Category Archives: Concert Sound

Altec Public-Address in the Seventies

Above: this one caught me by surprise.  Neil Young endorses Altec PA kit in 1971.  We see the Altec 1210A console and 1205A powered speakersApparently Don Ellis and Merle Haggard were also endorsers at the time. 

Today: some early ‘seventies adverts for Altec PA gear.  Altec equipment was no longer state-of-the-art studio gear by this period, but they seem to have enjoyed continuing success with sound reinforcement.  For a full catalog download that discusses much of the equipment featured, click here and visit this earlier post.

Above: The Altec 1217A.  Powerful enough for ‘Boogie Rock.’

Above: Altec’s young and photogenic employees circa 1974

Above: (it’s 1974): ‘Rock’s grown up.  The Group’s grown up… Altec was there when the magic of rock and roll arrived. Woodstock.  Monterey.”

Heil in the Seventies

From Wikipedia:

Bob Heil (October 5, 1940) is…most well known for creating the template for modern rock sound systems. He founded the company Heil Sound in 1966,which went on to create unique touring sound systems for bands such as The Grateful Dead and The Who.  He invented the Heil Talk Box in 1973, which was frequently used by musicians such as Peter Frampton, Joe Walsh and Richie Sambora, and is still in use today.”

Bob Heil is a great American inventor.  I’ve written about him before on this site; click here for an example.  Here’s a quick look at some of Heil’s products from the mid 1970s.  If anyone out there is still using any of these pieces, drop us a line and let us know…

The Heil HM88 Stereo Mixer

The Heil HM1000 Stereo mixer with optional plug-in phaser.  Wow can you image.  What would the modern equivalent of this functionality be?  Built-in AutoTune?

The Heil HM1200 console with +/- 22DB equalization.  Good lord.

The Heil Talkbox, the first of its kind.  The bio-mechanical translation of a vocoder: pitch and formant information are supplied as distinct elements and a unique hybrid results.

State of the Art Sound Reinforcement c. 1961

I had a live-sound mixing job this past weekend.  The system that was hired was quite nice which made the job pretty easy.  Thanks to hypercardiod microphones, graphic EQs, and stage monitors, feedback is not really a problem with concert sound these days; instead we tend to wrestle with volume levels, stage volume in particular.  Above are two early high-tech methods of dealing with sound-reinforcement issues.  The audio instruments model 301 time delay is a tape-echo machine which was intended not as a creative effect but instead to time-align speakers in a multiple-speaker system.  As far as i can recall, this concept was made popular by the Grateful Dead in their massive arena systems of the 70s and later, and is now a defacto part of most large sound installations.  Below that unit is the AI model 400 feedback supressor.  Rather than employing frequency filters or dynamic control, the model 400 is one of an early category of feedback supressor (ALTEC made a similar product and I imagine there are others as well) that reduces system-wide feedback by shifting the entire frequency spectrum by some small amount, 1 or 2 hertz I imagine.  The result?  What goes ‘IN’ to the system is never the same as what goes ‘OUT’ of the system, so any ‘feedback’ is never linear and therefore a stated 6 to 12 db of additional gain becomes available.  This is a fascinating concept that never went very far for some obvious reasons.  You might never notice a shift of 2 hz on a violin part or a human voice, but bass guitar or organ?  That could easily result in a 25% sharpening or flatting of the note.  Bad news.  I don’t know exactly what lead to the discontinuation of these sorts of devices, but I imagine that it may have been at least partially due to improvements in filter design that allowed inexpensive graphic EQs and fully-adjustable parametric EQs in the 1970s.   I am very curious to know what feedback DID sound like when one of these frequency shifters is used:  is it a long gliss up or down the pitch range to the maximum frequency response of the system?  Anyone have experience with this?

Webster-Chicago: Because Shouting Is Outmoded (1939)

Download the 24pp 1939 Webster-Chicago Sound Systems catalog (in two parts due to size)

DOWNLOAD PART 1: WebsterChic_1939_1

DOWNLOAD PART 2: WebsterChic_1939_2

Products covered, with text, specs, and photos, include: Wesbter-Chicago Super-Fidelity Mixer W-4004, amplifiers W-4030, W-4070, W-4030; remote mixer controls W-903 and W-902; W-975, W-945, W-930 .W-920, W-830, W-814, W-808W-929, W-820 mixer/ amplifers; W-200 microphone matching transformer, W-1260 record changer, plus a host of speakers, intercom equipment, and microphones (appear to be re-branded Bruno, Turner, and EV units: W-1224, W-1245, W-1236, W-1242 and W-1243).


Above: from page 2 of the catalog.  The year is 1939.   “Why Buy Sound Equipment? Because shouting is outmoded.”   The ‘sound of tomorrow’ is electrically amplified sound.  Shouting is a thing of the past.  The sound of one human’s voice can now easily reach many tens of thousands of assembled individuals.  The first recorded use of sound reinforcement (i.e., a PA system) was the inauguration of Warren G. Harding in 1922 (Bushnell, Ferree 2011).  This was incredible technology at the time, technology that has given musicians infinite new possibilities for performnce.  Technology that would also be used to devastating effect in Germany in the 1930s when one bitter man would be able to stir the passions of thousand of assembled individuals in ways that would have been impossible a mere decade early.  Before the PA system: before electrically amplified sound: there were real physical limits to the dissemination of a vocal performance.   That limit is no longer.

Above, Webster’s ‘super-fidelity’ high-power system intended for multi-speaker distribution in arenas ETC: no low-impedance voice-coil output is even offered on this unit.  It does, however, offer two-band EQ and dynamic expansion/compression.

Above, Webster-Chicago’s most modest PA system, the 8-watt W-808.  This was the first piece of antique audio equipment that I ever purchased: $75 at a multi-dealer antique shop on Wickenden st in Providence RI.   My system came with an American D-4 dynamic mic, which I still own and which still works fine after all these decades.   The amplifier and speaker worked too, although I could never figure out why there was a strong slightly off Bb bass-note that went along with everything that I played.  This was several years before I had any awareness of filter caps, of course.



Out-of-print Book Report: “Professional Rock And Roll” (1967)

Download a six-page excerpt regarding ‘the sound system’ from “Professional Rock And Roll” (Ed. Herbert Wise, Collier, 1967):

DOWNLOAD: Professional_Rock_And_Roll_Excerpt

Very much along the lines of “Electric Rock” (1971)  and “Starting Your Own Band” (1980), “Professional Rock And Roll” (h.f. “PRR”) is especially interesting in that it was published a mere three years after The Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan, an event which is widely considered to have marked the beginning of The Sixties Rock Era.  In such a short span of time, enough of an industry and codified set of working-practices seems to have formed around young teen-oriented electric-guitar-based groups to have resulted in the large paperback that I now hold in my hand.

“PRR” parses the idea of what it takes to be a ‘professional rock and roll band’ in some interesting ways.  There is the chapter on PA equipment, with the various above-illustrated items discussed (BTW, I still regularly find most of these items at the estates+fleas, so points to the author for accuracy), as well as a chapter each on Electric Guitars and Keyboards.

Above: the three types of Electric guitar: ‘Early,’ ‘Solid Body,’ and ‘With Accessories.’

Above: The Rock Organ Player

We also get chapters on putting a band together, chords, songwriting, lead-singing, hitting-the-road, and managers/agents/publishers.  Somewhat more surprising is the in-depth chapter on how to locate and buy stage-clothing and the chapter on light-shows.

I think it’s somewhat interesting to learn how important the idea of visual-accompaniment-to-music was in those early years of the Rock industry.  We’ve been told so often how MTV changed the visual/sonic balance of musical-signification so drastically, to such varied effect as manufacturers’ increasing the size of their logos on equipment (E.G., Zildjian Cymbals) and even the barring of rock-stardom to homely female performers (I.E., the Janis-Joplin-wouldn’t-have-made-it-today assertion).   I can’t really say that this changes the argument, but it’s worth consideration.

“PRR” also has a number of charming anachronisms, such as the diagram above.  The authors felt it necessary to explain how a group should properly stage their gear on BOTH of the common types of stages: the theatre-type stage (band faces the audience) and, of course, the round stage.  Wow.  Were rock-shows on round-stages really that common in 1967?  I’ve performed probably a thousand shows since the early 1990s, in venues as small as basements and as big as 10,000+ festivals, and never once on a round stage with the audience on all sides.  Crazy.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about “PRR” is the subject that it totally omits: there is nothing offered on the subject of recording.  Not demo recording, not studio recording.  No mention.  Also lacking is a chapter on promotion and publicity.  To most musical groups today, these seem to be the central issues that occupy most of their energy:  thanks to all of the incredible, affordable audio-recording equipment and software we have now, recording and composing music have effectively become the same task; they are inseperble activities.  Likewise, the public promotion, marketing, and branding of a musical project can now begin as soon as the first track is mixed down.

*Is there a similar book to “PRR” published for the modern musical era?

*If a high-school age band were today to study and implement the ideas in “PRR,” could they generate a 1968-type garage-rock group?

*Did anyone reading this purchase “PRR” as a young musician?  Did you find it helpful?

Next up in this series: “Making Four Track Music,” John Peel, 1987.

Carvin Mixing Consoles 1979

Download a fifteen-page scan of the mixing consoles on offer in Carvin’s 1979 Catalog:

DOWNLOAD: Carvin_Mixers_1979

Above is the playing-field of the flagship Q1608, a Quadraphonic console with 16 inputs and 8 outputs.  Other mixers on offer: the Carvin S1800, S1200, MP1000, MC1000, SP600, S600, MP600, MC600, and MP410 mixers.

Above is the MP410, a lil dude with 125 watts (into 4 ohm), a graphic EQ, and a built-in Hammond reverb.  Seems like a pretty good little keyboard amp.

One of the most repetitive selling points in this catalog is the alleged superiority of the new differential  input stage relative to input transformers.  Both methods certainly have their benefits; nowadays, input transformers are almost universally used as a selling point rather than a liability.  I personally prefer transformers, and use the Jensen 115 (click here to download details) for most of my builds.

Tomorrow: Carvin guitars of 1979.  If you’ve been enjoying this series, check out the very comprehensive Carvin Museum.  The Carvin Museum does not offer full catalog downloads as I’ve been doing, but they have done an admirable job of scanning and indexing every Carvin catalog from 1955 through 2005.

Carvin Guitars, Amplifiers, and PA equipment: 1973 Catalog

Download the thirty-two page 1973 Carvin catalog (presented in two sections):


DOWNLOAD GUITARS: Carvin_1973_part2

Products covered, with images, specs, and text, include: Carvin Lead amps LM1000, BL1250, FR1200, LP600, SM450 and TM565; Carvin Bass Amps ABM850, BM900, BM355, and FH2500; Super Amps SBL2000, SLM1600, SABM1800, and SBM1900; Combo amps VTR-212, ML212, and MB212; Tube amp head VTR2500 and TV2500; Solid-State heads ST4000, ST2400, B3000, B2000, and B1500; Carvin P2500, P4500, and P5000 PA heads; plus numerous speaker cabinets and components.

Guitars and bases include: Carvin AS50B, CM95, SS75B, SS65B electrics; Carvin SB60, SB40, and AB45 bass guitars; DBS98B and DTS90B doubleneck guitars; PRO-S8 and PRO-D6 steel guitars; plus more.

Above, some of the new offerings for 1973: we see a Folded-Horn bass enclosure (popularized by ACOUSTIC corp in the early 1970s); we see a return to tube amplification in the form of the VTR2500 amp head (seems similar to Ampeg V4 of the era); and we see a larger PA head with 8 inputs and some sort of quasi-notch filtering: power output is 170 watts into 4 ohms.  Can anyone hear the singer?

1973 Carvin AS50B.  AFAICT, this instrument uses the same body as the earlier OVATION “Tornado” guitar.

The 1973 Ovation SB60.  Identical to the cheaper SB40 save for the 1.5lbs heavier maple body. We’re near the start of the unfortunate ‘heavier-is-better’ guitar trend of the 1970s.

Doubleneck guitar/mandolin has been replaced by doubleneck guitar/12-string guitar.

Guild CopyCat tape echo has been replaced by Maestro ‘Sireko.’  Anyone out there have any experience with the merits of one vs the other?

Carvin Guitars, Amplifiers, and PA equipment: 1971 Catalog

Download the thirty-two page 1971 Carvin catalog, presented in the original glorious black-and-white (9.9M zipped file):

DOWNLOAD: Carvin_1971_Catalog.pdf

Dig the excellent non-designed cover.  Products covered, with pictures, specs, and text, include: Carvin Super Band Leader amp SBL2000, Super Lead Master Amp SLM1600, Super Bass Master SBM1500, Band Leader BL1100 and BL1200, Lead Master LM990 and LM1000, Carvin Altec -equipped Lead and Bass Masters, Bass Master BM 755 and BM 775.  Public-Address (PA) systems/components include: PA5000 incorporating P2200 head and CR 150 speakers, PA600 featuring P3500 head and SR660 speakers, System 7000 featuring P4500 head.  ‘Compact’ instrument amplifiers include Twin Master TM550, Lead Performer LP400, Bass Master BM340.  Amplifier heads include Carvin B3000, B1600, B2400 and B1050 Bass amp heads or ‘Power units’ as Carvin calls them; L4000, L2500, and T2000 Lead Power Units, aka Guitar heads.

Guitars covered include: Carvin AS50B and AS50 hollowbody electrics, SS70, SS70B, SS65B, SS65 electric guitars, AB45 and SB40 electric basses, ABS95 bass/guitar doubleneck and AMS90 Mandolin/Guitar doubleneck; Carvin pedal steels # 41B, 61B, 81B, 101B, and 1010B; Carvin steel guitars PRO-S8, PRO-D8, PRO-D6; plus a range of parts and accessories.

1971 Carvin AS-50B Acoustic-Electric Guitar

1971 Carvin SB40 Electric Bass

1971 Carvin APS95 doubleneck

As far as i can determine, Carvin used imported European bodies for their acoustic electric guitars (similar to what Ovation did at the time) and imported the necks as well.  I am honestly not sure if they made their own solid-bodies, but given that they were making amplifier cabinets, I can’t see any reason why they would not have.  When you look at these guitars, the overall vibe is not Fender or Gibson…  I feel like the closest comparison is the work of fellow Californian Paul Bigsby.

(image source)

BTW, if you have not read Andy Babiuk’s excellent book on Paul Bigsby, spend the $32 and check it out.  Far and away one of the best books ever written on the subject of a musical-instrument innovator.    NEways…back to Carvin…

1971 Carvin Super Amp

1971 Carvin L4000 amplifier head

The most interesting thing about the amplifiers is the construction method used.  Years after even tube-based electronics had begun using printed-circuit-boards, Carvin was using point-to-point wiring for their all-solid-state amps.   The amplifiers ranged in power from 80 watts into 4 ohms up to 160 watts into 4 ohms (2 ohm capable).

Guild CopyCat Tape Echo as offered in the 1971 Carvin Catalog

As Carvin still does today, the catalog also includes accessories made by other manufacturers, as well as part and encouragement to ‘build your own!’

Plenty more on offer within the catalog.  Download and see…

Tomorrow: 1973.

Altec Musical Sound Equipment circa 1973

Download the sixteen-page Altec Musical Sound Equipment catalog circa 1973:

DOWNLOAD: AltecMusical1973

Products covered, in text, specs, and lovely 70s gradient photography, include: Altec 417, 418, 421, and 425 series musical instrument speakers (drivers); Altec 626A, 654A, 655A, 650B, and 656A microphones; 1212A and 1214A ‘altec control consoles’ aka powered mixers; 1207C, 1211A, and 1217A column loudspeakers; 1202B, 1204B, 1208B, and 1218A ‘voice of the theatre’ speaker systems; 771B BiAmplifier and its associated 1209B, 1219A, and 1205B powered ‘voice of the theatre’ systems; 1215A an 1225A folded horn and multicell tweeter; 9477B power amplifier; 1220AC ‘audio control console’ aka 10×1 live sound mixer; plus the contemporary voice of the theatre individual components 811B and 511B horns, 807-8A and 808-8A drivers, N809-8A crossover, and 828B cabinet.  Plus a range of accessories.

This is not a full-range catalog; rather the focus is plainly on live-sound reinforcement for rock and pop bands.  There is an emphasis on volume, power, and road-worthiness in all of the product-prose.

Dig the excellent tequila-sunrise comin’ on behind the Altec Musical Instrument Speakers.  It was a popular, if pricey, move in the 70s to replace the factory-installed drivers in your Fender Amp with an Altec (or JBL) aftermarket speaker.  Many amplifier manufacturers of the era offered these as factory-installed options as well.  I have never liked the sound of of these speakers in a guitar amp.  It’s likely simply because I have a more roots-oriented guitar style, but i find that Altec and JBL speakers really rob a good tube amp of the responsiveness (touch-sensitivity) and proper harmonic-breakup that I depend on from the amp.  Maybe if you are into Jazz and/or Metal these would be a good choice.  Anyhow, I always replace them with regular Alnico or ceramic instrument speakers, which generally have a more limited frequency response.  Another downside of the JBL replacement speakers in particular is that they weigh a goddman ton, turining your Deluxe Reverb into something requiring casters.

Since this is essentially a live-sound catalog, the microphones on offer are limited to a range of 5 hand-held type units.  The top-of-the-line dynamic on offer is the 654A.  I bought pile of 4 of these on eBay a few years ago when I needed some mics for a series of rehearsals we were doing.  They were pretty cheap and I figured they would work pretty well.  I found them to be not especially durable, but decently so.  They have pretty good sound, but the feedback rejection is really really bad, even with properly-positioned monitor wedges; but perhaps their worst feature is that the shafts are so frikkin thin that you need to use those awful spring-loaded mic clips.  We still use these in the rehearsal studio when absolutely necessary, but I cannot recommend them.  Might sound cool on acoustic guitar for recording applications.

If you have been following this website for a while, you will know that I am totally obsessed with this style of product photography.  Bring that shit back I say!