Sound recording

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As a sound recording or audio recording in the narrow, technical sense refers to the recording of sound , that of noises , sounds , music and language , with audio recorders for later playback. It is an essential part of the signal processing chain in sound engineering, differentiated between recording, storage and playback processes. The recording can be mechanical (grooves in rollers , records or on other suitable solid materials ), magnetic ( tape ), optical ( optical sound from cinema films ) or digital , the latter on magnetic ( floppy disk , hard disk , DAT ) or optical ( CD , DVD) ) Media or on immovable digital storage media ( solid-state drive ).


It is often related to the microphones from the decrease spoken of instruments (such as: "This microphone is especially for the decrease suitable guitars ..."). It should be noted that with precise expression, a sound event is only picked up if the sound transducer picks up structure-borne sound at the sound generator - without going through the air. Accordingly, such systems are also called pickups . Microphones, on the other hand, are in a sound field in the air.

A pickup, today mostly based on piezo crystals , is able to convert the vibrations of a solid body directly into electrical signals (pickups for turntables , larynx microphones , structure-borne sound pickups ). In contrast, systems that convert mechanical vibrations of a solid body into electrical signals via coils and magnets are also referred to as pickups (guitar pick-ups ).

Music recording is the technically generated presentation of a music performance. It follows its own musical and aesthetic laws. The music recording is a technical preparation of the sound event. The recording thus embodies an independent aesthetic artefact that can no longer be reproduced in live performances. It sets standards by which every musical performance, consciously or unconsciously, is measured.

Music production, on the other hand, is a construction technique, the result of which is media-related musical events that not only represent independent aesthetic artefacts, but are also characterized by technically mediated aesthetic dimensions that performance practice itself does not know, but has not left unchanged.


Kymograph with tuning fork

Jean Marie Constant Duhamel (1797–1872) had discovered that a pencil could be combined with a tuning fork in such a way that it reproduced the vibrations of the tuning fork as a wavy line. Based on this discovery, the physicist Thomas Young (1773–1829) built the first kymograph ( wave writer), which he described in 1807 in the A course of lectures on natural philosophy and mechanical arts . With this device he was able to record the vibrations of a tuning fork on a soot-blackened rotating roller. His apparatus is regarded as the forerunner of the phonograph and this principle as the basis for recording and analyzing tones, such as the combination tone he studied .

Phonautograph by Scott de Martinville
Au clair de la lune , audible recording from 1860

The oldest surviving sound recording (in the broadest sense) dates from 1860. Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville made a pig's bristle attached to a membrane vibrate on a rotating, soot-blackened roller. He called his graphic recording machine of vibrations the phonautograph . The inventor wanted to "show" what sound vibrations look like. At the time, there was no thought of using these “recorded” vibrations for sound reproduction in the literal sense, but in 2008 it became possible through the use of computer technology.

Thomas Alva Edison with his slightly improved tin foil phonograph from 1878

The next younger sound recordings, which were now also intended for reproduction and marketing, are those by Thomas Alva Edison from 1877. He called his invention the phonograph . His devices were initially intended mainly as dictation machines. But reels with recorded music were soon sold. In spite of this, his robust devices were always designed for recording and playback in equal measure and have therefore long been used by researchers (especially ethnologists ) and artists as well as private individuals for their own recordings.

Thomas Edison sent his "Perfected Phonograph " to George Gouraud in London, and on August 14, 1888, he presented the device to London at a press conference. He also played a recording of a piece for piano and cornet from Arthur Sullivan's "The Lost Chord". This was or is one of the oldest surviving music recordings. A series of presentations followed in which the device was shown to members of society at Little Menlo in London. Sullivan was invited on October 5, 1888. After dinner he recorded a short speech on the device to send to Edison. In it he said among other things:

"I can only say that I am astonished and somewhat terrified at the result of this evening's experiments: astonished at the wonderful power you have developed, and terrified at the thought that so much hideous and bad music may be put on record forever. But all the same I think it is the most wonderful thing that I have ever experienced, and I congratulate you with all my heart on this wonderful discovery. "

These recordings were discovered in the Edison Library in New Jersey in the 1950s.

Emil Berliner with the original form of his gramophone and a zinc record

The German-American Emil Berliner developed the gramophone (patented in 1887) and the record . While the Edison rollers originally had to be recorded individually, which was time-consuming, the records could be pressed in bulk very cheaply . The commercially sold gramophones were therefore only intended for playback from the outset and could therefore be constructed in a significantly less complex and thus cheaper production. Another difference was that the tones in Berliner's system were represented by lateral curves of the sound groove and are still used today on all records (so-called side or Berliner writing ), while Edison had the sound waves dig into the depths of the groove (so-called depth or Edison script).

These two and related early systems (especially the roller system of the French Henri Lioret , who first used celluloid for his phonograms, and the somewhat later record systems by Edison and the French company Pathé Frères ) are usually summarized under the term acoustic recording because they are completely get by without electricity. However, this term is misleading because acoustics are always involved when it comes to sound. The decisive feature of these systems, on the other hand, is that the sound is converted into vibrations in a membrane, which are then stored and reproduced in a purely mechanical way. The sound itself has to generate all of the energy required for this. As a result, the sound quality (frequency range and balance of the reproduced tones) and volume are tight limits, which have been expanded in the course of history, but never even remotely removed. This was first made possible by electricity and later by electronics. The "acoustic" sound recording was also used to show the first sound films by mechanically coupling the phonograph or gramophone with a film projector . In the field of film technology, one speaks of the needle tone process. The early attempts in this direction, for example by Edison or the German film pioneer Oskar Messter , failed because of the limited volume.

The electromagnetic sound recording as a first electricity-use procedure was the Danish telephone engineer Valdemar Poulsen invented 1898th At the beginning, he called his device, which was mainly intended for recording telephone calls, the telegraphone . In the original construction, the sound carrier was a wire that was firmly attached to the outside of a roller in the shape of a helix . A U-shaped magnetic sound head slid back and forth on a rail above this, encompassing the wire. A telephone receiver was connected to the electromagnet of the sound head. During the recording, the induction current generated in the microphone generated a magnetic field in the wire, which then generated an electrical current in the sound head during playback that corresponded to the sound and was perceived as such via the telephone receiver. A later construction of this device used a metal tape on two reels and thus came close in appearance to the tape recorder that the AEG introduced in 1935 under the name " Magnetophon ". Its plastic sound carriers had been developed at BASF on the basis of an earlier system consisting of paper strips.

When radio became very popular in the late 1920s, there were first devices that could be connected to the receivers in order to record the radio program with them. As early as 1926, lawyers made several statements about private copying, public performance and similar copyright issues.

"Neue Hörkultur" - Scherl's magazine from September 1929

With the higher quality recording techniques of the 1920s, criticism also arose. In 1929 Otto Kappelmayer wrote of the “eighth superpower, the microphone”, meaning that technology deprived musicians of their professional existence, with the exception of a few who were successful with recordings, because more and more people were consuming music on records.

From around 1963 onwards, several companies brought out devices that were considerably smaller and no longer wound the tape on open reels, but in cassettes. This made handling and storage much easier. Because of the very liberal licensing, the Philips system ( Compact Cassette , CC) prevailed worldwide. A tape including two reels is encapsulated in a plastic housing for easy handling. Colloquially, the CC is often simply called "cassette" or "tape". Cassettes that have already been prerecorded are called music cassettes or MusiCassette (MC). The playback and recording of cassettes is done with a cassette recorder . As a further development of the electromagnetic sound recording succeeded from around 1960 to the electromagnetic imaging (in the jargon of television technology magnetic recording (MAZ) and the private sector video technology called). In addition, digital electromagnetic data storage is based on this technology.

Today's admission procedure

Sound recording is a technical process in which acoustic vibrations are converted into electrical signals in all current processes and then stored on carrier media in analog or digital form (electromagnetic analog recording or digital recording) . The vibration of the sound is always recorded; In scientific terms, this is the change in sound pressure as the course of the amplitude (voltage value) over the time axis.

If several sound recordings, which were made independently of each other, are later to be played synchronously, either a time code is recorded together with the signal and the signals are synchronized using the time stamp, or a multi-track recording is made on a shared sound carrier.

Multi-track recording

With this method, sound recordings are made simultaneously or one after the other with a multi-track recorder on a medium, whereby the individual recordings are recorded separately from one another in so-called tracks . As a result, the sound recordings can be edited separately from one another in the recording studio in a variety of ways.

If the recordings of the individual tracks are made one after the other and copied to one another, this is called the overdubbing process.

Single track recording

In contrast to the multi-track recording, the multi-channel audio signals are mixed together directly to form the so-called composite signal without intermediate storage . The result is then available as finished stereo tracks or surround tracks.

One advantage is that because there is no intermediate storage, a higher sound quality can be achieved, which is largely unnecessary with digital storage. In addition, the technical effort is somewhat lower compared to a multi-track recording, since the recording devices and their interconnection is much simpler. The disadvantage, however, is that you lose a lot of flexibility when recording. It is limited to the possibilities that exist with mastering . In the field of conservative sound recordings, where the finished stereo sums have to be produced anyway to assess the mix, 2-channel recordings are still typical.

Stereo recordings

Apart from surround recordings, most recordings have been made using stereo technology since the mid-1950s, in which a two-channel electrical signal is generated using a wide variety of stereo recording processes, which - played over a stereo triangle - reproduces the sound scene on the stereo basis between the two speakers .

Before 1960 mainly mono recordings were made.

Stereo recording of mono recordings

A mono recording can be converted into a pseudo stereo recording without having to destroy the original mono signal. This is also called "Electronic Stereo" (see pseudostereophony ). Maintaining the original mono signal is of particular importance with historical sources. The stereoization usually takes place in such a way that a time-shifted signal or a signal obtained from a hall effect device is applied to the original once with the correct phase and once with the correct phase, in order to obtain the two stereo signals. This creates an artificial spatial impression. When you add both channels, you get the previous mono signal again.

Storage method

Analog storage

With analog sound recording , the signals obtained by the microphones are translated into other analog vibrations, depending on the carrier medium, e.g. B. in alternately strong magnetization of a tape recorder evenly passed by the write head of a tape machine . The main disadvantages of analog storage are the wear and tear on the material. Analog processes were also initially used for the compact disc (CD) (see history of the CD ).

Digital storage

Level display for digital sound recording

Digital recording means that the signal source is either already digital itself (e.g. digital synthesizer ) or that analog audio signals that are recorded by microphones , for example , are digitized in the signal chain using an analog / digital converter.

The digital recording eliminates certain disruptive factors that would occur with analog recording (e.g. tape noise , disc scratches). On the other hand, the quality of the recording is decisive in digitization. Therefore, for this step, sometimes higher sampling rates and / or a higher word length per sample are chosen than later for the duplication, e.g. B. on an audio CD would actually be necessary. The product of the sampling rate and word length (and number of channels) is also called the bit rate .

See also


  • Michael Dickreiter, Volker Dittel, Wolfgang Hoeg, Martin Wöhr: Manual of the recording studio technology. 7th completely reworked and expanded edition, published by ARD.ZDF medienakademie, Nuremberg, 2 volumes, Saur, Munich 2008, ISBN 3-598-11765-5 or ISBN 978-3-598-11765-7
  • Thomas Görne: Sound engineering. 1st edition, Carl Hanser Verlag, Leipzig 2006, ISBN 3-446-40198-9
  • Roland Enders: The home recording manual. 3rd edition, Carstensen, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-910098-25-8
  • Christoph Reiss: Guitar Recording. Wizoo Publishing GmbH, Bremen, April 2010, ISBN 978-3-934903-75-3 (with CD)
  • The big book of technology . Publishing house for knowledge and education, Bertelsmann GmbH publishing group, Gütersloh, 1972

Web links

Wiktionary: Sound recording  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Peter Wicke, Between Performance Practice and Recording Practice: Music Production as Interpretation , 2011, p. 2 (PDF; 108 kB)
  2. Peter Wicke, Between Performance Practice and Recording Practice: Music Production as Interpretation , 2011, p. 8.
  3. discovery of the sound recording (English)
  4. Sensational find: Researchers present oldest sound recording in the world
  5. a b "Historic Sullivan Recordings" ( Memento of the original from October 6, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , the Gilbert and Sullivan Archives @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  6. see Georg Reininger: The protection of copyright in German broadcasting , de Gruyter, Berlin, Leipzig, 1928. Call number Fi700-1928 in the Berlin State Library