Archive for the ‘Reel to Reel’ Category

American inventor who created surround sound remembered as ‘a true visionary’


Ray Dolby, the American audio pioneer and inventor of surround sound, has died at the age of 80.

Dolby, who founded his namesake company in 1965, suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and was recently diagnosed with acute leukaemia. He died in his home at San Fransisco

His work in noise reduction and audio technology created an entire industry dedicated to delivering compelling and thrilling audio. The Dolby Stereo system was responsible for creating unique sounds of films from A Clockwork Orange to Star Wars.

“Today we lost a friend, mentor and true visionary,” said Kevin Yeaman, president and chief executive of Dolby Laboratories.

Dolby’s work earned him a number of notable awards, including several Emmys, two Oscars and a Grammy. Other honours included receiving the National Medal of Technology from President Bill Clinton and an induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in the US and the Royal Academy of Engineers in the UK.

Although his innovations in audio recording and reproduction made a big impact in cinemas, Dolby’s work also found its way into millions of homes. For many his name is permanently associated with reducing the hiss in tape playback.

“Though he was an engineer at heart, my father’s achievements in technology grew out of a love of music and the arts,” said Tom Dolby, a film-maker and novelist. “He brought his appreciation of the artistic process to all of his work in film and audio recording.”

Dolby was born in Portland Oregon, and began his professional work at Ampex Corporation, earning his first patents for videotape recording systems before he’d left college.

He graduated from Standford University and went on to study at Cambridge, founding Dolby Studios in London in 1965. In 1976 he moved to San Francisco where the company established its headquarters.

“Ray really managed to have a dream job,” said Dagmar Dolby, his wife of 47 years. “Because he could do exactly what he wanted to do, whichever way he wanted to do it, and in the process, did a lot of good for many music and film lovers. And in the end, built a very successful company.”

Since news of his passing, tributes have rushed in for Dolby, with co-workers describing him as an inspiring and thoughtful man, who cared passionately about engineering.

“To be an inventor, you have to be willing to live with a sense of uncertainty, to work in the darkness and grope toward an answer, to put up with the anxiety about whether there is an answer,” he once said.

He is survived by his wife, sons Tom and David, and four grandchildren. See below for a video tribute to Dolby’s life and works compiled by Dolby Studios.

The larger reel-to-reel recorders are still employed by professional sound specialists, although the basic cassette recorder is probably the cheapest form of analogue recorder which is readily available. The quality of these reel to reel machines can seldom be duplicated by the smaller recorders and their cassette tapes.

A multitude of different media’s still utilise analogue recording, which is the oldest standard in audio recording based terms. Analogue style reel-to-reel recorders are still in mainstream use these days and are still considered by some as the preferred equipment for sound recordings.

The advantages of reel to reel tape recording systems are generally the far better quality recordings and the fact that the tapes can be easily edited. However, because of economic reasons the cassette recorder is by far a more common analogue recording system than the more expensive, heavier and bulkier reel-to-reel recorders.

Although digital reel to reel recorders are more the norm now analogue reel to reel recorders are still used for master studio recording They are the clear choice of professional recordists since the quality of these machines can seldom be duplicated by the smaller recorders and their cassette tapes.

Reel reel tape recorders are capable of recording sonically challenging sounds that most cassette recorders cannot record accurately and the tape transport mechanisms of these machines, which are also known as open-reel recorders, are virtually immune to humidity-related problems. They have wider tape width and faster linear tape speeds than cassette recorders; they offer the widest frequency bandwidth, greatest fidelity, and best signal-to-noise ratios of any analogue recorder.

Whereas digital recordings can become unusable in any number of ways, not least where the hardware and software they are based on becomes obsolete, analogue reel-to-reel recorders offer proven reliability to researchers and recordists even under the harshest conditions.

Although they are getting a little hard to find and can be rather expensive in some cases, analogue reel to reel recorders are still available today and issues regarding maintenance or repair should not be a major concern as tapes, parts and components are still available.

Many recording artists, even today, prefer the natural, warm sound of reel to reel player recorders and many rock and blues artists find the unique form of distortion, caused by tape saturation, very pleasing. The illusion of a fuller sound, which is a more natural effect to the human ear, is created by the harmonic distortion, which causes the high end to become slightly depressed and the bass to thicken up. It is not uncommon for artists to re-record digital tracks to analogue reels.

Reel to reel tape recorders are still a popular way to record and listen to music sound tracks and it is still possible to acquire models that have been manufactured by Akai, Pioneer, Ampex, Revox, Sony, Teac, Toshiba and many others.

About The Author: By John Phillips. More information about Reel to Reel Tape Recorders can be found at a popular website dedicated to Analogue Reel to Reel Tape Recorders are.