"He was so narrow-minded he could see through a keyhole with
QSOUND: STEREO THAT IS BIGGER THAN LIFE?
by Al Fasoldt
Atari have licenced a new kind of audio for use on the Jaguar.
QSound, it's called. But what IS QSound? Is it just another
overhyped audio process requiring further hardware investments
or... Al Fasoldt tells you all...
Real stereo is like love. You may not know what it is, but once
you've tried it, you can't live without it.
And like love, true stereo sound is hard to find. Some of the
fanciest audio systems have it, but most of us plod through life
with the stereo equivalent of "like" instead of "love." Our HiFi
systems sound good, but they usually don't sound real.
This dilemma may be coming to an end in my audio life. But
whether my feelings are true love or just infatuation remains to
be seen - and heard.
I do know one thing, however. Just like a 14-year-old at the
prom, I'm ready for love, and that's one reason I'm excited over
It took a long time to get here. Stereo has been around in one
form or another since the '50s, but most of the time it's been
more of a dream than a reality.
That's because the sounds that come from speakers usually come
just from the speakers themselves. When we listen to something
"live," however, sounds come from all directions. They fill the
room. They come from the walls and the ceiling and the floor.
Good speakers can fool our ears some of the time, but they can't
fool our minds very often. If I imagine hard enough, I can listen
to Mick Jagger or the Boston Pops and feel that they are in the
room with me, but once I stop trying to convince myself, Mick and
the others end up back in the loudspeakers.
The folks who design HiFi gear thought they had a solution to
this back in the '60s and '70s when they came up with four-
channel sound. I put together a four-channel audio system - a
"quad" system, in the jargon of 25 years ago - and listened to it
for a few months. I bought special four-channel recordings, both
records and tapes.
What I heard was interesting, but it wasn't convincing. Usually,
the musical sounds came from the left speaker or the right
speaker or the left rear speaker or the right rear speaker.
Sometimes, if I sat in just the right place, they came from the
That was a little scary, since that's right where I was sitting.
I knew four-channel sound was not for me one day when I heard a
Dixieland band tooting right beside my chair. The trombonist
would have knocked me over if he had really been there.
But now I have heard something that turns stereo into something
more. It's called QSound, and it seems too good to be true.
According to Danny Lowe and John Lees, the men who invented it,
QSound is an electronic process done at the studio that turns
two-channel digital recordings into multichannel compact discs.
As far as my ears can tell, everything they say is true. When I
heard my first QSound CD, I could hardly believe my ears. I put
the disc - "The Soul Cages" by Sting - in my player and sat back,
expecting a few sonic tricks.
But what I heard instead was an audio carnival. Guitars and
drums and voices came from the other side of the wall, from above
the ceiling, even from outside the window.
Mind you, I was listening to Sting over two loudspeakers. I had
not made any changes to my HiFi system. And yet my room was alive
with sound, coming from places no speaker had ever gone.
I would say that such a thing could not happen, except for the
fact that it was happening right in front of my ears. And from
behind my ears, too.
And get this: I even heard the same effects when I taped the
QSound CD and played it on my car cassette deck. I did the same
thing with a Madonna recording sent out as a demo of QSound, and
there she was, the material girl herself, dancing on the hood of
Recordings made in QSound - the inventors don't explain why they
decided on that name, by the way - are not yet widely available.
Nor is there any certainty that QSound will become a standard
QSound's inventors say you can even hear multichannel sound on
the cheapest boomboxes and TV sets. Even video games can have
QSound - wonderful news for parents who are tired of hearing the
Nintendo beeping from the far wall of the living room. Now
they'll hear it all over the house.
QSound works, and it works very well. That much is clear. But
I'm not sure that what I heard would work with other kinds of
music. Will Beethoven roll over in his grave if his Fifth gets
the QSound treatment? The answer awaits the first classical
QSound CDs, which I have not heard yet.
But for rock and funk and all that stuff, QSound might be the
best thing that has happened to recorded music since Tom Edison.
Give it a try. You just might fall in love, too.
Copyright (C) 1994 by Al Fasoldt
This article may not be reprinted without permission from Al
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.