its first stereophonic broadcasts in October 1952, and by 1954, was broadcasting all of its live musical programs in stereophonic sound, using its AM and FM stations for the two audio channels. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institutemarker began a weekly series of live stereophonic broadcasts in November 1952 by using two campus-based AM stations, although the listening area did not extend beyond the campus.

Tests of six competing FM-only systems were conducted on KDKA-FM in Pittsburghmarker, Pennsylvaniamarker during July and August 1960. The Federal Communications Commission announced stereophonic FM technical standards in April 1961, with licensed regular stereophonic FM radio broadcasting set to begin in the United States on June 1, 1961. WEFM (in the Chicago area) and WGFM (in Schenectady, New Yorkmarker) were reported as the first stereo stations.



Television: A December 11, 1952 closed-circuit television performance of Carmen, from the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City to 31 theaters across the United States, included a stereophonic sound system developed by RCA. The first several shows of the 1958–59 season of The Plymouth Show (AKA The Lawrence Welk Show) on the ABC (America) network were broadcast with stereophonic sound in 75 media markets, with one audio channel broadcast via television and the other over the ABC radio network. By the same method, NBC Television and the NBC Radio Network offered stereo sound for two three-minute segments of The George Gobel Show on October 21, 1958. On January 30, 1959, ABC's Walt Disney Presents made a stereo broadcast of The Peter Tchaikovsky Story—including scenes from Disney's latest animated feature, Sleeping Beauty—by using ABC-affiliated AM and FM stations for the left and right audio channels.

With the advent of FM stereo in 1961, a small number of music-oriented TV shows were broadcast with stereo sound using a process called simulcasting, in which the audio portion of the show was carried over a local FM stereo station. In the 1960s and 1970s, these shows were usually manually synchronized with a reel-to-reel tape delivered by mail to the FM station (unless the concert or music was locally originated). In the 1980s, satellite delivery of both television and radio programs made this fairly tedious process of synchronization unnecessary. One of the last of these simulcast programs was Friday Night Videos on NBC, just before MTS stereo was approved by the FCC.

Cable TV systems delivered many stereo programs utilizing this method for many years until prices for MTS stereo modulators dropped. One of the first stereo cable stations was The Movie Channel, though the most popular cable TV station that drove up usage of stereo simulcasting was MTV.

Japanese television began multiplex (stereo) sound broadcasts in 1978," Japan's Stereo TV System", The New York Times, June 16, 1984. and regular transmissions with stereo sound came in 1982. By 1984, about 12% of the programming, or about 14 or 15 hours per station per week, made use of the multiplex technology. West Germanymarker's second television network, ZDFmarker, began offering stereo programs in 1984.

MTS: Stereo for television

In 1979, The New York Times reported, "What has prompted the [television] industry to embark on establishing high-fidelity [sound] standards now, according to engineering executives involved in the project, is chiefly the rapid march of the new television technologies, especially those that are challenging broadcast television, such as the video disk."

Multichannel television sound, better known as MTS (often still as BTSC, for the Broadcast Television Systems Committee that created it), is the method of encoding three additional channels of audio into an NTSC-format audio carrier. It was adopted by the FCC as the U.S.marker standard for stereo television transmission in 1984.Sporadic network transmission of stereo audio began on NBC on July 26, 1984, with the Tonight Show—although at the time, only the NBC station in New York City had stereo broadcast capability. Regular stereo transmission of programs began in 1985.

Common usage

Label for 2.0 sound (stereo).
In common usage, a "stereo" is a two-channel sound reproduction system, and a "stereo recording" is a two-channel recording. This is cause for much confusion, since five (or more)-channel home theater systems are not popularly described as "stereo". It is thus worth noting that most film soundtracks are not recorded using stereo techniques; so while they are capable of stereo reproduction, most home theater systems are rarely called upon to do this.

Most two-channel recordings are stereo recordings only in this weaker sense. Pop music, in particular, is usually recorded using close miking techniques, which artificially separate signals into several tracks. The individual tracks (of which there may be hundreds) are then "mixed down" into a two-channel recording. By using "left-right" panning controls, the audio engineers determine where each track will be placed in the stereo "image". The end product using this process often bears little or no resemblance to the actual physical and spatial relationship of the musicians at the time of the original performance; indeed, it is not uncommon for different tracks of the same song to be recorded at different times (and even in different studios) and then mixed into a final two-channel recording for commercial release.

Classical music recordings are a notable exception. They are more likely to be recorded "live", so that the actual physical and spatial relationship of the musicians at the time of the original performance is preserved on the recording.

Balance

Balance can mean the amount of signal from each channel reproduced in a stereo audio recording. Typically, a balance control in its center position will have 0 dB of gain for both channels and will attenuate one channel as the control is turned, leaving the other channel at 0 dB.

See also Panning.

See also



References

External links




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