Spring 2012

Bad Vibes is one of my favorite places to find out about new music, posting significant new tracks as well as exclusive interviews with recording artists.   The guys who run it also have really good taste in movies so if yr nextflix cue is running low, stop by there for some inspiration.  When I learned that they were interested in hosting a Preservation Sounds mixtape I was super-excited to get involved.  The concept here is similar to the previous dozen mixtapes I’ve done: everything is pulled directly from vinyl LPs I have dug up at the flea markets and estate sales of Western CT in the past 4 months; digitized in crystal clarity (+ plenty of old dust) via my trusty Benz cartridge and Apogee convertors.   The big difference tho: since this mixtape is ivegotbadvibes #0026, it is available for quick download at the Bad Vibes site: and: it’s been cut together into one seamless springtime jam.  Visit Bad Vibes to download the mixtape.

Follow the link below for detailed track notes and more of the best album art of all time…

READ ON::: Continue reading Spring 2012

Pultec 1977 Full-Line Catalog

Download the complete twelve-page 1977 Pultec outboard audio equipment catalog:

DOWNLOAD: Pultec-1977_catalog

Units covered, with text, specs, and photos, include: Pultec EQH-2, EQP-1A3, and MEQ-5 equalizers; Pultec HLF-3c and HLF-26 filters; Pultec SP3 and MH4 mixers.

Until I saw this catalog I had not realized that the original Pultec production run had extended into 1977.  These are the solid-state Pultecs, not the more coveted vacuum tube units that trade in the $5000 range, but AFAIK the actual equalization stages are the same as in the earlier tube units.  I have never scratch-built a Pultec clone, largely because the idea of hand-building the multi-tapped inductors always seemed a little daunting to me.   I recently found myself in possession of a large batch of various MiniDuctors, though, and I am wondering if these can be put service in a Pultec-type circuit.  The mH values are very close to those in the putlec schematics, but I cannot find any reference online to anyone building a Pultec using MiniDuctors rather than a large coil-wound inductor.  Anyone have any idea about this?

 

 

Tape!

I have an upcoming session with an artist who wants to keep the album all live, very raw.  I am expecting it will be a fun session.  The material has a classic RnB/blues vibe, so I am considering running some live mixes to GCR‘s circa 1950 Magnecord PT6 along with the Pro Tools multitrack.  But which brand of ancient 1/4″ tape to use?  Perhaps these circa 1952 audiotape ads will help decide the issue…

Scott Laboratory Tube Amplifiers of the early 1960s

Flipping through some circa 1960AES journals I came across this pair: The Scott 140B preamplifier and 250B fifty-watt power amp.  The 140B pre claims a response of 1hz to 3.5Mhz.  This is absurdly good performance for a vacuum tube amplifier.  I am guessing that this is a transformerless piece.  Anyone have any experience with this unit?  A schematic?  Drop us a line.  The 50-watt power amp likely does use an output transformer; it claims a response of 5hz to 60K hz, which is outstanding as well.  Let us know if you’re using these in the studio..

Visual Culture

Feeling a bit of an 80s thing right now.  Jesus Christ you baby boomers.  You grew up in the 1950s, all industry and productivity and abundance (and unchecked racism, sexism,  and cold war terror), and THEN you got the 1960s, unheralded change, motion, sexual freedom, drugs, Godard, Psych, Soul, and space travel (and the draft).  When the 50s repeated themselves in the 80s, things seemed fairly optimistic.  And then we got the 90s.  Now as much as I love Pavement and email…

So if the 1990s (and pretty much everything that has followed) was a bit of a letdown, fukk it, we’ll always have the 80s.  Here’s some visual-story telling as it relates to certain Audio narratives/myths in the 1980s.  Feel free to discuss.

My girl is cool. She digs the old records.

A mere 10 years after Bridgeport-based Columbia Records introduced the LP record, we see evidence that record collecting was already a well-entrenched hobby/sport/folly.  At left is the cover of “Record Research” Vol . 2, No, 6, Issue 18, dated July 1958.  Of course, those folks (and maybe some of you are still kickin…) were more probably more interested in collecting 78s and Wax Cylinders such as our comely friend above is holding.  Stay tuned for an upcoming piece on Columbia’s history in Bridgeport… and for now, check out these bits of Columbia-collecting circa 1958.

 

 

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?

Misc Electric Guitar bits c. 1966

Above: Tony Mottola with a Gibson ES -355 in 1966.

Misc Fender guitars circa 1966: a Coronado 2, an acoustic (perhaps a Villager?), a Jaguar, and the humble Musicmaster.

Above: the very rare Gretsch Fury Amp circa 1966.  This is actually a fairly unique amplifier.  There is one on eBay right now that’s about to sell and it has two output transformers: whether this is a 2-way system or perhaps an dry/effects split operation or panning tremolo I cannot tellCan anyone provide a schematic for this unit?  It does not seem to be currently available on the ‘net.

Above: The Harmony Silhouette guitar circa 1966.  I passed on an unplayed, flawless example of this thing for $175 last year and wow do i regret it.  While not a great instrument in most senses, in the right hands these Harmonys have a zing-y percussive tone that cannot be imitated.  The instrument’s personality comes across even in the iphone-audience-recording that’s i’ve inserted below.  Great Lennon-meets-Hendrix playing here.  Also btw check out how Annie Clark (or her FOH guy,,,) flips on the vox ADT effect for the choruses.  Great performance all around.

East Bridgeport, CT

Above: the view along Crescent ave from the intersection of Crescent and Bunnell, where a later Scully Recording Instruments Corp. plant once stood.

Last weekend I stopped by 305 Knowlton, a gallery/artist-studio-building nearby my studio Gold Coast Recorders; there was a flea-market/craft-fair event happening at 305.  My friend J and  I bought some records from MT (who is in all likelihood the first person I ever bought a used record from, some twenty-plus years ago…): I picked up Obscured By Clouds, Booker T and The MG’s ‘Uptight’ soundtrack, and a Ma Rainey Comp.  I asked J if he wanted to take a ride to see some local history, and within a minute we pulled up next to this impressive but nondescript building.  “What’s this?” asked J.  My response: ‘those old records in your lap – they were most likely created using machines designed and built in this very building.’

This is the Walter Street address once occupied by the Scully Recording Instruments Corporation (h.f. SRIC).  As far as I can tell, SRIC dominated the US vinyl lathe market for most of the 20th century.  Not much has been documented about the history of this important company, but we can conjecture a few reasons why they may have sprouted in this unlikely spot.  East Bridgeport was developed and built by PT Barnum (yup, the Circus-impresario) largely to support the mid-19th century sewing machine industry, especially the works of Elias Howe.  Howe’s tale is a long and complex one, but his company was responsible for drawing a huge number of skilled mechanical craftsmen (or Mechanics, as they were then known) to East Bridgeport in the mid 19th century.  This in turn led to the reputation of Bridgeport as one of the machine-making capitals of the world.

Above, another view of the former SRIC address on Walter street.  At some point in the 1960s, the SRIC moved a few blocks away to the intersection of Crescent and Bunnell.

The parking-lot shown above is situated at 480 Bunnell, which is indicated as the late-60’s address of the SRIC.   I’ve had various audio-related enterprises based in East Bridgeport for seven years now; in addition to GCR, my modest audio-electronics shop is located just a few minutes from Bunnell street on Connecticut ave; my old recording studio was also once based in that space.  I don’t know why it never occurred to me until now to investigate the previous neighborhood connections.  Bridgeport has several other notable audio-historical connections which I will be documenting soon, starting with Columbia Records.  Stay tuned…

Gibson Electric Guitars and Amplifiers 1956

Download the twenty-page 1956 Gibson Electric Guitars and Amplifiers Catalog:

DOWNLOAD: Gibson_Elec_1956_cat

Products covered, with text, specs, and photos, include: Gibson Super 400 CESN, L-5 CESN, ES-5 Switchmaster, Byrdland, ES-175, ES-175 DN, ES-350T, ES-125, ES-295, and ES-240 hollow-body electric guitars, Gibson GA-90, GA-77, GA-55 V, GA-70, GA-40 ‘Les Paul,’ GA-30, GA-20, GA-6, GA-9, and Gibsonette amplifiers; Gibson Les Paul Custom, Les Paul, Les Paul special, Les Paul Junior, and ES-225 electric guitars; Gibson J-160 E acoustic/electric, EM-150 electric mandolin, Gibson Electric Bass;  Ultratone, Century, BR-6, Console Grande, Consolette, Electraharp, and Multiharp steel guitars, plus more.

The 1956 GA-90 ‘High-Fidelity Amplifier,’ with six 8″ speakers and promised 20-20K hz frequency response (really?).

This very rare catalog is something special for fans of the electric guitar.  We see a number of trends developing – the solidbody electric guitar, ‘true vibrato’ circuits in amplifiers, high-wattage amps…  and a few notably absent: humbucking pickups and amplifier reverb.  These were right around the bend though…  Download and enjoy.

Original catalog image of the 1956 Gibson Les Paul Custom

Gibson’s 1956 ES-225T, the first of their many semi-hollow body guitars, the most iconic of which is the ES-335.   I borrowed a friend’s ES-225T for a few weeks in high school and I still have very fond memories of it… great guitars, very expensive today.

The 1956 Gibson 350T.  A slightly less-fancy Byrdland, also with a medium-scale neck.

The 1956 Gibson ES-140, their short-scale offering of the era.  An artist whom I regularly work with at Gold Coast Recorders often brings one of these to sessions, and it is a seriously fun sitting-on-the-couch guitar with a seriously noisy single-coil pickup.

The 1956 Gibson GA-6, one of their most classic amps.  Very similar to a Tweed Fender Deluxe.  Fantastic amplifier.

The 1956 Gibson Les Paul.  We have a clone of one of these (based on a 1972 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe) at Gold Coast Recorders and it sounds great.  1956 was an important year in the development of the Les Paul as it marked the appearance of the tune-a-matic bridge: it was now possible to intonate your guitar quickly and accurately, AND also customize the string feel and sustain characteristic by setting the stud to get the break angle that you want. 

information and ideas about audio history