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RE/P Files: Inside The First-Ever Commercial Quad Recording Sessions
The pitfalls and rewards of recording in the world's largest echo chamber
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In the mix, we used the Orban/Parasound Stereo Matrix on the close miked tracks only in order to regain some of the space which we had lost by essentially mono-miking each of the instruments. In one of the cuts (“Short Film for David”), it was necessary to overdub the harp later in the studio, since it simply couldn’t compete with two saxes, electric guitar, and Moog.

In the overdubbed material, use of the Stereo Matrix was particularly important, since these tracks had no Cathedral reverberation connected with them, and as mono-miked tracks, they would have come out as incongruous point sources in the live quad sound field.

The musicians were very pleased with the product as it was played in the vestry control room. The last piece in particular (“Bright Shadows”) had a magical quality, with the pipe organ permeating the quad space, the harp in front, and baritone sax and flute moving all around the space, calling and answering antiphonally.

This piece, in particular, works much better in quad than in stereo-in stereo, everything flattens out, and becomes two-dimensional and non-involving when compared to the quad effect of being in the middle of the space.

The stereo mix for all the music recorded at this session was derived from the quad mix by mixing left front and left rear to get the left stereo channel, and by mixing right front and right rear to get the right channel. This procedure required changing the front-to-rear balance for each cut, which is in itself a comment on the essential futility of coming up with a completely satisfactory quad/stereo compatible disc. In any event, the quad effect was so for superior to the stereo that Beaver and Krause are determined to do all of their future recording quadraphonically.

The mix itself was quite easy. The tracks were panned in the quad space the same way they had been when they were originally monitored. We monitored with JBL 4320’s in a square about 5’ off the control room floor. The board was a modified Quad-Eiqht 16-track at the Village Recorder in Los Angeles. We used very little equalization—at the most ± 2 dB at 10 kHz or 100 Hz, except for the close-miked instruments, which were equalized more radically.

click to enlarge

This illustrates the desirability of recording in a hall with good natural acoustics with mikes a reasonable distance from the instruments if a natural, realistic sound (as opposed to super-presence larger-than-life multitrack sound) is desired. No compression or limiting was employed, and Dolby A-361 units were used throughout. My personal feeling is that pop music recording can benefit greatly from the use of Dolby, as their use creates more freedom to post-equalize as well as to create musically effective dynamics in the mix.

And if American pressing plants could maintain the quality standards routinely maintained by such European firms as Deutsche Grammophon and Phillips, we could even get these dynamics unmarred to the home listener. (This is a somewhat bitter and extremely unsubtle plea to the people responsible for quality control of American discs.)

It is interesting to mention in passing that the other side of the disc was recorded using the usual 16-track studio mono-miking techniques. We used a pair of Parasound Stereo Matrices for front and back to generate the quad space. The spatial sense was quite impressive, and the ability to place musical material front , back, and at both sides greatly aided in separating complex musical textures,

Nevertheless, the artificial space was not as real or as effective as the natural sound of Grace Cathedral, and it was the unanimous conclusion of everyone involved in the remote that the money and effort had been well spent.

Editor’s Note: This article is from Recording Engineer/Producer (RE/P) magazine, which began publishing in 1970 under the direction of publisher/editor Martin Gallay. After a great run, RE/P ceased publishing in the early 1990s, yet its content is still much revered in the professional audio community. RE/P also published the first issues of Live Sound International magazine as a quarterly supplement, beginning in the late 1980s, and LSI has grown to a monthly publication that continues to thrive to this day.

Our sincere thanks to Mark Gander of JBL Professional for his considerable support on this archive project.

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