Walter/Wendy Carlos – Switched-On Bach

23 Jun


Quite possibly the ultimate SQ demonstration album. I think even Walter/Wendy would have been more than happy if SQ could have been decoded to this level back in the day.


Release: DS123p

Source: SQ LP

Process: ‘Phoenix’



14 Responses to “Walter/Wendy Carlos – Switched-On Bach”

  1. atq August 6, 2015 at 15:04 #

    This is the only quad version I’ve heard, so cannot compare, but it sounds great to me. Lots of discrete stuff going on, and some lovely rumbling bass notes. Interesting to read Wendy’s concerns re Quad on her webpage.

  2. Owen Smith June 29, 2015 at 15:34 #

    I’m completely blown away, this takes SQ decoding to another level and is a tour de force for Phoenix. We are privileged to hear this, as it was meant to sound for the first time since the quad master tapes. I am convinced Walter/Wendy would be more than happy with this.

    I suspect this was encoded with an original four position SQ encoder, I’m not hearing a great deal of between speaker positions except for a very convincing phantom centre in some tracks. As others have said, we’re meant to hear the individual speakers with this.

    Unlike others I do hear vinyl issues. There is surface noise in places and certainly between tracks until OD fades it down. I’m also wondering if there is master tape noise, some tracks have some background noise and others at the same volume don’t which makes vinyl surface noise seem unlikely (unless it’s an inner track at that point).

    Musically it is as others have said a very good selection of Bach, with some very bold choices of synth sounds in places. One thing that doesn’t work for me is one track that changes volume a lot, it all happens so perfectly in sync it is obviously someone turning a master volume knob up and down.

    So how about a DS/IIII decode of Switched On Bach 2000 to go with this gem?

    • oxforddickie June 29, 2015 at 16:33 #

      This was done with the original encoder, as were all of the ‘Gold Band’ releases.

      Your correct there is a minor amount of LP noise and tape hiss. I tried my best to hide as much as i could (no noise reduction, etc was used on the music itself)

      Dear old ‘Dulby Surround’, maybe, but Matrix H & HJ are the next to do/upgrade to their improved versions.

    • Owen Smith June 29, 2015 at 19:57 #

      I thought DS/IIII ideas fed into Phoenix and therefore DS/IIII is as up to date as the mythical processes. They were devloped within a couple of weeks of each other.

      • oxforddickie June 29, 2015 at 20:05 #

        Phoenix came out of the ashes of the aborted SQ/IV and is a modified version of SQ/III, which was never used.

        The principles behind the Dolby Surround process are somewhat different and because of the changes/omissions Dolby made when the stole SQ the two are different and incompatible, especially when it comes to expanding the decoding process.

        Although they may have been developed a few weeks apart they, to me that’s a life-time. I concentrate on one process at a time and once one is completed i clear the head of everything and when ready start afresh.

      • Owen Smith June 29, 2015 at 20:12 #

        Actually you did four SQ/III releases on the blog but all have since been re-released in Phoenix. I still have some of the SQ/III discs for comparison purposes, eg. Maurice Andre and Jane Parker Smith.

  3. joeerand June 28, 2015 at 18:22 #

    This is a spectacular decode. The low end is sparse on some of the arrangements in the source material, but when it’s there (like on track 1) it sounds fantastic. Your vinyl transfer sounds as good as a tape transfer…I hear no vinyl artifacts. And as the others have said, the imaging so precise you feel you can see it. (Yes, perhaps helped by the fact there is so little ambience used in the final mix, although it is on the individual tracks.)
    Your decode elevates this record to a new level. You can’t help but be impressed that this was recorded one track/one note at a time, but it’s so musical. The choice of timbres is really creative, and the whole album is a well-selected suite of Bach’s music that is very satisfying to listen through. How sad this is the only one in SQ, but it is the best of Carlos’ releases. (I would’ve loved to hear “Sonic Seasonings” in quad also.)

  4. crispin14 June 27, 2015 at 22:52 #

    Excellent decode. This is probably as close as one can get to 4 separate sound sources. Less precise decodes had enough errors to seem to fill the spaces between speakers; this decode definitely has less imagery in centre front and centre sides. What Walter was trying to do I believe is to extract the detail from Bach’s writing using two tools, sound shaping and separation.
    The purity the electronic timbres is not diluted by any room or hall ambience. With most surround sound, the speakers disappear, but that was not Carlos’ intention here: we hear the outputs of the instrument directly.

  5. bigheadrascal June 26, 2015 at 07:57 #

    The previous two SQ decodes were certainly impressive in their time. This newest decode brings Switched On Bach to a level that I’d be willing to bet meet Wendy/Walter’s expectations and approval. I heard things in this one that until now had remained obscured.

    • oxforddickie June 26, 2015 at 08:46 #

      I agree, the stability and solidity of the sounds brings it so close to the original four channel master, but also it allows the effects used on each sound to be better heard. For me it’s another decode that shows that although there may be some information lost during encoding, a lot of the problems people hear is actually down to decoder design….. but that’s a tough subject and needs to be discussed elsewhere.

      I’m glad you enjoyed it, i’ve played it at least a couple of times a day since decoding it, such a shame his dislike of SQ meant that none of his other albums weren’t released in quad, it’s the perfect medium for it.

  6. joeerand June 25, 2015 at 16:42 #

    Can’t wait to hear your new decode. I wonder if people realize what a huge cultural impact this album made when it was released and became a bestseller. News magazines did articles about it, and you’d hear it playing in public spaces. As a very young musician, it stoked my imagination that there was a new mysterious box, the Moog, that reportedly could create any sound the human ear could imagine! (Ears can’t imagine, but you know what I mean…)

    • oxforddickie June 25, 2015 at 17:32 #

      I know my views on this new decode but it would be nice to hear others views and/or comparisons

  7. mickjerome June 23, 2015 at 16:58 #

    Thanks,this one is crystal clear!

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