Snake Oil or Holy Water?

EXR_ExciterDownload the original 4-page catalog for the EXR Exciter circa 1979:


If someone who was involved with the development of this product could please write-in and end the debate on these things:  what exactly does this device do, processing wise?  The catalog has an intense quasi-scientific account of human perception (going so far as mention Autism), and no real explanation of WTF this thing is actually doing besides some selective harmonic distortion addition, which jibes with my experience of similar products from Aphex.  EXR dude, the ball is in yr court…fill us in…


More Than You Ever Wanted To Know About Old Swedish Microphones

Milab_1981Download about a million pages of product information regarding the complete MILAB microphone line circa 1981 (presented in two parts due to file size):

DOWNLOAD PART 1: Milab_1981_1

DOWNLOAD PART 2: Milab_1981_2

For the low low price of (no fkkn dollars), you’ll get: The MILAB 1981 catalog, price list, product sheets (some of which are quite extensive) on the DC20, DC21, DC63, DC73, DC96, MSXY-8 ETC., as well as a price list and a very confusing attempt at an explanation of what MIPOW phantom-power is (seems like normal Phantom Power except that pin 1 is +48v rather than pins 2 and 3 being +48v relative to pin 1????).


I’ve never used, seen, or, to my knowledge, heard any of these microphones; frankly, I haven’t even read these documents.  It’s too hot out and i’ve had too much wine.  I would imagine that they are pretty decent tho; been hunting for one on eBay for a year now, no luck yet.  Something odd about Swedish products:  while Swedish culture itself has a reputation in America for sex-i-ness (cemented by this classic film, BTW), Swedish products have quite the opposite affect.

Anyway, here’s some pictures of old microphones.

Milab_MSXY Milab_f69 Milab_DC96 Milab_DC73 Milab_DC63 Milab_DC20

Yamaha HS50s are $129/ea at MF dot com

photoAbove: my lil home editing setup: Apogee Mini-Me, MBox 2, Macbook, Fostex T40s, 2nd LCD display and…  my HS50s (astride DIY’d platform/isolators).  Oh yeah and of course the Mighty Mouse.  Best time-saver ever.

How y’all doing today…  srry for the lack of recent posts; been working on some pretty exciting new projects here at PS dot com that we hope to unveil soon.  In the meanwhile: a tip:  people often ask me for speaker recommendations, and for many years now I’ve been reco’ing the Yamaha HS50s.  I bought mine at Sam Ash maybe 5 years ago for $300/pair, which seemed like a bargain at the time.  Well now the price has dropped, likely in advance of a phase-out.  The HS50 is a powered speaker with balanced inputs, dunno how much power but more than enough for working at home, trust me.  Now, you can spend a lot more on speakers, but when yr gonna stick them on a desk, right next to a big ole LCD display, in some untreated spare bedroom: why would you?  I’ve worked on literally hundreds of spots, jingles, and film and TV tracks on these suckers and I’ve never been disappointed.  At the studio we have (along with Tannoys and Avantones) a Blue Sky speaker rig that cost about 10x as much, and yeah it sounds better.  But… it’s also in a properly-dimensioned room with a shit-tonne of acoustic-control devices that cost a fortune in parts and time to build.  Unless you take the time to really treat your listening environment, I am not convinced that you need much better desktop speakers than the HS50s.

BTW – I reco these not just for musicians/engineers, but for anyone who needs good small speakers for listening to anything – TV, music, etc.  Small, well-made, reliable, accurate sound.

Yamaha HS50s – $129/ea at MF dot com.

Tweed Consoles Of The Seventies

Tweed_CoverDownload the original 20pp TWEED AUDIO catalog circa 197*:

DOWNLOAD: Tweed_Audio_Consoles

The_Lady_With_The_Tweed_MixerProducts covered, with text, specs, and photos, include: Tweed M124 console, 12/2-4 mixer, BC82 portable mixer, C513 input module, C515 input module, C507 input, (Tweed calls the ‘Channel Amplifiers’), CL603 limiter, CL604 compressor, CL606 noise gate, SPH-2B stereo phono preamp, Tweed 6-2T and 10-4eb distribution amps.

At left: The Lady With The Tweed Mixer (not a Syd Barrett song). 

Sitting here on a beautiful summer day, spacing out to Syd Barrett and Jake Holmes LPs after a long week on the road…no concept of what day it is.  This will not be a particularly detailed post.  TWEED is a name i’ve seen around, never come across the kit…  here’s a thread from Group DIY that will fill you in.   L-S-S: Scottish-made, broadcast-aimed boards and modules built by former Neve manager.

Tweed_M124_MixerTweed_Custom_film_console Tweed_Custom_Console Tweed_CL604_Compressor Tweed_BC82_mixer Tweed_B164_mixer Tweed_12:2-4_Mixer

Home Recording Is Killing Low-End Pro Studios (1989)

4tracks_1989“Home Studios are one of the fastest-growing segments of the music equipment industry.  The availability of (fill in the blank) is killing the low-end professional studio scene.  After all, why should musicians pay $1,000 to record on someone else’s four-or-eight track system when they can purchase their own system for the same price?”

Download a 2-pp article from CIRCUS magazine, 1989, on the subject of Home Studio Recorders. Author is one R. J. Grula.  (via The More Things Change ETC dept.)

DOWNLOAD: Circus_4trk_1989_0001

Yamaha_MT100 Tascam_Porta2 AKAI_MG1214

The Sound Workshop 1280 12 input/8 buss mixer c. 1980

1280_B_textDownload the original 6-page catalog/brochure for the Sound Workshop 1280 12×8 mixer:

DOWNLOAD: SoundWRkShp_1280

1280_b_soundworkshopI own+regularly use the Sound Workshop 242 reverb system, but I’ve never used this mixer nor any of the other Sound Workshop offerings.  The 242 is OK for certain applications, and it certainly rates high on ergonomics; the 1280 also seems notable in terms of its extreme specificity for 8-track recording.  The buss, 2-mix, and and monitor matrices are actually located above the input channel strips, unlike most mixing boards, which tend to feature these controls to the right of the inputs and left of a master section.  Also unusual: the master 2-mix is a duplicate of the 7/8 buss, with a few extra controls added.  Unusual, but seems like it would work out just fine 95% of the time.

1280B_2_soundworkshopThe 1280b ranks fairly high on my list of ‘useless shit that I have always wanted’; maybe someday it will join the legion of other small mixers that people my basement.  These things were (supposedly?) designed by former API employees; the mic input transformers are those lil’ Beyers that are found in so much 70s gear.

The most (perhaps) crucial things to glean from this original document: the 1280 came in two different EQ configurations: 3-band fixed frequency, or three-band quasi-parametric (5 frequencies per band).  The latter is designated 1280-BEQ.  Also: there was a meter bridge option.  Also: the 1280A seems to be transformerless, while the 1280B has the input transformers, thereby providing 2db more gain per channel; the document is a little vague on this point, tho, so PLEASE correct me if you know better.

Tascam 144 4-Track c.1979: Original Catalog

Tascam_144_4_trackDownload the original 6pp brochure/catalog for the Tascam 144, the first ‘4-track’ ‘porta-studio’:

DOWNLOAD: Tascam_144_Catalog

I’m a little embarrassed to admit/realize that this is the third post we’ve done on the 144.  First was this article regarding 4-track aesthetics, followed by this post containing the 144 product-launch advertising.  I just recently came across this original promo item, and it seems that no one else had bothered to put it online, so what the hell.  I’ve already said enough about this crucial, paradigm-shifting object, so I won’t repeat myself here…  check the old posts if you care.

144_tascam_2tascam_manShit, how did they know what kinda glasses I wear? Oh wait I’m stuck in 1979.  Riiiiiiiiiight.

Tascam_ME_120The catalog also contains info on a number of ‘accessories’ that Tascam offered in conjunction with this machine; above, their top-end mic the “ME-120” which came with interchangeable omni and cardiod capsules.  Pretty fancy Tascam.    I have somehow ended up with just the box and omni capsule for one of these things.  WTF?

Gotham Professional Equipment Catalog c.1972

Gotham_audio_catalogHow are y’all doing today…  got a pretty good one for you today, pretty good, pretty neat…  the complete 30 page Gotham Audio catalog c. 1972.

DOWNLOAD: GothamAudio_1972_cat

This lil document makes for a fascinating look at the true high-high-end of audio circa 1972, forty long years ago.   Products featured include: Gotham Delta-T signal delay model 101, Neumann U-87, KM-86, KM-84, KM-85, KM-83, SM-69FET, KM-88, and KMS085 microphones; Gotham/Neumann custom consoles, Neumann VMS-70 Lathe, SP-71s and MT-70s Transfer system, TS-66 tracing simulator, SX-68 stereo cutterhead, and VG-66s drive system; EMT 140-TS plate reverb, Stellavox Sp7 tape recorder, Studer A-80 multitrack, Studio 089 and 189 consoles, Studer B062 tape machine, EMT-156 PDM compressor, EMT-256 compressor module, EMT-930st turntable, Gotham model OY powered monitors, plus a variety of tech equipment.

Neumann_Mics_1972 Neumann_Mastering_1972 Neumann_1972_ConsoleAbove: the Neumann Console c. 1972; either end was fitted with both an ashtray and an electric cigarette lighter manufactured by the Rolls Royce company.

Good lord talk about ‘serious studio infrastructure.’  But for real.  The kinda odd thing is that if you forget about the editing ability and convenience (and the huge range of aesthetic possibilities that this opens open) of the DAW revolution that began with digital audio around 1980…  reproduced sound quality itself hasn’t really improved very much since this super-high-end kit was made in 1972.  Sure its gotten a lot a lot a lot cheaper and a lot easier, but at least at this VERY high end, the basic ability of this gear to record, modify, and playback sound is pretty damn near what we expect from modern studio equipment.   Well, the lathes aside.  There are obvious limits to LP playback, regardless of how ‘charming’ we may find ‘that sound.’  I for one do not regret the CD.  Now MP3s, on the other hand, I could have done without.

But getting back to the fact that this super-hi-end 40-yo kit still impresses:  Does audio only ‘need’ to be ‘so-good’?  I, for one, am NEVER motivated to set the clock at 96k and record that way; frankly, I am not sure I can tell the difference at the end of the process, once all is mixed and mastered.  Are there still avenues of audio improvement to be made?  What would need to change?  Playback systems?  Playback environments?  Consumer expectations?

Delta_T_101 EMT_156_compressor

Audio Technica ‘Mic Selector’ gadget c. 1979

AT_Selector_1Came across this charming lil ‘Recording Microphone Selector’ interactive marketing-gimmick.

AT_selector_2Inside the cardboard sleeve (which offers frequency-distribution information regarding various musical devices/situations) is a two-piece device.  When pulled/tugged, the device responds by suggesting which A/T offering might best suit your needs.

AT_Selector_3The rear of this slide-rule goes so far as to then suggest where-to-stick said microphone.

AT_selector_4Nice to see that my A/T 813 rates so highly in this competition, garnering numerous “Number-Ones.”

On a more serious note, tho, despite my initial lack of enthusiasm over my $50 eBay-d 813, it seems to be proving its mettle… it gets used weekly for acoustic slide gtr and mandolin in conjunction with my DIY’d REDD47 mic pre…  mainly because it does not require phantom power, true, but it’s hanging tough alongside the much more expensive AKG 451 nonetheless.  Gotta get around to that SDC shoot-out one of these days…