Testing, Testing: A Collage of Hi-Fi Test Recordings
My Book/eBook: Electronic and Experimental Music, sixth edition, Routledge 2020.
My Podcast: The Holmes Archive of Electronic Music
In this episode, we pay tribute to high fidelity test recordings for record players and tape players.
Stereo test recordings were not only abundant from the late 1950s through the early 1970s, they were a necessity of the hi fi industry that wanted to convince the consumer to trade-in their monophonic gear for a stereo player. Some of these recordings were highly technical and provided detailed instructions for putting one’s stereo through some extraordinary audio paces that only a true audiophile could appreciate, let alone afford. There emerged an alternative kind of test record for everyone else, a kind that featured music and sound effects to dazzle one with the stereo separation provided by two speakers. This episode is comprised of excerpts from eighteen test recordings from the Archive spanning the years 1955 to 1980. Two of these are actually tests for tape machines, one for a reel-to-reel player and one for a cassette player.
I have roughly organized this audio experiment into three parts: the first comprises introductions and spoken word guidance for the records, with added audio effects and treatments; the second part mixes several tracks without any audio manipulation other than editing; and the third and final part explores the special effects and music that were often included on these discs, again with my audio treatments.
In this episode, we pay tribute to those producers who were charged long ago with coming up with test recordings for high fidelity record players and tape players.
1. The Measure Of Your Phonograph's Performance (1955 The Dubbings Company). Full range of frequency tests, no narrator.
2. Allied Radio Stereo Setup - Test And Demo Records (1955 Allied Radio Corp.). 3-LP set with sound effects, frequency tests, and musical selections.
3. The Science of Sound (1958 Folkways). Not strictly a test record, this exploration of sound and recorded sound was produced at Bell Telephone Laboratories, Inc.
4. Sounds...Out Of This World (1958 Omega Disk). Frequency, phasing, and balance tests plus musical selections such as Paul Tanner’s Up to Jupiter and the finale theme from Destination Moon.
5. Stereo Test Record (1959 Audio Fidelity). Including metronome, frequency testing, balance testing with piano.
6. Stereo And Monophonic – Audiotester (1959 Audiotex Hi Fi Accessories). “The first full range High Fidelity Stereo and Monaural test record made in accordance with official standards of the industry. The recording was made in one of the best equipped audio laboratories using the newest HYDROLATHE recording devices. This pressing has been made to extremely close tolerances, and of the finest materials.”
7. Stereo Check Out (1960 Command).
8. Stereo Test Record For Home And Laboratory Use - Model 211 (1963 Hi Fi/Stereo Review).
9. Seven Steps To Better Listening (1964 CBS Laboratories). Operational notes by Edward Tatnall Candy of Audio Magazine.
10.Stereo Demonstration (1965? Philips). “Stereo-Revue In Musik Und Geräusch” is a demonstration piece with various sound effects (excerpts). Engineer, Gene Ryland, Ludwig Bender; H. Gerhard Lichthorn, William Hamilton. Narrator, Heinz Piper.
11.An Audio Obstacle Course - Shure Trackability Test Record (1967 Shure). “Issued especially for promoting, testing and adjustment of the "Shure V-15 Type II" cartridge. Do Not Play This Record With A Monophonic Cartridge!”
12.Akai stereo reel-to-reel test tape. (1968 Akai). From Japan, in English.
13.This Is Stereo (1970 EXP Technical Series). Electronic Sounds And Sound Effects Devised By Clement Brown, John Wright.
14.RCOA Stereo Systems Test Record (1972 Yorkshire Records). Producer, Harold L. O'Neal Jr. “The Ultimate High-Fidelity Test Record.”
15.Bib Hi-Fi Stereo Test Cassette (1972 The Decca Record Company Limited). Commentators, David Gell (“David”) and Maroussia Frank (“Mary”).
16.Panasonic Discrete 4-Channel Record CD-4 Quadradisc: Introduction to CD-4 (1973 RCA). Special collector’s edition.
17.Micro-Acoustics TT 2002 Transient & Tracking Ability Stereo Demonstration Record (1978 Micro-Acoustic Corporation). Percussion tracking, frequency tests, and a little electronic music by Perrey and Kingsley.
18.Sonic Hologram™ Demonstration-Calibration Test Record C-4000 (1980 Carver Electronics Corporation). Demonstration record for the Carver C-400 Sonic Holography/Autocorrelation Preamplifier.
Opening and closing sequences voiced by Anne Benkovitz.
Additional opening, closing, and other incidental music by Thom Holmes.