DESCRIPTION - QUAD-8 TAPE CARTRIDGES (QUAD-8): QUAD-8 cartridges resemble Stereo-8 cartridges. QUAD-8 tapes allocate tape tracks differently, combining tracks 1, 3, 5, and 7 to Program 1 and combining tracks 2, 4, 6, and 8 into Program 2. QUAD-8 cartridges contain a small vertical notch in the top left corner, so the QUAD-8 player can automatically set up the proper program/track configuration.
Unlike the various quad LP formats, which used matrix or demodulation schemes to retain full compatibility with existing stereo record players, QUAD-8 cartridges provide "discrete" four-channel audio. QUAD-8 cartridges won't properly reproduce on a Stereo-8 player, but QUAD-8 players can reproduce Stereo-8 cartridges.
QUAD-8 PLAYBACK EQUIPMENT DESCRIPTION: QUAD-8 players have special tape heads and circuitry which contacts the correct group of four tracks, and produces four discrete (separate) channels of audio output. QUAD-8 players also can play Stereo-8 tapes, but QUAD-8 tapes won't satisfactorily play in a conventional Stereo-8 deck.
Prominent makers of Quad-8 decks include Akai, Panasonic, Pioneer, Wollensak, Electrophonic, Realistic, and Sanyo. However, some combination 8-track player/receivers prominently trumpet simulated quadraphonic sound (i.e. "quatravox", "quadradial", "4D", "quad matrix"). Some of these "impostor" Quad decks even have 4-channel joysticks! Unless a player is plainly labeled QUAD-8, Q-8, or DISCRETE QUADRAPHONIC 8-TRACK, the unit won't play Q8 tapes in discrete quad. The "pseudo-Quad" decks merely provide simulated surround sound from regular Stereo audio - they lack playback heads designed for QUAD-8. playback.
MUSIC TAPES: RCA and Columbia far exceeded other companies in terms of QUAD-8 tape releases. Other companies committed to significant numbers of QUAD-8 releases include A&M, ABC, Command, and Warner Group (Elektra/Nonesuch/Asylum Records). Curiously, very few QUAD-8 titles were issued by EMI (Capital Records/Angel), by Decca/London, or the Polygram labels. QUAD-8 tapes on the Polydor, Mercury, Decca/London, Philips, and Deutsche Grammophon labels are extremely rare.
CHRONOLOGY: Introduced in the fall of 1970, shortly after the initial appearance of quadraphonic open-reel decks and tapes, QUAD-8 tapes were available a year before the initial quadraphonic vinyl LP records appeared on the market.
Some of the earliest QUAD-8 tape releases were "remixes" from older multi-track stereo releases. Among the initial RCA QUAD-8s: the 1964 soundtrack to "The Sound of Music" and the 1962 Reiner/Chicago Symphony album of Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra." After 1971, most QUAD-8 releases were albums specifically mixed down for quad playback, often with truly stupendous (if controversial) aural effects.
QUAD-8 tapes generally retailed for $1 more than Stereo-8 tapes. Part of this additional cost reflected the greater volume of tape jammed into a QUAD-8 cartridge, to offset playback time lost due to elimination of two programs. A few QUAD-8 releases were issued on two cartridges, or had some editing.
QUAD-8 tapes were unsuccessful commercially. Some explanations for this are:
*The public resented the industry's Quad LP "format wars". the lack of a uniform and high quality Quad LP system would tarnish acceptance of all Surround Sound home formats for many years.
*Some equipment makers cheapened product quality in order to provide Quad capability at a price comparable to regular stereo. The resulting low-fi audio systems, with cheaper amplifiers, cut-rate tape transports, and mediocre speakers, turned off many prospective buyers from Quad sound.
*QUAD-8 cartridges were somewhat less convenient than Stereo-8 cartridges. Instead of four programs, there were only two programs. QUAD-8 playback decks were about 30% more expensive than Stereo-8 decks, and very few record decks had QUAD-8 record capability. Maximum playing time was half that of Stereo-8.
*QUAD-8 cartridges used thinner tape (similar to double-play 90-minute Stereo-8s), increasing the risk of tape print-through and mechanism jamming.
*The Arab Oil Embargo of late 1973/74, and the corresponding price inflation, drastically curtailed consumer discretionary spending. In the United States and other industrial countries, consumers struggled to buy gasoline and other inflation-impacted necessities. They ignored costly frills such as Quad sound equipment.
QUAD-8 releases peaked out during 1973-74, and sharply declined by 1976. The final commercial QUAD-8 tape release, in 1978, apparently was Isao Tomita electronic synthesizer performance of Holst's "The Planets" on RCA's Red Seal label. (This also was the final CD-4 Quadradisc LP title).
COLLECTING QUAD-8 CARTRIDGES: QUAD-8 tapes have become something of a "holy grail", as these tapes have become very scarce. Titles from EMI and Polygram labels (i.e. Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon") are exceptionally hard to locate in QUAD-8 format. If you seriously collect QUAD-8s, build a network with other collectors, share "wish lists", and make trades when you locate desirable tapes.
Ron Bensley email@example.com
More on quad:
Quad 8-track was more successful at home than in the car. Almost anyone who made home decks had a quad version. The biggies - Sony, Akai, Pioneer, Wollensak, Technics and others - also made quadraphonic RECORDERS. into quad is even more justification for being into 8 tracks than otherwise. Quad 8 track and open-reel are the only true discrete 4-channel sources around...almost everything else is just matrixed into two channels.
For vinyl, the CD-4 (aka Quadradisc) format had the rear channel information stored at high frequencies on the record, and required a special cartridge that worked up to 50,000 Hz in order to play the records back in quad. The rear channel info was MATRIXED onto the record - just like FM stereo, only doubled. Discrete to me means four channel source - period. CD4 was a two-channel source with the other two piggybacked on top - and by the way, never really worked well. The theory is: Left channel F + L channel R on one side, normal frequencies; LF minus LR on upper frequencies. Added (LF+LR + LF-LR) gives you LF only; Subtracted (LF+LR minus LF-LR) gives you LR only. Same goes for the right channel. At least that's how it was supposed to work. Trouble was, the act of playing the record several times shaved off the already-fragile upper frequencies. And that's assuming the record was pressed perfectly to begin with! People talk about conspiracies and such, but one of the reasons quad failed first time around was not just the multitude of technologies - it was because a lot of them never worked properly. Give me quad 8's and open reels any time - no decoding, no demodulating - just 4 separate tracks. Boy, just imagine what a quad CD could have been like!