Music Industry

Is quadraphonic vinyl trying to make a comeback? It looks like it.

Long before 5.1 Surround, Doby ATMOs, DTX and THX, sound engineers sought to expand music listening beyond two stereo channels. In the early 70s, quadraphonic records and amplifiers were briefly all the rage.

In today’s parlance, quad (which is what the cool kids called it) was 4.0 surround sound. Discrete signals were sent to front left and right channels as well as rear speakers on the left and right.

The format was problematic from the start. Not only were two more speakers and a special amplifier required, the source material needed to be encoded in quad. New gear was required at every stage of the recording process so that it could be pressed onto special vinyl with four channels’ worth of music in the grooves. That also necessitated a special stylus for the turntable.

Quad never really got off the ground. Competing technologies didn’t help (think VHS vs. Beta, etc.). It was just too expensive to produce and too expensive and cumbersome to enjoy. There was also a dearth of quad vinyl. By the middle 70s, quad was pretty much dead. Multi-channel sound didn’t return until digital technology came along, making it possible for 5.1 sound (at a minimum!) to be enjoyed on even the most basic home theatre setups.

But what’s this? A return to quad vinyl? This is from (via Chris)

Is the world ready for the return of quadraphonic vinyl records? KamranV, co-founder of Bedrock.LA, a multi-room rehearsal and production facility in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles and former president and CTO of Moogfest, believes the answer is yes.

In March 2016, keyboardist, composer and sound designer Suzanne Ciani gave her first solo performance on a Buchla synthesizer in nearly 40 years, at Gray Area in San Francisco. The presentation was in quad, mixed live by Ciani from the Buchla 200e, a twenty-first century recreation of the classic early-seventies synthesizer. The performance, recorded by Vance Galloway, was played back later that same year at the North Carolina Museum of Art at Moogfest.

Kamran says he learned a valuable lesson while he was helping program Moogfest: “You found that you learned a lot by looking backward to look forward.” And when he saw the reaction to Ciani’s piece, he says, “Something clicked; I realized there was an opportunity here.” The result was that he wanted to release Ciani’s performance in an analog format that, much like the Buckla synthesizer, would harken back four decades ago: quadraphonic vinyl. The challenge, however, was to figure out how to make that happen.

Keep reading.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38156 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

One thought on “Is quadraphonic vinyl trying to make a comeback? It looks like it.

  • There was also 4.0 Dolby Surround/Pro-Logic in the 80s, mostly for movies on VHS or Beta, but also some CDs:

    Reading Wikipedia about it now, I didn’t realise it was supposed to be Left, Right, Centre and Rear. The receivers of the era I guess were just sending the single rear channel to two rear speakers often.


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