Thursday, 17 April 2014

Decca Classical Recordings

The Decca 'Tree'

As I went though my favourite classical LP's the other evening I was amazed at how good the sound was, particularly the ones recorded by the Decca record company in the 1950's and '60's.
Many of the Decca engineers spent the war working with sound based submarine detection systems which needed an extremely wide frequency response in order to differentiate between allied and German submarines.
After the war the company put the technology into the new microgroove records with a ffrr logo to denote the full frequency recording, and during the 1950's they started to make stereo recordings.

The Decca Tree
At the dawn of stereo, Decca started experimenting with a three microphone setup that became known as the 'tree'.
The  configuration was a sort of inverse 'T' the centre microphone being slightly forward and fed to both left and right channels, the other two being placed at the extreme edges (left and right) the idea was to give an extremely wide sound stage.

It worked very well especially in larger concert halls where room ambiance and sometimes even the vibration of London tube trains can be heard going under the often used Kingsway Hall.

Along with new recording technologies and innovative microphone placement were those engineers and producers who kept Decca at the forefront, two of note being
Kenneth Wilkinson and John Culshaw.

Messrs Culshaw and Wilkinson crafting another masterpiece

The recordings really are first rate, the idea was to put you in the best seat in the house. Here are a couple I've been listening to of late:

First is Witches Brew, recorded by Decca for RCA in 1959 and has a very clear and wonderfully dynamic sound

Another is a recording made in 1960 and released in the 1990's on the Chesky label, you can hear the acoustics of the Kingsway Hall and the rumble of traffic, and of course beautiful stereo that belies the age of the recording.

Lastly an LP I bought in a charity shop for a couple of quid, Decca SXL 6000 which has a punchy and immediate sound

All the above recordings show how well the engineers knew their job, listening to them 50+ years on is very illuminating...

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