The status of CD4 in Germany during "the glory days of Quadraphonic"
An information for Quadraphonic collectors written by Klaus Hoenemann, 1996
Dear collectors,have you ever considered why the majority of the discs in your collection are of either American or Japanese origin? Where are the German Quadraphonic discs? In this article, I will tell about the situation of the CD-4 system in the "glory days" of Quadraphonic, the early 1970's.In Germany at that time, many American and Japanese Quadraphonic discs were imported and sold, but from the collector's point of view, the actual "made in Germany" discs are what I will discuss. In Germany, only a few companies produced CD-4 albums, mainly RCA, Atlantic and the WEA group, which were sisters of the same named American companies.
A well known German CD-4 disc was "Quadraphonic Experience" (WEA 228 008 F - shown above), on its cover were four mouths. This record was produced in large quantities, and so I believe that every "old" American Quadraphonic collector has a copy. The album was a joint effort by Warner and Atlantic. On side 1 is a cross section of Quadraphonic music from the Warner label, only the last track being different than standard American releases. This last track is an announcement in four different languages demonstrating the excellent channel separation available in the CD-4 system. The disc label on side 1 shows the typical picture of "Burbank, Home Of Warner Brothers Records". The 2nd side of the album is a cross selection of releases from the Atlantic Quadraphonic program. The big news here is that the 2nd cut on this side, "Quadrant 4", by artist Billy Cobham, is from the announced but never released album "Spectrum" (ATL 240 506 D; or US #QD-7268 - shown below. Has someone a better copy of the cover photo? Please e-mail me.)
The label of the 2nd side of the "Quadraphonic Experience" is different from the standard USA Atlantic style, and the inner sleeve has an explanation of the CD-4 system in German, French and English. It was expected that this album would mark the beginning of regular production of CD-4 albums in Germany, but this would not be the case. In 1974 the WEA group and RCA announced that they were ready to begin the CD-4 production in Germany. An advertisement from that time showed 47 albums for immediate release, but several of these were never produced, such as the earlier mentioned "Billy Cobham / Spectrum". To my knowledge, some of the other albums from this initial announcement were also not released, and exist as test pressings, or as we call them in Germany "White Copies". I have some of these test pressings in my collection, for example "Frank Sinatra / Some Nice Things I've missed". The record label shows notices in hand writing stating that the album should go into regular production, but did it? (The album reached production in the USA and Japan but Germany)
As far as identification, you will have no trouble finding "Quadraphonic Experience", as a Quadraphonic disc, because the word "Quadraphonic" is in the cover art. But, finding some of the other German CD-4 discs will not be such a simple task. For example, the CD-4 copies of "Fats Domino / Hello Josephine (Live At Montreaux)" (Atlantic ATL 50 107 Z or US #K2-50107) or "Passport / Hand Made" (Atlantic ATL 240 483 D; or US #K2-40483) were produced in double inventory versions, separate Quadraphonic and Stereo versions. The 4-Channel version had a triangular sticker affixed to the shrink wrap stating that were the CD-4 issues. This is a typ of the sticker:
Using this sticker was good when the albums were new in stores, but if someone threw the wrapper away, all exterior marking as to Quadraphonic was gone. The inner labels did not state Quad or CD-4 as did the American Atlantic labels, instead they appeared identical to the stereo versions. One has to carefully eyeball the blank area between the last cut and the label to identify the discs as a CD-4 or a Stereo, since CD-4's tend to not be cut into the center as far as regular stereo discs. Obviously when placed on turntable and played through a demodulator the version is easy to find, but you cannot do this in a used record store. These factors all add up to the reason why German CD-4 albums are so rare and hard to find.Perhaps you will become lucky like I did once some years ago. At that time a friend and I bought a collection or so regular stereo LPs. That evening I decided to play some of the new find. The biggest shock came when my stylus touched down and the 1st cut of my new found copy of "Passport / Hand Made" caused the CD-4 radar light on my Technics demodulator to illuminate! That was certainly a big surprise and a rare find, to locate an unmarked 4-Channel copy of this album.
I hope this report on the status of CD-4 in Germany is helpful to you and remember to keep on hunting for those very rare Quadraphonic records!
(Thanks to Nick P. who helped me with the translation)