Decca Phase 4, RCA Living Stereo, and Mercury Living presense played through the SurroundMaster.

Help Support QuadraphonicQuad:

armyjazzer

Member
Joined
Aug 30, 2013
Messages
35
Didn't find comments on here regarding playback of these types of recordings through the SurroundMaster 2, so I though I would start a new thread. If I missed it, let me know and hopefully we can move this to the appropriate place or delete it.

I was just wanting input/feedback on how some of these recordings sound when played through the SurroundMaster. Do you get really good Quad effects from them or are they better in just stereo.

Thanks for all input and discussion, I really enjoy the information provided here!
 
Last edited:

kfbkfb

600 Club - QQ All-Star
QQ Supporter
Since 2002/2003
Joined
Feb 20, 2003
Messages
618
Location
Midwest USA

Soundfield

1K Club - QQ Shooting Star
Joined
Dec 29, 2011
Messages
1,260
Location
Essex, UK
I have an SM2 but I (deliberately) don't have any Decca Phase 4 Stereo material so can't comment on how it actually sounds. But I always thought that Phase 4 Stereo was a naff concept that proud HiFi pioneers Decca should have been ashamed of, and indeed produced truly ghastly sounding stereo. I imagine it would sound twice as ghastly in quad!
 

J. PUPSTER

2K Club - QQ Super Nova
QQ Supporter
Joined
May 30, 2017
Messages
8,009
Location
CALIFORNIA (CENTRAL)
I have an SM2 but I (deliberately) don't have any Decca Phase 4 Stereo material so can't comment on how it actually sounds. But I always thought that Phase 4 Stereo was a naff concept that proud HiFi pioneers Decca should have been ashamed of, and indeed produced truly ghastly sounding stereo. I imagine it would sound twice as ghastly in quad!
Any opinion of the RCA Living Stereo, and the Mercury LP?
“Naff” - found me a new slang word to use (love it) rates right up there with “chuffed” for me- LOL
 

JimofMaine

Member
QQ Supporter
Joined
Apr 8, 2021
Messages
23
Location
Portland, ME
Yes, all formats/labels you mention will have content and sound awesome! (The only exception are mono recordings.) I think it's kind of a misnomer of sorts to say something, "plays better in stereo." Devices like these simply use the regular stereo signal and give you control of frequency, level and room location (speaker location).

Some material/artists/engineers/etc do a better job mastering for "quad systems" but all stereo contains the signals.

Another way to say this is: surround formats and stereo are kindred spirits and mono is unique child.

As was mentioned, if you're real curious hook up a speaker to your +,+ on an (negatively grounded) amplifier instead of +,-. You'll hear the "surround" ambience only.
 

Soundfield

1K Club - QQ Shooting Star
Joined
Dec 29, 2011
Messages
1,260
Location
Essex, UK
Another way to say this is: surround formats and stereo are kindred spirits and mono is unique child.
Phase 4 Stereo was a bastardised form of stereo that had nothing to do with surround sound - it was invented a decade before quad was even thought of.
 

JimofMaine

Member
QQ Supporter
Joined
Apr 8, 2021
Messages
23
Location
Portland, ME
Phase 4 Stereo was a bastardised form of stereo that had nothing to do with surround sound - it was invented a decade before quad was even thought of.
I disagree. It's a real, true and bonafide use of stereo theory and surround sound. The OP was asking about playback and yep SurroundMaster will play all the surround cues present.

Phase 4 is more about recording technique. They used microphones in positions others didn't. Some people liked, others didn't. It was mastered in 10 and 20 channels, and compatible with 2-channel stereo and required no special decoding.

I'm a big promoter of stereo being a "real" surround format, so sticking up for Phase 4 is easy. I think stereo is best played with a "quad system."

Decca recently released a 40 record boxed set. I imagine sounds better than the 60's technologies.

The Phase 4 CD might be a nice place to have real listen. Often surround formats flaws were/are more noticeable on vinyl.

These YouTube recordings work well to hear the Phase 4 "effects". Like all early surround promotors they tried to convince the masses with silly things like ping pong sounds. (In my opinion this did more to hurt in the long run. "Serious" listeners saw just the gimmicks. ...but this is another topic.)
 

Soundfield

1K Club - QQ Shooting Star
Joined
Dec 29, 2011
Messages
1,260
Location
Essex, UK
I disagree. It's a real, true and bonafide use of stereo theory and surround sound.
I don't recall Decca ever saying anything about 'surround sound'. It was not their intention to create any such effects in 1961. Nor could they, even if they had wanted to - the material was only ever envisioned as being played back over simple 2CH equipment with closely spaced speakers (in an attempt to make such systems more "dramatic" and thus better than mono). It was often considered to have failed even in that simple aim since the over emphasised highlighting of instruments, peculiar frequency response variations and arbitrary dynamic level changes (which may have initially sounded impressive) soon became very irritating and just put a lot of people off the whole stereo idea. The records were widely dismissed at the time by both audio and music critics. Thankfully they only ever applied the technique to a very limited cheap range of output with less than stellar performances. They never dared apply it too their flagship HiFi releases and principal artists (and I understand that their leading classical producers would have nothing to do with it). The industry joke at the time was that the technique was a marketing ploy to try and sell classical music to people who didn't like the sound of classical music!

Off course you can stick any stereo signal (however mangled) and into a surround sound decoder and get some sort of effect. You may or may not find it pleasing, but it won't be anything that the original producers could have imagined (or even wanted) all those decades ago. And sadly it won't correct any of the failings of the recordings or performances.
 
Last edited:

armyjazzer

Member
Joined
Aug 30, 2013
Messages
35
JimofMaine said:
"I disagree. It's a real, true and bonafide use of stereo theory and surround sound. The OP was asking about playback and yep SurroundMaster will play all the surround cues present. "

Yes this was my intent, not to discuss the merits or personal opinions of the recordings, but how well the techniques they used would transfer to surround using the Surround Master. I am interested in if they would possibly sound better in surround, or create some unusual effects not present in the stereo playback.

If you don't like the recordings I would assume you would have no desire to own them or play them through the Surround Master. For those who have some they like, it is nice to know how they sound on the Surround Master.

Thanks for all the input, even the critiques on the music and recording techiques, some here may be interested in that discussion also.
 
Last edited:

4-earredwonder

QQ Lifetime Supporter
QQ Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Jan 9, 2013
Messages
16,265
Decca did release a few dozen London Phase Four QUAD Open Reels and Q8 tapes in the early to mid 70's from AMPEX and they all sounded very discrete. Of course, they were mostly easy listening but the one I do covet was released by HDTT from a QUAD Open Reel [dolby b encoded] on BD~A: The Fantasy Film World of Bernard Hermann.* The sound is extraordinary and I could only wish that Dutton Vocalion would re~release it from the original QUAD masters.

For an example of Phase 4 DISCRETE QUAD available from artist Ronnie Aldrich [and his 'Twin' pianos]:



RONNIE ALDRICH -
Christmas with Ronnie Aldrich. London H-144051 (QR),
L-744051 (Q8)
Close to you. London H-17156 (QR), L-77156 (Q8), LEQ-44156 (Q8) [Canada]
Come to Where the Love Is. London H-17190 (QR), L-77190 (Q8), LEQ-44190
(Q8) [Canada]
Destination Love. London H-144135 (QR), L-744135 (Q8)
For Young Lovers. London H-144108 (QR), L-744108 (Q8)
In the Gentle Hours. London H-144221 (QR), L-744221 (Q8), 4D-26
(CD4) [Japan]
Invitation to Love. London L-77176 (Q8), LEQ-44176 (Q8) [Canada]
It’s Happening Now. London H-144127 (QR), L-744127 (Q8)
Love Story. London H-144162 (QR), L-744162 (Q8)
Magic Moods Of. London H-144062 (QR), L-744062 (Q8)
Magnificent Pianos. London H-144029 (QR), L-744029 (Q8)
Romantic Pianos. London H-144042 (QR), L-744042 (Q8)
Soft & Wicked. London H-17195 (QR), L-77195 (Q8), LEQ-44195 (Q8)
[Canada]
The Way We Were. London H-144209 (QR), L-744209 (Q8)
Top of the World. London H-17203 (QR), L-77203 (Q8), LEQ.44203 (Q8) [Canada]

And from London Phase 4 artist Ted Heath:

TED HEATH -
A Salute to Glenn Miller. London SPQ-44186-QF [previously
H-17186 (QR)] (DQR), L-77186 (Q8), LEQ-44186 (Q8) [Canada]
Salutes the Duke. London H-144220 (QR), L-744220 (Q8)
The Big Ones. London J-17140 (QR), L-77140 (Q8)

STANLEY BLACK -
Film Spectacular, Vol. 4/The Epic. London H-17173 (QR),
L-77173 (Q8), QZAL 11081 (CD4) Test Pressing, 4CHA(L)-11 (QR)
[Japan]
Music of a People. London L-77060 (Q8)
Spirit of the People. London H-144206 (QR), L-744206 (Q8)
Tribute to Charlie Chaplin. London L-77184 (Q8)

*Ordering LINK for HDTT BD~A of THE FANTASY WORLD OF BERNARD HERMANN:

 
Last edited:

JimofMaine

Member
QQ Supporter
Joined
Apr 8, 2021
Messages
23
Location
Portland, ME
I don't recall Decca ever saying anything about 'surround sound'. It was not their intention to create any such effects in 1961. Nor could they, even if they had wanted to - the material was only ever envisioned as being played back over simple 2CH equipment with closely spaced speakers (in an attempt to make such systems more "dramatic" and thus better than mono). It was often considered to have failed even in that simple aim since the over emphasised highlighting of instruments, peculiar frequency response variations and arbitrary dynamic level changes (which may have initially sounded impressive) soon became very irritating and just put a lot of people off the whole stereo idea. The records were widely dismissed at the time by both audio and music critics. Thankfully they only ever applied the technique to a very limited cheap range of output with less than stellar performances. They never dared apply it too their flagship HiFi releases and principal artists (and I understand that their leading classical producers would have nothing to do with it). The industry joke at the time was that the technique was a marketing ploy to try and sell classical music to people who didn't like the sound of classical music!

Off course you can stick any stereo signal (however mangled) and into a surround sound decoder and get some sort of effect. You may or may not find it pleasing, but it won't be anything that the original producers could have imagined (or even wanted) all those decades ago. And sadly it won't correct any of the failings of the recordings or performances.
Yes! Decca meant Phase 4 to be "surround." 100% their goal was a wide and deep immersive experience. Doesn't get more surround than that. Remember mono was still more popular at this time. Decca was just so far ahead of their time. Getting people to use 2 speakers was a feat. 4 or more would have been viewed as heresy cira 1950. Best I can tell they invert the +,+ signal and expand the sound-stage, when using 2 speakers. Done with their mixture This of course plays in the rear speakers with a quad system. Maybe they did not INTEND to encode for quad, but accident or not, any Hafler/Dolby Surround/SurroundMaster will play in surround!

Here are quotes from Decca's literature. You decide if this is, "surround":

"This complex and forbidding-looking machine permits sounds from no less than twenty separate sources to be combined and blended in precise perspective. Each instrument can be pinpointed to exact locations from extreme left to extreme right along the horizontal plane, or forward and back through an astonishingly large depth of field."

Here's a link to the Decca pamphlet:
 

JimofMaine

Member
QQ Supporter
Joined
Apr 8, 2021
Messages
23
Location
Portland, ME
JimofMaine said:
"I disagree. It's a real, true and bonafide use of stereo theory and surround sound. The OP was asking about playback and yep SurroundMaster will play all the surround cues present. "

Yes this was my intent, not to discuss the merits or personal opinions of the recordings, but how well the techniques they used would transfer to surround using the Surround Master. I am interested in if they would possibly sound better in surround, or create some unusual effects not present in the stereo playback.

If you don't like the recordings I would assume you would have no desire to own them or play them through the Surround Master. For those who have some they like, it is nice to know how they sound on the Surround Master.

Thanks for all the input, even the critiques on the music and recording techiques, some here may be interested in that discussion also.
You're welcome. The SurroundMaster is excellent for optimizing what is available on all the labels you mention. In some cases you may need to boost the level of the surround channels and in others, turn it down or off. (Off-would be just 2 speaker stereo.) But that's what's needed with so much in this hobby.

The album from Decca, Los Muchucambos is one I wouldn't listen to in anything but surround! It can be accessed through Amazon Music--i.e. Alexa. Also, as mentioned all the Herrmann stuff is terrific in Phase 4.
 

Marcsten

500 Club - QQ All-Star
Since 2002/2003
Joined
Sep 24, 2002
Messages
512
Location
Seattle
Hmmm. I think I fall in the camp thinking that Phase 4 was a catch phrase to sell stereo, which was by no means taking off at the time. Like Columbia describing their stereo records as having 360 degree sound. The claim was that stereo, unlike mono, was three dimensional. I don't buy it. Sure a Haffler arrangement will extract natural ambience, and maybe the Phase 4s have more than some others. I can't tell as I have never owned a Phase 4 album. Too 'mellow' for me. I used to pull them out of the quad section at record stores all the time back in the 1970s.
 

JimofMaine

Member
QQ Supporter
Joined
Apr 8, 2021
Messages
23
Location
Portland, ME
Hmmm. I think I fall in the camp thinking that Phase 4 was a catch phrase to sell stereo, which was by no means taking off at the time. Like Columbia describing their stereo records as having 360 degree sound. The claim was that stereo, unlike mono, was three dimensional. I don't buy it. Sure a Haffler arrangement will extract natural ambience, and maybe the Phase 4s have more than some others. I can't tell as I have never owned a Phase 4 album. Too 'mellow' for me. I used to pull them out of the quad section at record stores all the time back in the 1970s.
It is very interesting how Phase 4 gets so little love. It was a passive matrix with L,R and mono surround. Dolby Surround was a passive matrix and used L,R and mono surround and people loved it and thought it the greatest. (At the time)
 

quadsearcher

900 Club - QQ All-Star
Joined
Nov 8, 2010
Messages
953
It is very interesting how Phase 4 gets so little love. It was a passive matrix with L,R and mono surround. Dolby Surround was a passive matrix and used L,R and mono surround and people loved it and thought it the greatest. (At the time)
Is there any documentation that these were mixed through a matrix, so the engineers knew what would be reproduced for listeners with a three channel matrix playback system? Any pictures or names of the equipment people used to play these? I know there were stereos with a mono output as well, and that was used to fill the center "hole" on recordings with artificially wide stereo (these recordings might qualify in that category).

It is very interesting to hear it claimed that while verifiable resources (including people's own experiences) pin the matrix systems as beginning around ten years after the similarly-named Phase4, meanwhile Phase 4 supposedly kept it a secret, leading nearly all music listeners to believe it was intended as two channel playback.
 
Last edited:

Soundfield

1K Club - QQ Shooting Star
Joined
Dec 29, 2011
Messages
1,260
Location
Essex, UK
It always amuses me that periodically someone stumbles across the Decca Phase 4 Stereo stuff and thinks they’ve discovered an unknown ‘surround’ format. This forum is littered with such posts over the years. The magic of the words “phase” and “4” seems to convince some people it must have been a quad format even though those words were used for no reasons whatsoever connected with surround sound. It was just a multitrack recording technique used to spotlight certain instruments through volume adjustment and pan potting across the stereo width. There was no encoding. It is not a matrixed system. There is no ‘mono surround’ channel. It is just stereo done badly.
 

Sonik Wiz

2K Club - QQ Super Nova
QQ Supporter
Joined
May 30, 2005
Messages
2,363
Location
Kansas City
It always amuses me that periodically someone stumbles across the Decca Phase 4 Stereo stuff and thinks they’ve discovered an unknown ‘surround’ format. This forum is littered with such posts over the years. The magic of the words “phase” and “4” seems to convince some people it must have been a quad format even though those words were used for no reasons whatsoever connected with surround sound. It was just a multitrack recording technique used to spotlight certain instruments through volume adjustment and pan potting across the stereo width. There was no encoding. It is not a matrixed system. There is no ‘mono surround’ channel. It is just stereo done badly.
Right you are, Mr. Soundfield. Heck you don't even to to dig any deeper than Wiki to know that:

Phase 4 Stereo recordings were created with an innovative 10-channel, and later 20-channel, "recording console"[2] (actually a mixing console.) The concept of Phase 4 Stereo has no connection with Quadraphonic sound or "four channel stereo." But because there often are sounds in the extreme right or extreme left channels, the records may also give pleasing results when played on Hafler circuit systems or other simulated four channel systems.
 

JimofMaine

Member
QQ Supporter
Joined
Apr 8, 2021
Messages
23
Location
Portland, ME
Is there any documentation that these were mixed through a matrix, so the engineers knew what would be reproduced for listeners with a three channel matrix playback system? Any pictures or names of the equipment people used to play these? I know there were stereos with a mono output as well, and that was used to fill the center "hole" on recordings with artificially wide stereo (these recordings might qualify in that category).

It is very interesting to hear it claimed that while verifiable resources (including people's own experiences) pin the matrix systems as beginning around ten years after the similarly-named Phase4, meanwhile Phase 4 managed to keep it a secret, leading nearly all music listeners to believe it was intended as two channel playback.
1982 Dolby Surround uses the stereo signal for "2-channel playback" with rear speaker(s) Why do you think Phase 4 which was a stereo signal does not? I did not say the creators meant for it's use with rear speakers. Rather the stereo signal they generated in their 20 channel mixer encoded the +,+ signal. All the Decca recordings I have use this extensively. I would not say so if I didn't hear it for myself. I can turn off my main L and R speakers and listen to Decca's unique Phase 4 information which has become known as the "surround" channel.

Surely someone else on this site can play a Phase 4 record on a quad system and confirm what they hear.

(As I mentioned in an earlier post, Phase 4's both claim to fame and it's demise was the recorrding process and the use of multiple, close mics. No, they never advertised "quad" playback.)
 

Soundfield

1K Club - QQ Shooting Star
Joined
Dec 29, 2011
Messages
1,260
Location
Essex, UK
Rather the stereo signal they generated in their 20 channel mixer encoded the +,+ signal.
The mixing desk 'encoded' nothing.
If you really want to know how it worked, this ex-Decca engineer explains how Phase 4 Stereo was recorded and mixed. Odd that he forgets to mention anything about surround sound! Note that he does say that Decca deliberately chose a microphone technique that minimised any pick up from the rear and thus avoided any of that bloom (or ambience) they were actually desperate to strip out!! -
Decca
 
Last edited:
Top