The first commercially released movie with a stereo soundtrack was Walt Disney's Fantasia , released in The release of Fantasia used the " Fantasound " sound system. This system used a separate film for the sound, synchronized with the film carrying the picture. The sound film had four double-width optical soundtracks, three for left, center, and right audio—and a fourth as a "control" track with three recorded tones that controlled the playback volume of the three audio channels. Because of the complex equipment this system required, Disney exhibited the movie as a roadshow, and only in the United States.
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German audio engineers working on magnetic tape developed stereo recording by , even though a 2-track push-pull monaural technique existed in Other early German stereophonic tapes are believed to have been destroyed in bombings. Not until Ampex introduced the first commercial two-track tape recorders in the late s did stereo tape recording become commercially feasible. However, despite the availability of multitrack tape, stereo did not become the standard system for commercial music recording for some years, and remained a specialist market during the s.
EMI UK was the first company to release commercial stereophonic tapes. They issued their first Stereosonic tape in Others quickly followed, under the His Master's Voice and Columbia labels. Two-track stereophonic tapes were more successful in America during the second half of the s. They were duplicated at real time or at twice the normal speed when later 4-track tapes were often duplicated at up to 16 times the normal speed, providing a lower sound quality in many cases.
Early American 2-track stereophonic tapes were very expensive. The history of stereo recording changed after the late introduction of the Westrex stereo phonograph disc , which used the groove format developed earlier by Blumlein. Decca Records in England came out with FFRR Full Frequency Range Recording in the s, which became internationally accepted as a worldwide standard for higher quality recording on vinyl records.
The Ernest Ansermet recording of Igor Stravinsky 's Petrushka was key in the development of full frequency range records and alerting the listening public to high fidelity in Record companies mixed most popular music singles into monophonic sound until the mids—then commonly released major recordings in both mono and stereo until the early s. Many s pop albums available only in stereo in the s were originally released only in mono, and record companies produced the "stereo" versions of these albums by simply separating the two tracks of the master tape, creating "pseudo stereo".
In the mid Sixties, as stereo became more popular, many mono recordings such as The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds were remastered using the so-called " fake stereo " method, which spread the sound across the stereo field by directing higher-frequency sound into one channel and lower-frequency sounds into the other.
Magnetic tape transformed the recording industry. By the early s, most commercial recordings were mastered on tape instead of recorded directly to disc. Tape facilitated a degree of manipulation in the recording process that was impractical with mixes and multiple generations of directly recorded discs.
An early example is Les Paul 's recording of How High the Moon , on which Paul played eight overdubbed guitar tracks. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The next important innovation was small cartridge-based tape systems, of which the compact cassette , commercialized by the Philips electronics company in , is the best known.
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Initially a low-fidelity format for spoken-word voice recording and inadequate for music reproduction, after a series of improvements it entirely replaced the competing formats: the larger 8-track tape used primarily in cars and the fairly similar "Deutsche Cassette" developed by the German company Grundig. This latter system was not particularly common in Europe and practically unheard-of in America.
The compact cassette became a major consumer audio format and advances in electronic and mechanical miniaturization led to the development of the Sony Walkman , a pocket-sized cassette player introduced in The Walkman was the first personal music player and it gave a major boost to sales of prerecorded cassettes, which became the first widely successful release format that used a re-recordable medium: the vinyl record was a playback-only medium and commercially prerecorded tapes for reel-to-reel tape decks , which many consumers found difficult to operate, were never more than an uncommon niche market item.
A key advance in audio fidelity came with the Dolby A noise reduction system, invented by Ray Dolby and introduced into professional recording studios in It suppressed the light but sometimes quite noticeable steady background of hiss, which was the only easily audible downside of mastering on tape instead of recording directly to disc. A competing system, dbx , invented by David Blackmer, also found success in professional audio. A simpler variant of Dolby's noise reduction system, known as Dolby B, greatly improved the sound of cassette tape recordings by reducing the especially high level of hiss that resulted from the cassette's miniaturized tape format.
It, and variants, also eventually found wide application in the recording and film industries.
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Dolby B was crucial to the popularization and commercial success of the cassette as a domestic recording and playback medium, and it became a standard feature in the booming home and car stereo market of the s and beyond. The compact cassette format also benefited enormously from improvements to the tape itself as coatings with wider frequency responses and lower inherent noise were developed, often based on cobalt and chrome oxides as the magnetic material instead of the more usual iron oxide.
The multitrack audio cartridge had been in wide use in the radio industry, from the late s to the s, but in the s the pre-recorded 8-track cartridge was launched as a consumer audio format by Bill Lear of the Lear Jet aircraft company and although its correct name was the 'Lear Jet Cartridge', it was seldom referred to as such. Aimed particularly at the automotive market, they were the first practical, affordable car hi-fi systems, and could produce sound quality superior to that of the compact cassette.
However the smaller size and greater durability — augmented by the ability to create home-recorded music "compilations" since 8-track recorders were rare — saw the cassette become the dominant consumer format for portable audio devices in the s and s. There had been experiments with multi-channel sound for many years — usually for special musical or cultural events — but the first commercial application of the concept came in the early s with the introduction of Quadraphonic sound. This spin-off development from multitrack recording used four tracks instead of the two used in stereo and four speakers to create a degree audio field around the listener.
Following the release of the first consumer 4-channel hi-fi systems, a number of popular albums were released in one of the competing four-channel formats; among the best known are Mike Oldfield 's Tubular Bells and Pink Floyd 's The Dark Side of the Moon. Quadraphonic sound was not a commercial success, partly because of competing and somewhat incompatible four-channel sound systems e. It eventually faded out in the late s, although this early venture paved the way for the eventual introduction of domestic Surround Sound systems in home theatre use, which have gained enormous popularity since the introduction of the DVD.
This widespread adoption has occurred despite the confusion introduced by the multitude of available surround sound standards.
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The replacement of the relatively fragile thermionic valve vacuum tube by the smaller, lighter-weight, cooler-running, less expensive, more robust, and less power-hungry transistor also accelerated the sale of consumer high-fidelity " hi-fi " sound systems from the s onward. In the s, most record players were monophonic and had relatively low sound quality. Few consumers could afford high-quality stereophonic sound systems. In the s, American manufacturers introduced a new generation of "modular" hi-fi components — separate turntables, pre-amplifiers, amplifiers, both combined as integrated amplifiers, tape recorders, and other ancillary equipment like the graphic equaliser , which could be connected together to create a complete home sound system.
These developments were rapidly taken up by major Japanese electronics companies, which soon flooded the world market with relatively affordable, high-quality transistorized audio components.
By the s, corporations like Sony had become world leaders in the music recording and playback industry. The advent of digital sound recording and later the compact disc CD in brought significant improvements in the durability of consumer recordings. The CD initiated another massive wave of change in the consumer music industry, with vinyl records effectively relegated to a small niche market by the mids.
However, the record industry fiercely resisted the introduction of digital systems, fearing wholesale piracy on a medium able to produce perfect copies of original released recordings. The most recent and revolutionary developments have been in digital recording, with the development of various uncompressed and compressed digital audio file formats , processors capable and fast enough to convert the digital data to sound in real time , and inexpensive mass storage . This generated new types of portable digital audio players.
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The minidisc player, using ATRAC compression on small, cheap, re-writeable discs was introduced in the s but became obsolescent as solid-state non-volatile flash memory dropped in price. Sound files are readily downloaded from the Internet and other sources, and copied onto computers and digital audio players.
Digital audio technology is now used in all areas of audio, from casual use of music files of moderate quality to the most demanding professional applications. New applications such as internet radio and podcasting have appeared. Technological developments in recording, editing, and consuming have transformed the record , movie and television industries in recent decades. Audio editing became practicable with the invention of magnetic tape recording , but technologies like MIDI Musical Instrument Digital Interface , sound synthesis allowed greater control for composers and artists.
These digital audio techniques and mass storage have reduced recording and marketing costs so high-quality digital recordings can be produced in small studios. Today, the process of making a recording is separated into tracking, mixing and mastering. Multitrack recording makes it possible to capture signals from several microphones, or from different takes to tape, disc or mass storage, with maximized headroom and quality, allowing previously unavailable flexibility in the mixing and mastering stages.
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There are many different digital audio recording and processing programs running under several computer operating systems for all purposes,  ranging from casual users e. A comprehensive list of digital recording applications is available at the digital audio workstation article. Digital dictation software for recording and transcribing speech has different requirements; intelligibility and flexible playback facilities are priorities, while a wide frequency range and high audio quality are not.
The development of analog sound recording in the nineteenth century and its widespread use throughout the twentieth century had a huge impact on the development of music.
Before analog sound recording was invented, most music was listened to by hearing a live performance, or by singing or playing a song or piece. Throughout the medieval , Renaissance , Baroque , Classical , and through much of the Romantic music era , the main way that songs and instrumental pieces were "recorded" was by notating the piece in music notation.
While music notation indicates the pitches of the melody and their rhythm, the notation is not like a era sound recording. Indeed, in the Medieval era, Gregorian chant did not indicate the rhythm of the chant. In the Baroque era, instrumental pieces often lack a tempo indication and usually none of the ornaments were written down.
As a result, each performance of a song or piece would be slightly different. With the development of analog sound recording, though, a performance could be permanently fixed, in all of its elements: pitch, rhythm, timbre, ornaments and expression. This meant that many more elements of a performance would be captured and disseminated to other listeners.
The development of sound recording also enabled a much larger proportion of people to hear famous orchestras, operas, singers and bands, because even if a non-wealthy person could not afford to hear the live concert, she or he might be able to afford to buy the recording. The availability of sound recording thus helped to spread musical styles to new regions, countries and continents.