Circa ’75

Download a twenty-three-page excerpt of the 1975 catalog from Music Emporium of Bethesda, Maryland (h.f. ‘ME’):

DOWNLOAD: Music_Emporium_1975_Catalog

Products covered, with vague text, no specs (or prices), and moody photography/impressionistic illustration, include: 1975 Martin D-18, D-28, D-35, etc; Gibson Les Paul bass, Triumph, Signature, ES-335TD-SV, ES-345TD, among others; Gibson J-200, Blue Ridge 12, and J-55; Dobro 60D, 33, 90, and 35 resonator guitars; Guild F-50, F-40, D-50, F-212XL, among others; Fender Telecaster, Telecaster Deluxe, Thinline, Precision, Jazz, and Telecaster Basses; the Bradley line of directly-imported MIJ ‘Lawsuit’ guitars, including the Doubleneck, FV-60, ES-775, TE350, JB60-W, ST50-N, LP65-N, and LP54; Amplifiers and PA from Acoustic, Ampeg, DB Sound (look similar to Heil, which is also represented), Gollehon PA from Grand Rapids, MI, including their 8218/M, 8218/A, MR-90 Horn, 8220/M and /A models; AKG, Shure, and Maruni Mics; ARP and Moog synthesizers; and a pile of guitar effects pedals that no one can afford anymore.

ME was the catalog division of the family-owned Veneman instrument retail-store business.  Veneman was purchased by Guitar Center in 2004.  Check out these sepia-tinted photos for a second.  Veneman could easily have opted to re-print the images that manufacturers supply through their distributors, but they really went the extra mile; the mood of these images, combined with the glaring lack of any sort of pricing or specifications, seems impossible today as a sales strategy for guitars: ME was selling you an attitude and a vibe first; the particular instruments were secondary.  Consider another interesting fact about the images in the catalog: apart from the High Priestess on the cover, there are no almost no photographic image of people in the catalog.   Instead we get some beautiful line-illustration work.  While this could have been a talent compensation/rights issue, I feel like it’s more of a deliberate move that allows the musician/customer to more easily insert themselves into these instrument-scenarios.  I mean, who wants to buy a Les Paul that you see slung around the neck of some bro in a (insert yr least favorite sartorial signifier) shirt?

 

A possible overall explanation?  It’s the Whole Earth Catalog Effect.  If yr not familiar with the Whole Earth Catalog (h.f. WEC), and you have any interest whatsoever in American culture of the 1970s, get a copy of an early edition and check it out.  It is one of the most seminal documents of the era, as well as being an early precursor of the peer-to-peer information exchange style that we now experience in the form of….yup…  the internet.  There were about a billion (or googleplex…) copies printed and you can find if for a few bucks at most community book sales or used book shops.  Anyhow,  WEC was such a powerful and ubiquitous presence among the more liberal and artistic elements of American Society in the 70s that we start to see its editorial and visual style reflected in actual catalogs of the era that were directed at a similar demographic.  For another example of this phenomenon, check this

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The only really interesting bit as far as the equipment offered is the BRADLEY line of guitars.  Bradley was apparently the house-brand of directly-imported Japanese-made guitars which ME exclusively sold.

These sure look like Ibanez to me.  Anyone own a 70’s Bradley?  Tell us your thoughts.  Read some discussion online here.

UPDATED: Schaller Guitar Amplifiers and Effects Units of the 1970s

Download the complete 1974 Schaller musical electronic catalog (with price-list) (in German):

DOWNLOAD:Schaller_1974catalog

Products covered, with text, specs, and photos, include: Schaller Piccolo amplifier; KV 10 amp; KV 25 amp; and KV 40 amp.  Schaller amp heads Solo, Selection G II, Selection B1, and GS100 PA head; Hallgerat reverb unit, Rotor-Sound leslie emulator, and Echo-Reverb-Machine 2000; Schaller What-Wha, Tonverzerrer, Fuzz-Sustainer, Tremolo Tr., and Treble-Bass-Boost.  Also featured: Schaller SG 50, SG 100, and SG 75 PA cabinets; SU 60, SU 120, SJ 40, SJ 150, and SB 100 musical instrument speakers; plus a range of parts and accessories (e.g.., lautsprechers).

I can vaguely remember the Schaller Tremolo Pedal as being a cult-ish item in the US; the other units here don’t ring a bell. Schaller is mostly known in the US as the manufacturer of high-quality tuning pegs for guitars, a role they have filled since the 1970s.  You can still to-this-day find many otherwise flawless vintage electric guitars with amateurishly-applied Schaller tuners.

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Update: a reader from the Netherlands sent in some pics of his recently-acquired  Schaller KV25; an earlier vintage with top-mounted controls.  Hope you fire it up and play some Shocking Blue riffs thru it Frans.

SAM_4117SAM_4118SAM_4119

…and here’s Frans entire Schaller collection:

Frans_VDB_Schallers

Mullard 520 Power Amplifier c.1956

Download a four-page article from “Radio & Television News” 4/1956 regarding the Mullard 520 power amp:

DOWNLOAD: Mullard_520_amp

American industrial titan RCA offered schematics for a variety of tube-audio equipment in the back pages of their many “receiving tube manuals.”  Mullard, a prominent British maker of vacuum tubes, similarly published a book entitled “Mullard Tube Circuits For Audio Amplifiers”  (h.f. “MTCAA”). The designs are quite different from RCA’s, as Mullard promoted different tubes:  EL34 rather than 6L6/5881; EL84 rather than 6V6; GZ34 rather than 5U4; and EF86 rather than 5879.   The MTCAA also offered extensive plans for the fashioning of the actual sheet metal cabinet and transformer-cover.  The four-page article I am offering here is quite different from the one in MTCAA, but either will get you on yr way to building this unit.

This design promises 35 watts from a pair of cathode-biased EL34s.  It does require an ultralinear (IE, with screen taps) output transformer with a 16ohm winding for the negative feedback loop (such as this EDCOR model), but other than that it’s all very basic parts.  Now if I could find some good cheap EF86s…  Anyone try the new $17 Electro-harmonix EF86?

BTW, The Mullard book is still readily available as a reprint; well worth the $17 cover price IMO.  There is a circuit for a 3-stage ‘mixing preamp’ featuring EF86 pentode inputs with a 12Ax7 on the back end, the second triode of the 12ax7 wired as low-impedance cathode follower…  pretty tempted to try that one…  anyhow, you can buy ‘MTCAA’ at Amazon Dot Com or at Antique Electronics.

Unusual Techniques In Sound Recording (1950)

Download a four-page article from ‘Radio Electronics’ magazine 5/1950 entitled “Unusual Techniques In Sound Recording” (Richard H. Dorf):

DOWNLOAD: Unusual_Techniques_Sound_Recording_Dorf_1950

The article is primarily concerned with studio-editing applications of the then-novel ‘magnetic tape recording’ technology, with some interesting bits regarding techniques for capturing greater dynamic range in disc-recording.  Article was researched at Reeves Sound Studios in NYC, a five-floor facility that seems to have been primarily a sound-for-picture studio but which hosted at least one commercially-released Coltrane session.  Reeves used Fairchild 30 ips tape machines which look very similar to the industry-standard Ampex 300s of the era.

1957: A Few Bits From The End Of The Mono Age

From some 1957 issues of “Radio and TV News,” an electronic-serviceman’s publication, comes this collection of American Hif-Fi home audio kit of the era.  Notice the fact that…  it’s all mono. Commercial recordings released on stereo magnetic tapes were available as early as 1954, but it was the release of the first -ever stereo LP record in November 1957 forever turned the tide towards two-channel ‘Stereo’ recordings as the norm for recorded musical performances/productions.

Heathkit!  I have one of these A7s and damn it is a good-sounding little amp.  Anyone have a spare they wanna sell me (for stereo…. naturally…)?

I tend to think of Newcomb as more of an industrial-sound/PA sound company, but it looks like they made some home units too.  I have one of those huge glass-covered KX25 PA heads as shown here; it’s always been a little flakey but I can’t bring myself to part with it cos it came from a Catholic church and the knobs are labeled “Pulpit,” “Choir,” and “Sacrament Table.”  Take that, Kick/Ld Vox/ Bckng Vox.

Dude went to prison in 1974 for lying about the value of a music-collection that he donated to a university.  Tried to get Mancini and Bernstein to back him up and they would not.  Life is long….

Electro-voice home hi-fi drivers c. 1957

Eico home hi-fi amps and pre-amps circa 1957.  Eico was essentially the ‘other’ Heath(kit).  Eicos could be purchased either wired or as kits.  Here’s a two-page article on their flagship HF60, a beautiful amp with EL34 output tubes and an ultralinear Acrosound output transformer.

Broadcast Microphones of the early 1920s

Download a four-page article from the Summer 1987 issue of “The Antique Radio Gazette” which details the development of early broadcast microphones as made by the Westinghouse corporation for use in their own radio broadcast studios.  The article is written by microphone collector/expert Bob Paquette.

DOWNLOAD: Paquette_Microphones_of_the_1920s

In this early post on PS dot com, we looked at the early double-button carbon mic, so popular as a prop in music videos and other fashion-representation.   As primeval as the double-button carbon mic is, it was of course the offspring of even older technology.   Dig into Paquette’s article and go even deeper into the well; we are looking backwards, running through time into the past,  taking retro to its logical conclusion…

Bob Paquette’s Microphone Museum

From the Summer 1981 issue of “The Antique Radio Gazette” (TARG):  an early shout-out to Robert Paquette, microphone collector extraordinaire.  Anyone who has spent/wasted much time searching the web for information about old audio equipment has come across Paquette’s website.   Good lord what a collection.  I’ve never visited the museum, but finding these pics in TARG has reminded me that I should probably order a copy of Paquette’s book.

Follow down this page for the rest of the circa ’81 photos of Paquette’s collection from TARG.

 

UDPATED (4): Presto Recording Corp: Pioneers of ‘Instant’ Analog Disc Recording

Download the fifty-page 1940 PRESTO RECORDING CORP catalog:

DOWNLOAD (part 1): Presto_1940_Cat_1

DOWNLOAD (part 2):Presto_1940_cat_2

Products covered, with text, some specs, and photos, include: Presto Model A, Model B, Model F recording installations; Presto Model C, Model Y, and Model K portable recorders; Presto type 8-A, 8-B, 28-A, 6-D, 6-E, 6-F, 26-B, 75-A, 75-B, 75-C, 9-A, and 9-B  recording turntables; Type 62-A transcription turntable; Automatic Equalizer 160; blower system 400; 150 and 151 pickups; Microphone Mixer type 130-A, B, C; Preamplifier type 40-A and 40-B; Presto radio tuner 50-A and 50-B; Recording Amplifiers  85-A, B, 85-E, 87-A and 87-B; plus a range of parts and accessories including Green Seal discs, Orange Seal discs, and Blue Label discs.

Above, the Presto Model A, their top-of-the-line system circa 1940.

Presto Recording Corp was a pioneer of coated-disc ‘Instantaneous Recording.’  From 1933 through the end of WWII, Presto was the US leader in providing high-quality recording equipment to broadcasters, schools, studios, and government.  There is a detailed history of the Presto Corp provided at this website, so no need to re-tread those waters.  Basically, what Presto offered was a way to make good-sounding LP and 78 recordings that could be played back instantly on any home turntable.  Unlike earlier commercial recording technologies, there was no intermediate submaster required.  Presto was able to do this by having designed an aluminum (later, glass) disc that was coated with a special cellulose-based compound (featuring 51 ingredients!).

At right, the Presto 200-A Electronics package.  This was a complete system of microphone preamps, cutting amps, patchbay, and AM radio tuner that was designed to accompany the Model-A pictured above.  Presto’s ‘instant-disc’ technology was basically rendered obsolete by the development of magnetic tape recorders in the late 1940s, most notably, AMPEX (and to lesser degree, Magnecord).   The specs for the better Presto systems weren’t awful: 50-8000hz frequency range, 50db signal-to-noise ratio; but this paled in comparison to the German Magnetophon technology that AMPEX built on, with a high-frequency response to 15,000hz.

On a more basic user-level: you could always record-over a piece of magnetic tape; but cutting into a lacquer-coated disc (at $16/unit in today’s money) was a commitment.

Presto Model C, their top-end portable system of 1940 ($20,000 in 2011 dollars; 138 lbs)

Looking through this catalog, the most fascinating aspect is the large range of mechanical devices and accessories recommended to insure the fidelity of the audio.  Nowadays almost all audio control happens electronically; once the room is treated and the microphone carefully placed, our work as recording engineers leaves the realm of physical manipulation and enters a world of electronic control.  In the era of analog disc recording, though, a careful recording engineer needed blowers…

…to efficiently remove the bits of cellulose material that the cutting needle carved out the the recording blanks;

viscous-oil-filled dampers to regulate vertical movement of the cutting head (a mechanical audio compressor, I would imagine);

…an optical microscope to examine the grooves that you just cut for quality-control purposes…

fresh sharp needles to do the actual cutting work…and, if you wanted the ultimate in convenience, an ‘automatic equalizer’ to automatically boost the treble frequencies as the cutting head moved closer to the center of the disc (since discs spin at a constant rate, as the needle gets closer to the center of the disc, the actual linear speed of the needle relative to the surface medium gets slower, and as we know well in all types of analog recording, slower equals less high-end).

Above, the Presto 40-A microphone pre-amplifier, the one piece of equipment in this lengthy catalog that could still be of potential use to modern recordists.  It uses two 1221 tubes to deliver 55dbs of gain (from what I can gather, 1221s are interchangeable with 6C6, the 6C6 being the predecessor to the 6J7, likely making these 40As likely very similar to RCA BA1/2/11 series mic preamps).  If anyone has the schematic to the Presto 40 mic preamp, please send it to us…  coincidentally I built a preamp with 6C6s a few years ago (based on a schematic from an ancient UTC catalog) and I liked the results.

UDPATE:

Thank-you to reader EL for sending us the schem to the Presto 40-A.  Here ’tis as a download: PRESTO Type 40-A preamp schematic

…And here as well:

This must be a slightly later version of the 40-A, as the 2nd tube is a 6SJ7, which is a variant of the 6J7 that has the input grid connection in the base rather than on the top.  Other things to note: the input transformer spec’d is an ‘LS-10,’ which I can only assume means the UTC LS-10…  circuit-wise, we have the first 6J7 connected in pentode, coupled by a .1uf cap to the 2nd 6SJ7 stage, this time wired in Triode in order to more easily drive the output transformer.  A ’50M’ resistor (or as we know them, 50K ohms) provides negative feedback from stage 2 to stage one.  Thinking that this circuit could be nice as the back end to a 3-stage pre, maybe with a something low-gain like a 76 or 6J5 on the front end with a volume pot following.

UPDATE (2)

EL also provided some images of his particular 40A units… check ’em out…

Pretty amazing that these things made it all the way to Australia way back when… my lord can you imagine how much these things must have cost in their day?

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Update Sept 2013:

E.L. directed us to this eBay auction; a Presto 40a in nice condition (Nashville, TN) sold for $510.  Here are some images:

Presto_case

Presto_circuit Presto_inside2 Presto_Interior1 Presto_label Presto_output_trans************

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Anyone out there using any Presto equipment in their work?  Drop a line and tell us about it….

 UPDATE: a friend has alerted us to The 78 project, a series of new recordings of notable musicians made using just a Shure 51 mic and a Presto disc recorder.  They sound great, and in the videos you can hear both the modern production-sound of the session via the camera audio-track and the actual 78 playback.  Very interesting contrast…