Adventures in Stereo, Uncategorized

Adventures in Stereo – The World’s First Stereo Record

Welcome to the inaugural post of Adventures in Stereo, where we rummage through the attic of time and find random items of 2-channel audio coolness.

Today’s Adventure: The first Stereo Record

First stereo record

This “Stereophonic Demonstration Record” arrived in a coup from a small independent label, as proudly proclaimed on the back of their albums; “Audio Fidelity Records Produced and released the world’s first Stereophonic High Fidelity record (Stereodisc) in November 1957.”

While stereo recording equipment had existed for several years prior, the larger labels were slow to move on the technology creating the opportunity for AFR to swoop in and beat them to the punch. This record had an original run of just 500 units, and was distributed to retailers and dealers of high end audio equipment. A wider release to the general public followed just a few months later.

Once a staple of record collections everywhere, stereo demonstration records were at one time considered a must-have for any true Audiophile. Most of these contained recordings of everyday sounds such as trains, and automobiles, or even haircuts. But they were painstakingly recorded with an emphasis on movement and clarity, and were sometimes mixed with background music for amazing results. In their time these were nothing short of audio magic and still hold a certain nostalgic appeal.

According to Billboard, this album contained “Marching Along With the Dukes of Dixieland” on side 1, and “Railroad Sounds, Steam and Diesel” on side 2.

You can hear a higher quality MP3 of this album by clicking here to visit blog.wfmu.org

Samplers are best enjoyed alone, perhaps lying on the floor in the middle of the room, with 3 foot tall vintage speakers on either side of your head or a good set of headphones. Turn the lights down and close your eyes, then let your mind paint the scene as you hear it. And then will you experience the true magic of analog stereo.

So, minions of the Atomic Toaster Brigade, is this album a worthy entry in the dusty records of time? And when was the first time YOU remember hearing jaw dropping stereo?

[Image Credit: vinylrecords.free-jazz.net and recordoobscura.blogspot.com]

  • I grew up with some pretty rad stereos in my house. My dad somehow mortgaged my future for awesome audio and video tech back in the 80's. I remember going over to friends houses and feeling bad for their lack of stereo.

    I did actually blow up one of the 3' speaker towers' woofers by listening to the Beavis and Butt-Head Experience. Pop's was pissed. Good times.

  • tonyola

    In 1974, National Lampoon released the Official Stereo Test and Demonstration Record – very hilarious. It had segments like your speakers arguing with each other and your amp screaming when it was being punished with horrible noise.[youtube xJioKO1SahY http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJioKO1SahY youtube]

  • Who are you calling a minion?

    <img src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_-xMS2n8DGAw/TLtj-caE9YI/AAAAAAAAA3A/7KED4QMXaZc/s1600/Despicable+ME+Minion.jpg"&gt;

    (Note: that is an actual photo of me taken from my company's photo directory.)

    Interestingly, the world of test albums is alive and well. They are primarily used in car audio competitions and tend to be very bass heavy. Now, that's not really my bag (no, really), but I do find it fascinating that the concept developed so long ago has withstood the test of time.

  • zsm

    I have a Philips test CD given out at a conference when CD was being pushed. It has a quality much like this record. Everything was done to make the audio seem hyper real and clear. It has some narration prior to the tracks as well.

  • I grew up with a bunch of stereo demo records (A few of which I still have) and can still remember listening to them as a wee tot.

    My favorite test of a stereo however is still Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon. Legend had it in the 70's that due to the high highs, and low lows it could blow up all but the best stereos if turned up too loud. Nearly 40 years later the entire DSOTM album remains timeless…

    • I'm not a very good audiophile; I'm happiest listening to the dying stock speakers in my car with the windows down. But I'm really bothered by the emphasis on bass in almost any modern stereo. Once upon a time, specialized recording and playback equipment was needed along with endless fine tuning to get high levels of bass out of vinyl. CDs avoid these physical limitations, so although they have their own drawbacks, shouldn't bass no longer be a bragging point? I don't care if it's cheap subs buzzing or a genuine roar, excessive bass is ruining Pink Floyd and countless others.
      And while I'm ranting, can we stop increasing the recording volume every single year?
      /Get off my lawn.

      • I too, lament the passing of dynamic range as an art-form.

        There's an entire generation who has never heard he "wasn't really drunk at the time" or the Beatles "Ticket to ride" at the very end…

      • tonyola

        Consumer stereos tend to be biased for the high and low ends. As you say, this is a holdover from the vinyl days. Ever been to a concert where they play recorded music over the PA before the acts take the stage? Notice how "flat" the music sounded? That's because the PA doesn't have the bias. I have created and mixed down music to cassettes on a pro-level system at home and they sounded fine. When I played the cassettes on my regular stereo, the sound was much too "live" – all top/bottom without much midrange.

  • jjd241

    We had a demo record for our "quadraphonic" amplifier. That was the only thing that was ever played on it in quad. All my vinyl and 8 tracks were just in stereo.

    • tonyola

      That's partly because the wrong records were issued in quad, not to mention the endless format wars that eventually killed quad off. Who wanted to hear Bob Dylan, Doobie Brothers, or Savoy Brown in quad? Where was Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Genesis, Yes, Gong, or Gentle Giant? Or the Who "Quadrophenia" for chrissake? None of their records were ever in quad, yet they were the artists that would have been spectacular with four channels.

  • MrHowser

    I relate this Techie's articles about old movies standing the test of time. In the beginning, stereo was a big deal. But today, it's what people have gotten used to (although, I'm surprised at how many people still have mono-only VCR's and run everything through them.) My in-laws just bought themselves their first home-theater, complete with a large LCD and a Blu-Ray player. The way they rave about the sound makes me think of how revolutionary stereo must have been back in the day.

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