Tagged: audio

White label vinyl record (1948 – )

White label vinyl records are generally 12-inch LPs, or 7-inch singles and come with a plain centre label (usually white) and are in plain packaging. The centre label might have handwritten details of the artist and title, or may be rubber stamped, or have a sticker applied.

Some white label records are test pressings made by the pressing plant, usually in quantities of 5 or less,  and then listened to to check the sound quality before pressing larger runs.

Some white label records are produced for promotional purposes, including advance copies sent to retailers or to DJs. Sometimes white labels are used to conceal artist identities, so the record is listened to without prejudice. Dance music producers might produce white label copies to play in dance clubs to gauge crowd response.

Other white label records are unofficial or partially unofficial releases, for example if a remix was made without the consent of the artist or label.

Generally, white label records are not distributed to the general public.

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Roland Music Style Card (1989 – 1991)

The Roland Music Style Card was a ROM card containing programmed music rhythms to extend those available in the E-series ‘intelligent synthesisers’ made by Roland.

The first of the ‘intelligent synthesisers’ was the E-20, released by Roland in 1988 as the first product of Roland’s new European arm, and was aimed at the high-end home market. A number of variations of the first-generation E-series were released, such as the cut-down E-5, and the enhanced E-30 and Pro-E (an ‘intelligent arranger’).

For the first generation of the E-series, the cards were prefixed with TN-SC1 and there were 14 Music Style Cards in the first series released between 1989 and 1991.

There was a subsequent series of Music Style Cards with a slightly different shape and prefixed TN-SC2 for later E-series synthesisers such as the E-35, E-56 and E-70.

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Record album (late 1900s – 1950s)

Sometime during the late 1900s, record companies began to sell sets of 78rpm disc records in hardback ‘albums’. These were much like photograph albums, but with paper sleeves for multiple 10-inch or 12-inch phonograph discs, and they allowed record companies to sell complete musical works such as operas or classical works. The 78 rpm records of the time were only able to contain around 3 minutes of playing time on the 10-inch version, and 5 minutes on the 12-inch versions, so a longer complete work had to be spread across several discs.

Around the same time, empty record albums became available to allow listeners to store and protect their own discs, write information about the contents on an index page, and display the album on bookshelves.

Record albums eventually came to be used to contain compilations by artist, or by genre, in addition to longer works, and a set of 4-5 discs could contain 8-10 songs. Later releases had cover artwork and liner notes.

With the advent of the Long Play microgroove record in 1948 that could hold the same number of songs on a single disc there was no longer a need for record albums containing several discs, and indeed by the late 1950s the 78 rpm disc itself was being phased out. However, the term ‘album’ continues to be used to describe a collection of songs, whatever the format.

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Metal tape Microcassette (1981 – mid-1980s)

The Microcassette was introduced in 1969 by Olympus for dictation purposes, but in 1981 and 1982 several devices were introduced that used the Microcassette for music recording and playback.

Several personal stereo devices, similar to the Sony Walkman were introduced, such as the Olympus SR-11, and there were also several Microcassette decks for Hi-Fi separates systems from brands such as JVC, Sanyo, Technics and Sony.

The Microcassette for music was a little different to the standard Microcassette and used metal tape (coated with pure metal particles rather than oxide) which had been introduced for the Compact Cassette in 1979 as this offered higher sound quality. Many of the new Microcassette music devices offered Dolby noise reduction, and of course this version of the Microcassette offered stereo sound.

A few pre-recorded tapes were released (mostly in Japan), but the format failed to take off and seems to have disappeared fairly quickly. Even at the time the tapes had limited availability and were expensive, and it’s now hard to find original metal tape Microcassettes.

Despite being used for music playback in its metal-tape form, the cassette seen in the 1971 film ‘A Clockwork Orange’ was the similar Mini-Cassette format and not a Microcassette.

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DASH (Digital Audio Stationary Head) (1982 – mid-1990s)

Sony introduced the DASH (Digital Audio Stationary Head) in 1982 for use in professional recording studios. The DASH system could record two-channel audio on ¼-inch tape, or 24 or 48 tracks onto ½-inch tape, and DASH recorders were produced by Sony, Studer and TASCAM.

The tape itself looked identical to standard NAB open reel analogue tape, but tape for use in DASH and the competing (and incompatible) ProDigi format systems used metal-particle tape which was not suitable for use in analogue systems due to the faster wear on the heads. Several companies produced open reel metal-particle tape for digital audio systems, and some examples included 3M Scotch 275, Ampex 467, EMTEC 931 and Sony own-brand tape. Metal-particle tape was even more expensive than oxide-based tape for analogue systems.

Unlike some other digital audio recording systems using tape such as DAT or U-Matic which used helical scanning, the DASH and ProDigi systems used a stationary recording head.

The audio was encoded as PCM, and included error correction, and all DASH recorders were capable of using 16-bit resolution with a 44.1 or 48 kHz sampling rate, with a couple of models capable of 24-bit 48 kHz operation.

DASH and ProDigi were the two main open-reel digital audio recording systems in use from the early-1980s to the mid-1990s, but eventually the falling price of hard-disk space, as well as more compact systems such as ADAT, made them less viable.

Although DASH was a digital system, it still had the disadvantage of having to wind through the tape to find a particular point, and wear could still be a problem. Poorly maintained machines or tape, dust, or fingerprints could render tapes unusable despite the error correction system.

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Preservation / Migration

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Yaboom MCD Musical Key Chain (1999 – 2001)

Yaboom was a toy manufacturer of the late 1990s and early 2000s that specialised in celebrity musical dolls. It also made a couple of different formats for music, one of which was the MCD Musical Key Chain which was a small music player on a key chain.

Like similar formats such as HitClips, it was aimed at the teenage market. And like HitClips, sound quality was poor but the single songs were at least full length. As well as a play button, there was a switch that meant a 20 second sample was played when the play button was pressed, and this allowed users to hear a sample before buying as the play button could be pressed whilst the device was still in its packaging. There was no volume control and no headphone socket so the song could only be played through the tiny built-in speaker.

Artists such as Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, TLC, B*Witched and Five were released on MCD Musical Key Chains.

Yaboom also made the Yaboom Box, a very small replica boom box on a key chain, that could be used with tiny interchangeable cartridges.

Yaboom appeared to have ceased trading sometime in 2001.

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LP (Long Play) 12 inch record (1948 – )

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 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, as have shaped vinyl and even neon vinyl.

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%).

Stereo sound was introduced in 1958, and quadraphonic records were sold in the 1970s for a time.

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.

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Preservation / Migration

Copy-protected Compact Disc (2000 – 2006)

The original specification for Compact Disc Digital Audio, known as the Red Book, did not make any provision for copy protection, and by the late 1990s millions of ripped audio tracks from Compact Discs were compressed as MP3s and shared over the internet.

The music industry did several things to try and rectify the situation, including setting up online music stores selling music through a subscription model, and the Recording Industry Association of America also prosecuted over 20,000 individuals they accused of sharing pirated MP3s.

Starting around 2000, the music industry also began to put copy-protection onto audio Compact Discs. Companies such as EMI, Sony, BMG, and for a time Warner used copy protection as a means to prevent ripping of audio tracks onto a computer.

Since the discs were non-compliant with the Red Book standard, they were not supposed to display the Compact Disc Digital Audio logo on either the disc or inside the jewel case. There was also a consumer outcry against the disks as they prevented tracks from being copied to the purchaser’s personal audio devices, and some CD players such as those in cars would not play the disks (since these sometimes used some CD-ROM components, especially if they were intended to play disks containing MP3 or other types of compressed files).

In 2005, it was discovered that Sony BMG were using a type of copy protection called Extended Copy Protection (XCP) which installed a rootkit on a user’s computer. This sparked a scandal as it could be used by malware, and Sony announced a recall of disks using XCP and suspended its use.

EMI was the last major label to abandon copy protection in 2006.

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Yaboom Box (1999 – 2001)

Yaboom was a toy manufacturer of the late 1990s and early 2000s that specialised in celebrity musical dolls. It also made a couple of different formats for music, one of which was the Yaboom Box which was a very small replica boom box on a key chain, that could be used with tiny interchangeable cartridges.

This was very similar in concept to HitClips, and was aimed at the teenage market. Like HitClips, sound quality was poor, and the songs only lasted for one minute. Artists such as LFO, Sisqó, Christina Aguilera, Aaron Carter and Mandy Moore have been released on Yaboom cartridges.

Yaboom also made the MCD Musical Key Chain that contained a full-length song but without interchangeable cartridges.

Yaboom appeared to have ceased trading sometime in 2001.

Shaped Compact Disc (1996 – )

Shaped Compact Discs first appeared in the mid-1990s, the first being The Flaming Lips Compact Disc single entitled ‘This Here Giraffe’ released in 1996 on a 8-pointed star-shaped disc.

The most common form of shaped Compact Disc is the business card sized CD-ROM introduced in 1998, but shaped CDs can come in a variety of shapes. Generally, Compact Disc audio discs can be symmetric or asymmetric, whereas shaped CD-ROMs are generally symmetrical so they do not cause vibrations in high-speed CD-ROM drives.

Shaped CDs contain less audio or data than standard 12cm discs, and may not work in all drives.

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