Invention of stereo sound: Alan Blumlein

From Abbey Road Studios.

Alan Blumlein – the man who invented stereo

Alan Blumlein is a true lost genius, an EMI engineer, who during his brief life propelled Britain to the vanguard of the modern electronics world. Celebrations of some of Blumlein’s outstanding achievements in audio, television and radar were highlighted in the BBC Radio 4 programme, “The Man Who Invented Stereo.”

Blumlein invented stereo sound and the modern TV system while working for EMI during the 1930s.  He lodged the patent for “binaural “sound, in 1931, in a paper which patented stereo records, stereo films and also surround sound. He and his colleagues then made a series of experimental recordings and films to demonstrate the technology, and see if there was any commercial interest from the fledgling film and audio industry.
The tests included him walking and talking in one of the Abbey Road studios to show how sound could move and recordings of multiple overlapping conversations to demonstrate how his techniques could “open up” the sound being recorded.  Please use this link to hear some of the experimental stereo recordings made at Abbey Road. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7538101.stm

In January 1934, Blumlein used his stereo-cutting equipment at Abbey Road to record Sir Thomas Beecham conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra, as it rehearsed Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony.

In his short life, Blumlein devised over 120 patents and is considered as one of the most significant engineers of his time.

His career was tragically cut short due to his untimely death in a plane crash in 1942. There is much secrecy surrounding the crash as Blumlein and his colleagues were working on a top-secret government project at the time, developing radar. When he died Alan Blumlein was 38. He received no obituary and still does not appear in Who’s Who.

Here is a very good book about his life and inventions.

 

And a video from the Audio Engineering Society.

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