Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

Frequency Response Test – A Public Service from Zero to 180

I would love to know just how many hi-fi enthusiasts back in vinyl’s heyday relied on stereo demonstration recordings to test the performance caliber of their stereo sound system.

Stereo Demonstration - 1

I get the sense that National Lampoon’s Ed Subitzky found this whole business of scrutinizing the quality of your stereo output across the 20-20,000 Hz audio spectrum to be a little dubious, as well as a rich source for mockery, and in 1974 – with assistance from John Belushi and Chevy Chase (among others) – released The Official National Lampoon Stereo Test and Demonstration Record.

One of the album tracks – “Frequency Response” – humorously incorporates audio test tones (e.g., 50 Hz) into a 70s “hippy rock” pastiche that proclaims “Stereo Demonstration” to be the “brand new rock sensation”:

Stereo Demo – Frequency Response = National Lampoon

[Test: Click on the triangle above to test the playback quality of your stereo sound system]

Released on the National Lampoon label

National Lampoon Stereo Demonstration

Liner Notes (excerpt)

A Brief History

The history of stereo test and demonstration records is unfortunately somewhat obscure. In 1879, the Edison Official Test and Demonstration Cylinder enjoyed brief popularity; it was followed by the Official Test and Demonstration Wire, the Official Test and Demonstration Ear Trumpet, the Official Test and Demonstration Man, the Official Test and Demonstration Woman, and the Official Test and Demonstration Wireless. The advent of the war with Mexico, however, put a damper on these efforts. As President Taft exclaimed during an impromptu speech to the Republican Party Convention of 1916, “If Mexico had in fact won the skirmish and we were Mexicans today living in a Mexican regime, our life might be much worse and then again, it might not have been all that bad. However, it is certainly likely that whatever progress has been made in this important area to date … would have been, shall we say, hampered, at least for the while.” With the sudden rise of Gaullism in 1948 and the dread of all-out atomic war in the 50s, people once again turned to their stereos for escapism, and thus the popularity of test records was newly assured. They were included as standard equipment in some late-model fallout shelters.


LINK to Humor +/- Satire on Zero to 180

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