Tagged: music

7-inch EP (1952 – )

The 7-inch EP (for Extended Play) was a format introduced in 1952 by RCA Victor, just a few years after the introduction of the 7-inch single format in 1949.  It sat between the 7-inch single and the 12-inch Long Play (LP) record, and like the 7-inch single it span at 45 rpm so could be played on any photograph with a 45 rpm setting.

By using narrower grooves, it was possible to squeeze 7½ minutes of playing time on each side at the expense of volume, allowing more than one song on each side (generally EPs have between three and six tracks). Like LPs, EPs did not necessarily have ‘title’ tracks, and could have different names to the songs on them (for example the 1963 Beatles EP simply called ‘The Beatles’ Hits’).  They were also packaged more like an LP with a cardboard picture sleeve, whereas 7-inch singles until the 1970s generally had paper sleeves with just the record label on them.

Whilst less common in the US, the 7-inch EP was widely sold in the UK and some other European countries, and between 1960 and 1967 they were popular enough for Record Retailer magazine in the UK to compile a separate EP chart. They were a good way for artists to produce something more substantial than a single between LP releases.

They declined in popularity after the 1960s, and faced competition from formats such as 10-inch and 12-inch singles or EPs (which could allow for more sound volume with wider grooves), as well as Cassette and CD singles or EPs. However, small numbers of 7-inch EPs are still released.

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Enhanced CD (1994 – )

An enhanced CD (or ECD) is a Compact Disc that contains both audio content playable on a standard CD audio player, and multimedia content playable on a computer CD-ROM.

Introduced in 1994, the idea behind enhanced CDs was to offer the music buyer some extra bonus features using space on the disc that was unfilled by the music. This might take the form of music videos (similar to the earlier idea of CD Video), interviews, wallpapers, pictures, lyrics, or links to an artists website.

Rather confusingly, there were three different ways on combining the different content on the disc. Prior to 1996, enhanced CDs were created in one of two ways. One was to have the multimedia content in the first track, but this meant that track 1 needed to be skipped when played in a standard CD audio player or else the multimedia track could cause an unpleasant noise to be heard. A subsequent solution was to have the multimedia content in the pre-gap before track 1 (rather like the way a CD-i Ready disc worked). Both of these methods were known as ‘mixed-mode’, combining Red Book Digital Audio and Yellow Book CD-ROM information in a single ‘session’ on the same disc.

To get around the problems of mixed-mode discs, Philips and Sony released the Blue Book standards in 1995, and worked with Apple, Microsoft and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to develop them. This new standard specified multisession technology that used two sessions on the disc, the first one containing audio tracks, and the second one containing data that is invisible to CD audio players. In 1996, most enhanced CDs used mixed-mode with the multimedia in the pre-gap, but by 1997 most were using Blue Book standards. The only downside to the newer multisession technology was that CD-ROM drives made before 1996 might not recognise them if they were not multisession capable.

Enhanced CDs can usually be recognised the official ‘Enhanced CD’ logo recommended by the RIAA. They may also have the CD EXTRA logo (previously known as CD Plus), which was trademarked by Sony for use on Blue Book discs.

Later technologies like DVD-Audio or DualDisc tried to perform the same function of offering the music album with bonus material such as videos, but later albums often came instead with the videos on a separate DVD-Video.

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Durium record (1932 – 1933)

Durium was the name of a UK record label, and also the name of the material used to make the records it issued, which was a synthetic brown resin invented in the US in 1929. Durium was also used by a US record label called ‘Hit Of The Week’ between 1930 and 1932 to make cardboard-backed flexi-discs, initially with one song, and later with two songs on one side of the disc.

The UK Durium label also used the durium material make inexpensive cardboard-backed flexi-discs containing two songs, and sold at newsstands. Sound quality was as good or even better than the usual shellac used for most phonograph records of the time. They could be played with standard steel needles and were as durable as shellac discs (and less fragile). Like shellac records, Durium records span at 78rpm, but had closer spaced grooves to enable five minutes of playing time (at the expense of bass response).

Most discs were 10-inches in diameter, and were contained in flimsy sleeves. They usually had plain cardboard backings, but some had pictures of the artist.

In the UK, the Durium label released around 40 title from April 1932 to January 1933 at the rate of one per week, on Fridays which was traditionally payday in the UK.

Durium records are still playable today, unless they are badly creased. If the records will not sit flat on the turntable, they can be weighted with a upturned mug or similar object.

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CD-i Ready (1991 – 1998)

CD-i Ready was a hybrid optical disc format, combining audio tracks readable by any Compact Disc audio player, and multimedia or interactive elements readable on a CD-i (Compact Disc Interactive) player. It was introduced by Philips in 1991.

The audio tracks conform to Red Book Compact Disc Digital Audio standards, while the CD-i part conforms to Green Book standards, and could contain interviews, photos, biographies, games and more. The CD-i component is located in the ‘pre-gap’ area before track 1, which is skipped over by Compact Disc audio players.

The idea, like CD-i generally, was not a commercial success, and there appear to be fewer than 20 titles released as CD-i Ready discs.

The ideas behind the hybrid CD-i Ready discs were used in later types of hybrid audio/data discs such as the Enhanced CD that contained content which could be read on a standard computer CD-ROM drive rather than requiring a dedicated CD-i player.

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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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Sterling Record (1904 – 1908)

Sterling cylinder (with packaging)Sterling Records were black wax moulded phonograph cylinders produced in England, initially in 1904 by the Sterling Record Company, and then from 1905 by the Russell Hunting Record Company.

Up until 1903, the cylinder market in England had been dominated by Edison Bell, whose patents gave them control. Once their patents expired, the market was opened to new competitors such as Sterling Records and Clarion Records.

Like the contemporary Edison Gold Moulded Records, Sterling Records were classed as 2 minute cylinders (100 threads per inch), but were around ¼-inch longer so had a little more capacity.

Sterling Records sold well with the first million cylinders sold in the first 22 weeks of business, and the cylinders were well recorded and made. However, they were discontinued in 1908 when the Russell Hunting Record Company went out of business.

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Compact LaserDisc (1986)

Compact LaserDiscs were 12-inch LaserDiscs that combined a complete music album (as would be found on the equivalent Compact Disc) in digital audio, along with music videos for some of the tracks. When played as an audio album, the screen would show a picture of the sleeve and the name of the track.

Around just seven titles were released by Pioneer Artists in 1986, for distribution in the US.

The name is a bit of a misnomer as they were anything but compact, but it was meant to emphasise that these were essentially a Compact Disc album with added videos. They are very similar in concept to CD Video, except able to hold an entire music album.

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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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Holographic Compact Disc (1991 – 1996)

Holographic Compact Discs are standard Compact Discs with a holographic design incorporated into them. These appear on both sides of the disc, and the playing area is kept within the 3-inches of a mini CD single, limiting playing time. The playable part of the disc conforms to Red Book standards.

A handful of singles and interview discs were released, mostly between 1991 and 1993. Almost all releases were mastered by Nimbus and Applied Holographics.

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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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