Sunday, July 25, 2010

hi-fi addicts

I came across a site on James Lansing, the designer of JBL speakers. The article that initially grabbed my interest is on "The Hi-Fi Bandwagon" It is a 1953 TIME Life article. Really quite a read.
This is a nice quote..

The syrupy, "bass-heavy," unrealistic sound of the old-style living room phonograph is dying out. What is replacing it is easy to distinguish by ear but hard to describe in words. Perhaps Harold Weiler, author of High Fidelity Simplified, one of the several books on the subject to appear in recent months, does it as well as anyone:

"Do you [when listening to your radio or phonograph] hear cymbals as a crashing sound followed by a sustained shimmering? Do you hear the triangle as a clear ringing sound? Can you actually feel the vibrations of the tom-tom? . . Can you always differentiate between the violin and violoncello? Can you tell the difference between string bass and brass bass?"

If you can't -and if you care- you are ready for high fidelity.

since high-quality sound is especially popular in remote areas where entertainment is limited. Anchorage, Alaska, numbers some 30 hi-fi addicts. A local problem in Alaska is finding the favored corner location for speakers in the rounded Quonset huts in which many residents live.

With its extended range, a hi-fi sound system produces music of almost hallucinatory realism

Contrasting the enthusiast and the bug..
THE bug, on the other hand, does not necessarily like music at all but is simply interested in the reproduction of dazzling sound for its own sake-the more difficult to reproduce the better. He is especially fond of the voice of Yma Sumac, an Ecuadorian singer who has an uncannily great range, and of such tintinnabulating instruments as the harpsichord and the glockenspiel.

Here she is.

One of the strangest facts about both bugs and audiophiles is that they are almost exclusively male. Women seldom like high fidelity, and often oppose it with such violence that Walter Toscanini, the son of the maestro and a hi-fi expert, has asked with some seriousness whether women and high fidelity can coexist in one civilization.

making recordings -in nightclubs or in carefully arranged jam sessions at which the audience is instructed to please let itself go.

Such particularists represent the advance guard of a movement

Binaural addicts love trains.

likely they love them because of Emmory Cook, maker of hi-fi recordings with his label, "Sounds of Our Times". Here is a short article on him from 1954, in TIME magazine.

This theory is spectacular.
While binaural is beyond the reach and probably even the desire of the average U.S. listener, high fidelity as such will probably invade his consciousness and very possibly his living room by the endl of this year. One indication of this is a theory of Harrie K. Richardson, associate editor of Audio Engineering magazine, that high fidelity tends to follow television into a new area after a four year interval. Richardson argues that when telecasting begins in a certain region, radio-phonograph and record sales slump badly for about two years. Then, as TV's novelty wears off, a public which has been conditioned to seek amusement at home begins looking around for a new kind of entertainment. Record sales begin to rise and high fidelity is likely to engage the interest of the former TV addict. Four years after the arrival of TV, sales of records and sound systems are likely to hit an all-time high. Right or wrong, it is true that high fidelity today is selling its hottest in areas which have had television for a period of years.

THe use of addict is is so soft, as if to admit that we are all addicts and that this conditioning is really quite a normal and positive component of the modern (1953) situation. Really quite interesting.

This is a great closer.... budy!
But hi-fi's best sales stimulant is less disenchantment with television than the tendency of its devotees to turn the volume up and thus acquaint other people with its virtues whether they want to hear it or not. Not long ago a Washington, D.C. hi-fi addict with more than $4,000 worth of equipment was visited by a policeman.
"We hear you were playing records pretty late last night," said the cop ominously.
"That's right," said the addict.
"Pretty loud, we hear," went on the cop.
"Let me show you how loud," said the addict. When the cop was comfortably seated in his living room he turned on some Beethoven-full blast.
"Sound too loud to you?" he asked.
"It sounds swell," said the cop thoughtfully. "Real swell." "That's how I played it last night," said his host.
"Keep right on playing it that way, buddy," said the converted cop as he got up to leave.

Of JBL... the original D130.
This driver was responsible for establishing the nascent James B Lansing Sound as a force to be reckoned with in the loudspeaker industry.

And it shows up in this little rig.

Grateful Dead's Wall of Sound.


A-B-ING-Comparing two speakers or other components by switching rapidly first one then the other into a system while it is play ing, to judge their performances.

COAXIAL SPEAKER_A speaker with a tweeter (below) mounted within a woofer, on the same axis.

FLAT FREQUENCY RESPONSE - This ideally is the equal and undistorted amplifi cation of all tones on record or broadcast at any degree of volume from soft to loud.

GOLDEN EAR -A person whose hearing is acute enough to differentiate between grades and types of reproductive quality.

KEYHOLE EFFECT - How music sounds when it seems to come from one small source -a "keyhole"- instead of filling the room. Also, "porthole" effect.

NEEDLE TALK - The noise created by a stylus in its contact with record grooves.

SHRIEKER - A system made up of "in compatible" components which consequently create distortion. Such a system is said to have a "bother" or "worry."

TIN EAR - Antithesis of golden ear.

TWEETER AND WOOFER - The tweeter is usually a small speaker designed to repro duce high frequencies. The woofer is a much larger cone, designed to reproduce the lows.

WAR HORSES - A perennially selling re cording of a standard classic by a standard orchestra or artist.

WHISKERS - Sound is said to have whisk ers when the highs are not clear - fuzzy.

WOW - A slow wavering tone, especially noticeable in sustained piano chords, caused by uneven revolving of the turntable. A rapid wow, caused by a faulty turntable motor or faulty tape recording, is a "flutter."


Anonymous Rebecca said...

The whole conflict of sound quality of sound vs. sound quality of music is fascinating. I'd love to find out what studies have been done on women and hi-fi...also an intriguing avenue for further study. Audophiles still exist, obviously, but I think the 1950s audiophiles represented a population perhaps more engaged in sound because they were less likely to take technology for granted...especially during the Cold War.
One quick note: I do believe Yma Sumac is from Peru, not Ecuador.

7/25/2010 12:10:00 PM  
Blogger christopher jette said...

Wikipedia agrees with you.

Yeah it would be interesting to study the quantity of audio-files in female humans.

I still can't get over the casual, almost jovial usage of addict in this article. Pretty amazing.

7/27/2010 12:45:00 PM  

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