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THE MOST remarkable thing about the 1974 Consumer Electronic Show was its relative similarity to the 1973 CES. Held as usual in mammoth McCormick Place in Chicago, the changes in this year's show could accurately be characterized as moderate. There was a little less extravaganza, less "hoopla," the usual aura of optimism somewhat subdued. When one considers the profound political, economic and social upheavals this country has experienced in a year's time, changes which inexorably are changing our way of life, the relative stability, the "sameness" of this 1974 CES augers well for our industry. In spite of rising prices and some "belt-tightening" here and there, the high fidelity industry apparently is going to maintain the momentum it has enjoyed for the past decade.
As is usual, attempting to cover the CES is a drag. Between the vastness of McCormick Place and hotel-hopping in search of the demonstration rooms of the various audio manufacturers, it is inevitable that you just can't "catch everybody's act." So my apologies in advance, and no slight intended ... to those exhibitors whose demonstrations I simply was unable to attend.
For some months previous to the CES, it was predicted that at the Show there would be an extreme proliferation of universal receivers incorporating IC chips for CD-4, SQ, and QS. Not only did this not fully materialize, it also appeared that there was a mild, but general diminution of interest in quadraphonic sound. Audio Times, an industry publication, headlined a story "CES spotlight shifts back to two channel." I thought this statement was a bit strong, but there was no arguing that some prominent manufacturers did not show any new quadraphonic equipment. A number of industry people expressed disappointment in the slow growth rate of quadraphonic sound, while others felt that quadraphonic sound had advanced faster and had made a greater impact than stereo in similar time spans. At any rate there was still plenty of quadraphonic equipment on display, even if some of it was not quite up to full complements of four-channel IC chips. For example, CBS claimed that at the CES there were 80 items of audio equipment with SQ decoding circuitry. They further stated that no less than 20 new quadraphonic models did indeed have SQ ICs with full-logic decoding capability.
Some of these chips were in receivers with regular discrete CD-4 and QS circuitry. As you might expect, Panasonic/Technics and JVC showed several models of quadraphonic receivers utilizing CD-4 IC chips. Understandably, Sansui had several receivers, incorporating their QS Vario-matrix IC chip. But it must be said that no company was marketing a quadraphonic receiver with IC chips in all the four channel formats.
There is no doubt that stereo receivers made a big impression at the Show, with a number of companies putting a strong promotional push behind their offerings.
The trends in the stereo camp seems to be bigger and better high end products featuring high amplifier power. Pioneer, Marantz, and Sylvania had units with up to 125 watts continuous power per channel at 8 ohms.
However, by far the biggest stereo news at the CES was that the FCC has approved Dolby FM broadcasting utilizing a 25 microsecond pre-emphasis, instead of the present 75 microsecond pre-emphasis. FM broadcasts of the type proposed will be allowed without notification or application to the FCC. 'The 25 microsecond technique was detailed in these pages some months ago. Briefly, the lowered pre-emphasis of high frequencies reduces the dangers of over modulation during transmission. However, present FM tuners and receivers with 75 microseconds de-emphasis, would obtain a dull sound if such a change in transmission were made independently. Dolby B-Type noise reduction broadcasts normally appear brighter if the listener is not equipped with a Dolby decoder. By having a station broadcast with the 25 microsecond pre-emphasis and Dolby B encoding, high-quality compatible reception is obtained by all listeners. The listener with conventional FM receiving equipment will benefit by a reduction of high frequency distortion, an increase in program level, or both. The listener equipped with the 25 microseconds de emphasis circuit and a Dolby B decoder will obtain considerably improved signal-to-noise ratio, full program dynamic range, better reception in weak signal areas, and reduced likelihood of interference. Broadcasters who transmit with this technique can provide listeners with a signal quality which otherwise would require an increase in transmitter power by almost 20 times. At the Show, Marantz and Tandberg stole a march on the competition with receivers equipped for 25 microsecond de-emphasis. (See Marantz 4400 test in this issue.-Ed.) I believe there is also a Lafayette tuner similarly equipped. Needless to say, many stations are investigating this new way to better quality FM, and in fact during the Show, Chicago's prestigious WFMT was broadcasting with Dolby B/25 mS. One of the most interesting new quadraphonic developments was a new type of SQ decoder called the Tate DES (Directional Enhancement System). The system uses an IC chip developed by Martin Wilcox, former chief engineer of Sinclair, who, in association with Wesley Ruggles, will be manufacturing the chip. Destined initially for OEM users, in about six months their own brand of decoders should be available.
In essence their DES goes beyond the most sophisticated logic decoders, and they claim channel separation of 40 dB. Since the best stereo phono cartridges just about reach 35 dB separation, this is really an eyebrow-raising statement! Nonetheless, in my opinion, and the opinion of others who heard the system, we had to conclude that this does indeed furnish extraordinary separation, even with difficult SQ recordings containing simultaneous information on all four channels. Nor could any pumping or breathing of the system be detected, although it must be admitted that our listening span was necessarily limited.
No prices were quoted, but if the Tate DES can be marketed at a reasonable figure, SQ will have gained a formidable weapon.
Four-channel open-reel tape recorders, many of them in the higher price brackets, were noted in profusion from the likes of Teac, AKAI, Dokorder, Pioneer, etc, etc. I still ask the question
... and not in a nasty way ... what do the owners of these machines record on these units, and do they, in fact, record in the quadraphonic mode?
At the Bose demo room, they were introducing their new quad pre-amplifier, presumably a companion unit for their huge 1801 amplifier. The interior was on display, and the precision layout of the components on modular printed circuit boards was a delight to the eye.
A feature of the unit is that optional plug-in modules for decoding SQ (full logic) or CD-4 demodulating are available.
At the Infinity room, the center of attraction was an updated model of their tri-amplified Servo-Static speaker system. Complicated and expensive though it may be, this is one of the most impressive sounding speakers extant.
On a lesser scale in size, their new Monitor column-style speaker was a very clean performing unit, especially when driven by Infinity's unique Class D switching amplifier. I visited the Infinity plant on a recent trip to the Coast, and gained a good insight into the manufacture of their interesting products. I plan on reporting on this visit very soon.
One of the most interesting and provocative exhibits this year was that of Braun, whose loudspeakers are imported from Germany by the Analog and Digital Systems company of Cambridge, Mass. Their Braun LV1020 is a tri-amplified acoustic suspension system, employing a 12-in. woofer driven by its own 55-watt amplifier, 2-in. mid-range unit driven by a 30 watt amplifier, and a 1-in. tweeter driven by a 15-watt amplifier. An electronic crossover and input and level controls for each amplifier are incorporated in the enclosure. The result is a smooth, uncolored sound, with fine transient response and good solid bass in a moderate-sized enclosure. I should mention that the Braun loudspeaker drivers are imported into this country, with the cabinets being made here for most of the line. Okay, this is a fine high quality speaker, but imagine if you can, a speaker system smaller than a loaf of bread. It is a two-way, bi-amplified car speaker, with a 1-in. soft-dome tweeter and a 4-in. long excursion woofer. There is a little black box power conditioner which converts 12 V car voltage into 60 volts to drive the power amplifiers. Since this is a stereo system, another little black box contains four power amplifiers (150 watts rms total), two active equalizers, and two electronic crossovers. When one of the Sheffield direct-disc recordings was played through this system, the very clean, high-powered output from these diminutive speakers was nothing short of amazing. As if this wasn't enough, ADS showed a digitally controlled pre-amplifier quite unlike anything I'd ever seen before. Approximately 4-in. high, by 4-in. wide, by 10-in. in depth, there are no visible controls or knobs. Instead, there is a sort of plastic faceplate, with red digital readout, and with various functions such as volume, balance, bass, treble, etc. marked out on the face of the plastic. Touching the marked function, with a pressure of less than a gram, causes two tiny gold balls to come together and complete a circuit.
For example, if you touch "volume increase," the digital display actually shows the increase in decibels! Conversely for attenuation. You can do endless tricks with this device, and an option will be a wireless remote control permitting adjustment of a quadraphonic system from the optimum seating position in the listening room! Delivery of this unit is expected in the fall, at about the 500 dollar level.
In my February 1974 article on the Burwen Labs Dynamic Noise Filter, I suggested to Dick Burwen, that a consumer version of his device would likely be well received if he could produce one for a reasonable price. Sure enough, at the CES there was the Burwen exhibit showing the Model DNF 1200 Dynamic Noise Filter for $249.95.
Dick Burwen tells me he sold quite a few of the units at the Show, and his headphone demo was very effective. Dick has just sent me one of his new units, and I will report on it in the near future.
You can always hear good music and sound at the Crown International demo room and this year was no exception.
My good friend Clyde Moore, the genial sales V.P., was showing production models of his OC-150 stereo output control center, along with prototypes of his new electronic crossover. A big Crown four-channel tape deck was furnishing music for the newly updated versions of the Auralinear 212 speaker system. These are hybrid units ... dynamic woofer up to 350 Hz, and 12 special electrostatic panels carrying on up to 30 kHz. These panels will put out huge sound pressures without arcing, and the transient response and cleanness of this system is truly exceptional.
Things That Caught My Eye Around the Show .. . Manual turntables everywhere ... an obvious trend and many companies are jumping on the bandwagon with some very sophisticated designs. On the other hand, the new BIC record changer is unusual in that it is belt driven, and the rumble is said to be very low. Dolby B cassette decks get fancier, more complicated, offer some impressive specs, and the average price now must be reaching $350 and beyond.
My Cerwin-Vega friends were showing a new brute force monitor speaker system, and as usual the walls were bulging from their incredibly loud, but very clean sound. Audio Research demonstrated their Magneplanar speakers in a much larger room this year, and with noticeably superior results. A super smooth, unobtrusive sound. Not at the Show, but in nearby Elk Grove Village, Bang and Olufson were showing their new Beogram 4002 phono playback system, certainly one of the most sophisticated and physically beautiful designs I've encountered.
More on this unit when they become available.
There we have it, the 1974 CES. A little subdued this year, wearisome as ever, but ultimately worth the endless trekking to see and hear the newest our industry has to offer.
Murray G. Crosby
Ii is with deep sorrow that I report the passing of Murray G. Crosby, one of the great minds in our industry, and a dear personal friend. Mr. Crosby died on June 8, 1974 at his home in Syosset, New York. He was 70 years old.
Murray was one for the foremost pioneers in FM radio technology and for many years engaged in communications research, principally in frequency and phase modulation, for Radio Corp. of America Laboratories in Riverhead, N.Y. After a stint with Press Wireless, he founded his own company, Crosby Laboratories in 1948. In 1953, Murray developed his compatible "sum and difference" method of stereo FM multiplexing, generally acknowledged by the engineering fraternity as the superior system of multiplexing. Because of FCC insistence on the retention of SCA facilities, the Crosby system lost out to the G.E./Zenith multiplexing system, with its 16-dB poorer signal to-noise ratio on FM stereo broadcasts. It is ironic, that Mr. Crosby died the same week that the FCC gave permission for the use of the 25 microsecond pre-emphasis in Dolby B-type FM transmission, which together restore about 13 dB of that S/ N ratio.
Mr. Crosby was justly honored for his achievements. In 1940 he was presented with the Modern Pioneer Award of the National Assn. of Manufacturers. In 1966, he was the recipient of the Mervin J. Kelly Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, for "outstanding contributions and advances to the art of telecommunications." Active for many years in the affairs of the IEEE, he was a Fellow of that organization, as well as a Fellow and Honorary Member of the Audio Engineering Society.
Since 1961, Mr. Crosby had been engaged in engineering, consulting, and inventing. Holder of over 200 United States and foreign patents, his last patent, on a sub-audible coding system for statistical verification of FM radio and TV commercials, was issued to him the day before he died.
Murray was a quiet, affable man, with a great sense of humor. We shared a mutual love of the sea, and I have fond memories of many boating trips we made together. It was an honor to have been a friend of such a brilliant man. He will be missed.
(Source: Audio magazine, Sept. 1974; Bert Whyte)
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