28 August 2005
Hey, Four Ears!
One of the basic principles of bloggage is that for every factoid you're looking for, you'll happen upon a minimum of three that you aren't. Being basically lazy, I wasn't going to go into the next room and fish Switched-On Bach out of the shelf just to get the release date, which Columbia wasn't good about supplying in the late 1960s anyway, so I went to Wendy Carlos' Web site, where I was promptly sidetracked by a number of items, including this (it's about halfway down the page):
As a joke gift to a CBS Records producer who was championing a pseudo quad system at the time, CBS's "SQ" (we wanted a true discrete system instead, a topic for another time), Rachel Elkind and I put together this absurd contraption. It's a four-eared quad headphone set, which we called the "Tempi Quadnaural Earphones" (Two channel phones = Bi-naural, so four channels = Quad-naural...)
Actually, the Carlos/Elkind contraption didn't look that much different from the real four-channel headphones that appeared from Koss shortly thereafter, and which I actually bought. (They lasted about three years before it became impossible to repair the horridly-complicated cabling, which wanted to come loose from the control box every chance it got.) I couldn't find a picture of the actual phones out there, but I did catch a photo of the Koss sampler album Perspectives, offered to anyone who bought the Phase/2+2 Quadrafone (yes, that was the name) and sent in the certificate from the manual.
For your amusement, I present, from the liner notes of Perspectives, just what the controls on the box um, the Programmer were alleged to do:
In other words, each of the Ambience Expander switches throws that channel 180 degrees out of phase; if you hit them all, they'll all be in phase with each other, but not with the source material. There is some doubt, at least in my mind, whether one can tell absolute phase without a whole lot of practice; I'm sure I can't.
The Quadrafone has two standard full-size phone plugs, which plug into the Front and Rear headphone jacks of a quadraphonic amplifier or receiver. (I still have my quad receiver, though it's driving only two speakers these days and I play an awful lot of mono records.) And interestingly, in the straight-quad mode Quad Comparator switched to "4ch" the rear-channel information was fed to the front drivers of the phones, which were angled in such a way as to create the illusion that their output was behind you. It was endlessly fascinating for about the first couple of weeks, after which playing with the little switches became more trouble than it was worth. I had about twenty actual quad albums; everything else got faked into surround inside the phones. (The receiver had its own circuitry to do this for the speakers.)
Well, it was fun while it lasted, anyway.Posted at 12:01 AM to Tongue and Groove