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Technology

 

Welcome to our Technology pages

 

We hope you enjoy the contents of these pages. It may be that they focus on a particular manufacturer and their latest development to bring us closer to audio nirvana or they will also cover general developments in technology that may help or hinder the future of HiFi Sound.

 

A Brief History

 

The story of sound recording and reproduction kicked off in 1877. A man named Thomas Edison invented the phonograph. In essence, his machine consisted of a sheet of tinfoil wrapped around a cylindrical drum which, when turned by a handle, both rotated and moved laterally. As it moved it passed under a touching metal stylus, attached to one side of a diaphragm. On the other side of the diaphragm was a small mouthpiece into which the operator spoke. The sound-waves focussed onto the diaphragm caused it to vibrate, which in turn caused the stylus to vary the pressure on the tinfoil. As the drum rotated and moved across the stylus a groove was embossed in the tinfoil consisting of undulations approximating the pressure patterns of the sound waves. Playback involved placing the stylus at the beginning of the groove made during recording and winding the cylinder along once again. The undulations in the tinfoil caused the stylus to move in and out, and so the diaphragm to vibrate, which in turn moved the air in the mouthpiece, thus recreating the sound.

It sounds slightly familiar.....

Unfortunately, the results weren't great sonically speaking and Edison being a busy chap soon got caught up with other inventions (like the light bulb) and the development of the phonograph stalled. Alexander Graham Bell (inventor of the telephone) and Charles Tainter revised the phonograph some 10 years later and improved the design. Their tweaks to Edison's invention was to result in the wax cylinder phonograph. Edison was impressed with the improvements and turned his attention back to the device

However, a format war loomed. While these gentlemen had been tinkering with their cylinders a gentleman by the name of Emil Berliner had developed a competitive system: the gramophone record. It was simpler to playback, capable of cheap mass production and most important of all avoided Edison’s patent on cylinders.

These early discs showed that music recording could be a successful business, but the process and the gramophones to play them on were still too crude to make serious music a viable proposition. Improvements soon came via the same idea as Bell and Tainter had had – wax was an ideal medium to make recordings on. Once the problem of electroplating the finished wax, and the little matter of Bell and Tainter’s patents, had been solved, the gramophone began its role of a serious musical reproducer.

This little story tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the motives for the changing landscape of music recording and reproduction. Over the ensuing 100 years, or so we've gone from wax cylinders to the MP3 via Shellac, Vinyl, 8 track, Compact Cassette and CD. The main reason for all these innovations in music formats is to make record companies more money, the others include improvements in robustness, reliability and ease of access. Sometimes it was even claimed they sounded better.

Consequently, most of us will be accessing our music in different formats and on different devices. In the digital world, the massive growth of online subscription services would seem to suggest people are less and less interested in owning a disc or a file. The attraction of these services is a massive library that is easy to access. To these ears, it is surely not based on sound quality. At Billy Vee, we still love a CD but perhaps not a CD player. The best way to access your CD collection is to have it neatly archived on a great server and then play it back with a digital streamer across your home network. These systems are great, they offer terrific digital sound quality from your CD collection as well as letting you access Spotify or Tidal. You can Bluetooth your smartphone or tablet to them and access internet radio. They can be the heart of a great HiFi system and the cornerstone of a Multi-room system for your whole home. What's not to like?

Conversely, as you may have noticed, there is a resurgence in interest in Vinyl. LP and Turntable (thanks, Mr Berliner) sales are at levels not seen for years. Now perhaps this is retroism, Turntables seem to have become cool, but let us hope not. Let's hope that people are (re)discovering how good a great Turntable can sound. Of course, at Billy Vee the Turntable never went away and, whether you own a Rega Planar 3 (The Caterham 7 of Turntables) or a fully blown LP12, you know why. They just sound right. A correctly setup Turntable can be a passport to some serious listening pleasure and at Billy Vee, we've always prided ourselves on being able to give solid support and advice when it comes to the precious record deck

Lots of options and lots of questions but at Billy Vee, we can guide you through the murky waters of divergence and convergence. From a new stylus for your beloved Vinyl spinner  to a complete whole house audio solution we can help

 

To explore any of these technologies please contact us to arrange a demonstration.

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