Audio: Listen to this article.
I imagine the seasoned multichannel audiophiles shaking their heads, remembering the 1970s when they started listening to four channel albums, and saying this is nothing new, we were listening to this before you were born. Some may be saying, what took you so long, while others are saying, welcome to the club. I accept it all in the good spirit in which it’s intended.
I was born in 1975 and didn’t start purchasing music until my first cassettes in the early eighties, then it was on to compact discs shortly thereafter. Quad wasn’t a thing for me back then, and certainly not when I started getting in to HiFi in the mid nineties. Now, quad is a thing for me and it’s really cool!
Rather than internet eye rolling, I hope the experienced quad fans can chime in offering some nuggets of information and share their own experiences. What follows is my own initial experience with Quadio. Sit back, re-live your own experience, and possibly see it through a fresh set of non-rolling eyes. I feel like a kid with a new toy, experiencing four channel audio for the first time.
Fresh Quadio Hot Out of The Oven
When I first saw an announcement that Rhino was re-releasing some four channel Quadio albums on Blu-ray, I thought it was interesting it didn’t move my needle. Then I saw the second announcement with four more Quadio titles and I started paying more attention. I even had the initial eight releases in my shopping cart on the Rhino site, but couldn’t pull the trigger for some reason. Once I saw another four Quadio titles were coming in January 2024, and in that batch are War’s The World is a Ghetto, and Average White Band’s AWB, I was all in. I ordered the first two batches of four albums and waited.
I received the Blu-ray albums and finally had a chance to sit down and listen over the weekend. Wow, these are really cool! Plus, the sound quality is fantastic! These Quadio releases, “are transferred from the original half-inch four-channel masters at 192/24 resolution and sound amazing. Considering they’ve been in the vault for 50 years, the tapes were in pristine condition and needed no tweaks or fixes. They sound as fresh, rich, and powerful as the day they were created. And, of course, there’s also a 192/24 stereo program from the two-track master as well.” According to Rhino’s Steve Woolard, Director of A&R for the Quadio series.
Blu-ray is a perfect medium for the new Quadio releases, just like it is for the new immersive Atmos releases of which I’ve been purchasing way too many. I don’t have a traditional Blu-ray player, but I do have a Blu-ray drive for ripping on my Mac. I put Black Sabbath’s Paranoid into the drive, opened MakeMKV, and converted the disc to a single MKV file. This MKV file can be played on many systems with a traditional surround processor, but of course I can’t be normal and have to run my audio through state of the art DSP without a processor, on its way to my 7.1.4 system.
Using Music Media Helper, a free Windows only app, I extracted the four channel tracks from the MKV file to WAV files. Technically I could’ve stopped there and started listening. But, I wanted to make the process even easier. Using the same Music Media Helper app, I converted the four channel WAV files into twelve channel files by adding silent channels. The process is simple and takes a couple clicks. I do this because it makes playback extremely simple. I can leave a twelve channel room correction filter in place while playing four channel music, and switch back and forth between my Atmos releases easily. It’s the little things that make all the difference :~)
Clicking play on Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, I was stunned at what I heard from the beginning of track 1, War Pigs. Whoa, what an experience. I was instantly transported to London, England in June of 1970 at Regent Sound studio. In a recording studio, members of the band are often placed around the room, not like they are on a stage, and this is exactly what I heard. Granted the mix isn’t intended to place the musicians around the room, it’s an experience with sounds emanating from different channels however engineers Mike Butcher and Spock Wall deemed appropriate. However, this mix really places the listener in the middle of a heavy metal assault and it feels like sitting in the middle of a band trying to punish the listener in the best way possible. It’s fantastic.
The sonic quality is better than I’ve ever heard the album sound. Sure, Ozzy, Tony, and Geezer sound great, but what really got to me was Bill Ward’s drums. The cymbals in War Pigs and their placement made me chuckle a little because they sounded so good. The rest of his kit blew me away as he railed on it throughout the track. In my opinion, he is the start of War Pigs. Prior to hearing this Quadio release, I would’ve never said that or even thought anyone would say that. So enjoyable!
More Quadio Please
Similar to many immersive releases, these Quadio albums turned me on to music I’d never have listened to previously. I’ve heard of Gordon Lightfoot, Spinners, and Jefferson Starship obviously, but time is precious and I wouldn’t have spent it on listening to them. Until now. The excellent sound quality, high dynamic range, and engaging Quadio mixes on the albums makes for an incredibly enjoyable experience.
Quadio releases in 2023 included:
Alice Cooper - Billion Dollar Babies
America - Holiday
Charles Mingues - Mingues Moves
J. Geils Band - Nightmares
Black Sabbath - Paranoid
Jefferson Starship - Red Octopus
Spinners - Spinners
Gordon Lightfoot - Sundown
Releases in 2024 (sor far):
Randy Newman - Good Old Boys (Jan 19th)
War - The World Is A Ghetto (Jan 19th)
Average White Band - AWB (Jan 19th)
Gil Evans - Svengali (Jan 19th)
Check out the Rhino Quadio page for more information - Rhino Quadio
Quadio Wrap Up
Rhino baking fifty year old tapes to bring them back to life and produce fantastic high resolution quad releases, wasn’t on my bingo card a couple years ago. As of a few months ago, listening to quad releases wasn’t on my bingo card either. Fortunately the releases kept coming and I finally took the chance on something many of my audiophile friends had already known and loved. I didn’t listen to naysayers who said quad’s ship had sailed nor did I listen to those saying it was fantastic. I just want to make up my own mind, independent of external influences and I’m so very happy I jumped into quad, and that Rhino is delivering Quadio releases on Blu-ray. This isn’t just a search for out of print titles, it’s a real thing happening now and I love it.