The EV Stereo-4 system (also known as EV-4) was a matrix quadraphonic format, developed by Leonard Feldman and Jon Fixler in 1970 and taken up by Electro-Voice as the first commercial quadraphonic system for vinyl records.
A handful of record labels used the system, including Ovation, Project 3 and Quad-Spectrum, and RadioShack sold compatible decoders and systems in the US.
EV Stereo-4 emphasises front (left to right) and front-to-rear separation, but there is less separation between the two rear channels.
In 1973 Electro-Voice introduced a decoder that could also play SQ and QS quadraphonic records with good results, but despite this Stereo-4 was pushed out of the market by these other systems and nothing appears to have been released on EV Stereo-4 after 1975.
The current system for creating stereophonic (2 channel) phonograph discs date back to 1933 when Alan Blumlein, a senior sound engineer at EMI in London, demonstrated a single-groove system in which the stylus moves both horizontally and vertically.
When the 12-inch Long Play record was launched in 1948, it was initially monophonic, and it wasn’t until 1957 that stereophonic LPs were released, by now using a refined version of the EMI system developed by Westrex (a division of Western Electric) called Westrex 45/45 in which each channel drives the cutting head at a 45 degree angle to the vertical.
In late 1957, Audio Fidelity Records and Bel Canto in the US released demonstration stereo LPs, with the the Bel Canto release on multicoloured vinyl. The first mass-produced stereophonic LPs were released in early 1958.
Mono LPs continued to be released alongside stereo LPs for the next ten years or so with major labels ceasing production in 1968, but 7-inch singles continued to be mono for longer, into the 1970s in some cases.
Stereo records produced using the Westrex system played well on a mono record player, and mono records could be played on a stereo system.
In the 1970s, quadraphonic (4 channel) LPs were produced, but were not a great success partly because there were several competing and incompatible systems.
The Little LP (also known as a Jukebox EP) was a 7-inch vinyl record with up to three songs on each side, that played at 33 ⅓ rpm in stereo, and had a small centre hole. They were first introduced by Cadence Records in late 1961, though the Cadence version was in mono and was not designed for jukeboxes.
The Little LP was not successful in the retail market, but it was picked up by Seeburg for use in their new jukebox, introduced in September 1962. The Seeburg version of the Little LP was in stereo, came with title strips, and had a colour cover for display in the jukebox. A number of record companies signed up, mostly easy listening and classical labels, and by 1963 there were 233 titles available with over 1,000 by 1966. Little LPs were also made for other jukebox manufacturers such as Wurlitzer and ATI.
Little LPs were essentially cut-down versions of the full 12-inch LP, and shared the same artwork. Record companies saw the potential of promoting the full LP version by having a selection of tracks available to hear, and the cover on display, in places where adult listeners gathered.
However by 1969, output of Little LPs had dropped sharply. A couple of small manufacturers revived the format in the early 1970s, but only a few titles per year were released in the period 1970-1975. Seeburg introduced new jukeboxes that didn’t play Little LPs in 1971, and the introduction of quadraphonic Little LPs didn’t make any difference as there were very few quadraphonic jukeboxes to play them on.
There were no new titles on the Little LP format for jukeboxes in 1976, but a few Little LPs have been released for the retail market as specialty items since then.
The LP (Long Play) record is an audio format for phonograph records, introduced by Columbia Records in 1948 and still in use today.
LP records are made of vinyl (either virgin or recycled) and together with a playing speed of 33⅓ rpm (though some were 16⅔ rpm) and the use of microgrooves, allow for a playing time of around 45 minutes. Previously, 78 rpm records had a playing time of just around 3-4 minutes per side, so an ‘album’ of records was sold as a set, and this name continued to describe a collection of songs on a single disc.
Each side of an LP contains a single continuous groove, with an average length of 460 m.
LP records are generally 12 inches in diameter, but 10 inch LPs have also been produced at different times. The amount of vinyl in an LP is generally 130 g, but some records were produced with less (sometimes as little as 90 g). Modern high-fidelity LPs tend to use more, such as 180 g. Generally LPs are pressed on black vinyl, but coloured vinyl and picture discs (with a card sandwiched between two clear sides of vinyl) have been produced.
By as early as 1952, LPs represented 16.7% of unit sales, rising to 24.4% in 1958 (by then, most of the remainder was 45 rpm singles, 78 rpm only representing 2.1%).
The LP had no serious competitors for long-playing recordings until the 1970s when the Compact Cassette improved in quality, and then in the 1980s with the introduction of the Compact Disc. LPs ceased to be a mainstream format in the early 1990s, but continue to be produced in small but increasing numbers.
The Show’N Tell was a combination record player and filmstrip viewer for children.
A 7-inch 33⅓rpm record was played on the record player that sat on top of the Show’N Tell player, while images from a strip of 16mm colour film in a rigid plastic holder were shown on the viewing screen at the front. There were 15 images in total on the filmstrip, and the programme lasted for around 4 minutes, with the images automatically advancing as the record played.
The record and filmstrip sets were called Picturesound programmes, and many different programmes were licensed for the Show’N Tell system. By 1965, 140 programmes were available.
General Electric manufactured the Show’N Tell from 1964 until the 1970s, and then CBS Toys manufactured it from the 1970s to the 1980s. The player was redesigned and CBS Toys sold it as the ‘Show ‘n Tell Phono-Viewer’. Picturesound programmes were released under the ‘Child Guidance’ and ‘Gabriel’ labels. The redesigned model could still play ordinary records, but only had two speeds (33⅓, or 45rpm) as opposed to the older version’s four speeds (16, 33⅓, 45, and 78rpm).
Americom 8mm Home Movies were first released in 1965 and consisted of a 200 or 400 foot reel of standard 8mm film and an accompanying soundtrack on an 8-inch flexi disc.
The idea was that this enabled viewers with silent 8mm film projectors to play the accompanying soundtrack on a record player. Synchronising the film and soundtrack was tricky, and the instructions explained how to do this which involved threading the film until a frame with black dots appeared, starting the record and waiting for the instruction to ‘start projector on tone’.
If the projector or record player were not running at the correct speed (18 frames per second for the projector, 33⅓ rpm for the record player) then they would gradually become out of sync.
Titles included various Popeye cartoons, and excerpts from Laurel and Hardy films, as well as excerpts from films such as Horror Of Dracula and Curse Of Frankenstein.
VinylDisc (also known as vinyl CD) is a hybrid Compact Disc and vinyl phonograph record, developed in Germany by Optical Media Production and first released in 2007.
The CD side is a standard full-length CD, and the vinyl side is a 33⅓ rpm record that can play up to 3.5 minutes of audio on a regular phonograph, although the small size means the vinyl side won’t play on automatic or semi-automatic turntables.
Around 50 or so singles and albums have been released on VinylDisc.
VinylDiscs come with a small centre spindle adapter that can is removed to play the disc in a Compact Disc player.
PocketDiscs were 4-inch, 33⅓ rpm, flexible phonograph records introduced by Americom. Americom also produced a portable player for the PocketDisc, called The Music Swinger, that allowed the discs to be played in any position (PocketDiscs could also be played on a manual phonograph).
Unlike the similar Hip Pocket Records, PocketDiscs could be purchased through special vending machines. Americom teamed up with around 28 record labels, and releases on PocketDisc were made simultaneously with the release of the 7-inch single version. Releases on Hip Pocket Records were not current releases.
Americom also teamed up with Apple records and released PocketDiscs with Beatles songs as well as songs from other artists under the Apple label such as the Iveys and Billy Preston. For this reason, some Americom PocketDisc releases are highly collectible, selling for up to £900 for titles such as the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine.
Due to the limited capacity of PocketDiscs (3.5 minutes), some longer songs such as The Beatles’ Hey Jude could not be played in their entirety.
Both Hip Pocket Records and Pocket Discs were marketed for their portability, and the ability to send them through the post or keep in a pocket without damage.
An Electrical Transcription Disc was a type of phonograph record intended for, or recorded from, a radio broadcast. Their use for this purpose persisted long after the advent of magnetic tape recording because it was cheaper to produce master disc and press 100 identical high-quality discs than to make 100 copies on tape.
They were most commonly 16 inches in diameter and played at 33⅓ rpm, although very early radio programmes (circa 1928-1931) were on sets of 12 inch or even 10 inch diameter 78 rpm discs, and some later (circa 1960-1985) ones were distributed on 12 inch diameter 33⅓ rpm discs. Although the earliest transcription discs were pressed in shellac, in the mid-1930s quieter vinyl compounds were substituted.
Standard 16 inch transcription discs of the 1930s and 1940s usually held about 15 minutes of audio on each side, but this was occasionally pushed to as much as 20 minutes. Unlike ordinary records, some were recorded inside out, with the start of the recording near the label and the end near the edge of the disc. The label usually noted whether the disc was ‘outside start’ or ‘inside start’. Beginning in the mid-1950s, some transcription discs started employing microgroove discs, allowing 30 minutes to fit comfortably on each side of a 16 inch disc.
Cardboard records were a type of phonograph record made of plastic-coated card, similar to Gramophone postcards. They had poor audio quality compared with standard vinyl phonograph discs, and tended to warp easily.
They were often used in promotional campaigns and were intended to be played once or twice. A number were pressed into cereal packets, including songs by groups as the Archies, the Monkees and the Jackson 5. They could also be inserted into magazines, or distributed as greetings cards.
The first examples appeared in the 1940s and were played at 78 rpm. Later versions were 45 or 33⅓ rpm.