Quadraphonic sound

Quadraphonic sound
4 channels Quadraphonic label

Quadraphonic (or Quadrophonic & sometimes Quadrasonic) sound – the most widely used early term for what is now called 4.0 surround sound – uses four channels in which speakers are positioned at the four corners of the listening space, reproducing signals that are (wholly or in part) independent of one another. Quadraphonic audio was the earliest consumer offering in surround sound. It was a commercial failure due to many technical problems and format incompatibilities. Quadraphonic audio formats were more expensive to produce than standard two-channel stereo. Playback required additional speakers and specially designed decoders and amplifiers.

The rise of home theatre products in the late 1980s and early 1990s brought multi-channel audio recording back to into popularity, although in new digitally based formats. Thousands of quadraphonic recordings were made during the 1970s, and some of these recordings have been reissued in modern surround sound formats such as DTS, Dolby Digital, DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD.

In 1967 the rock group Pink Floyd performed the first-ever surround sound concert at “Games for May”, a lavish affair at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall where the band debuts its custom-made quadraphonic speaker system.[1] The control device they had made, the Azimuth Co-ordinator, is now displayed at London's Victoria and Albert Museum, as part of their Theatre Collections gallery.[2]



1970s Realistic quadraphonic receiver; speakers referred to as "Quatravox" speakers; they share a common ground

The first medium for 4-channel sound was the quadraphonic reel-to-reel tape, introduced to the American market by the Vanguard Recording Society in June 1969. RCA Records followed, in April 1970, with its announcement of Quad-8 or Quadraphonic 8-Track Tape (later shortened to just Q8). These eventually appeared in Sept. 1970.

"Quad" (as it became known) did not remain restricted to the discrete channel format used in the quadraphonic reel-to-reel or Quad-8. Quadraphonic vinyl albums appeared, which used several different and incompatible modes. The first of these, known as QS or Command Quadraphonic, was developed by Sansui Electric. A so-called matrix format, it utilized four sound channels which were "encoded" into two stereo album tracks. These were, then, "decoded" back into the original four sound channels. The QS system debuted in the United States in March 1971.

The second Quad vinyl record format, known as SQ, also utilized a matrix-type system of encoding and decoding. It was developed and marketed by Columbia Records and Sony and entered the US market in April 1971. The SQ format would also be used by companies such as EMI in Great Britain, who pressed several SQ album releases. The sound separation of the SQ system was greatly improved by the introduction of SQ Full Logic decoding, in 1975.

The third major format for 4-channel vinyl LPs, known as CD-4 or Quadradisc, was devised by the Japanese JVC Corporation along with its United States counterpart, RCA. This quadraphonic format was first marketed in the United States in May 1972. A fully discreet sound mode, it eschewed the previous matrix systems in favor of a more complex -and sonically separate- method of 4-channel reproduction. A high-frequency "carrier wave" instructed a "CD-4 demodulator" on how to separate the four sound channels within the vinyl album.

Audio on vinyl records was problematic because one of the systems was based on discrete sound channels (allowing for full separation of the four original recorded channels, albeit with restricted high-frequency response and reduced record life), while two others were matrix encoded into two tracks that would also play back in standard, two-channel, stereo on normal audio equipment (so-called 'compatible' quadraphonic).

There were some experiments done with radio broadcasts (e.g. a Cliff Richard concert by the BBC), but they were short-lived. One radio series, Double Exposure, was briefly syndicated throughout the United States to various FM stations; it was made up of jazz, rock and pop music that had been commercially released in one of the quadraphonic record or tape systems. One of the longest-lived radio broadcasts was WQSR-FM "Quad 102½" in Sarasota, Florida. Throughout most of the 1970s this station broadcast a signal which could be tuned as two separate stations with conventional stereo receivers. In addition, San Francisco classical music station KKHI broadcast the San Francisco Opera in 'compatible' (that is, matrix encoded) quadraphonic format during the 1970s as did Chicago station WFMT's live "Chicago Lyric Opera" broadcasts.[citation needed]. KRMH-FM ("Good Karma Radio")(San Marcos/Austin, Texas) broadcast in "Quad Stereo" in the early 1970s from its studios and transmitter near Buda, Texas.

Discrete formats

Discrete reproduction is the only true Quadraphonic system. As its name suggests, with discrete formats the original four audio channels are passed through a four-channel transmission medium and presented to a four-channel reproduction system and fed to four speakers. This is defined as a 4–4–4 system.

To transmit 4 individual audio signals in a compatible manner, there must be four simultaneous linear equations to reproduce the original 4 audio signals at the output. The term 'compatible' indicates that:

(a) A single channel (mono) system will reproduce all four audio signals in its one speaker.

(b) A two-channel (stereo) system will reproduce the Left Front & Left Back audio signals in the Left speaker and the Right Front & Right Back signals in the Right Speaker.

A full, four-channel (Quadraphonic) system will reproduce the Left Front, Left Back, Right Front, and Right Back audio signals in each of four separate speakers.

CD-4 (Compatible Discrete 4) / Quadradisc

Compatible Discrete 4 (CD-4) logo
Quadradisc logo
An RCA Quadradisc recording. The color fringes around the reflections are caused by the ultrasonic signal that contains the difference information used to separate the four channels.

Compatible Discrete 4 (CD-4) or Quadradisc (not to be confused with compact disc) was introduced in May 1972 as a discrete quadraphonic system created by JVC and RCA. Record companies who adopted this format include Arista, Atlantic, Capricorn, Elektra, Fantasy, JVC, Nonesuch, A & M, Reprise and Warner.

This was the only fully discrete quadraphonic phonograph record system to gain major industry acceptance.

In the CD-4 system, the quadraphonic audio was divided into left and right channels which were recorded orthogonally in the vertical plane of the disc groove, which is the case with normal stereo. The audio frequencies (20 Hz to 15 kHz), often referred to as the sum channel, would contain the sum of the left front plus left back signals in the left channel and the sum of the right front plus the right back signals in the right channel. In other words, if you looked at the audio frequencies only, you had an ordinary stereo recording. Along with this audio, a separate 30 kHz carrier was recorded on each groove wall. The carrier on each side carried the difference signal for that side. This was the information that enabled a combined signal to be resolved into two separate signals. For the left carrier it would be left front minus left back, and for the right carrier it would be the right front minus the right back. These audio signals were modulated onto the carriers using a special FM-PM-SSBFM (frequency modulation-phase modulation-single sideband frequency modulation) technique. This created an extended carrier frequency range from 18 kHz to 45 kHz for the left and right channels. The algebraic addition and subtraction of the sum and difference signals would then yield compatible and discrete quadraphonic playback. CD-4 was responsible for major improvements in phonograph technology including better compliance, lower distortion levels, pick-up cartridges with a significantly higher frequency range, and new record compounds such as Q-540, which were highly anti-static. A typical CD-4 system would have a turntable with a CD-4 cartridge, a CD-4 demodulator, a discrete four-channel amplifier, and (ideally) four full-range loudspeakers. Some manufactures built the CD-4 demodulator into complete four-channel receivers.

Simply put, CD-4 consists of four recorded signals (LF, LB, RB, RF) and the following coding matrix, similar to FM broadcast stereo multiplexing.

The CD-4 encoding/decoding matrix:

  • (LF+LB)+(LF-LB)=2LF or left front
  • (LF+LB)-(LF-LB)=2LB or left back
  • (RF+RB)+(RF-RB)=2RF or right front
  • (RF+RB)-(RF-RB)=2RB or right back

Although CD-4 (and quadraphonic audio in general) failed due to late FCC approval of FM quadraphonic broadcasting, the improvements CD-4 engendered spilled over into, and substantially improved, the production of conventional stereo LP records.

UD-4 / UMX

UD-4/UMX logo

UD-4/UMX - Developed by Nippon/Columbia (Denon). This is a hybrid discrete/matrix system. Only 35 to 40 items are encoded in this format, and it was marketed only in the UK, Europe and Japan.

A regular matrix decoder could be used to play back these recordings, but, by adding a special cartridge and a UD-4 demodulator, two supplementary channels could be extracted and used to enhance directional resolution. UD-4 systems first encoded the four original channels into four new channels. Two of these new channels contained the original four channels, matrix encoded. The other two contained only band-limited localization information, and were encoded with carriers similar to the CD-4 system. UD-4 was less critical in its set-up than CD-4, because the carriers did not have to carry frequencies as high as those found in the CD-4 system.[3]

Q4 / Quadraphonic Reel To Reel

Often judged by audiophiles to be the best of the old Quad formats, this system was based on the reel-to-reel-type 1/4" tape format, fully discrete and with full bandwidth (unlike the Q8 Cartridge system, which had limited dynamic range). This format was available only in the USA. Playback machines were either dedicated quad machines or 4-track open reel systems, usually running at a speed of 7.5IPS (double the speed of the 8-Track systems), providing even better sound quality.

Quad-8 (Q8) / Quadraphonic 8-Track

Quadraphonic 8-Track was a discrete 4-Channel Tape Cartridge system announced by RCA Records in April 1970 and introduced in Sept. 1970, and first called Quad-8 (later shortened to just Q8). The format was almost identical in appearance to stereo 8-tracks, except for a small sensing notch in the upper left corner of the cartridge. This signalled a quadraphonic 8-track player to combine the odd tracks as audio channels for Program 1, and the even tracks as channels for Program 2. The format was not backward compatible with stereo or mono players – although quadraphonic players would play stereo 8-tracks, playing quadraphonic tapes on stereo players results in hearing only one-half the channels at a time. Some stereo (two-channel) 8-track players simulated quadraphonic sound through the upmixing of stereo 8-tracks, but these were not true quadraphonic 8-track players.

The last release in the quadraphonic 8-track format was in 1978, although most had stopped appearing by the end of 1976.

Matrix formats

With matrix formats, the four channels are converted (encoded) down to two channels. These are then passed through a two-channel transmission medium (usually an LP record) before being decoded back to four channels and presented to four speakers. The systems were based on the work of Peter Scheiber, who created the basic mathematical formulae used to matrix four channels into two.[4][5] This 4:2:4 process could not be accomplished without information loss. That is to say, the four channels produced at the final stage were not identical to those with which the process had begun.

SQ / Stereo Quadraphonic

SQ logo

SQ Quadraphonic was a matrix 4-channel system for vinyl. It was introduced by CBS in 1971. Record companies who adopted this format include: Angel, CTI, Columbia, EMI, Epic, Eurodisc, Harvest, HMV, Seraphim, Supraphon and Vanguard.

SQ stands for "Stereo Quadraphonic." This system made good sense, as, in the absence of a quad decoder, SQ-encoded records would play as normal stereo records, and CBS stated their desire to maintain excellent compatibility between their SQ-encoded records and standard stereo systems.

The early SQ decoders could not produce more than 3 dB of separation from front to back. Early "Logic" circuits were introduced to enhance separation to 20 dB, but provided poor performance, very noticeable gain-pumping and an unstable 'swaying' soundfield. The SQ system also faced resistance from broadcasters since, while essentially a two-channel system and totally stereo-compatible, it could have substantial mono compatibility problems, which posed serious problems with all televisions and monophonic radios of the era. By the time that the most advanced logic system was introduced for SQ, the Tate Directional Enhancement System,[6] "quad" was already considered a failure.

A Prologic II decoder will recover some of the surround sound information present in an SQ mix, as the matrices used are somewhat similar, but directional cues will not be properly located. Some of the SQ mixes are still present on CDs, especially on early, non-remastered editions, on which the original master is, in itself, SQ. (SQ is compatible with two-channel stereo, so there was no need to create a stereo version.)

Basic SQ Encoding Matrix Left Front Right Front Left Back Right Back
Left Total 1.0 0.0 -j0.7 0.7
Right Total 0.0 1.0 -0.7 j0.7

j = + 90° phase-shift

To provide mono-compatibility a variation on this matrix was proposed:

Modified SQ Encoding Matrix Left Front Right Front Left Back Right Back
Left Total 1.0 0.0 0.7 -j0.7
Right Total 0.0 1.0 -j0.7 0.7

j = + 90° phase-shift

The four channels were coded and decoded normally in this proposal, but the back-center channel was coded in phase and therefore decoded in front-center.[7]

QS / Quadraphonic Sound

QS logo

Quadraphonic Sound (originally called Quadphonic Synthesizer, and later referred to as RM or Regular Matrix) was a system that was conceptually very similar to SQ, but developed independently by engineer Isao Itoh of Sansui, adopted by ABC, Advent, Bluesway, Candide, Command, Decca, Impulse, Longines, MCA, Ovation, Pye, Turnabout and Vox record companies. It was freely licensed to record companies, but was rarely found on receivers other than those made by Sansui. The QS matrix has been found to offer the advantages of excellent diagonal separation and stereo compatibility, and although the adjacent speaker separation is only 3 dB, this symmetrical distribution produces more stable quadraphonic images. Sansui's decoders also had good stereo-to-quad capabilities, wrapping the L-R panorama to LB-LF-RF-RB in a horseshoe topology. Two outboard decoders, the QSD-1 and -2, as well as the QRX- series of larger receiver-amplifiers, incorporated this matrix and up-conversion.

The QS matrix system was employed to create the five-channel Quintaphonic Sound system used for première engagements of the 1975 film Tommy. The left and right 35mm magnetic soundtracks were QS-encoded to create four channels around the cinema audience, while the centre mag track was assigned to the speaker behind the screen. The mag FX track was unused. This channel layout came close (5.0) to the now common 5.1 surround sound layout.

QS Encoding Matrix Left Front Right Front Left Back Right Back
Left Total 0.92 0.38 j0.92 j0.38
Right Total 0.38 0.92 -j0.38 -j0.92

j = + 90° phase-shift

EV / Stereo-4

EV - Developed by Electro Voice, also known as Stereo-4. Despite heavy promotion by RadioShack stores in the USA, very few items were encoded in this format. Stereo-4 decoders were especially good at producing credible 4-channel effects from 2-channel stereo recordings.[8]

DY / Dynaquad

DY - Developed by Dynaco, also known as Dynaquad. The four speakers were arranged in a diamond (centre-front, centre-left, centre-rear, centre-right). The encoding was unusual in that it did not use 90° phase shifters. Very few items are encoded in this format, although it did inspire the "Hafler circuit" described below.

A much simpler form of the Dynaco patent keeps the four speakers in their normal left and right plus front and rear positions. The left and right rear speakers are connected to the two-channel stereo amplifier via a passive matrix circuit, while the front ones stay directly connected to the amplifier. A lot of stereo material, recorded with a central, non-directional microphone (so-called kidney sensitivity diagram) placed in front of the orchestra, possessed suitable difference signals across the stereo signals. When taken across this passive speaker matrix for the rear channels, these produced a quasi-quadraphonic effect at low cost (the patent specifies the use of one fixed 10 ohm resistor and three variable 20 ohm resistors in a star arrangement). Especially for classical music, a fine impression of concert-hall ambience is achieved with such a system.

Dynaco sold this matrix circuit with a large and triple high-wattage potentiometer inside, for a sum equivalent to 70 euros (about 100 US dollars) or so in present-day currency. Electronic amateurs could build this circuit much more cheaply – e.g., with a four-position switch (four steps in level of the rear sound from min. to max. level) using fixed resistors of, for example, 20, 10, 5 and 0 (short-circuit) ohms. Because, in practice, only the highest level was of any use, a more basic set-up with only the fixed 10 ohm resistor at close-to-zero cost is possible.

Note that the system requires more or less flat impedance curves for the rear speakers to work properly, which was often the case in the tube-amplifier days. Tube amplifiers had a constant impedance over a wide range, and worked best with high-efficiency speakers. Later on, when transistor amplifiers were used, speakers tended to lose that design feature. (Lower impedance meant higher power output for these amplifiers, compensating for the lower efficiency of such designs.) The system worked best using a transistor-based stereo amplifier, low-efficiency front speakers, and high-efficiency, constant impedance rear speakers.

Matrix H

Matrix H was a system developed by BBC engineers to carry quadraphonic sound via FM radio in a way that would be compatible with existing mono and stereo receivers. Several quadraphonic programmes were made for Radios 3 and 4, including a number of plays and some Promenade Concerts, while Radio 1 carried quadraphonic session recordings by various bands.[9] The "H" has no meaning; they called the first matrix they assessed Matrix A, and then worked through the alphabet.[10][11] The BBC later cooperated with the developers of Ambisonics to produce BBC/NRDC System HJ. This was based on tolerance zones designed to include modified versions of both Matrix H and the prototype two-channel encoding of Ambisonics, known as System 45J. Subsequently, the Nippon-Columbia UMX matrix was brought into the standard, leading to the final UHJ name now associated with Ambisonics.

Hafler circuit

A passive Hafler circuit mimics the effect of matrix decoding but without using costly electronics. It does this by recovering the ambient sound from a stereo recording. Named after its early proponent audio engineer David Hafler, the circuit exploits the high amount of stereo separation in the front speakers. Using the circuit typically reduces this stereo separation by only about 2 dB.

The rear sound level in a live performance recorded in stereo is reproduced about 7 dB below the front level, but clearly audible. The rear ambient sounds, applause, and coughs from the audience, are sometimes received out of phase by the stereo microphones, while sounds from the musicians mostly are in "synchronous phase". Thus, if rear speakers are fed with the difference between the stereo channels, audience noises and reverberation from the auditorium may be heard from behind the listener. This can be most easily achieved by wiring two similar additional rear speakers in series between the live feeds (positive terminals) from the stereo amplifier. Alternatively, one rear speaker can be used on its own. This is the type of quad setup used by Seeburg jukeboxes that had quadraphonic sound.[citation needed] (See External links for a circuit diagram.)

See also


  1. ^ Wired, May 12, 1967: Pink Floyd Astounds With ‘Sound in the Round’, May 12, 2009
  2. ^ "pink floyd". http://www.pinkfloyd.co.uk/. Retrieved 2009-08-14. 
  3. ^ Cooper, Duane H.; Shiga, Takeo (June 1972). "Discrete-Matrix Multichannel Stereo". Journal of the Audio Engineering Society (AES) 20 (5): 346–360. 
  4. ^ Scheiber, Peter (December 1969). "Toward a More Accurate Spatial Environment". Journal of the Audio Engineering Society (AES) 17 (6): 690, 691. 
  5. ^ Scheiber, Peter (November 1971). "Analyzing Phase-Amplitude Matrices". Journal of the Audio Engineering Society (AES) 19 (10): 835–839. 
  6. ^ Willcocks, Martin E. G. (March 1974), "Directional Enhancement System for Quadraphonic Decoders". GB 1514162  or US 3944735 .
  7. ^ Bauer, Benjamin B.; Budelman, Gerald A.; Gravereaux, Daniel W. (February 1973). "Recording techniques for SQ matrix Quadraphonic discs". Journal of the Audio Engineering Society (AES) 21 (1): 19–26. 
  8. ^ Scheiber, Peter (April 1971). "Four Channels and Compatibility". Journal of the Audio Engineering Society (AES) 19 (4): 267–279. 
  9. ^ Ratcliff, P.A.; Meares, D.J. (May 1977). "BBC Matrix H: Compatible system for broadcasting". Wireless World: 41–45. 
  10. ^ Crompton, T.W.J. (November 1974). "The subjective performance of various quadraphonic matrix systems" (PDF). BBC Research Department Report 1974/29. http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/rd/pubs/reports/1974-29.pdf. 
  11. ^ Gaskell, P.S.; Ratliff, P.A. (February 1977). "Quadraphony: Developments in Matrix H decoding" (PDF). BBC Research Department Report 1977/2. http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/rd/pubs/reports/1977-02.pdf. 

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