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The Ayatollah Buggeri

Ray Dolby Dies

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Telegraph obit.

I remember the run-down suburban cinema at which I had my first job finally installing a Dolby A-type system in the main auditorium in 1987, after several years of the chain procrastinating about whether to refurbish the site or close it. The multiplexes were starting to open, and although 'home cinema' was still over a decade away (apart from a small number of wealthy geeks who had laserdisc-based systems), cinemagoers were starting to demand decent sound. I think Dolby was a major part of the reason why cinemas in the '80s came back almost from dying out completely.

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I remember those cassette tapes when you could tick whether it had noise reduction on or not. I would wonder who would actively choose not to have Dolby on? Somebody who really liked a hiss running through their music?

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I remember those cassette tapes when you could tick whether it had noise reduction on or not. I would wonder who would actively choose not to have Dolby on? Somebody who really liked a hiss running through their music?

I did.

Dolby worked, essentially, by killing most of the signal along with the hiss. The consumer tape noise reduction systems (B and C) worked by increasing the signal strength on the higher frequency range in recording, and then reducing it again in playback. The idea was that in the higher frequencies, there'd be a better signal-to-noise ratio actually on the tape than if there had been if the entire frequency range had been recorded at the same level, which would then survive once you reduced the HF level in playback. In other words, because you were amplifying the signal but not the tape hiss in recording, but reducing both in playback, the hiss level would be lower.

The problem, to my ears at any rate, was that the HF was reduced too far, and Dolby-encoded cassettes always sounded boomy and muffled to me. I'm guessing it was designed mainly with rock and pop in mind, and for people who listen mainly to classical and jazz, it didn't work as well.

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He was a "proper" engineer!

I still have a cassette deck with his logo on it! :blink:

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I remember those cassette tapes when you could tick whether it had noise reduction on or not. I would wonder who would actively choose not to have Dolby on? Somebody who really liked a hiss running through their music?

Try an experiment.

Get two identical cassettes of music. On one, tick the 'Dolby' box. Then play them and see if they sound different.

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I shall join in as a mark of compansion.

(You have to be a real audio nerd to get that gag.)

Bugger! I am! :blink:

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Get two identical cassettes of music. On one, tick the 'Dolby' box. Then play them and see if they sound different.

I did this, and despite them both being recorded on exactly the same type of Woolworth's C60, I can confirm that my Angelic Upstarts tape sounds very different to my dad's Bert Kampfert cassette.

XYY

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The problem with dolby was that while the standard was good a lot of machines had a sloppy implementation of it. Once you had a load of cassette players out in the market with wildly different response curves it was a mess. Commercial tapes were often mastered with a frequency curve that was deliberately 'wrong' to try and match what the hardware was doing. That then had the effect that good tape players would sound bad when playing commercially pre-recorded tapes - they were only good for home taping.

The whole thing was a bit of a precursor to the loudness war we have now with CDs.

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The problem with dolby was that while the standard was good a lot of machines had a sloppy implementation of it. Once you had a load of cassette players out in the market with wildly different response curves it was a mess. Commercial tapes were often mastered with a frequency curve that was deliberately 'wrong' to try and match what the hardware was doing. That then had the effect that good tape players would sound bad when playing commercially pre-recorded tapes - they were only good for home taping.

The whole thing was a bit of a precursor to the loudness war we have now with CDs.

Agreed-cassettes could sound great when recorded at home on a decent tape.

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