More CD-4

More CD-4

My own experience with CD-4 led me to stick with matrix-type quads. To hear a quad sound from CD-4 encoded vinyl I just send it through my Vario-Matrix decoder and let it synthesize a quad sound. However, there ARE those who use and enjoy CD-4. Cai Campbell is a quad expert with an opposing view. Here is his opinion:

Sorry that you don’t dig CD-4. I haven’t had much exposure to other quad formats but I LOVE my CD-4 setup. Here’s a bit of trivia for you about CD-4 records. What you say about high-frequency deterioration in vinyl records is true, which is a definite drawback to the CD-4 carrier signal approach. To account for this, JVC invented “super vinyl” which produced stronger, more resilient “walls” in the grooves on the record. All Quadradisc recordings were to be manufactured with this “super vinyl,” but my guess is that not all were (who knows how to tell?) Anyway, this is the same vinyl formula that Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab used for their first Original Master Recording releases! Cool, huh?

Anyway, audiophiles love the Quadradisc issues, not necessarily for their quad content, but because of the superior vinyl resulting in superior sound (played back stereo or quad.) This goes against what you’re saying about quality control with Quadradisc releases. In theory, the control would have been BETTER than with standard pressings and in my experience this has generally been the case, but there are always going to be quality control issues. I’ve had exceptionally good luck with CD-4 records and have only run into the problems you’ve mentioned when the previous owner trashed their records (idiots.)

Now, personally, I LOVE the fact that CD-4 offers truly discreet four channel sound. I read your argument about natural sound not coming from discreet pinpoints, and you’re right. But stereo is discreet and you can create 3D sound effects without blurring. An engineer has complete control over this effect in stereo and true discreet quad. Any bleeding must either be accounted for or ignored, in either case the end result will not be as the engineer had envisioned. Anyway, I’m sure you know all this, but all I’m saying is that I’ll take discreet multi-channel above a matrixed system any day! The downside is the method of delivery, but what the hey…

Discreet, matrix, or whatever, I’ll tell you what really ticks me off about quad (or early stereo, for that matter) is that most engineers had no clue what to do with it! “Uh, drums in that speaker, guitar over there, singer over there, um… and tambourine over there.” Yeah, that sounds natural. I’ve heard only a few really good quadraphonic mixes. Some of them are “almost there” but most are pretty laughable. When it is done right, it is really spectacular. In my mind, the very best quad disk ever mixed is Harry Nilsson’s “Nilsson Schmilsson.” This is a fantastic record in its own right but the quad mix will completely blow you away. Seriously, you MUST check it out. Best of the Doors was mixed very well, especially when you consider the songs were not recorded with quad in mind. I’ve got a couple of avant-garde (Edgard Varese) and jazz (Gil Evans) that were mixed extremely well.

Long story short, with quad, IT’S IN THE MIX!

Thanks for the feedback, Cai. So far, we have one for CD-4 and one anti CD-4. Is there somebody in the audience who can break the tie???

YES! Here’s the viewpoint of a long-time quaddie who is sadly no longer with us. Steve Wudtke passed-on in September 2000. Also known as Hood Crow and TWA Corbies on various discussion boards and newsgroups, Steve was a fount of quad information having been a quad advocate from the earliest days.

CD4…..a Gemini Moon perspective

Well, this is a schizo subject, so I’ll try to break the tie going on so far by saying “It was the best of systems, it was the worst of systems” w/ apologies to Mr.Dickens. CD4 had the most potential for its time, and sadly, the least achievements.Certainly, nothing *Sang* as well as a well-pressed CD4 Disc (Stardrive-Intergalactic trot comes to mind) or sang as badly as a poorly pressed and poorly mixed disc (Tubular Bells comes to mind). Why? Well, lots of reasons. The quality control (pardon the oxymoron) in the USA was non-existent, I heard tales of a CD4 pressing plant that had the windows wide open so the local coal mine dust could blow in. Compare this to Japan’s *clean room* pressing. If CD4’s had the same care as the later Mobile Fidelity releases in stereo, they MIGHT be still around..

The system was not designed with the casual fan in mind. Setting up CD4 can be very time consuming and tedious. I’m sure many listeners didn’t take the time and care to set it up properly, then complained about the sound. And of course, all demodulators, cartridges and cables are not created equal, but they should have been (Ala CD standards). This would have provided a quality measurement to judge systems against.

Much has been made of the wear factor. I believe after the very early discs this was a non-issue. I have discs I’ve beaten the s**t out of, and they still demodulate just fine. I think we can safely thank CD4 for giving us an awareness of proper tracking, which didn’t seem to matter too much before CD4. Of course, every audiophile knows about proper tracking, but how many casual listeners smeared their CD4’s with an El Cheapo Yorx cartridge waiting till they bought their first quad system?

So, anyway, I am still divided on the format, although I will say it has the widest separation I heard from a record at that time. Listening to my Vario-Matrix or Tates give me the same sense of discreteness. If it SOUNDS discrete, who cares if it’s a matrix?

Speaking of, and going into the subject of *Mixing*. I don’t think there’s ever been such bad mixing as on quad material. I had many SQ discs I saved for years just so I could hear them through a *proper* decoder (ie:Tate). Guess what? The Tate magnified the flawed mix on most of them, and I had to sit back and wonder just what the **** they thought they were doing. A lot of them were simply awful. The same is true of CD4, or even the undisputed King of Quad, the Open Reel. 50 db separation doesn’t mean diddly if it sounds like crap, and I find a lot of the most enjoyable quad mixes were NOT designed with quad in mind (Doors, Aqualung, Moody Blues). So were they trying too hard, or not trying enough? The jury is still out.

So, before this gets totally nauseating, my summation. I live with all the quad formats. I keep my CD-4 system ready for the occasional disc just longing to be put on reel to reel, or I fire my CDs, reels, and whatever else through a Vario-Matrix or Tate. The only thing you won’t hear in my house is stereo. I think CD-4 is worthwhile, but it’s not for everybody. I believe a degree of dedication is needed to pursue the rewards it can indeed give. And it still beats Quad 8 tracks. So, I guess I can break the tie with this: I Love it and Hate it. That’s what I get with a Gemini Moon.

Hooded Crow

Thank you Mr. Crow. That was an interesting and insightful argument uhhhhhh……. for AND against CD-4.


One comment on “More CD-4

  1. I enjoyed the CD-4 format despite all of the many formats that were present back in the day. Finally CD-4 discrete won the war but a bit too late it seams. However, there are albums released in Quad format that were exceptional for example: Who did not listen to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of the Moon, Or Paul McCartney’s Band On The Run in Quad? This just as example of what was possible with Quad sound. Another album I believe was in SQ Columbia Records Blue Oyster Cult’s Secret Treaties. Your Right in that I do believe that the record companies “Tried Too Hard” to create the CD 4 sound field if they would have just listened to the music and let the music guide them. Jethro Tull’s Aqualung was one you mentioned and I agree did not sound natural. Oh the other had if you listened to Eric Carmen’s Quad album you’ll notice right away the engineer got it right and that was another fantastic Quad record. That’s my 2 cents.

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