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Our Latest Podcast: Quadraphonic Sound Died In the 1970s. So Why Is Somebody Bringing It Back?

Posted on May 14, 2017 by MusicCeo
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Miles Davis' Live-Evil LP in Quadraphonic, 1972

Miles Davis’ Live-Evil LP in Quadraphonic, 1972

Quadraphonic sound faded from the landscape in the late 1970s, securing its place in the music technology dustbin.  Now, somebody is bringing it back — and spreading the gospel to artists who want a simpler surround sound solution.

If you remember quadraphonic sound, then you also remember blown-out collars, bellbottoms and afros.  All four faded after the 70s, though one of these is making a quiet comeback.

So what is quadraphonic sound?

Basically, it’s one of the earliest surround sound technologies, technically known as ‘4.0 surround’ in audiophile speak.  The idea, which involves 4-speakers in each corner, was building on a bigger breakthrough: 2-channel stereo surround.

2-channel stereo obviously stuck around, while quadraphonic didn’t.  The 4-channel technology was cumbersome and extremely expensive, making it accessible to only a slim group of artists.  Once released, the format could only be played with complicated 4-speaker systems, which also required lots of space and disposable cash.

It didn’t take off, and the introduction of the CD may have sealed its fate.

Fast-forward to now, and surround sound audio technology has leapt through numerous generations.  Most movie theaters have surround sound systems that put quadraphonic to shame, and higher-end home theater systems are also deploying sophistical spatial audio solutions.

So why is LA-based audiophile, studio owner, and entrepreneur KamranV bringing quadraphonic back?

One of the reasons is accessibility.  “It’s much easier as a creative person to think in four corners, and make creative decisions in four corners,” KamranV observed.

By contrast, modern-day spatial audio technologies are extremely technical and out-of-reach.  “Many of them are done by technicians and not creative people.  And the reason is that to achieve what that technology is asking of you, it requires a great deal of work.”

“Quad — for many weird reasons — is just more musical.  It’s more creative: I can think that way, I can write a song that way.”

KamranV has already released a live quadraphonic album involving electronica artist Suzanne Ciani.  He released 227 copies at a clever price of $227 each.  And that’s just the beginning.

Here’s our deep-dive exploration into this curiously attractive audio technology, recorded from the Making Vinyl Conference in Detroit.  Enjoy!