The Story of Home Audio: The Golden Era of Hi-Fi
Photo Markus Spiske /Unsplash
The magnetic tape and long-playing records, which appeared after the Second World War, changed the musical culture. New recording technologies and materials have increased the volume of drives, and more music began to fit on them. The same twelve-inch vinyl could fit up to 23 minutes of audio, and the bobbin - about 30 minutes . Up to this point, it was the norm for musicians to release only one song, but then whole albums began to be released, often united by a theme.
they consider The Beatles and their " Rubber Soul " - it was released in 1965. Soon, the work of other bands followed - “Aftermath” from The Rolling Stones, “Pet Sounds” from The Beach Boys and “Blonde on Blonde” by Bob Dylan.
New formats have become a space for the expression of musical ideas, which is not always possible to translate live. A vivid example is “Nowhere Man” from the already mentioned album “Rubber Soul”. The recording of this song used vocals - so during the live concert it sounded much easier than on the album.
The imprint on the music was left by the technical features of the formats. The tape could be regularly recorded and rewritten, and musicians began experimenting with the new sound. For example, five film samples , played in different ways, became part of the song “Tomorrow Never Knows” from the Beatles' Revolver album direction and at variable speed. Some musicians even cut a magnetic tape with audio recordings into pieces and assembled original compositions from them - the practice was called tape splicing (“tape gluing”).
After repeated dubbing, the magnetic tape began to degrade, which affected the sound. Musicians also used this feature in their works. Among them was a British composer and one of the founders of the genre of ambient music Brian Eno . He used the effect that the degraded film applied while recording " Discreet Music ".
To fully reveal the sound of new acoustic techniques, more advanced home audio equipment was needed. And it began to appear in the 50s and 60s of the last century - the period is called the “Golden Age” of Hi- Fi.
The Golden Age of Hi-Fi
This is the period in which the sound bar was set and consumer expectations formed. It was in the 50s that shelf speakers appeared in the USA.One of the first to introduce such a device was Acoustic Research, founded by the inventor and popularizer of closed-type speakers Edgar Villchur (Edgar Villchur ) Their columns were released in 1954 under the name AR-1 . Compared with competitors, the device was small and had good sound quality. However, Acoustic Research became popular only five years later, with the release of AR-3 .
Each of the AR-3 speakers contained three speakers: a conical woofer, a dome tweeter, and a mid-range emitter. AR-3 quickly became classics, raising the bar for home audio technology.
Acoustic Research even arranged "blind tests" in the format concerts during which music was alternately played by a live orchestra and speaker system. According to eyewitnesses, the differences were almost imperceptible. Until 1966, the company held almost a third of the American home acoustics market - an achievement not surpassed either before or after.
In parallel with the acoustics market, the audio amplifier market began to develop . For a long time, the Dynaco ST-70 tube amplifier, first introduced to the public in 1959, remained the leader in this category. Over the thirty-odd years of the model's existence, more than half a million copies have been sold - and the modern version of the ST-70 manufacturer is delivers now .
Photo Fred von Lohmann /CC BY/Pictured: Dynaco ST-70
The power race began in the 1970s. Amplifiers McIntosh MC3500 entered the market. These devices are still popular and go under the hammer at auctions for decent money.
At that time, record players developed. The first “turntable” with direct drive - without causing excessive vibration of the belts - Technics SP-10 was released in 1970 year. It was this kind of players that became popular among disco DJs, and led to the emergence of hip-hop and electronic music. But don’t think that in the golden age of Hi-Fi everything was fine.
Then audio equipment was usually expensive, and many American installations regularly went down . Due to these shortcomings, the US market (as well as the global one) gradually began to capture Asian companies - Pioneer, Kenwood, Sansui. They produced cheaper equipment and conducted active marketing campaigns. The result is obvious - to this day, when we talk about affordable Hi-Fi, the names of these manufacturers are the first to come to mind.
In any case, the market for audio equipment in the "golden era" was very stormy. Over a quarter century of competition and technological racing, a culture of music lovers has been formed.
Further reading on the subject in the Hi-Fi World:
How home audio developed - from song nights to first players
How Home Audio Becomes Massive
How Home Audio Developed: The Age of Vinyl
Theremin: an instrument of the future from the past
" Bake until ready ": who saves rare tape recordings in this way
History of audio formats - the era of cassettes and the development of speech synthesis technologies