Tagged: audio

Talking View-Master Electronic 3-D Viewer (1984 – late 1980s)

The Talking View-Master Electronic 3-D Viewer was a device for viewing stereoscopic film images with accompanying audio, and was introduced by View-Master International in 1984. It was a development of an earlier Talking View-Master which has been introduced in 1970 by GAF that used a small transparent phonograph disc attached to the View-Master reel.

The new version of the Talking View-Master used a cartridge containing (and protecting) a separate film reel and flexible black phonograph disc. The viewer provided better sound quality by using a sapphire stylus, linear tracking tone arm and microprocessor controlled motor for better speed control. The new version also had volume control, and headphones.

When a cartridge was inserted, a beep sounded until the reel was aligned to picture one, and then the record was started. A beep then sounded for the viewer to advance the reel, and at the end a message plays to remind the viewer to remove the cartridge.

As well as Disney and other cartoons, there were reels for contemporary live action TV programmes such as the A-Team, Fraggle Rock, Knight Rider and Sesame Street, and a Michael Jackson ‘Thriller’ reel.

Although View-Master International indicated before launch that retailer response was strong, the new Talking View-Master didn’t appear to have lasted very long and less than 45 titles were released.

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MQS (2013 – )

Mastering Quality Sound is a term used by the South Korean company Astell&Kern to describe 24-bit high-resolution audio files that use the FLAC format (a lossless compression format). Astell&Kern sell a range of high-end audio players that support a range of audio file types, including high-resolution FLAC files, and the players themselves incorporate microSD card slots.

Music files can be transferred from a computer to the player using microSD or microSDHC memory cards of up to 32 GB, or connecting via cable, but a small number of pre-recorded albums have been released on microSD cards marketed under the name MQS.

MQS microSD cards contains high-resolution audio files in FLAC format and these can be played back on many devices in addition to Astell&Kern’s players, although additional plugins or apps may sometimes be required on other devices. Astell&Kern products support 24-bit high-resolution audio with a sampling rate of up to 192 kHz (though the music on MQS microSD cards varies from 44.1 kHz to 192 kHz depending on the source) and claim that this gives up to 6.5 times the level of detail of a conventional CD-quality audio file.

Pre-recorded music has already been released on microSD cards, both under SanDisk brands such as Gruvi and slotMusic, and also on generic microSD cards. These formats used MP3 files rather than the higher quality FLAC though.

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Luminous vinyl record (1978 – )

A small number of phonograph records have been pressed on luminous vinyl, two of the first being the 12-inch single version of Kraftwerk’s ‘Neon Lights’, and the Penetration album ‘Moving Targets’, both in 1978. Since then, a small number of releases have been made on luminous vinyl.

In normal light, the records look like standard coloured vinyl (usually white in colour, but some other colours have also been used such as yellow for Kraftwerk’s 1981 7-inch single of ‘Pocket Calculator’) but give off a phosphorescent glow in darkness. They glow brighter after being exposed to bright light for a while.

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XRCD (1995 – )

XRCD (eXtended Resolution Compact Disc) was introduced by JVC in 1995. XRCD discs conform to Red Book standards and will play on any Compact Disc player, but claim to use much higher quality mastering and manufacturing processes to produce a sound as close as possible to the original master tape.

Subsequent versions of XRCD are called XRCD2 and XRCD24.

All versions of XRCD disc are encoded at 16 bits; the 24 in XRCD24 refers to the use of 24 bit encoding when digitising the original analogue source (XRCD and XRCD2 used 20 bit encoding of the original source).

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Pye magnetic disc (1953 – late 1950s)

From around 1953 to the late 1950s the UK company Pye produced the Record Maker. This device allowed the user to record onto pre-grooved 12-inch discs that had a magnetic coating. Users could record to the disc at one of four different speeds (16⅔, 33⅓, 45 and 78rpm) but the slower the speed, the poorer the quality of recording.

The Pye Record Maker could also be used to play ordinary phonograph records, with an optional pick-up head attachment.

Telefunken also made a similar machine, but this could not play phonograph discs, used a larger centre hole, and had a single speed of 10rpm.

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dbx disc (1979 – 1982)

dbx was a noise-reduction system that was employed on a number of 12-inch LPs in the late 1970s and early 1980s..

The dbx system was premiered in 1973 and a promotional disc produced, but no record companies were interested. It wasn’t until 1979 that BSR, a UK producer of turntables, acquired the dbx company and persuaded several record companies to begin producing discs using dbx Type II encoding.

dbx used linear decibel compounding to compress the signal when recording, and expand it on playback. It meant that surface noise was almost completely eliminated, and the dynamic range of vinyl records could be greatly increased. In addition, dbx releases were made on heavy virgin vinyl and produced from the original master tapes. However, playing back dbx discs required a decoder, and without one playback sounded poor. This was one of the reasons it failed in the marketplace.

With a dbx encoder, users could also record onto tape with dbx noise reduction, and playback from dbx encoded tape recordings, but by this time, Dolby B was already widespread as a noise reduction system for tape.

It appears that less than 200 titles were made available, and no new releases appear to have been made after 1982.

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ADAT (Alesis Digital Audio Tape) (1992 – 2003)

ADAT was a digital audio recording format, and was aimed at the professional studio market. It was introduced by Alesis and the first recorders were shipped in 1992.

ADAT could record up to 8 tracks, but multiple machines could be connected and synchronised to create recordings with up to 128 tracks. At the time, the only alternatives were 2 track DAT machines or very expensive digital open reel (DTRS was introduced a year later). ADAT was very sucessful, partly due to its affordability, and over 110,000 ADAT recorders were sold worldwide.

The recorder used S-VHS cassettes as the recording medium. Although intended for analogue video recording, these tapes were ideal for ADAT, with their width allowing for 8 tracks, good quality, and easy availability at the time. Although specially made S-VHS cassettes were available for the ADAT format, any premium-quality S-VHS video cassette could be used, though it was recommended to be no more than 120 minutes long (when used for ADAT, up to 40 minutes per tape was possible).

The first generation of ADAT recorders (also known as ‘Blackface’) recorded at 16 bits per sample (ADAT Type I). Later generations supported 20 bits per sample (ADAT Type II) but were backward compatible with recordings from the first generation.

ADAT was discontinued in 2003, but the name lived on in the ADAT HD24, a hard-drive based recorder.

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Organ cobs (late 1880s – late 1920s)

Organ cobs or rollers were used in roller organs, and consisted of a cylinder of wood with pins in them that pressed on the keys in the organ to actuate them. Roller organs were a type of reed organ introduced in the late 1880s by the Autophone company of New York, and were an inexpensive and popular means of entertainment for the US market.

The smaller organ cobs could play 20-note roller organs (such as the cheapest Gem Roller Organ), but larger roller organ models (such as the Grand Roller Organ) were also available that could take larger cobs that could actuate 32 notes. Over 1,200 titles were produced on organ cobs.

Cobs were inserted into the roller organ and pinned in position. As the hand crank is turned, the bellows are operated and the cob is turned. As the cob turns, it shifts to the right, and goes through 3 revolutions, providing about a minute of music.

Roller organs were produced until the late 1920s.

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Timecode vinyl (2001 – )

Timecode vinyl is a 12-inch vinyl phonograph record used to control vinyl emulation software (also known as digital vinyl systems) and was first introduced in 2001 as part of the Final Scratch system.

Vinyl emulation software allows DJs to control the playback of music stored on a computer by manipulating the record as if it were a standard disc. The timecode records are played on a standard turntable, and the output of this is passed through an interface box (some DJ turnables may have this built in) and fed into the emulation software on the computer.

Vinyl emulation software allows any music to be played and manipulated even if it is not available on phonograph disc.

Popular current makers of vinyl emulation software include Serato and Traktor, and they produce timecode vinyl in a variety of colours.

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DTRS (Digital Tape Recording System) (1993 – 2012)

DTRS (Digital Tape Recording System) was a magnetic tape format for professional digital audio recording. It was introduced by TASCAM in 1993 for use in the DA-88 digital multitrack recorder.

The DA-88 and later models could record up to eight tracks, but devices could be combined to record 16, 24 or more tracks. The first models in the range recorded at 16-bit resolution, with later models recording at 24-bit resolution. Sony also produced a DTRS recorder.

The tape itself was simply Hi8 video tape (an analogue video format) that was used to store audio in the digital DTRS format, and it allowed long continuous recording times. The format was considered to be affordable and reliable.

DTRS was discontinued in 2012, as recording studios have moved to hard-drive recording.

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