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I've been having a hell of a time trying to find any info on vintage recording gear commonly used. Maybe some knowledgeable folks here can offer some insight.
In particular I'm curious about the equipment used and the engineering behind the rock recordings of the 60's and 70's.
I'm particularly fond of the sound of groups like the Allman Brothers, Hendrix, Neil Young (any album of his from the late 60's to late 70's sounds magnificent to my ears), CSN, etc.

What was their signal chain like? I know they were recording onto 1" or 2" tape, but what were they using as far as mics and preamps? Is it the same stuff we're using today?

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Davedog Wed, 04/23/2008 - 17:58

As far as WHAT was used, in those days, there wasnt a lot of specialty console builders....a lot of consoles were custom built using mic pres and parts availble. Bill Putnam, the founder and genius responsible for Universal Audio, was one of these builders of parts. Capricorn Sound Studios in Macon Georgia had a custom built console that had UA 610 modules in it. The Allman Bros as well as a WHOLE bunch of artists you and the rest of the world have heard a WHOLE lot, recorded there.

This same story will be true for most of the artists of these times. Isnt it funny how these recordings have held up sonically throughout all this time.

Its directly related to real engineering.

Like I said, all the pres were in a custom-built console configuation be it UA, MCI, Helios, Neve...etc. And yes, everyone these days wants to get that sound....

Mics around that era were mostly Neumann, Telefunken, AKG, RCA, Beyer, and the occasional STC and Sony.

RemyRAD Wed, 04/23/2008 - 20:26

Yeah but that was only part of it.

The Ampex 300-1/-2/-3 utilized metal envelope tubes like 12SJ7's which were relatively noisy Pentodes. The one for the playback head had to be specially hand selected for lowest noise.

After that the much improved Ampex 351 came along with its small glass envelope dual triodes the popular 12AX/T/U/7/ECC83, etc.. This is by far the best sounding most sought after tube Ampex ever made. The predecessor to this one the 350 looked virtually identical on the faceplate. The distinguishing difference was that the 350 had a rounded edge meter and the 351 had squared corner meters. The difference inside the chassis was substantial. The transports for both were identical with manual tape head lifters. They were generally delivered at speeds of 7 1/2 & 15 IPS. 3 3/4 & 30 IPS were available on special order configurations. If you can find a 351 electronic package in good working condition, it makes a fabulous microphone preamp.

A little after that came 3M with their revolutionary iso-loop transport for all of the M series recorders. That included the M24/56/79. Some of those utilized a new type of noise reduction/headroom extension circuit that was called " Dyna-Track". What this did required twice the amount of audio tracks than required. If you're going to make a two track stereo recording, you'd need a four track machine. It would record levels at different reference settings. That would then automatically switch between each track which would in turn both extend headroom and lower noise. It was a novel system that actually worked at everything was tweaked exactly right. It really wasn't popular and wasn't used much.

Another contender was Larry Scully's machine. Scully was already well-known for his record cutting lathes. But then he jumped on the bandwagon of producing magnetic recorders and introduced the model 260. This was his answer to the Ampex AG 350 which unlike its tube brother was an early germanium transistor model. Scully's machines had a rather unique " Linearizer" circuit. What this novel little circuit did included merely a couple of diodes. One could attain 2 DB better signal-to-noise ratio or headroom utilizing standard scotch 111 recording tape. He accomplished this by realizing that the nonlinear saturation distortion from overload could be reproduced, mildly, with a couple of diodes. With the signal inverted and combined with the actual taped signal could ever so slightly cancel a small amount of distortion. It was difficult and confusing to adjust and could actually do more harm than good. Later with the higher output tape's, the circuit was no longer needed. After the 260 was introduced, the new and improved 280 with automatic tape lifters were introduced. This machine like the previous machine utilized germanium transistors and had a wonderful microphone preamp input as well. This particular model of machine was available from the early mid sixties in configurations of from 1 to 16 tracks. Larry retired in the mid-seventies and Dictaphone Corp. purchased Scully and carried on the tradition, substituting silicon transistors in place of the germanium's. Just not quite as warm sounding. This continued until early 1980, after having recently introduced their "improved" version of another electrical engineers machine the 280B, with different electronics. This new machine also included a digital transport control system. At that time it was purchased by AMPRO broadcast products of Pennsylvania. They faded from existence in about 1984/5. They never offered more than a 16 track machine, the last being the first low-cost 2 inch 16 track machine. They made it cheaper by not including a playback head! Yup, the model 100-16. It was fine for a studio who utilized a single brand and type of tape as alignment for recording was not really an option. It was a lot of record rewind, playback, adjust, record, rewind, playback, adjust, etc.. Eeewwwww. I never want to see one of those again! Thankfully the B series machines were never offered as anything more than 8 tracks. A 16 and a 24 weren't even considered.

MCI hit the scene in the mid-1970s. A spinoff of a music store called Music Centers Inc. in Fort Lauderdale. He started making imitation clone Ampex 440 transistor recording channel electronics. He went on to clone their 8/16 & 24 track machine as well. Such an exact copy of the electronics that you can swap record, playback & bias cards between Ampex 440AB&C/MM 1000/MM 1100/MM 1200 with the MCI JH 10-8, 16&24 & JH 16-8, 16 & 24. The later MCI machines were original designs starting with the JH 110 & JH 114 series, in the early 1980s.

Former Scully Quality Control Manager & 280B Project troubleshooter
factory authorized service for 3M-M79
factory authorized service for Ampex AG 440/MM 1000/MM 1100/MM 1200
Ms. Remy Ann David

Kapt.Krunch Thu, 04/24/2008 - 06:57

niclaus wrote: i have this book:

and it's full of those great informations, that you will only find in there. Tottaly worth havin'
From desk to mics and recording techniques.... Eveything is in there...

That IS a good book. I didn't realize how many things EMI engineers concocted just to satisfy the Beatles' quest for "something different". And a Leslie WAS probably a better choice than tethering John on a rope and swinging him around a microphone (though it wasn't as amusing)! :lol:

A lotta drool-inducing stuff in there.