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Chicago - While it doesn't pretend to solve all the problems, a breadboard prototype of a new SQ decoder impressed virtually all trade and industry visitors who got a chance to hear what many termed the first real separation of quadrasonics during the CES here.
Called the Tate DES (Directional Enhancement System) it employs the Wilcox integrated circuit (IC) to pick up sound after it goes through a stereo decoder. The monolithic solid state sound system then provides sound separation on all 4 channels beyond the most advanced full logic systems heard to-date according to several observers.
The circuit is named after the developer Martin Wilcox where he met Wesley Ruggles, who was production director. Two years later they joined forces in Connaught Equipment, got an SQ license and began heavy research on all three quadrophonic systems.
They supplied SQ matrix modules to European OEMs such as EMI and Servosound, Belgium motional feedback speaker pioneer. They also decided to market their modules in component cabinets and formed Tate Ltd, with the backing of John Bogue who with Ruggles is partnered in the new venture.
Tate will manufacture the new Wilcox IC and as with the original matrix module primarily supply OEMs. A number were invited by Ruggles, Bogue and CBS officials to demonstrate during the CES, and others will hear the new system in Europe this coming month.
Over the next six months, Ruggles and Wilcox will evaluate the marketing of their own DES under the Tate name in competition with the OEMs, as with the original modules. Wilcox will also have the opportunity to work out some of the more complex front-back relationships on existing CBS SQ releases, using original master tapes as a guide.
The demonstration included some deliberately "tough" music for SQ decoding. and performance was generally solid.. One of the biggest criticisms of SQ - you can't play everything at once - was met with Earth, Wind and Fire's "Open Your Eyes". Seven voices and instruments were well separated and came through equally well on a high-end XLM cartridge and a low-end Pickering.
Excellent center front localisation - another SQ criticism - was heard on on Enoch Light - Glenn Miller arrangement. The system also did well with the Sarif-Streissand "Funny Girl" duet, the only CBS release with basic centre-back relationship. Separation on Stravinsky's "Rites of Spring" was exceptional.
Ruggles emphasises that Tate doesn't expect to replace existing quadrophonic modules. He credits Sony, Lafayete Radio and Motorola's improved logic options - all in the last six months - with finally letting the consumer hear what SQ sound was intended to be from the start.
"It will be six anxious months before we can sample the IC devices" he told Billboard. "We'll well into the development process, and if we're lucky, units will be introduced in the U.S. at the next summer CES."
He notes that the next encouraging prospects for a product like their decoder came at last September's Berlin Radio-TV Fair where no less than 14 major manufacturers had subtle references to SQ in their product literature. But it wasn't until this May 1 that the first of the 14 - Philips - signed a hardware-oriented SQ license. The reason? Most European firms are reluctant to alter or give-up popular FM waveband and are hoping for a quadrophonic system that won't interfere with reception.
Ruggles said that a professional studio module is also high on the development list. The ambitious objective is to encourage artists to interpret their music more critically with freedom of composition and mix. It will also add prestige to the Tate consumer product.
A final note on specs. Ruggles and Wilcox claim that with their avowed commitment to true hi-fi, the new unit has squeezed about .04 harmonic distortion out, well above the commercial average. Its objective is to "have interface with the OEMs who might say it wasn't up to his standards". Signal-to-noise ratio is in the 70's with dynamic range over 60dB, so OEMs can't overload the circuit. The breadboard prototype produced a solid 40dB signal-to-noise front-to-back effect.
Whatever the ultimate acceptance, the Chicago demonstration is a much-needed shot in the arm for the SQ quadrophonic mode.