Nimbus Records

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Nimbus Records
Nimbus Records Logo Red and White.jpg
Founded1972;49 years ago (1972)
FounderNuma Labinsky
Michael Reynolds
Gerald Reynolds
Genre Classical
Country of originUK
Location Herefordshire, England
Official website

Nimbus Records is a British record company based at Wyastone Leys, Ganarew, Herefordshire. They specialise in classical music recordings and were the first company in the UK to produce compact discs.



Nimbus was founded in 1972 by the bass singer Numa Labinsky [1] and the brothers Michael and Gerald Reynolds, and has traditionally been based at the Wyastone Leys mansion site, near Monmouth and the English/Welsh border. A core technical aspect of the company's recording philosophy was the early adoption of the Ambisonic surround-sound system invented by a group of British researchers [2] including the mathematician and recording engineer Michael Gerzon. The recordings have been made with a single-point array of microphones developed by Dr Jonathan Halliday, [3] which is equivalent to a form of soundfield microphone, encoded into stereo-compatible 2-channel Ambisonic UHJ Format and released on conventional stereo media.

An Ambisonic decoder is required to experience such recordings in their truest, surround-sound, form. These have never been widely available, so Nimbus recordings are typically experienced as undecoded UHJ, which is compatible with normal stereo reproduction.

The emergence of home-theatre systems with increasing emphasis on surround playback offers opportunities for domestic listeners to experience at least some of Nimbus' many hundred Ambisonic recordings in their original condition. For example, the company has issued a series of "DVD Music" recordings in which the original 2-channel UHJ masters have been decoded to loudspeaker feeds and issued on conventional DVD-Audio/Video surround format discs. In addition, Nimbus recordings are now often recorded in Ambisonic B-Format, which can be decoded directly to a multichannel surround format compatible with conventional multichannel discs such as DVD or DTS-CD.

A large sub-label of Nimbus Records is the vocal series Prima Voce. This label specialises in the transfer of vocal records on 78 rpm disc dating from 1900. The method of transfer involves the use of thorn needles and a giant acoustic horn on a carefully restored gramophone. [4] No electronic processing is used: instead, the gramophone is placed in a living room environment and recorded ambisonically, in surround-sound, from a typical listening position. Although controversial, the technique is capable of producing remarkably lifelike results - particularly for recordings made "acoustically" prior to the arrival of studio microphones in 1925. [5]

Nimbus Records was the first company to master and press compact discs in the UK, [3] and developed and sold equipment for these purposes. It became part of the Mirror Group in 1987. Following the demise of Robert Maxwell, the equipment company was spun off and the intellectual property rights to the Nimbus Records catalogue were ultimately re-acquired by the original owners [6] under the name of Wyastone Estate Limited. Wyastone Estate operates Wyastone Business Park, Wyastone Concert Hall and the Nimbus Foundation, Nimbus Records, and Nimbus Disc On Demand. The latter is a short-run disc manufacturing capability that has enabled Nimbus Records to make virtually all its catalogue of recordings from the earliest times available to record-buyers.

Another activity Nimbus Records is known for is the use of advanced "piano roll" techniques to recapture on CD the recordings once made by famous composers and pianists before the breakthrough of the 78 rpm disks. This involves restoring and improving the mechanisms used by the Aeolian company, once sold under "Duo Art" or the "reproducing piano". This original German inventions from the early 20th century was widely introduced in the USA in the 1920s and permitted individual key dynamics and real "una corda" pedal effects. The Aeolian Company folded during the depression, but many rolls from artists like Hoffmann, Friedmann, Percy, Lamond, Paderewsky, Cortot and many others still exist and have been faithfully transferred to a series of CDs, e.g., the Grand Piano Series.

The label was one of the first major Western classical labels to also record Indian classical music digitally and market alongside its Western counterpart.

In 2001 a new holding company was established, Wyastone Estate which was the umbrella over Nimbus Records, Nimbus Disc and Print, Nimbus Music Publishing, Wyastone CD Distribution and Wyastone Business Park. In 2004 Wyastone Estate opened a short run CD manufacturing plant. This enabled Nimbus Records to continue adding new titles to the catalogue without being forced to delete the back catalogue. In 2014 Nimbus Records held a catalogue of over 1500 in stock CD titles, their biggest catalogue to date. The label also presses and distributes the recordings of Lyrita.


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DVD-Audio DVD-based format for storing audio

DVD-Audio is a digital format for delivering high-fidelity audio content on a DVD. DVD-Audio uses most of the storage on the disc for high-quality audio and is not intended to be a video delivery format.

Quadraphonic sound Four-channel speaker audio

Quadraphonic sound – equivalent to what is now called 4.0 surround sound – uses four audio channels in which speakers are positioned at the four corners of a listening space. The system allows for the reproduction of sound signals that are independent of one another.

Ambisonics Full-sphere surround sound format

Ambisonics is a full-sphere surround sound format: in addition to the horizontal plane, it covers sound sources above and below the listener.

Surround sound System with loudspeakers that surround the listener

Surround sound is a technique for enriching the fidelity and depth of sound reproduction by using multiple audio channels from speakers that surround the listener. Its first application was in movie theaters. Prior to surround sound, theater sound systems commonly had three screen channels of sound that played from three loudspeakers located in front of the audience. Surround sound adds one or more channels from loudspeakers to the side or behind the listener that are able to create the sensation of sound coming from any horizontal direction around the listener.

Dolby American audio technology company

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The DualDisc is a type of double-sided optical disc product developed by a group of record companies including MJJ Productions Inc., EMI Music, Universal Music Group, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group, and 5.1 Entertainment Group and later under the aegis of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It featured an audio layer intended to be compatible with CD players on one side and a standard DVD layer on the other. In this respect it was similar to, but distinct from, the DVDplus developed in Europe by Dieter Dierks and covered by European patents.

Stereophonic sound Method of sound reproduction using two audio channels

Stereophonic sound or, more commonly, stereo, is a method of sound reproduction that recreates a multi-directional, 3-dimensional audible perspective. This is usually achieved by using two or more independent audio channels through a configuration of two or more loudspeakers in such a way as to create the impression of sound heard from various directions, as in natural hearing. Thus the term "stereophonic" applies to so-called "quadraphonic" and "surround-sound" systems as well as the more common two-channel, two-speaker systems. Stereo sound has been in common use since the 1970s in entertainment media such as broadcast radio, TV, recorded music, internet, computer audio, video cameras, and cinema.

The Soundfield microphone is an audio microphone composed of four closely spaced subcardioid or cardioid (unidirectional) microphone capsules arranged in a tetrahedron. It was invented by Michael Gerzon and Peter Craven, and is a part of, but not exclusive to, Ambisonics, a surround sound technology. It can function as a mono, stereo or surround sound microphone, optionally including height information.


Lyrita is a British classical music record label, specializing in the works of British composers.

Ambisonic UHJ format is a development of the Ambisonic surround sound system designed to be compatible with mono and stereo media. It is a hierarchy of systems in which the recorded soundfield will be reproduced with a degree of accuracy that varies according to the available channels. Although UHJ permits the use of up to four channels, only the 2-channel variant is in current use. In Ambisonics, UHJ is also known as "C-Format".

This page focusses on decoding of classic first-order Ambisonics. Other relevant information is available on the Ambisonic reproduction systems page.

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Wyastone Leys

Wyastone Leys is a country house estate and Grade II listed building situated near Ganarew, in the southwestern corner of The Doward, in Herefordshire, England. The house and estate has also been known as The Leys or Lays House. It is located 2 miles (3.2 km) from Monmouth and 8 miles (13 km) from Ross-on-Wye. The house is in close proximity to the River Wye and less than 50 metres (160 ft) from the county boundary between Herefordshire and Monmouthshire.

Pentatone is an international classical music label located in Baarn, Netherlands.

The Oxford University Tape Recording Society (OUTRS) was a student's club of recording enthusiasts that has existed from at least 1966 until at least 1976. Among its members were AES fellow Michael Gerzon and Peter Craven, co-inventors of the Soundfield microphone, Nimbus Records director Jonathan Halliday and sound engineer and prolific Ambisonic recordist Paul Hodges.

Compatible Discrete 4

Compatible Discrete 4, also known as Quadradisc or CD-4 was as a discrete four-channel quadraphonic system for phonograph records. The system was created by JVC and RCA in 1971 and introduced in May 1972. Many recordings using this technology were released on LP during the 1970s.

Matrix H was developed by BBC engineers in the late 1970s to carry quadraphonic sound via FM radio in a way that would be most compatible with existing mono and stereo receivers.


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  3. 1 2 Smith, Antony. Obituary of Dr Jonathan Halliday (1950-2011). MusicWeb International. Retrieved 2011-07-07.
  4. FeedBack. New Scientist. 2 December 1989. Retrieved 11 January 2011.
  5. Wyastone Archived 20 November 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  6. Weissman, Dick; Jermance, Frank (2003). Navigating the music industry: current issues & business models. Hal Leonard. p. 112. ISBN   0-634-02652-6.