The Kosmos Bio-Clock was a high-end desk calculator/clock/device for predicting your daily moods, abilities, and compatibility with any other person. What? Hey man, it was the 70s.
After becoming somewhat obsessed with this oddity, I tracked down a few examples, but they were impossible to use without a manual; and the manual, until I uploaded it today, was not available online. In the interest of keeping the weirder recesses of 1970s consumer culture alive, I tracked down a manual and painstakingly scanned it for you, fellow astral traveler.
I found the magazine at left while hunting for old sound equipment at estate sales last summer (same pile, IIRC: a complete 1982 TAMA catalog and an original Gibson EBO pickup. wtf). It’s a great read, smut-free, safe-for-work, ETC, with all the contrived settings and retouched photography that this publication is known for.
I learned about two things of note from the ‘book’: *Ariston Turntables, the poor-man’s Linn (I’ve since found a nice vintage Ariston for $40), and *this crazy fucking calculator that promises a solution to all life’s problems (math-and-non-math)
I am going to resist the urge to editorialize too much. Read the manual and come to your own conclusions. If you decide to buy one of these devices, be warned that I had to buy three in order to find an actually fully working example (nb: they all ‘turned on’ and ‘lit up’ despite not accepting input data so be wary of sellers’ claims). ALSO even when/if you get one that will actually accept data input, it SEEMS like this primitive computer is not Y2K compatible, so it can’t actually show you your biorhythm data for any date past 12/31/1999 (nb: please feel free to prove me wrong if you have a working example of this device and know better). Regardless, it works fine as a clock, calculator, and it will display Bio Compatability data for any two persons born before 12/31/1999.
If you can’t/wont’ spend the bread on a possibly-functional Bio-Clock, the much more common Kosmos 1 offers many of the same features minus the actual clock. I’ve been using this as my daily desk calculator and it makes a fine number-cruncher.
This is my first post using this intensely frustrating new WordPress “Blocks” authoring structure so it will brief/awkwardly formatted. Why TF they would change this platform so drastically after all these years is beyond me but I guess there is no shortage of bad ideas in the world. OK got that out of the way. I was recently reminded of the existence of (many, many, many) of these Altec 1588C microphone preamp modules.
(image source) The 1588C is an octal module with flexible DC powering requirements and offers around 35DB of gain into a 10ohm load. According to the spec sheet it is full-frequency. It has an input transformer and can pass the DC supply voltage as phantom power if wired as such. Years ago I had an Altec 1592 mono sound-reinforcement mixer that used these things; it sounded fine.
Anyhow, some post on Instagram reminded me that these things are out there; a quick eBay check revealed that they are very cheap (if you are patient); I bought three for around $30 shipped. Here’s the original data sheet.
It occurred to me that if these things really do perform as well as advertised, they COULD make a good basis for the custom mixing console i’ve been dreaming about for, oh, 15 years. But first: I had to know. I needed to build some thing to test the 1588’s and see if they really do perform well and sound good.
Following the advice offered in this online forum, I figured I would wire one up with a 1K pot strapped to the output, feeding a high-quality 600:600 transformer. The best thing I had around that would fit in the tiny chassis was a Jensen JT-11-FLCF. Here’s the specs on that piece:
Since everyone likes a vintage mechanical VU meter, I added one of those too, driven by a buffer amp from DIY–TUBES.com. I’ve bought dozens of these lil amp boards from them and they go together quickly and work great.
Here are some photos of the assembled unit so you can see how it all went together. The chassis is a (was a) NOS NIB “Versa-box” or something like that; it came from an ancient distro in my city. I don’t thing you can expect to find many of these left in the wild, but any old steel, aluminum, or plastic box should do. The RCA-style knob (SATO brand) and pushbutton power switch came from Akihabara in Tokyo; I’ve been unable to find an online source for them. The top handle is an old pull, probably ParMetal or the like, with a pair of beauty washers (AMAZON) to help the appearance. The ‘GAIN’ and “OUTPUT’ metal tags are from a huge hoard of these I bought from the estate of a Silent Key; I have no idea where to find these, but someone should start making these again! (i mentioned the idea to RedCo but they weren’t interested)
As the photos reveal, the case is comprised of a U-shaped black body with a bolt -on bottom cover; the front and rear faces are polished aluminum and simply slot into channels in the body. VERY sturdy and attractive. If anyone know of a comparable modern product line, please LMK in the comments.
In the photo above (front panel, rear view) you can see the the pot on the lower left; above is the power switch and a 5W 40-ohm resistor that drops the 20VDC from the regulated Dell Laptop supply (free at a hamfest!) to around 11 volts to power the VU buffer amp and the 14v lamp. This is certainly not the most elegant solution (ESP because when/if the bulb fails, the power to the buffer will spike to around 19V), but I couldn’t make the required voltage drop happen with a voltage divider since the DC resistance of the bulb is so low (5 ohms!). Any advice on this that does not require a voltage regulator, pls LMK in the comments…
Anyhow, on the right is the 1588C module, mounted in a standard octal tube socket. The switch below selects if pin 2 sees ground thru either a 100 ohm resistor (‘hi gain’) or a 10K resistor (‘low gain’).
The switch itself is pretty neat; vintage Japanese NOS unit with gold contacts and a ‘pull’ shaft, IE., you need to pull the shaft toward you in order to change its position.
So that’s about it… the sound is very good; very clear, very low noise. Will def be usable for recording. Unfortunately, the frequency performance of the unit is nowhere near the stated specs. Why this is I am unsure. The only external elements in the signal path are the pot and the Jensen Transformer; I certainly trust the stated specs of the Jensen, and if the source impedance of the 1588C is truly 10 ohms, it should have no problem driving a 1K pot. Based on what I’ve described of its implementation here, if anyone knows for sure what the issue is, please LMK in the comments. Anyhow, here’s my test results obtained with the completed unit; I use a LofTech oscillator and a Ward Beck meter for measurements. Signal ref is sine, -40db, 1K hz.
Max gain (low; 10K fb res) = 28.5 fb
Max gain (high; 100ohm fb res) = 38db
Max clean output +14 db
High end down 1db at 7K, 2db at 10k, 5db at 15K, 6db at 20k
Low end down 1 db at 100hz, 2db at 40hz, 3.5db at 20 hz
One final note, and important if you attempt to do this same sort of thing. Of the three 1588Cs that I got in that $30 lot (one used, two in-the-box, advertised as NOS), only one worked well – the first two I tried had issues. The first had a very subtle high-frequency whine, and the other had a non-functional gain pin (it was stuck in a low-gain setting, likely indicating a short within the unit). If I had not had extra 1588Cs around, this would have been an intensely frustrating exercise.
Above is the original context in which the 43A would have been found – it’s the piece on the bottom – and this entire massive apparatus represents a single 20-watt audio playback channel, with all associated power supplies, preamps, and control devices.
I don’t have a clear sense of how many 43A were made, so I don’t want to add to internet ‘swirl,’ but there can’t be too many out there. Above is a pair of 43A that sold in 2016 on eBay for $32,000. IMO This is a very fair price for such an incredible piece of history, but it’s not a sum I, or many people, are prepared to spend on a hifi amp; hence the idea to create this tribute piece.
Back to my piece (above)… my goal was not, in any way, to make a copy of a 43A – it would be a fool’s errand, and not very practical – but rather to create a great-sounding and powerful stereo amp that honored the aesthetics of that iconic piece.
I wanted to use large, dramatic NOS tubes, but at a low cost; coke-bottle 6L6G would be nice but two matched pairs of those would be very pricey. So I subbed 6BG6GA instead. Basically a 6L6 with the plate in the top-cap. I chose the Altec 353A circuit (above), as I have built several Altec 323 and they sound great, and this is essentially the same circuit but using one fewer tube per channel. Since the mechanical construction of this thing was going to be a major PITA, I wanted to keep it as simple as possible electrically. The nameplate is a beat NOS “Northern Electric” mirror-finish plate that I found at Radio Hovsep a few years back.
Here’s a shot of the rear. In order to keep hum induction to a minimum, I used aluminum wherever possible in the build. The output transformers (awesome nos 70s40-watt Schumachers with a great vintage look) are suspended from the top chassis in order to keep the plate leads as short as possible. The PT is a pull from an Eico ST70, which has more than enough current-handling ability for this device. The meter is a NOS 1930s 500VDC meter that displays plate voltage. The knob in the center is simply an on-off power control. I am assuming that this will be used with a preamp – probably a ’42 homage’ when I get around to it -although it gets plenty loud as-is with just a CD player connected to the RCA inputs.
This was a very difficult build in terms of the metal work. Getting all the various subchassis to line up was difficult but worth it in the end. It’s incredibly solid and has an imposing aura to it. The use of all Hammond-brand metal components ensured that the black finish(es) would all match and thereby present a unified appearance.
THIS WEEKEND: We will be having our annual TAG SALE at 1069 Connecticut Ave, Bridgeport CT, on the 3rd floor.
I will there with a massive array of vintage Hi-Fi and sound equipment for sale – amps, turntables, speakers, mics, synths, effects, guitars, several hundred great records starting at $3, and much much more. TONS of vintage clothes too.
I’ll be there 10AM – 5PM on Saturday the 11th, and 2PM until 6PM on Sunday. This is a Tag Sale -Cash and Carry – everything is sold as-is, final sale. It’s a really fun event – there’s a ton to see in the building.
Featuring: a beautiful century-old brick factory building with 3 floors of artist studios to explore; live music; food trucks; a raffle; food + coat drive; pull-your-own letterpress printing, and much to explore.
Produced and recorded by yours truly at Gold Coast Recorders (RIP) and mixed by Greg Giorgio, this album is the culmination of several recording projects I have done with this group over the past five years. I am super-proud of the work we’ve done here and I hope you enjoy the songs. CR
Tom Fine had earlier presented us with a history of Reeves Sound Studios NYC; click here to read that 2014 piece. Today’s scan comes from what appears to be a promotional re-print of an article originally published in Broadcast News magazine. Tom comments, “Aside from the interesting antique TV and film production facilities and equipment shown, we see a photo of audio engineer Jack Higgins, who made many Riverside jazz records.”
You can some read more of Tom’s contributions to P/S dot com, including much information on his own family’s storied studio operations, at the following pages: