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Sara Huebner

Audio Recording for Non-Majors


In the 1930s, audio engineers were just starting to experiment

with the modern stereo recording techniques. Alan Blumlein, a British
recording engineer for EMI, is attributed with the invention of the first
true stereo recording technique. However, 20 years later, Roy Wallace
and Arthur Haddy of Decca Studios in London were coming up with a
second stereo recording technique. Based off of these two original
stereo recording techniques invented in the 1930s, we have the base
line for not only recording techniques but also digital listening
preferences today.
In 1933, Blumlein officially released a patent for his original
stereo recording technique. This technique, called the Blumlein
Technique, is traditionally made up of crossed bidirectional
microphones today. The idea behind this technique is that you use two
figure eight polar pattern microphones that, angled at 90 degrees, use
the interference of the two figure eight polar pattern to produce an
enhanced stereo-recorded image. That said, in the 1930s, when
Blumlein was experimenting with this idea, he did not have access to
these figure eight polar pattern microphones. Instead he used only
directional microphones in his original patent write-up in 1931.

However, the concept behind this crossed microphone pattern remains

the same and is only enhanced with the addition of the bi-directional
microphone. Blumlein explains the goal of this technique in his patent
by saying the fundamental objective of this invention is to provide a
sound recording and reproducing system whereby a true direction
impression may be conveyed to the listener thus improving the illusion
that the sound is coming, and is only coming, from the artist or other
sound source presented to the eye.
In 1954, almost 20 years after the invention of the Blumlein
technique, a new stereo recording technique was invented as Wallace
and Haddy. They were experimenting with different microphone
placements during a Decca studio in London session with the
Mantovani Orchestra. They decided to try placing three Neumann 49
omnidirectional microphones on a T-shaped wheel that was suspended
above the orchestra and directly behind the conductors podium. This
setup proved to be very effective for the stereo recording of large
ensembles as the sound tends to arrive in the center of the three
microphones causing the image of the recorded sound to be very
focused and clear. This setup also allows the microphones to pick up
more of the room acoustics than Blumlein technique due to their
placement farther into the room. However, because of this one of the
pitfalls of the Decca Tree technique doesnt pick up as much of the
clearness of articulation that the Blumlein Technique does.

Although modifications have been made to both of these basic,

early stereo recording techniques the benefits and criticisms of both
have helped shape the debate about the purpose and goal of a stereo
recording. Many audio engineers tend to favor the clear, crispness of
the Blumlein technique and aim to record the orchestra not so much as
you would hear it acoustically in the hall but rather in an ideal world
with each section being recorded individually. Others audio engineers
favor the strengths of the Decca Tree by claiming that stereo
recordings of orchestras should accurately represent the room and the
way the audience members hear the orchestra in a concert. This
debate, that has its roots with the first two most prominent stereo
recording techniques, continues today not only among the audio
engineering community but also in the publics preference for classical
music recordings.

1) https://westonsound.wordpress.com/2012/04/07/recording-classicalmusic-microphones-and-multitracks/
2) http://www.mixonline.com/news/profiles/decca-tree/365206