(The Grauniad, 3 October 1958)

Within a few months, so we are promised by the big record companies, stereophonic discs will be available in this country. The question all record-collectors will want to ask is whether we are going to be faced with yet another gramophone upheaval on the scale of the L.P. revolution.

There are those who confidently believe that, ultimately, “stereo” will take first place as a gramophone medium, but because of the cost of equipment to reproduce stereophonic sound, and the greater expense of the records, that will take time. The head of one of the big companies whom I spoke to gave it as his opinion that stereophonic discs, though an important development, would not bring the fundamental changes that long-playing records have brought.

But I am looking forward eagerly to hearing the new records. Stereophony, in my experience, is important in quite a different way from that which one might expect. The first demonstrations of stereophonic tape (which E.M.I. put on the market several years ago) tended to concentrate on the effect of having the voices of singers apparently coming from different parts of the room and, in opera, apparently moving around. That is certainly an interesting parlour trick, but in practice, for serious listening, I have found such effects rather distracting. If you can hear the singers moving around, but cannot see them, it is rather like being at an opera-house with one’s head inside a paper bag.

The really beneficial effect of stereophony for the serious listener is that even with moderately priced equipment the sound is relatively fuller, and, most important of all, the ear tends far more easily to ignore any distortions in the reproduction.

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