Page last updated at 17:56 GMT, Friday, 1 August 2008 18:56 UK

Early stereo recordings restored

By Martin Shankleman
Archive Hour, Radio 4

Advertisement

See Alan Blumlein at work

Unique recordings by the inventor of stereo have been cleaned up so the public can hear them properly for the first time.

They include Sir Thomas Beecham conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) at Abbey Road Studios in 1934.

The recordings were made by Alan Blumlein, an EMI research engineer, whose contribution to the invention of stereo sound is only now starting to be appreciated.

The early recordings have been re-engineered using digital technology so their true quality can be appreciated.

Sound engineer Roger Beardsley who was responsible for the digital transfers called the recordings "incredibly historic".

"They have never been properly reproduced, but we've recovered the original information that was there", he said.

Blumlein lodged the patent for "binaural "sound, in 1931, in a paper which patented stereo records, stereo films and also surround sound.

Earphones, BBC

He and his colleagues then made a series of experimental recordings and films to demonstrate the technology, and see if there was any commercial interest from the fledgling film and audio industry.

The tests included him walking and talking in a room to show how sound could move and recordings of multiple overlapping conversations to demonstrate how his techniques could "open up" the sound being recorded.

"If you put headphones on with those recordings you are right in the middle of the room, you hear the whole ambience", said Mr Beardsley.

In January 1934, Blumlein took his stereo-cutting equipment to the newly opened Abbey Studios and recorded Sir Thomas Beecham conducting the LPO, as it rehearsed Mozart's Jupiter Symphony.

Mr Beardsley used digital techniques to remove the crackles and hiss from the original 78 pressings, and says the recordings now sound as they were meant to.

"I think what we've got is what they were listening to at the time." he said.

Blumlein's work on stereo was shelved in 1934 because EMI concluded that it had no immediate commercial potential.

The cancellation forced Blumlein to switch to the development of TV, and later radar. He died during a top secret flight over Wales in 1942, aged 38, testing a prototype radar system.

During his working life he was granted 128 patents - about one every six weeks.

The Man Who Invented Stereo can be heard on BBC Radio 4 at 20.00 on Saturday 2 August 2008.


SEE ALSO
Home computing pioneer honoured
29 Dec 07 |  Technology
The story of 'Britain's Sputnik'
15 Jan 08 |  Science/Nature
An industry built on sand
17 Dec 07 |  Technology
'Father of the computer' honoured
07 Jun 04 |  Manchester
'Oldest' computer music unveiled
17 Jun 08 |  Technology

RELATED BBC LINKS


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2013 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific