Two New Books on Audio

Reviewed by John Sunier

by Ron Streicher and F. Alton Everest
hardcover - Audio Engineering Associates, Pasadena, CA 800-798-9127 - $54.50.

First published in 1991, this large-format volume received excellent industry acceptance. The second edition updates the text, including such recent developments as DVD and 5.1 digital sound. The book is profusely illustrated with both diagrams and photos, and the writing style is unusually direct and conversational without the obfuscation that generally comes from technical-types.

Fourteen chapters begin with a fascinating survey of early stereophonics and how the stereo effect is conveyed. It's relationship to the human hearing system is explored and a chapter on "Philosophical and Pragmatic Approaches to Stereo" promotes thoughtful consideration. There are several chapters on microphones and their placement for various purposes, as well as an emphasis on conveying spaciousness via two channels and with surround sound. For example, in the Spaced Mike Stereo Techniques section, the following approaches are detailed: near-coincident array, ORTF, NOS, OSS, Stereo Ambient Sampling System, Spaced Omnis, Spaced Directional Mikes, Flanking Microphones, the Decca Tree.

The principle of audible reflections is the theme of another chapter. Pseudo-stereo gets a chapter to itself, and the chapter on Binaural Reproduction is the most readable and complete on this subject I have ever seen. I'm especially pleased since this is a topic that has been omitted entirely in other books, especially those on consumer-level audio. The final chapter is Optimizing the Listening Environment - a vital consideration also often ignored. There are extensive reference notes on each of the chapters plus an appendix that includes a glossary of terms and a valuable reprint of Alan Blumlein's original stereo patents of 1931-33. This would be an invaluable text for anyone serious about the original recording and reproduction of sound.

This review was written by John Sunier, host of the nationally syndicated radio program "Audiophile Audition", and was published in his May, 1999 newsletter.