Perfect Reproduction

Some years back a friend of mine used to help Bowers and Wilkins publicise their loudspeakers by taking part in demonstrations where he would mime to a recording (so appearing to the audience to be speaking live) and then suddenly drink a glass of water while the speech continued. Similar demonstrations, comparing live instruments with recordings, were carried out by Quad with their electrostatic loudpeakers.

I would be more impressed by all this if I didn't know that Edison had people touring America in the 1880s carrying out the same sort of demonstration with the cylinder phonograph - when live and recorded performances were played behind a curtain, audiences couldn't tell the difference. Indeed people praised the accuracy of the early, tin-foil, phonograph's reproduction - but they meant that it spoke exactly the same words which had just been spoken into it. (In reality the quality was so bad that it helped to have been present when the recording was made). Their attitude seems odd to us, but you have to remember that up to then their only experience of sound reproduction had been parrots and mynah birds.

I met a chap with a mynah bird once: the alarming thing was that it sounded like a very cheap and tinny cassette recorder: its party piece was a realistic smoker's cough. A friend of mine swears that he once knew a mynah bird whose only speech was 'Roses are red, violets are red, blue you silly bugger'.

Posted: Thu - December 6, 2007 at 08:51 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM