RetroTech: Extended Play – The 2 hour LP & 2.5 hour CD
In this video I’m going to be taking a look at two short lived techniques that we use to squeeze more music onto a single disc so what I’ve got here is a 2 hour 33 1/3 rpm vinyl record and a 2 hour 24 minute 24 second compact disc and both of these could be played on normal equipment so lets see how they did it Right, now let’s start with this compact disc this came out in 1987 at which point the maximum playtime of your average compact disc would have been 74 minutes yet this particular disc contains 2 hour 24 minute and 24 seconds approximately double that so if i was to say to you, you have to come up with a way of getting double the amount of audio on a compact disc that could be played back in a standard compact disc player how would you go about doing that? It does sound a little bit tricky doesn’t it? But what if I was to say, the audio you are putting on here is a recording from 1953 That makes it a lot easier I’ll put the CD in and let it try and explain itself [Talking in French] [incomprehensible] okay now not the greatest of help to everyone watching this video but after a couple of minutes of that an English language version comes in on the left hand channel and it sounds like this: “You are about to hear a new generation of compact disc… which makes it possible to double the listening time” Right lets isolate that and have a listen to what he is talking about “You are about to hear a new generation of compact disc… which makes it possible to double the listening time of mono recordings.” “At the present time CD players have no automatic switch… and therefore you should proceed manually as follows.” “If your amplifier is equipped with a mono switch push the CD into the CD player.. switch off the right channel and press the mono switch.” “In this way you can listen to the first part of the CD.” “when you have finished listening to the first part… take the CD out of the player… switch off the left channel without forgetting to switch on the right channel again… and push the CD back into the player.” “The mono switch remains pressed down.” “You can then listen to the second part of the CD.” “If your amplifier has no mono switch… neither the right nor the left channel have to be switched off.” “After pushing in the CD… … all you need to do is alter the balance on your amplifier.” “First to the left and then to the right side.” “In this case you will only be able to hear out of the left… or right speaker at any one time.” “With this new generation of CDs… you can listen to one CD for more than 2 hours.” Okay so in summary it’s a normal CD it’s a stereo CD, it plays in any normal compact disc player accept the left hand channel plays the first half of the recording in mono and then the right hand channel plays the second half of the recording in mono and you have to switch between them to hear the whole recording. I’d say calling that a new generation of CD is really over egging it a bit, and I’ve just got to go back and play a little bit of that recording just once more It’s that whole without forgetting part I’m assuming this has been translated from another language, it doesn’t quite scan right it sounds like a double negative, perhaps I am supposed to forget? or am I not supposed to forget? Of course I know what he is talking about let me give you a quick demonstration This two mono recordings on one compact disc system was used for another set Wagner’s Ring Cycle that came out at the same time that reduced that down to 7 compact discs it was reviewed in the New York Times They mention that came with a shrink wrapped switch box on the front that you attached up to your compact disc player and you’d select the left channel for the start of it, the right channel for the end of it and there was a further third position for your normal standard compact discs Now believe it or not someone had tried this idea a couple of years before but Philips had blocked its release as they were planning on using the Philips pressing plant to make the CD, so they refused to make them because they were annoyed that this was messing around with their Redbook CD standard talking about the fact previous technologies like Quadrophonic had got very confused by all the different systems that were out there so they wanted compact disc just to be compact discs but with this one they couldn’t stop them from releasing it because they used their own pressing plants. It won’t surprise anyone to hear that this wasn’t around for very long and I think this is perhaps one of only two titles that came out on this format and it’s easy to see why I mean it is a pretty flawed idea either requiring someone to mess around with the settings on their amplifier everytime they want to listen to this CD or perhaps use the switch box that was shrink wrapped to the front of some of these attach that up to your CD player, reach round the back of your CD player switching between the three different positions depending on what kind of CD you wanted to play sounds like the sort of thing someone would come up with on Kickstarter and of course reliant on the fact that the recordings on here have to be longer than 75 minutes and have to be in mono Yeah, it’s just not something that was really going to last very long on its own but I think the thing that really killed it off was the fact CDs came down in price. The whole idea of this thing is that it’s supposed to be cheaper to sell this set with perhaps even a switch box on the front than it would of been to sell 2 separate compact discs in a little set. Well that changed pretty quickly CDs came down in price so a 2 CD set made a lot more sense than this so the next one Trimicron, so this is a 33 1/3rpm stereo record, 12 inch that contains two hours worth of audio and the idea behind this one well in this one, it has got a lot more merit. Lets have a look at it Right well first off I’ve got to say this is a particularly attractive logo in my opinion but it is very much a thing of its’ time This is the early to mid 1970s when this came out, you can see here triple duration 1 disc 2 hours it wasn’t on the market for very long but it was relatively successful for a short period of time you can see here there were some other titles available using this technology if you go on the Discogs website you’ll see some of those listed and of course they’re all classical music titles which is what the format was designed for your average pop record would of fitted on a normal length LP. This is just for your longer length pieces of music Now if you go on Wikipedia under the unusual types f gramophone records you won’t see it mentioned but thats on the English Language Version. If you got the French Language version of the same page then Trimicron does get a mention on there. The gatefold sleeve on my copy is falling apart a little bit but you can see in here on the left hand side the music that is on the disc, and on the right hand side it goes into the details on how they went about creating it. First off it is the brain-child of this guy, I like this guy it looks like he has seen some stuff in his time, and he’s saying here he got sick of listening to classical music and having to flip it over when it got half way through and having his music cut up into little segments, so he came up wit this system using this massive machine, which looks like something Ming the Merciless would of used in a Buster Crabbe, Flash Gordon series and that makes the Trimicron system possible and the idea is according to his techonolgy that he was able to put triple duration, as he said on it, as you can see here 55 minutes on side A of this record and to achieve that 55mins He’s removed the section between the tracks now you can look at the pictures here and you can see you’ve got the track which is the white sections and the black section is the bit between them he said he has just removed the section between the tracks and therefore that being twice the width of the track the stylus goes down he is able to triple the amount of audio that you can put down on a standard 12 Inch record Now I’m no record mastering expert but to me something does not seem right with those diagrams I have reproduced them a little bit here to explain what the problem is imagine this is the stylus of the record now a stylus travels in a groove and as it goes up and down each side that is what creates the stereo audio so in this case this is the stylus hear, it’s going down the groove hear and it’s traveling down this bit here now the crossed out sections are where it doesn’t travel thats the section between the track as it goes round, it comes back round again and the stylus carries on down here like this okay that’s fine, that’s a normal record, now what hey reckon they have down with this Trimicron idea, they have done away with these crossed out sections so now the stylus travels down here like that and once it’s gone round it travels down there like that well that doesn’t make any sense because if that wall is the right hand channel and say that wall is the left well when it does down the next one the right hand channel then becomes the left hand channel on that one andt that wouldn’t work because you would be hearing some of the audio from the previous revolution on one side when you’re hearing the next door, something is not quite right here. I tell you want i need to do, i need to break out the macro lens and lets have a look at one of those records close up To have something to compare the Trimicron record against I’ve got a couple of other discs out here SuperFunk 3 is a relatively modern record modern by the standard that it does not pack the tracks on each side so we’ve got 4 tracks on side A and5 on side B. Whereas this 1980s compilation, this is when they really did pack them in so here we have 8 tracks per side now lets start off with the modern record and we’ll just have a bit of a close up on that and you can see that it is a little bit dusty on here and I’ve got to say I’ve just got this out of the shrink wrap to take this picture, I hadn’t used this one yet, so it just shows you how dirty these things are when they come out of the paper cases that they are stored in, but anyway, lets zoom in on it and have a good look. So you can see here, it is quite clear we’ve got the tracks, we got the space between the tracks and you can see that looks very similar to the diagram that was on the Trimicron sleeve you’ve got the space between the traks being quite a wider that the actual track where the audio is recorded Okay now lets move over to that 1980s compilation where everything should be packed a lot closer together.It should be intersting to see how big the gaps are between the tracks on this one, so You’ll see as we zoom in it looks a little bit messy here in fact you can make out the ridges and the tracks but the almost seem the same widths as one another. Now if you happen to have an electron microscope to hand, you can get quite a bit closer in on a record, you can see here the stylus going down the groove of this particular disc, this is from the Applied Science channel, Ben and I know each other and I am sure he is quite happy with me showing this clip on here, I’m just going to show you a still out of it though, go to his site to see the full video One thing to note here is how the walls, or the width of the gap between the stylus track changes depending on the audio that is being played so you can see on the right, that is quite a big area whereas on the left that is quite a lot thinner another thing to note from this is it is a little bit more complicated than my simplistic drawing on that whiteboard earlier on, it’s not really the tops of the trench that are creating the sound it is the walls that are at approximately 45 degree angle to one another, and it is the movement of the stylus within that valley that creates the audio. I’m quite sure the very top of that ridge, doesn’t really have much of a bearing on it at all Right, so lets have a look at the Trimicron record now now that 1980s compilation held 30 minutes a side this holds approximately 60, so somehow they’ve managed to pack twice the amount of audio onto here and it looked like there wasn’t any room left on that 1980s one so let’s see how they’ve gone about doing it. Well, as we zoom in here, you’ll notice something straight away it is a very uniform line going down there, not like the electron microscope version or the other records that i showed you that moved around all over the place these are very straight, it seems like that’s the system, it hasn’t removed the central barrier between the tracks it has just somehow made it very straight and uniform and therefore must be compressing down the amount of space that each track has for the audio, lets have a listen I didn’t notice anything particularly compromised about the audio while listening to it other than the fact of course it is very much plagued by crackles and pops so it just needs a good clean this disc so I’ll give it a clean and I’ll play you a little snippet of this with a direct feed Yeah whatever I did I just couldn’t get rid of those crackles although I’ve reduced them down a little bit, the only I’ve noticed about this disc is when you play it you do have to turn the volume up just a little bit more than you wouldwith a normal record, I would probably listen to a normal record at about 60 on my amp on this I have to listen at about 70 but there is still plenty of room beyond so it is not like i have to max it out or anything and it does seem like the audio has quite a bit of dynamic range as well You can see this represented in this capture of the audio here, we’ve got the waveform and those vertical lines that go straight up and down, those are the crackles and pops but you can see also there is quite a bit of dynamic range there, it goes reasonably loud, it goes very quiet at one point towards the end there. Although apparently according to the French Wiipedia these discs do suffer from reduced dynamic range and perhaps most importantly they’ve got a reduced signal on them meaning the volume of them is reduced by 40% over a norma record, which meant people had to have record players that was a very quiet one that also had a good new diamond stylus on there to trace the track around and it was perhaps a bit of a compromise too far for many people As far as ideas go I don’t think this was a bad one and you’ve got to consider it came out in the early 1970s and it actually was quite successful in the market as well i think there were over 30 titles came out that use this Trimicron system. You can understand why the vast majority of people playing music back at that point were doing it off a record player so if you wanted to play for example the first track on side A here of 50 minutes and 54 seconds all in one long stretch, unbroken, then this would of been the only way must people would of had to go about doing that in fact the next chance the vast majority of people got to a 51 minute piece of music in one go would of been when the compact disc came out I suppose the reason that this would of died off though was because it proprietary technology, no doubt the chap behind this one wanted to license it out to peopel even if he didn’t ask for money on that i imagine that you would have to change all the equipment that you used for making records to enable them to produce these so you can understand why it didn’t take off beyond the initial company that were producing these but still it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good idea, but yes okay the sound quality is a little bit compromised, you have to turn it up a little bit more but i think my mum, for example, listening to her radiogram in the mid 1970s wouldn’t of minded that at all, turn it up a couple of notches it probably wouldn’t of sounded any different to any other record she put on there it’s only recently that people are getting really obsessive about these high end 180gram audiophile records back then you just chucked a record on a record player and thats what it was, it was just the way that you listened to music But anyway, hope you’ve enjoyed having a look at these two extended length formats here today, but that’s it for the moment as always, thanks for watching.