Today: some excerpts from a piece by C.W. Vadersen as published in the AES journal. It’s a good thing to remember that early audio technology developed not out of the entertainment industry but from the communications industry: primarily, the telegraph. As important to us as music and art maybe, the need to communicate is primary (or at least secondary only to the 4 F’s: Feed, Fight, Flight, Sex).
Capitol Records, like most big record companies of the fifties and sixties, had their own state-of-the-art recording studios: and on both coasts, no less. I am currently in the process of building a bespoke audio piece for a busy New York studio at the moment. My client is fairly unique (these days) in that they are a very well-equipped, full-scale label studio – a recording studio owned and operated by a record label and used by many of the label’s artists to record and mix their albums. This concept makes sense to me, as I worked for a decade for Sony Music in New York and spent at least half of that time at their enormous studio complex on West 54th street. The label-studio is becoming a thing of the past, but so is the traditional record-label business model. It will be interesting to see what ‘record companies’ evolve into in the next few decades, and whether or not the ‘means of production’ become more or less a part of this new business model.
Wow what a titan Bill Putnam was. Not only did the man create some of the greatest audio equipment ever made, equipment that is still coveted and used on major records some 50 years after it was introduced, he also designed and built (and worked in) some of the greatest recording studios ever made (the later of which were bankrolled by Frank Sinatra, among others). It’s almost impossible to think of a similar comparison today… it would be like if the same dude who coded the best plug-ins that you use every day also engineered the hit records that you hear on the radio and also owned the world’s top recording studio, which he designed himself, and which Thom Yorke paid for… anyway… amazing. Here’s the room he built in Hollywood in the late 1950s. Much more information is available all over the ‘net… you can start here…
Moving from wide to close-up in these pics above: the studios, the control room, the console, and the console preamps, all designed by Putnam. Okay so yr gonna move to a new town and build a new studio… might as well design all new recording equipment while you are at it. Putnam’s approach has inspired me deeply (on a much smaller scale…) with Gold Coast Recorders and the custom equipment that I’ve developed around my work in that room. Here’s to hoping we have (even a fraction of) his success…
P.S.: David Kulka of Studio Electronics has made twenty issues of the URC company newsletter available for free download on his website. The newsletters span the years 1964-1970 and they are an invaluable resource for anyone interested in ye olde recording studio lore…
Pultec equalizers have enjoyed fifty-plus years of popularity among recording professionals. Much like the first several compressors released by Universal Audio/UREI, they have never really gone out of style. And if vintage Pultecs seem expensive these days (and they no doubt are…), remember that there is an inflation factor of 11x from 1961 to 2012. So the value of these pieces has more or less simply risen with inflation.
Download catalog data on the EQP 1, shown above: Pultec_EQP-1
Download catalog data on the EQH 2, shown above: Pultec_EQH
Download catalog data on the HLF, shown above: Pultec_HLF-3
Above: the Universal Audio 175B limiter is announced. The 175B is quite similar in operational principle to the Altec 436/8 and the Gates Sta-Level but the UA is far more sophisticated. Just a really smartly designed piece of AFAIK, it was sold like shown, with no top cover. gear. Retro Instruments currently makes a reissue of this classic piece (but with a top cover).
Above: an inexpensive studio echo unit of the early 1960s: the Telefunken Echo Mixer. It is a spring-reverb unit. Click this link for an audio demo. Apparently used by Klaus Schulze on his “Irrlicht,” which is one of my favorite records.
Above: the Electrovoice 643 super-directional microphone of 1961. The 643 was apparently developed by the same engineer who created the wonderful Electrovoice RE-20. Unlike the 643, the RE-20 is still in production, and still being used everyday around the world. As far as the 643…well… it was supposedly used in the 1960s for Presidential news conferences, but I can’t imagine seeing something like this aimed at a head-of-state today.
Above: the Neumann U-67 is announced. The U67 was the ‘bridge’ between the earlier U47 and the soon-to-be-ubiquitous U-87. Like the U-47 it is a tube mic. A U-67 just sold on eBay for $7k, which is not too surprising. It’s possible to turn up cheap U87s from time to time but the U67 had a much shorter run and not the same level of popularity.
Today: from the “Audio Cyclopedia,” Howard Tremaine, 1959: a quick visual survey of professional mixing consoles in service in 1959. A PS Dot Com reader turned me on to the “Audio Cycolopedia”; many copies of this 1300ppp volume are available on Amazon and eBay starting at around $80; based on the number available, though, i feel like there’s a $1 yard-sale copy waiting for me just around the bend… When the moment presents itself, we’ll be sure to run an Out-Of-Print-Book Report.
“Audio Cyclopedia” presents a range of material in an easy-to-read manner suitable for technical and non-technical persons alike; that being said, the book does not shy away from some very useful circuit data, such as the above-depicted Magnasync mixer schematic. I have been wondering for some time what the proper way was to use a 5879 tube in triode mode: here we see: 100k plate resistor with 1K bias resistor. Easy…
From an AES journal circa 1961. It’s interesting to see how the meaning of ‘audio engineer’ has shifted over the past half century. An ‘Audio Engineer’ circa 1961 would almost certainly be called a ‘tech’ or a ‘broadcast engineer’ today, while the circa ’61 ‘audio technician’ would almost certainly be called an engineer or mixer today.
Products covered, with photos and text description, include: Lang LRP-1B tape recorder electronics (for Ampex 300 generation machines), LTP-1A tape playback amp, LRA-1C record/playback amp, LMX-4 and LMX-5 broadcast consoles, LMP-1 stereo portable mixer, Record Stereo Mixer, LMX-2 mixer, LPM-2 portable mixer, PEQ-2 and PEQ-3 equalizers, Lang Sync Panel, Disc Recording Equalizer, plus many more accessories.
Lang was known primarily for the various upgrades and support equipment that they manufactured for Ampex tape machines. As shown above, they also offered solid-state equalizer that appear similar in function to the popular Pultec units of the era. There are also several models of audio mixers on offer, a few of which were available as early as 1961.
Above: the Lang ‘compact’ mono mixer. Advert circa 1961. Looks very similar to my later stereo Gately mixing system , which I spent $250 and several hours on…and i still can’t figure out what the hell i’m gonna use it for.