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Abbey Road Mic Collection

@Kurt Foster Boswell, pcrecord audiokid dvdhawk,
Et al. :)
Hi gang...
This vid came up on my YouTube feed this past weekend; I was laid out sick with a flu bug, and was watching videos, and thought this might interest my pals here on RO.
Engineer Sylvia Massey interviews Lester Smith, who has been at Abbey Road since 1970; starting out in their disc cuttting rooms, and eventually becoming their microphone “custodian”. He has a tremendous amount of knowledge, and he has kept hand written notes of every mic in the EMI collection; including precise notes on servicing the mics over the years.
I found this to be fascinating; and Lester is such a gentle, unassuming guy, and he appears to be happy to share some of his knowledge of these iconic mics.
The video is sponsored by Focusrite and SOS.
Enjoy :)


DonnyThompson Tue, 10/23/2018 - 03:56
Addendum ...
I love how Lester mentions that all of the mics in the EMI collection are still working in optimum condition, and if you are a client recording at Abbey Road, any of the mics are readily available for use in a session. How cool is that?
@Kurt Foster kmetal dvdhawk audiokid pcrecord
So when do we all leave for London and meet Boswell at Abbey Road?
I think it’s our duty to go and try all these mics on a multitude of applications... you know, just to make sure they work.
I’m buying the fish and chips and ale. LOL

Boswell Tue, 10/23/2018 - 06:00
Great video, Donny.

I never met Lester Smith, as he joined Abbey Road a couple of years after the session there on which I was Assistant Engineer. We were allowed to re-position microphones, but we had to call for the Men In White Coats if we wanted a mic changed for a different one. It really was two men to make a change - one to cary the microphone and the other to open the doors along the route.

DonnyThompson Tue, 10/23/2018 - 06:51
Boswell, post: 459519, member: 29034 wrote: “.. We were allowed to re-position microphones, but we had to call for the Men In White Coats if we wanted a mic changed for a different one. It really was two men to make a change - one to cary the microphone and the other to open the doors along the route.”
LOL .... I’m not sure that process has changed, Bos; and understandably, Lester isn’t just going to hand out a vintage U48 to “just some guy” who wants to use it in their session - like me.
I’m not sure you’ve ever discussed the details of your time at AR; or how you felt about working in a studio that has become so iconic... although when you were working there, maybe it hadn’t yet achieved the level of notoriety that it is looked upon as being now.
Still, I would think that working in the same studio that The Fabs did must have presented a positive feeling for you.
My bucket list is a short one... there are some places I would love to fly fish, some venues I would like to perform in...but at the top of that short list, is being able to book 2 hours at Abbey Road; even just to record an acoustic guitar and vocal - just to be able to say that I did. For that matter, I’d be plenty happy to book 15 minutes and record myself farting into a paper sack... though I’m not sure how Lester would feel about that. LOL.
There are just so few famous studios remaining... the other places I would have loved to have worked in - places like Le Studio in Quebec, Olympic in London, Goldstar in Los Angeles, Hitsville in Detroit, or Caribou Ranch in Colorado ( where my audio guru/instructor/mentor Steve Hebrock engineered in the late 70’s/80’s) are all gone now - with the exception of Hitsville, which is now a museum.
Can you tell us about your experience at EMI? Just throw us a few tasty tidbits... ;)
PS... pcrecord - Mon Ami, did you ever get the chance to work at Le Studio in Morin Hts, either as an engineer or as an artist?
Just curious. ;)

pcrecord Tue, 10/23/2018 - 07:52
DonnyThompson, post: 459520, member: 46114 wrote: PS... pcrecord - Mon Ami, did you ever get the chance to work at Le Studio in Morin Hts, either as an engineer or as an artist?
No I never went to Le Studio (altought I drove by the city a few times when going on vacation)
A big place that I went was Studio Victor in Montreal, it was a great place with a big room and great sound.. Nowaday they downsided and they do mobile recording...
They, actually it's possibly only one guy now.. So when doing in studio work he associated with Studio 451 which is still running..
A sad story really..

DonnyThompson Mon, 10/29/2018 - 07:10
I’ve been to - and have worked in - many very nice studios over the years, all across The States (and a few in Canada), in various capacities; as a session musician/vocalist, as a VO artist, and as both an engineer and producer ... but none of those nice rooms that I worked at would really be considered to be “iconic”.

One of the nicest studios I had the fortune to visit, was in Chillicothe, Ohio, at The Recording Workshop; it was a recording school (back in the 80’s and 90’s, I don’t know if it’s still around or not)... when I visited, ( late 80’s?) they had some very nice gear (MCI 600 series desk, ( though when I was there they were planning on installing an SSL, though I don’t know that they ever did). They also had Studer and Sony DASH tape machines, a collection of beautiful microphones; all kinds of new and vintage Neumann, Telefunken, RCA, Coles, Beyer, Schoepps, Bruel & Kjar, AKG... as well as an OB rack that would have made any pro-level engineer drool with envy. They also had a great sounding room - (at least for drums, which I heard being tracked while I was there, they sounded great in that room).
Here’s what I found to be surprising about that school, though... in my own experience, most of the students I encountered, who had graduated from the course, actually knew very little. When I had my studio(s) in Akron and Canton, I would get a few interns from The Workshop every so often, who would call or come in, wanting to gain more experience working in actual sessions.
I was always very receptive and welcoming to them; I mean, the way I saw it, we all have to start somewhere, right? But ... out of the 30 (or so) interns I had over the years, there were only a select few from The Recording Workshop whom I felt had the makings of “real” engineers. Perhaps it was just the way the ball bounced for me in my own experiences with them, and maybe I just ended up with more mediocre students/interns than other studios did simply by chance. But - there were two that I vividly remember... and the reason I remember them, is because I was impressed by their knowledge, and their desire to learn more... and I ended up hiring both of them as assistant engineers (not at the same time, each about two years apart). Within several months, both were pulling sessions on their own, and turning out great sounding mixes.

But, I never had the chance to play or work in what most here would consider to be “those” really famous studios...
Capitol, Electric Ladyland, The Record Plants, Hit Factories, Criteria, Ocean Way, Le Studio, or Abbey Road, as our beloved Boswell did ;)
But, I sure wish I had worked at ( or even visited) those studios.
Although, I was in the lobby of Sound City in LA once. It looked sorta dumpy actually, but one look at all the incredible number of gold and plantinum albums recorded there that they had hanging on their walls was more than enough to dispel any myth that a studio has to have teakwood floors and gold leaf trim in order to be a great studio. ;)
So yeah, technically I’ve been to an iconic studio. In the lobby. Does that count?
Uhmm... I guess no... not so much.

John Willett Wed, 10/31/2018 - 03:51
Yes, Lester has a great wealth of knowledge - about 10years back I sat in Abbey Road's mic. room wioth Lestyer and Stephan Peus (now retired, was Neumann's top technical man at the time) discussing the mics. Every valve mic. that Abbey Road purchased they also purchased 10 spare valves (vacuum tube in the American language), so thay have a large store of top quality original valves for all their mics - including all those very rare discontinued valves for the U47 and the like.

I also saw their original Blumlein microphones.