Quadraphonic +

 

Quadraphonic Mixes
and Other Multi-channel Mixes

An in-depth look at the mixes of Jeff Lynne music beyond stereo


Overview

The most prominent form of music delivery today is in stereo-- two different but related channels of sound for each ear, giving the music a rich, nuanced sound. However, this is certainly not the only form of multi-channel sound. In the late 1960s and into the 1970s, the quadraphonic sound system was marketed. This was a system with four channels of sound. In the 1990s, 5.1 audio using five channels (and one low frequency channel) came to prominence, although this was mostly applied to use in films. Today, there is 7.1 audio as well. Jeff Lynne's music has appeared in multi-channel form several times. Many of the early Electric Light Orchestra albums were mixed to quadraphonic audio, with a handful of his later works getting the 5.1 audio treatment. This page takes a deeper look at the multi-channel history of his music, examining the various qualities of the mixes as well as the releases.

Quadraphonic

Brazilian The Electric Light Orchestra quadraphonic LPWhen it comes to quadraphonic releases, the most well known is the quadraphonic mix of ELO's first album in 1973, The Electric Light Orchestra (known as No Answer in the US). This album was mixed to a quadraphonic mix by Peter Mew in April 1973 and the album got a 1973 Brazil release only in SQ format. It was also available in limited quantities in the UK as a promo only. This album was mixed about two years after the original mix of the album. Because Peter had to go back to the original master tapes to create the quadraphonic mix, he very subtlely (and probably unintentionally) altered some of the tracks, including a few missed notes (The Battle Of Marston Moor (July 2nd 1644) and Manhattan Rumble (49th Street Massacre)), added bits (The Battle Of Marston Moor (July 2nd 1644) and Mr. Radio) and in the case of Mr. Radio, the radio song played at the end is completely different.

To understand the various releases of the band's first album's quadraphonic mix, especially the stereo mixdown releases, it may help to understand the types of quadraphonic mixes available. In the ideal case, equipment and medium (such as tape) that supported four different unique channels of information for simultaneous playback could perfectly reproduce the original quadraphonic mix. However, at the time of the rise of the quadraphonic format, most popular music was still played on single groove, stereo LPs. Therefore, techniques had to be developed to produce quadraphonic sound on vinyl.

In the case of the first ELO album, it was released as an SQ mix. SQ is an abbreviation for Stereo Quadraphonic and it was a technique developed by CBS Records that allowed a 4-channel quadraphonic mix on a 2-channel stereo LP. One had to have special equipment to get the quadraphonic signal from an SQ LP, but this also allowed an SQ LP to be played on a standard stereo unit and it was still listenable. The SQ technique worked by mixing two of the quadraphonic channels into a single stereo channel, in a phase-matrix format. The rear channels were mixed into the front, but +90 and -90 degrees out-of-phase. When played on quadraphonic capable equipment, these phased channels would be translated into their individual channels, allowing the listener to hear four channels out of a stereo LP. The downside to this is that there was actually some signal loss in the 4-2-4 translation.

The Electric Light Orchestra 40th anniversary DVD with discrete quadraphonic mixAs stated, an SQ mix suffers some signal loss and apparently does not translate well at all to mono formats (thus a 4-2-1 mix). There were many attempts to improve this technique with Quadradisc being the most popular format. This algorithm used a modulation matrix on a stereo LP, allowing four truly unique frequencies to be carried on a stereo LP. Like SQ, special equipment had to be used to create the quadraphonic sound. The downside to this technique was that these LPs could not be played on regular stereo equipment without any adversive loss of sound. No Jeff Lynne or ELO music was ever released in a truly discrete quadraphonic format until the 2012 40th anniversary edition of ELO's first album (aside from unconfirmed reports that Harvest in the UK sold a very limited 8-track tape with the discrete mix when the originally planned LP was cancelled).

Besides the original 1973 release of the LP in Brazil, the quadraphonic mix mixed down to stereo on several re-releases since the early 1990s to the late 2000s. To get a stereo mixdown, the left front and left rear channels of the quadraphonic mix are mixed down to a single left channel. The process is the same for the right channels. These stereo mixdowns have been released using several confusing and obscure descriptions, including the generic "quadraphonic" (which is inaccurate since it's stereo), "quad SQ", "discreet quad mixdown" (note the misspelling) and the vague "alternate version". Thus, the chart below attempts to analyze these various mixes and what their differences are. Certainly, the only one fully identifiable is the "quad SQ" description as it clearly indicates that the mix was made from the SQ mix, thus it would suffer from the 4-2-4 signal loss problem.

This matrix shows the stereo mixdowns on various releases from tracks of the first ELO album. The rows are the songs and the columns are the albums, with the matrix showing the mixdown description on the given release and detailed information about it.

Song Title Early ELO (1971-1973)
released 1991
First Light
released 2001
Early Years
released 2004
The Collection
released March 2006
No Answer
released March 2006
The Harvest Years 1970-1973
released July 2006
Electric Light Orchestra
40th Anniversary Edition
released 2012
10538 Overture - - "Quad mix" - - "Alternate Album Mix"
*
-
Look At Me Now - "Quad Mix" - "Alternate Mix" - "Alternate Album Mix" -
Nellie Takes Her Bow "Quadraphonic Mix"
**
"Quad Mix" - - "Alternate Mix" "Alternate Album Mix" "Alternate Mix"
***
The Battle Of Marston Moor (July 2nd 1644) - "Quad Mix" - "Alternate Mix" - "Alternate Album Mix" -
First Movement (Jumping Biz) "Quadraphonic Mix"
**
- "Quad mix" - - "Alternate Album Mix" -
Mr. Radio "Quadraphonic Mix"
**
- "Quad mix" - - "Alternate Album Mix" -
Manhattan Rumble (49th Street Massacre) - - "Discreet Quad mixdown"
*****
- - "Alternate Album Mix" -
Queen Of The Hours - "Quad Mix" - - - "Alternate Album Mix" -
Whisper In The Night "Quadraphonic Mix"
**   ****
- "Discreet Quad mixdown" ***** - - "Alternate Album Mix" -

All versions are the same basic quadraphonic mix down to stereo, with perhaps some slight variation in mixing and editing at the beginning and end of the track. However, there are some notable differences. In particular...

*  The 2006 release of 10538 Overture on The Harvest Years 1970-1973 which has the entire album in mixdown form, is known to have a particularly dull and muddy sound on 10538 Overture. It's unclear why this is. All other mixes on this album are fine.
**  This first release of the stereo mixdowns, on the Early ELO (1971-1973) compilation, was heavily noise reduced and suffers from poor sound quality compared to the others.
***  It's curious that the 40th anniversary collection would include the stereo mixdown of the quadraphonic mix, labeling it simply a "alternate mix", when the full quadraphonic was available on the same set's DVD. It's probably the case that the compiler was unaware that this alternate mix was the stereo mixdown and thought it was some other alternate version.
****  There is something very odd about this mixdown. On some stereo equipment and under certain conditions, the playback will drop the vocals from the mix on playback. Thus users may report hearing the song differently. The liner notes describe it as "an incomplete version of Whisper In The Night, perhaps featuring a guide vocal since Wood's voice is only on one channel rather than in full stereo." Rob Caiger of the FTM fanclub also stated: "Roy's voice can only be heard in one channel only [sic]-- maybe he used it as a guide vocal for the finished product?" It's possible that an error was made when preparing the song for the compilation. The actual quadraphonic mix has Roy's vocals in the front right channel.
*****  It's unclear why these songs are listed as the discrete quad mixdowns when other mixdowns on the complilation are not. It is thought that perhaps that those listed as "Quad mix" are the SQ mixes and the "Discreet Quad mixdown" songs freshly mixed down from the original tapes.
In addition, it's curious that the releases in 2006 and later include the mixed down quadraphonic mixes, but make no mention of them as such. Instead they are all referred to as simply alternate mixes.

The Electric Light Orchestra's second album, ELO 2 as it was titled in the UK, also recieved a quadraphonic mix, which was done immediately after the album's final mixing (unlike the first album). However, this quadraphonic mix has never been released. Two of the five songs from the album have had a stereo mixdown of the quadraphonic mix released, starting in the 2000s. The stereo mixdowns of the three remaining songs have not had official release, but have been bootlegged in fair sound quality format.

The stereo mixdown of In Old England Town (Boogie #2) is the most interesting of the ELO 2 songs. The most notable observation is that the fifth verse is played with the full band instrumentation (drums, bass, guitar, strings) rather than just piano and moog synthesizer as heard on the standard LP version. Also, Jeff's vocals and the violin are mixed louder. The released versions also include part of Jeff's count-in, with only "--ee four!" of the "one two three four!" count-in being heard; although it remains unconfirmed if this count-in was actually intended to be part of the original quadraphonic mix or was included only on the stereo mixdown of a quadraphonic mix. All the remaining stereo mixdowns of the ELO 2 songs are basically indistiguishable from their original stereo mix counterparts.

The Early Years with rare quadraphonic mixdownsThese stereo mixdowns from the ELO 2 album have only had partial release. From The Sun To The World (Boogie #1) was released in 2004 on the Early Years compilation, labeled as the "Quad SQ Mix" (indicating it was a mixdown from the lossy SQ mix). There has been no other releases of this mix of the song. In Old England Town (Boogie #2) was released the same way on the same compilation. This same mix was further released as a bonus track on the 2006 USA ELO II album (labeled as "Take 1 alternate mix") and its reissues as well as the 2006 the The Harvest Years 1970-1973 compilation (labeled as "Take 1"). The stereo mixdowns of the quadraphonic mixes of Mama, Roll Over Beethoven and Kuiama are available in bootleg format, but have been officially released.

The Electric Light Orchestra's third album, On The Third Day, has never been known to have a quadraphonic mix. The fourth album, Eldorado, is reported to have a quadraphonic mix prepared, but it has never been released and is not available in any form, bootleg or otherwise. There has been a bootleg circulating the claims to be a quadraphonic mix of the Eldorado songs, but it is not the true quadraphonic mix (or mixdown to stereo). In reality this is a fan created mix only, created from a released stereo mix using special mixing techniques.

5.1 Surround Sound

The six channel surround sound system was developed in the 1970s, but didn't come into popularity until the early 1990s for use in films. The name "5.1" is derived from the set up of five main speakers: a single center channel (used for main dialog and vocals), two front channels (used for side noises and music), and two back or surround speakers (used for ambient noises). The ".1" of 5.1 is for the remaining sixth speaker, which is a low-frequency effects channel only. This speaker is not really meant to be heard by the listener, but rather to be felt by physically vibrating the listening room.

The Beatles Anthology DVDThe multi-channel mix was not initially created for music listening, but only for film and concert soundtracks meant to be heard in a theater setting. However, with the advent of home theater systems, some artists have taken advantage of the availability and created multi-channel 5.1 mixes specifically for music listening. Only a handful of Jeff Lynne songs have been specifically mixed for this purpose. They are:

These offer a fascinating mix, with clear separation of the vocals and instruments across the various channels, surrounding the listener as with the multi-channel mixes. The quadraphonic mix of the The Electric Light Orchestra album in 2012 took advantage of this format and was actually in the 5.1 format, but with no audio in the center channel or the low frequency channel, thus recreating the quadraphonic sound.

The Jeff Lynne music used in many film and concert soundtracks has also been mixed to 5.1 audio and it offers up some fascinating insight. For films and concerts, when the music has a special mix, it has a typical 5.1 mix: the lead vocals (or instrument), drums, bass and maybe a lead instrument in the center channel; rhythm instrumentation and backing vocals in the front two channels; and percussion, additional backing vocals, and other odd bits in the surround channels. This is only when a special mix has been done, which is not always the case.

Xanadu DVDProbably the most notable of the soundtracks with the 5.1 mix is the Xanadu film. The original film was mixed to stereo only. The 1994 VHS video (and later the 1999 DVD) featured a new 5.1 mix with a nice separation of the sounds. Often, by listening to these channels in isolation, the various parts of the music can be clearly heard. For example, removing the center channel gives a "backing track" type of sound as the lead vocals (and bass) are removed (drums can still be heard in the front channels, but not as strong as the center). The film was reissued on DVD in 2008 with a new 5.1 mix. This new mix did little more than blend some of the audio across channels (such as the lead vocals now able to be heard in the front channels), thus removing much of the isolation of the sounds. Samples of this separation can be heard in the samples HERE, with each sample heard giving first the mono center channel, the stereo front channels together, then the stereo surround channels together.

Other than the Xanadu soundtrack remix, very little of Jeff's film music has gotten a true 5.1 mix with a true separation of sound. Several concerts that have been released on DVD have a very good 5.1 mix. These concerts have the typical format for the 5.1 mix of music (lead vocals in the center, etc.) with addition audience cheering noises mainly mixed into the front and surround channels only. Jeff's music with a proper 5.1 mix includes the following.

Other songs that have appeared in films exist, but they do not have a true, separated 5.1 mix prepared. Some are in films that were produced before the use of 5.1 mixes in films that came about in the early 1990s, thus they are mono or stereo mixes only. Examples of these include 1977's Joyride featuring several ELO songs and Jeff Lynne's Video! and Let It Run from Electric Dreams (1983). However, most of these songs do not take advantage of the 5.1 format and are simply the stereo mix of the song in the front two channels only or the song is mixed to mono and is in the center channel only. In rare cases, it may be in the three front and center channels. In all cases, there is usually a small amount of sound bleeding to the remaining channels, leaving a thin, reverbed mix of the song that is barely heard. Examples of these include The Move's Feel Too Good and ELO's Livin' Thing in Boogie Nights (1997), Paul McCartney's Maybe Baby from the film of the same name (2000), Tom Petty's Learning To Fly and Square One in Elizabethtown (2005), and Jeff Lynne's solo Don't Bring Me Down in College Road Trip (2008) and Paul (2011). There are far too many of these to list here, but most are of the latter type.

Also, there are fan-made 5.1 mixes of ELO's A New World Record and the Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 albums, which are labeled as the "DTS Digital Surround" versions. (DTS is a company that creates multi-channel mixes for films). These are fine mixes in their own right, but it is clear that these are mixes created from stereo recordings, not from the original tapes. A separation can be created by mixing the various stereo channel levels and moving them into separate channels. This technique is also sometimes used in modern films when only a stereo mix is available.

It's also interesting to note that Jeff Lynne re-recorded several ELO hits in the mid-2000s and early 2010s for his own personal tastes. It's true that this would also allow him to license them for various ads, movies and TV shows, bypassing CBS who have the rights to the original recordings. Some people have also assumed this was so that a proper 5.1 audio mix could be done on these licensed songs. However, although several of these re-recorded songs have appeared in modern films, none have a true separation in the multi-channel mixes.

Other Multi Channel Mixes

Other known multi channel audio mixes include 7.1 audio (5.1 audio with two additional surround speakers behind the listener). None of Jeff Lynne's music is known to have been mixed in these formats.


This page is intended to be a complete record of information on the multi-channel mixes of Jeff Lynne's music. If you notice any errors or omissions, please contact me at jefflynnesongs@gmail.com and let me know. I strive for accuracy.

Robert Porter
November 2017