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!