It may come as a shock to two-channel stereo purist but did you know that the original standard for stereophonic sound originally called for three – as in left, center and right – channels?
By: Ringo Bones
If you have “audio-buddies” old enough to have lived through the Golden Age of Stereo and has a deep-seated animosity against multi-channel, and especially, surround-sound, chances are he (sadly it is overwhelmingly always a he) may and could hate you for weeks if you tell him that the original standard being called for commercial stereophonic sound for domestic applications originally called for three channels – as in left, center and right channels of audio. But are there still “surviving” examples of three-channel stereo recordings?
To the still unfortunate few audiophiles still not in the know, the greatest Jazz recording of all time – as in Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue – was originally mastered in three-channel stereo. And even though Kind of Blue was originally released for “domestic use” in those now venerable Six-Eye mono Columbia LPs, many inquisitive audiophiles that had lived through the Golden Age of Stereo has since found out that music originally mastered on three-channel stereo format onto open-reel magnetic tapes seems to sound the best whenever they are transferred – as in mixed down - to either mono or two-channel stereo vinyl LPs.
Even though the two-channel stereo format is quite adequate in our domestic listening rooms where the “soundstage” is seldom greater than 20 feet in width, those audiophiles fortunate enough to possess true three-channel stereo recordings had found out that these work best in larger than average listening rooms than those typically found at the home. This is due to the fact that sound travels at a finite speed and much slower than that in comparison to the speed of light. This results in practice the phenomena on why the two-channel stereophonic sweet-spot doesn’t scale in large auditoriums. To their “horror” the two-channel stereo sweet-spot in large auditoriums is about the same that heard in a 25-feet wide listening room!!! Fortunately for these über-rich audiophiles with Wembley Stadium sized listening rooms the three-channel stereo format of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue has been released in three-channel stereo Super-Audio-CDs and has been relatively widely available since 2003.