SUNN amplifiers c. 1970

Download the ten-panel SUNN amplifiers 1970 catalog:

DOWNLOAD: Sunn_Amps_1970_Catalog

Models covered, with specs and photos, include: SUNN Dymos, Solarus, Sonaro, Sentura 1, Sonic 1-40, Sceptre, Sorado, Sentura II, Solos, 200s, 1000s, 1200s, and 2000s instrument amps; plus Sunn Concert Sound System and Coliseum Sound System.

I’ve been using a SUNN Sonaro as our ‘house’ studio bass amp for several years.  E actually found this for me, deadstock, on eBay about 10 years ago.  Since then I have re-tubed and recapped it entirely, and it is really a fantastic amplifier.  Very simple, but always sounds great.  The ‘hi boost’ and ‘low boost’ switches enable one to get some very modern sounds out of this ancient tube head; much more versatile than, say, a Bassman.  The cabinet is not so great.  insufficient low end for many songs.

Growing up we also had one of these ‘Concert’ PA heads.  We used it briefly in our teen-age garage band.  For some reason, it regularly shocked the lead singer. Even if he was not touching anything else.  It basically kept him in a constant state of terror.  sorry J.  It was all we could afford at the time.  The CONCERT is a solid-state amp and it is not recommended.

SUNN amps have an interesting story.  From Wikipedia (abridged by

“In early 1963, The Kingsmen, a band based in the U.S. state of Oregon, became known for the song “Louie, Louie“. After their hit single, The Kingsmen soon embarked on a fifty-state national tour. Because the band was used to playing small hops and school dances, many of the members found themselves ill-equipped with the amplifiers that they were currently using. Bassist Norm Sundholm discovered that his bass amp was not nearly powerful enough to play larger concert halls. Sundholm enlisted the help of his brother Conrad to help solve his problem. By 1964, the Sundholm brothers had designed a high powered concert bass amplifier. … Thus, the Sunn Musical Equipment Company was founded.”

What Wiki does not tell you is that Conrad’s ‘solution’ was basically to add a pre-amp stage to a Dynaco Mark 3 home hi-fi amp and stick it in a big speaker cabinet.   This basic design would provide the essential platform for all the classic SUNN amp heads.  The crucial point of all of this is that all the classic SUNNs (including the humble Sonaro) use the very powerful 6550 output tubes coupled to an ultra linear output transformer.  To my knowledge, no other major instrument amp manufacturer was using ultralinear transformers in 1970.  Not even the Ampeg SVTs of the era use ultralinear operation.   This fact gives SUNN amps a real advantage in accurate low-end (bass) sound reproduction.

I’ve also owned a Sunn SCEPTRE, and other than the crappy-sounding sold-state reverb circuit, it was pretty great as well.  It is still easy to get a great deal (around $400) for many of these classic SUNN heads, and I highly recommend them, especially since you can now easily get the proper high-voltage filter caps that these amps need.   This makes it very very easy to re-cap the amps for proper operation.




To download the original schematic for the SUNN 1200S, click here: 1200s_schem

Tannoy Wildcat Live-Sound Speaker Line c.1984

Download the four-page 1984/5 Tannoy Wildcat Live-Sound Speaker Catalog:

DOWNLOAD: TannoyWildcats1984Catalog

Models covered, with detailed specs and photos, include: Tannoy Lynx, Puma, Jaguar, Panther, Leopard, and Cougar units.

As i mentioned in a previous post, the word ‘Tannoy’ is used as generic-descriptor for ‘PA speaker’ in the UK.  This would presume that Tannoy speakers were, at some point many years ago, widely used in the UK for public-address applications.  Nowadays Tannoy speakers are generally only sold and used for high-end home use and recording/mixing/production suites.  I’ve never encountered any of the ‘wildcat’ line.  Anyone?

From this very helpful website:

“In 1984 the Research and Development team at Tannoy wanted to prove that the Dual was an excellent solution to very high quality live music performance venues. Clearly, with the sizes of magnet and levels of efficiency available it could not compete with the outdoor rock concert systems from Altec, Meyer and JBL but there was a niche in the cabaret and small club market where the sound quality needed to be considerably higher than that to which people were accustomed. Specially adapted Duals were designed that had more power handling and greater sensitivity than had ever been produced before by Tannoy. These were fitted to a range of very robustly made cabinets with reinforced handles and corners suitable for mobile cabaret or fixed contractor installation work. The line was christened the ‘Wildcats’ and was the start of a very successful venture into high quality voice and music provision for sophisticated venues such as clubs, theatres and churches.”

Johnson Sound Systems of Manitoba circa 1951

Download the abridged (10pp from 20pp) JOHNSON SOUND SYSTEMS circa 1951 catalog:

DOWNLOAD: JohnsonSoundSystems_catalog

Alright here’s a real obscurity for you.  JOHNSON was a brand/dealer of ‘musical merchandise’ in Brandon, Manitoba Canada in the 1940s/50s.  I’ve scanned the 10 pages from their circa 1951 catalog (the date is a guess based on the particular microphone models available in the catalog).  I’ve omitted the pages featuring luthiery parts, electric razors (!), etc.  Amplifier models featured include:  The Johnson Vibrante, Maestro, Johnson Junior guitar amps; and the Johnson M1, M2, M3, and J1 PA heads; plus Hofner classical and archtop guitars, mics from a few makers, Celestion Rola G-12, P-44, Z10Z0 speakers, plus pickups, etc.

For a few words about JOHNSON and its founder Albert Johnson, plus photos of many later models of Johnson amps, visit this site.  The most interesting fact: these amps were not re-branded pieces from another manufacturer; they were in fact unique designs built on the familiar+dear Hammond chassis.

BOSS guitar effects and associated audio products 1984

Download the entire twenty-four-page 1984 BOSS full-line catalog (7.3 MB file).

DOWNLOAD: Boss_Full_product_Line_1984

Products covered, with full specs and photos, include: Boss DD-2 digital delay, HM-2 heavy metal, CE-3 and CE-2 chorus, BF-2 flanger, CS-2 Compression Sustainer, DM-2 (analog) delay, OC-2 Octaver, VB-2 Vibrato, TW-1 touch wah, GE-10 equalizer, plus many more pedals; HC-2 handclapper and PC-2 Percussion synth; DE-200, DM-300, DM-100, RX-100 tabletop delay/reverbs; SCC-700 effects controller; BX-600, BX-400, KM-60 mixers; plus many more odd items.

Volumes can be said about the BOSS brand of audio products.  BOSS was created in 1976 as a guitarist-oriented division of the ROLAND corporation of Japan.  They arrived at their classic form-factor of a small cast-metal pedal with large foot-switch and safely recessed knobs in 1977.  Since then, these devices have become as ubiquitous as the electric-guitar itself.

Audacious, perhaps, but probably accurate.  When a young kid gets the guitar and amp he has been wanting, the next thing he wants is a ‘pedal.’  And more likely than not, that pedal will be a BOSS pedal.  To a novice guitar-player, these effect units literally open up a world of possibilities, offering the potential to free the instrument entirely from the acoustic sound that the vibrating strings create and into a world of engineered audio.

When I was a kid learning to play guitar, the BOSS digital delay pedal (ie ‘Echo pedal’) was our holy grail of pedal effects.  These things were so expensive that almost no one could afford one.  They cost as much or more than your amplifier.  On the other hand, we had no interest in the DM-2 ‘Delay’ (read: Analog Delay) pedal, which has more limited echo time and ‘impefect’ ‘analog processing’ which causes noticeable high-frequency loss on the echo repeats.

Ironic now that the DD-2 digital delay pedal is nearly worthless, while the DM-2 and DM-3 analog delay pedals of the same era trade for upwards of $400.  I have been using a DM-2 in my live-performance guitar setup for several years and it is a truly great device.

I used one of these percussion-synths for a long time too.  These are very cool if you can find one cheap.

I can’t imagine that this mixer sounds very good but shit it is funky.   A cosmetic holdover from the 1970s BOSS line.

Have you seen ‘THE BOSS BOOK” (no author attributed) from Hal Leonard Publishers?

I encountered this 122-page volume at the bookshop one afternoon and I have to say: it is one of the best books in the (albeit limited) genre of ‘musical-instrument-writing’ that I have come across.  Extremely dense, rigorous, and well-illustrated.  If you have ever used guitar-effect pedals in your work, I highly suggest that you pick it up. “TBB” traces the development of each of the effect devices from their inception through discontinuation.  This history is in many ways the history of the evolution of the electric guitar and audio processing in the 1980s.  A lot to think about.

Gretsch Guitars 1978 Full-Line Catalog

Download the entire eight-page 1978 Gretsch Electric Guitars Catalog:

DOWNLOAD: GretschElectricGuitars1978Catalog

Models covered, in text and photo: include: Gretsch #7595, 7594, and 7593 White Falcon; #7680 and 7685 Super Axe and Atkins Axe; the usual #7690 super Chet, 7670 Country Gentleman, 7660 Nashville, and 7655 Tennessean; The Gretsch Committee #7628 and 7629 bass; Roc Jet #7611; Country Roc #7620; TK 300 #7625 and Bass #7627; Broadkaster #7609; and Country Club #7576.

The late 70’s were hardly the most lauded period in Gretsch history; were it not for the lingering (after-after-after) effects of ‘Beatlemania’ I doubt they would have even lasted this long.  Interesting to see that they have kept most of the circa 1964 classics intact; but more interesting is the scattered approaches to innovation that they assumed with their newer models, like the Alembic-influenced Committee models seen above.  BTW; an etymological question: when did the phrase ‘designed by committee’ become synonymous with ‘bad design’ rather than ‘this is a positive feature’?

Not really sure where they were going with the TK300 line…  Punk/new wave maybe? Odd-shape-for-the-sake-of-odd-shape?  Then figure in the oft-noted ‘Super Axe’ with its built-in phaser and compressor, already several years into production (feel like they beat Gibson to the party here…  feel like the RD artists came later…).

Did anyone really think that phase-shift was such a fantastic effect that you would want it around for ever and ever and ever in your guitar?  As much as I dislike 80’s guitar design, at least people had the good sense not to market high-end guitars in the 80’s with built in chorus and flange effects (prove me wrong here people…).


It is 1955.  WWII-era German military-communications equipment has been successfully deconstructed, economized, and introduced to the American public as the Tape Recorder (via Bing Crosby, incredibly).  Economies of scale allow these devices to be sold in vast number at widely accessible cost.  For the average person, this is a significant new technology.  And with new technology comes questions.   How do I make this new stuff work?  What can you do with this new stuff?  Enter the handy Tape-Recording Guide Book, a once-genre unto itself.

8mm film cameras had been widely available and fairly inexpensive for a few years already; as had bulky, low-fidelity wire-recorders and disc (shellac record) recorders.  The tape recorder offered a few new advantages, though. Small size and relative ease-of-use; decent fidelity (sound quality); the ability to edit and to re-use bits of tape; and long recording-time at low cost.  It was now possible to ‘capture the moment,’ to ‘capture everyday life,’ in a way never before possible.

This deluge of information was not limited to the book-format; indeed, there were in fact regular periodicals solely devoted to the support of this new technology.

So much to learn.  What we take as basic-assumptions regarding the operation of audio-equipment all had to be explained to us at some point.  We now learn basic concepts such as ‘what to do with a microphone’ in a very informal, natural manner; early on, though, this was information best communicated /By Experts/ to /The Public/.

Beyond technical details like and ‘where to stick the mic’ and ‘editing the tape,’  there was also instruction regarding what kinds of sonic-event to capture.  In these books, experts tell us not only ‘How-To-Use,’ but ‘When/Why-To-Use.’  In the image below, a tape-stock manufacturer of the era (Sarkes Tarzian, INC) delineates several fields of tape-recorder application that you may/may not have been aware of.

It is this last suggestion of ‘inviting tape to the party’ that I find most disturbing.  Surprisingly, this ‘party-recording’ application gets a great deal of attention in most of the books scanned above. Please keep in mind that it is TAPE STOCK COMPANY that is suggesting that you ‘invite tape to your party.’  What possible benefit could it serve a TAPE STOCK COMPANY that you roll through seven $3.99 reels of tape in one evening?  What possible benefit could it serve a TAPE STOCK COMPANY to reinforce this concept in the culture?

Oh really, you shouldn’t have.  No, seriously.  You shouldn’t have.   Notice the strained look on her face.  Is this due to the massive weight of a vacuum-tube powered reel-to-reel recorder, which she struggles to carry while wearing party-heels, or due to the fact that her husband has once again made them the pariahs of the scene by bringing along the dreaded time-binder, the magnetic-mind that forgets nothing, the One Who Recalls Things Best Forgotten, the tape-recorder.

The mirror is fairly ancient technology.  In fact, all it takes is for a baby to see her face in a reflective surface and there is some knowledge of the Appearance Of The Self.   On the other hand, the sound-mirror (aka Tape Recorder) is a much newer concept.  For every person who dislikes seeing photos of themselves, I can bring you 100 people who don’t like hearing the sound of their own voice recorded.

We are inundated with recording technologies today.  Almost every cell phone has a video/audio recorder with performance that rivals the 8mm film cam/tape recorder technology that consumers first had access to in the 1950s.  But before you capture the moment, perhaps it is best to ask yourself:  why am I doing this?  What benefit does it serve?

In the film LOST HIGHWAY, Bill Pullman’s character makes a remark that has always stuck with me.  The remark can be heard in the trailer (see below), but here it is in text as well:

Ed: Do you own a video camera?
Renee Madison: No. Fred hates them.
Fred Madison: I like to remember things my own way.
Ed: What do you mean by that?
Fred Madison: How I remembered them. Not necessarily the way they happened.

Why do we remember?

What does the process of remembering do to our past experiences?  How does it shape our future actions?

What is lost by subjugating memory to recording?

What kind of world are we building (via unheralded levels of self imposed ((Facebook)) and Government-Imposed ((Terrorists-already-having-won)) surveillance)?

Shure Microphones Complete Line Catalog Circa 1954

Download the entire twelve-page SHURE c. 1954 catalog:

DOWNLOAD: Shure_Microphones_1954_Catalog

Models covered include: Shure 333, 525, 300, 330, 55s, 556s, 51, 535, 530, 315; 430 Commando, 215, 715; A86A impedance-matching transformer; Slim-X, Monoplex, and Stratoliner; Green Bullet, Hercules, and Ranger; plus a wide range of tape heads and phono cartridges.

The Shure 55s and 556s (see images at left) are undeniably the most iconic of all microphones.   Examples:  when Elvis Presley got his postage stamp, he was pictured with a 55When Eva Peron declared ‘don’t cry for me, Argentina,’ the Shure was there. (AFAIK).

For the curious: There are actually 4 different models of Shure Mic that get lumped into the ‘Elvis Mic’ designation.  The 55s and and 556s seen on the left are the ‘small’ versions of the earlier 55 and 556.  The ‘S’ means small.

As far as the difference between the 55(s) and the 556(s): the 55 is the ‘PA’ live-sound reinforcement version, and the 556 is the pro ‘broadcast’ version with improved frequency response and a built-in rubber isolation mount (hence the larger base), and presumably a better transformer.




Besides these iconic 55-series mics, Shure made a great number of other models in the 50’s.  The Model 51 seen above was one-step below the 55.  These sound pretty cool.  A few years ago I chanced upon a pair of 51s, still in sealed cartons.  One worked, the other did now.  One thing to remember with these early low-Z mics: they do not use XLR connectors.  The use an earlier amphenol (i think..) screw-on connector.  Easy enough to find, but keep it in mind if you plan on buying one, as you will likely want to replace the factory cable.

Shure also made 2 lines of ribbon mics into the early 1980s (they have only recently gotten back into this type of product).  The 300 and 315 are the bi-directional figure-8 models (again, ‘broadcast’ and ‘PA’ models, respectively), and the 333/330 are cardioid ribbons.  I have a mint-condition 300 which I had re-ribboned by ENAK repair.  It sounds good but… the transformer seems to not be magnetically shielded, making it very sensitive to physical orientation.  Combine this unfortunate feature with a very low output level and you get a mic that is frankly not very useful.    Beware…

I also found pair of factory-sealed (hermetically-sealed foil-lined bags, actually) of military-surplus Shure 535s not long ago.  The 535 has a limited frequency response, but it sounds pretty cool.  These actually get used in the studio.  A 535 was included in my ‘Forgotten Mic Shootout’ earlier this year, so follow the link to hear it if you are curious.  I am honestly not sure why omnidirectional dynamics are no longer used much (Shure does still make a few models, btw), but they are useful for some recording tasks.

Pilot Radio Corp Hi-Fi Line Circa 1962

Download the entire twenty-page 1962 PILOT hi-fi catalog:

DOWNLOAD: Pilot_HiFi_Line_1962_Catalog

Models covered include: Pilot 610, 602MA, 602SA, 654MA, and 746 receivers; Pilot Mark III, 280B, 285, and 780 FM tuners; Pilot 230, 240, 246, and 248B stereo integrated amplifiers; Pilot 200, 120, and 100 FM Stereo Multiplexers; Pilot-Garrard RC-3, RC-5, and RC-4 turntables; and Pilot PSV-2, PSV-3A, and PSV-4 speaker systems.

When you think of //Long Island City/Audio History//, what comes to mind, if anything?  Likely Fairchild and Marantz.   Pilot made neither pro-audio nor true high-end hi-fi, but as the graphic above reveals, they had quite a deep and storied history.   I have only one PILOT piece in my audio-pile (never say c%!!&ction) – an early stereo extension speaker – but I would bet that some of these pieces are pretty decent.

Broadcast Compressors etc. Circa 1974

From Collins Radio 1974 catalog #74: A round-up of broadcast compressors from Collins and CBS.  Models covered: Collins 26U-3 limiter, 26J-3 compression amplifier, CBS 4100, 4450A. and 4110, 4000A limiters; CBS 4500 dynamic presence equalizer; and CBS 710 ‘automatic loudness controller,’ which I imagine is some sort of LFKS-type limiter?

Also – a bonus – from the same era –  second-hand limiter/pre-amp price list from the same era.  RCA BA2Cs for $20?  Yes I will take 30 please.  How about a General Electric BA-5 for $75?

Big scans so… follow the link for the info…

Continue reading Broadcast Compressors etc. Circa 1974