From Thomas Edison’s first waveform-engraved cylinders to the iPod and every touchstone devoted to preserving music and performance since and after, we’ve come a long way. We’ve narrowed down the list to the five essential breakthroughs in music and playback technology.
1987: Auto Tune
Antares Audio Technologies (also known as Jupiter Systems) was founded in 1990 by Dr Andy Hildebrand. He used the same Digital Signal Processing technology he employed to measure seismic data to create Auto Tune in 1987. He first patented the infinity sample-looping software and various Pro-Tools plug-ins. But it was the horrid sound of Auto Tune that etched his legacy. It helped the likes of Kanye West and other artists to create chart toppers. Music purists stay away from it.
1975: Yamaha GX-1 Synth
The famous GX-1 was Yamaha’s first big polyphonic analog synth, and boy was it a beast. It featured a triple-tiered keyboard, pedalboard, ribbon controller, eight polyphonic voices, chromed pedestals, and a $50,000+ price tag. Less than 10 were ever made and have been owned mostly by legends. John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, Stevie Wonder, George Fleury, ABBA and Hans Zimmer bought Keith Emmerson’s.
Thomas Edison had the patent but it was British telegraph pioneer David Edward Hughes that came up with the idea. Loosely packing carbon granules in a confirmed space, Hughes discovered that sound vibrations resulted in varying electrical currents and a more balanced reproduction. The first documentation involved broadcasting scratching insects, a clear forerunner for nu-metal frontmen of the late 20th century.
Before Beats by Dre, there was Utah Mormon and Nathaniel Baldwin’s sonically potent cans. Baldwin crafted his radio earphones out of copper wiring and an operator’s headband. He failed at first to gain the attention of private companies and even the Smithsonian Institute but it was Navy that came knocking. They ordered hundreds of sets in anticipation of possible world war. Rumours whisper that Baldwin handmade each pair in his kitchen, though it remains unknown whether he could cook.
1931: The LP
In 1930, RCA-Victor made the first 33 1/3 friendly vinyl long-players commercially available. It could’ve been the subpar sound, the Depression making them affordable or RCA-Victor marketing them wrong, saw only a few taking these records for a spin. Nearly two decades later, in 1948, Columbia Records reintroduced their take on the format and a revolution – not to mention fierce competition with RCA – was born.
Note: This article was originally posted on sister site, Geeks and Beats