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Carpenters Stereo, Mono & CSG

Discussion in 'A Song For You: The Carpenters Forum' started by Rick-An Ordinary Fool, Jul 14, 2017.

  1. Rick-An Ordinary Fool

    Rick-An Ordinary Fool Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    What a fascinating article, I'd really like to hear from Harry, Rudy and Chris on this one...

    Caution: Stereo Can Be Hazardous To Your Mono
    Don Elliot and Richard Carpenter
    Broadcast Programing & Production Magazine Nov 1976

  2. Harry

    Harry Charter A&M Corner Member Moderator

    Totally fascinating. It covers all the bases and here it is - straight from the horse's mouth! This article probably needs to be on the Resource. Anyone know Don Elliot or have contacts at Broadcast Programing & Production Magazine?
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  3. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator

    Great article!

    I think what fascinates me most is just how far we've come with technology and the fact that AM & FM programmers would have had to have reminders, or even straight up education on whether to play the mono or stereo mix of any given tune. When you start playing with the mathematics of a +6db increase on the center, it really has a major impact on the way one perceives the mix and certainly the overall balance, even though the mix doesn't theoretically "change".

    The limiting that is/was used to push the output over the air and compress the level also adds another layer of complication to the whole thing if something is either out of phase, and like Elliot mentions in the article "AMs should realize the importance of using the mono mix" in order to avoid crappy playback on-air.
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  4. Rick-An Ordinary Fool

    Rick-An Ordinary Fool Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    This interview really brings it home to those of us to have found the mono 45's and have been able to collect them all for comparison. Richard here, confirms what some of us have been saying all this time. "Some mixes actually sound better in mono than they do in stereo" There is a thread someone on this forum where we talked in great length's about our discovery into this Carpenters Mono World.

    So here we have Richard actually stating that before a song can go out the door, he does it in stereo, then CSG processing over 1 speaker then if Richard thinks it still doesn't sound right then they will do a mono mix. In addition, what I found interesting is that this was 1976 (the age of vinyl)...yet we still received mono mixes on vinyl well up to Made in America in 1981. So Richard had to be incorporating this same process of listening to songs they recorded and how radio stations can best play their music to get out the best sound over the radio airways.

    It almost now makes sense why there were some songs that mono mixes could not be found....Merry Christmas Darling and Calling Occupants brings 2 to my memory. Although I believe it was Tom on this forum that indicated a mono mix of Calling was issued in Canada yet I've never seen or heard one. This would lend credence that after listening Richard felt these did not warrant a mono mix to be issued in the US and he considered the CSG (MCD) processing good.

    I'd still love to hear other's thoughts on this....
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2017
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  5. Rick-An Ordinary Fool

    Rick-An Ordinary Fool Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    That reminded me of the part in the article that says the station decided to play the "pure mono" Carpenters song over the radio and the next day Richard calls them to say he heard this mono version over the radio. Just fascinating that he detected that being played and at the perfect time to discuss this topic. So I am assuming Don Elliot is referring to A Kind of Hush when he states they received a new Carpenters release and it sounded out of phase to him. Maybe it could have also been a single being released from A Kind of Hush.

    That is almost another whole topic this brings up in the article that were these D.J's fully aware of how playing the wrong side of a Carpenters single could do more harm than good back in the 70's, especially with what ever equipment they may have been using.
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  6. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator

    Not to take a side-road here, but it always kills me when I think about the differences sonically with Hush, considering Horizon was recorded and mixed so incredibly well only a year before. I wish I had a better understanding of whatever was going on down at A&M in late '75/'76, because the whole landscape seemed to change with regard to some of the recording.

    The songs from the Hush album seem to have a lot of noticeable edit points, centered or inconsistent effect sends on the stereo reverb, and what sounds like even more sub-mixing or track-sharing. From there, the mixes have always sounded a little muddier to me, and it seems like that carried right on thru to the end of that decade, at least where the Carpenters albums were concerned. Then never mind the continued issues with the whole mono/stereo playback with the AM & FM stations. BAH!
  7. Harry

    Harry Charter A&M Corner Member Moderator

    It was an interesting time in the broadcast and recording industries. When the Carpenters were getting their start on A&M, it was still the general practice of issuing a mono 45, as we can see with "Ticket To Ride" on the COMPLETE SINGLES disc and of course the actual 45.

    Merely months later, A&M issued "(They Long To Be) Close To You" in full stereo on 45, and all Carpenters songs thereafter were issued on stereo 45s. But the broadcast industry was in a bit of flux. In the late 60s, FM stations were still considered "that other radio band". Legislation had just passed that FM stations could no longer totally simulcast their co-owned AM station, so they were branching out with their own programming. And yet the listeners were still pretty much locked into AM radio as most cars still had only AM radio receivers.

    Those that had access to FM might not yet have a stereo receiver, so they could only hear the FM station in mono. And those with little clock radios that were beginning to have FM bands were surely not stereo. So it was a learning experience for those with the radios - and those with the radio stations.

    By the mid 70s, FM had pretty much achieved some sort of parity with AM with its ability to do stereo and its general better-than-AM sound. But the hot programmers had also just moved over to FM from their AM roots and had to begin thinking about what to DO with that stereo, and how it was being executed on THEIR air.

    I started in radio in 1974 and recall just listening to the FM station on a little mono radio in my office. Occasionally I'd hear a song with a muffled high-end and just knew that it had been carted out-of-phase. So I nudge the Program Director or the Engineer to get the cart-recorder checked for phase errors, as well as the hundreds of cart bays that the station used in its semi-automated days. It almost always turned out to be the cart-recorder itself that was slightly mis-aligned.

    Essentially, I was doing the very same thing that Richard talks about here. He hears what he perceives as an error on the radio station and then contacts the station to get the situation rectified. From my little office, I was mimicking that act - only I didn't have to use a phone!

    Based on the article, I took a few minutes to analyze "Hurting Each Other", comparing the mono mix with my own fold-down of the A&M CD's stereo version. The mono single is more compressed, making Karen's hushed vocal in the early part much more audible above the noise floor of the single. I'm glad we discovered those mono sides - they are still fun to listen to every now and then.
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  8. Chris Mills

    Chris Mills Well-Known Member

    As stated in the article your average AM listener would not have noticed any difference, AM sounded awful, dull and muddy. When I listen to radio now I marvel how incredible Carpenters sound on DAB radio. The DAB stations play the remix version which highlights what a great job was done during the remix process. The finished sound matters in today's DAB radio, but back in the AM days, it didn't make sense to perfect a mix for something that was far from perfect.
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  9. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Well-Known Member

    Scroll down on this page to see the Canadian Mono Occupants 45 (Trevor Thurlow Productions ). Perhaps this was a mix that was done here in Canada to get around certain CRTC rules that were not in place in the US.

    But it's also interesting that Richard says that he listens to the singles on his car stereo before playing them. I remember reading in a Liner note for a Beach Boys CD that in the 60's Chuck Britz had a cheap, small speaker that he would plug into the board at Capitol so that Brian Wilson could get a sense of what the song would sound like over the radio.
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  10. Murray

    Murray Well-Known Member

    It's possible that the CRTC may not have approved the CSG system for use in Canadian broadcasting, and hence the need for a promo 45 with regular stereo and mono sides.

    For our non-Canadian friends, the CRTC is a government body (similar to the FCC in the US), which regulates all aspects of the broadcasting system. Among other things, it requires radio stations in Canada to broadcast a certain percentage of "Canadian Content", to ensure that Canadian artists' work gets heard in their own country. To qualify as Canadian content, at least two of the following criteria must be met:

    1. The lyrics or music is performed principally by a Canadian (IE: the lead singer is Canadian, or the majority of band members are Canadian)
    2. The music is composed entirely by a Canadian
    3. The lyrics are written entirely by a Canadian
    4. The performance was recorded wholly in Canada

    As a result, the Carpenters "Calling Occupants" qualified as Canadian content, as the music and lyrics were written by Canadians (the members of KLATTU)! This would help explain why it got so much radio airplay here. :D
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  11. Bobberman

    Bobberman Well-Known Member

    I'm very familiar with the Canadian content rule as I first heard Canadian radio broadcasts on am in the late 70s during the nighttime hours and later on CBC'S Various shortwave radio services ( which sadly no longer exists when they shut down my beloved RCI) They would include in their announcements the CRTC edict on "Canadian Content"
  12. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member

    It's clear from this interview that Richard just doesn't love and know music but that he also knows and loves the business side of the industry. Quite an intelligent man on the scientific side of it all as well.
  13. Rick-An Ordinary Fool

    Rick-An Ordinary Fool Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    I wonder if we could discuss the CSG because I'm a little more confused with this recent article. Richard said that before the song went out the door they would do it in stereo first. Then he would want to hear with CSG processing over 1 speaker then if that didn't sound right even with the CSG over it then they would do a straight mono mix.

    1. What does he mean by CSG over 1 speaker?

    2. When I listen to the CSG processing, it just sounds all out of phase to me. Are these type 45's really intended for DJ's who had the right equipment to decode these so they transmitted a different sound over the air vs what I am hearing when I put this 45 on my turntable? How might this really sound with the proper equipment when it reached the listeners ears over the air? What was Richard hearing that he said, yup it sounds best with the CSG here.

    3. I have a white label promo of Merry Christmas Darling b/w Mr Guder and both contain the HAECO CSG processing on both sides.
    So based on what we read above, Richard would have listened to the stereo version of MCD but he didn't like what he heard so he listened to it with the CSG processing and felt that was the best sound so he opted NOT to mix a mono version? Is this why we see this single with the CSG processing vs a stereo or mono mix?

    I might also add that the standard 45 release of MCD b/w Mr Guder (on the orchre label) also contains the same CSG on both sides.
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2017
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  14. Harry

    Harry Charter A&M Corner Member Moderator

    If you take a straight stereo record, one that's been mixed to the producer's satisfaction - just the right volumes on the strings, the oboe, the percussion, the piano, in relation to the vocals - and play it back in stereo, everything should sound just right. But if you take that same stereo record and combine the two channels into one speaker (that's what we call a fold-down), the vocals - or whatever is in the center, will be boosted by a figure of 6db louder than the stuff that was allocated to the two side channels.

    So in the days when mono mattered (radio stations on AM), producers would also mix the sounds of the record into a suitable mono mix, keeping the levels adjusted the way they wanted to - the way they sounded on two speakers in stereo - but on one speaker in mono. These were the dedicated mono mixes.

    Making two mixes was both time-consuming and expensive as producers would have to deal with two different mixes, and the record company would have to press two different kinds of records.

    So along comes this invention called the CSG processor. It was conceived as a way to make a stereo mix combine properly to mono when played on mono radio stations. The theory was that if they only had to make one mix, then time and money could be saved.

    As it turned out though, the CSG processing turned the phase of one channel 90° in relation to the other. While it worked as far as keeping the mix balance proper in both stereo and mono, it had a nasty side-effect on the stereo, making it sound unfocused and - indeed - out of phase.

    If you listen through headphones to an old CSG-processed record, it has a nasty effect on the listener, with the center vocals not pinpointed and the bass has an uncomfortableness to it.

    So when Richard wanted to check on the CSG mix of a single, he had them combine the two channels into one so he could hear how it would sound in mono. And according to the article, when he heard problems with the CSG mix, he did a dedicated mono mix anyway.

    The designers of the CSG system probably never envisioned the popularity of headphone listening. Stereos back in those days were comprised of a central unit (phonograph, tape player, or FM stereo receiver) and two speakers or speaker systems. When you listen to a CSG recording on speakers in a casual way, it's not nearly as offensive as it is with headphones.

    So in a studio environment, with two nice speakers aimed at you, listening to a CSG mix didn't seem as bad as it would be with headphones. Richard was listening to the balance of things in the mix - how loud are the strings in relation to Karen's voice and/or the piano. If it sounded the way he wanted the mix to sound, then he signed off on that CSG mix, provided that the mono version also sounded as balanced.

    Not quite, but close. A pure stereo mix is what was always intended, but it was considered "dangerous" to send these out to mono radio stations who might have their wires crossed. You know the thing in Audacity where you can do a "vocal remover" function? That's the same as an out-of-phase stereo trick. It combines the left and right channels of a stereo mix exactly 180° out of phase. That has the effect of having the center channel beat against an out-of-phase version of itself, resulting in a cancellation. So the vocal (usually the center of the mix) disappears, leaving only what remains in the hard left and right channels.

    Richard would want everyone to hear the pure stereo mix if they could, but since that involved making both stereo and mono mixes and two pressings, he was willing to play along with this CSG game and ascertain whether or not the mix was acceptable in both stereo and mono. The problem for we the listeners and collectors back in 1970 was that the only available recording of "Merry Christmas Darling" was on that CSG 45. But fortunately Richard also had a regular stereo mix saved so that it could be used on future releases.

    Though "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" also was only on a 45 for years - and the stereo was CSG'ed, he must have heard something a little off because there's a mono mix on the promo's flip side.
  15. Rick-An Ordinary Fool

    Rick-An Ordinary Fool Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Thanks Harry for that very informative and interesting response. It really helps to understand things. This discussion is fascinating. It must have been a real challenge back then to get out the single on vinyl using the correct processing to benefit all involved. I admit that I've had to read this article more than once to grab all these little details from Richard. I wonder if he remembers this radio call in discussion?

    One would think that MCD would have been issued with dedicated pure mono on the b side. Since this was the 70's and radio stations were already playing the mono format. Richard must not have liked how the mono sounded over the CSG. That is the only reasoning why we don't have a mono of MCD and several years later we'd get a mono for Santa Claus so it couldn't have been the difference in years.
  16. Murray

    Murray Well-Known Member

    From what Harry described above, it seems likely that Richard listened to the CSG mix of MCD, and to his ears the sound was acceptable. Therefore, he may not have created a mono mix at all. Four years later, he didn't like how "Santa Claus" sounded with CSG, so he then created and released the mono mix.
  17. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Well-Known Member

    You also have to remember that in 74 "Santa Claus" was also going to be used on Perry Como's Christmas Special. So maybe for that reason because it would be on radio and TV he made a mono mix that could be used anywhere.
  18. Chris Mills

    Chris Mills Well-Known Member

    All these problems surfaced when radio stations started to simulcast in mono on AM and stereo on FM?
  19. Harry

    Harry Charter A&M Corner Member Moderator

    Sort-of. Earlier in the sixties, virtually all pop music was played on mono AM radio stations. And the record companies issued 45 singles in mono only - often making dedicated mono mixes for those singles that made the sound "shine" on the AM band. They'd add some compression, boost the highs, add some reverb, etc. all to make the record sound great on AM.

    FM stereo was still considered sort of experimental in the early to mid-late sixties. Most AM station owners had also started an FM station and either used it to simulcast their mono AMs or they'd program classical music or beautiful music orchestral stuff. Not many were listening to FM, so it really didn't matter.

    Then a few rogue station owners decided to break away and really try to program the FMs with something with more mass appeal and pop and rock music stations began showing up on FM. And they were able to brag that they were broadcasting in stereo, which was becoming a more popular listening format due to record album being issued in both mono and stereo. It was mostly adults who had these FM receivers, and it was mostly adults who would buy the more expensive stereo albums. Kids pretty much stuck with 45s on their little portable mono phonographs.

    Once stereo started getting a foothold and more and more radio stations on FM were not only stereo but playing pop and rock stuff as well, the record companies were faced with servicing stereo records to FM and mono records to AM. But it wasn't so cut and dried. There were still many listeners to these new FM stations that had mono FM receivers in their hi-fi consoles, and if the station's stereo equipment wasn't properly in phase, the mono listener got a decrease in sound quality - muffled highs, phasey sounds.

    So the record companies engineers - Howard Holzer for one - came up with the CSG system for turning the record partially out of phase so that stereo listeners wouldn't be too upset, and the mono listeners wouldn't hear those nasty artifacts.

    Simulcasting was just a part of the problem with stereo broadcasting on the FM and the same program on the AM in mono. But the FCC soon nuked that idea with a rule that co-owned stations couldn't simulcast more than a certain percentage of the day. That forced more stations to branch out with separate AMs and FMs.
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  20. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Well-Known Member

    And then in the 80's, before MTS sound, you had TV stations doing the reverse----broadcasting mono on the TV channel, stereo on a separate FM channel.
  21. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin

    "Can con" ruined CKLW. :sigh:

    And CSG ruined stereo records. :wink:
  22. Harry

    Harry Charter A&M Corner Member Moderator

    Something I neglected to mention was that when record companies and record producers were doing dedicated mono mixes of their songs, that's when an occasional difference would crop up. These could manifest themselves as a slightly longer or shorter fade time, a missing or extra instrument, doubled or singles vocals, extra or no reverb - all kinds of things could be different in a mono mix.

    Richard was pretty careful in constructing his mono mixes. For the most part, they mimic the stereo very nicely. We all know of the different "Your Wonderful Parade" in mono, and as another example, there's a slightly longer fade on "Goodbye To Love" with the sound of a wild organ riff as the song fades that's missing in the stereo mixes. On the "Yesterday Once More" mono mix there's a slightly longer fade that allows the listener to better hear a nifty bass run from Joe Osborn on the word "fine". It's there on some stereo mixes, but prominent on the mono mix.
  23. Jamesj75

    Jamesj75 Well-Known Member

    And "video killed the radio star!" :)
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  24. Murray

    Murray Well-Known Member

    And "curiosity killed the cat." :hkitty:
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  25. Murray

    Murray Well-Known Member

    ... but the cat came back the very next day. They thought he was a goner but the cat came back, he just couldn't stay away! :catwalk:

    What was the topic of this thread again? :whistle:
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