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I'm searching for a piece of gear that I used a million years ago (okay, maybe not quite a million, but close...1977 or so LOL)... This was a mic preamp, compressor, EQ, all rolled into one. I can't for the life of me remember the manufacturer and I've scoured google and ebay for it, to no avail.


A buddy and myself picked up a Shure VocalMaster system from a church sale; this unit came along with the "state of the art" VocalMaster mixer... I'm sure those that used these remember how awesome it was to have to pound on the top of the mixer to get the spring reverb to work, which then produced a very loud explosive echo through the speakers... ah yes. good times.

This model was a standalone, table top piece. It had a blue face on it (not quite a "Rockman" blue, it was a little darker)...

On the face, left hand side at about halfway up, was a switch that toggled back and forth between Solid State and Tube. It was a larger tube... like... not quite as big as a 6L6, but not as small as an AX7.

There was an input gain, rotary type, an output gain, also rotary, and a compressor, no controls, it was fixed at like 3:1 at a -10 db thresh. It had an on/off switch for the compressor, that was it. On the upper right of the unit was a small 6 band graphic EQ. A large VU meter was in the center, with three push buttons underneath the meter - from L to R, the meter functions were "input", "output", and "comp".

There were two inputs on the back, one was a 1/4" and the other was the old microphone coaxial connector. There was were two outputs, a 1/4" and a strange multi-pin connector I'd never seen before, or since LOL... it may have been proprietary to the manufacturer.

I'm thinking this was a Shure... but I can't remember.

The unit sounded great. You had the option of using it as solid state or as a tube pre.

Any of you guys remember such a beast? It was very used when we got it so it's possible it was made in the 60's.

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dvdhawk Thu, 04/03/2014 - 18:12

EMC was from your neck of the woods and would have made Vocalmaster era stuff. I remember (and still see occasionally) [[url=http://[/URL]="Q=EMC+vintage+audio+mixer&rls=en&tbm=isch">…"]EMC Vocalmaster style heads[/]="Q=EMC+vintage+audio+mixer&rls=en&tbm=isch">…"]EMC Vocalmaster style heads[/] and instrument amps, but not any preamps specifically. Not something you usually heard "sounded great" about, but it was fairly durable, mid-grade, good dollar-value gear. A lot of guys around here bought it because it was regionally made. Probably not what you're talking about, but they had blue & black faceplates that's for sure.

DonnyThompson Fri, 04/04/2014 - 02:33

It wasn't a manufacturer that would have been that recognizable, Kurt.
And EMC doesn't spark a memory, Hawk.

For all I know, it was a made in someone's garage, or maybe by someone at a small shop, like Battle Electronics, or somewhere similar...Mike Battle was an inventor of audio gear and had an electronics shop in the Kenmore section of Akron, he invented the Echoplex, and he also dabbled in other audio components.

I wish I could remember. More so, I wish I still had it... that thing sounded great. It got hot enough to fry an egg on - LOL - but it sure sounded nice.

DonnyThompson Sun, 04/06/2014 - 13:53

No. The color is close though. ;)

The one we had had a small graphic EQ on it (5 band maybe) and the compressor wasn't adjustable other than a switch for ratios, IIRC they were 2:5, 3: and 6:.

It also had a switch to select between tube and solid state.

I'm thinking it's very possible that this was some kind of handmade prototype. If it was, obviously it never went past this stage, as I haven't seen one around since.

dvdhawk Sun, 04/06/2014 - 19:40

Going strictly by color, a lot of the old Altec stuff I've come across is green - but not all of it.

That's a good possibility Dave. Orban made a lot of blue gizmos, but I couldn't find anything that fit the rest of Donny's description.

Loft made blue rack mount gear, and custom consoles - but pictures are pretty scarce.

Chandler knows their way around a tube.

I don't know, I'm out of guesses.

dvdhawk Sun, 04/06/2014 - 22:34

audiokid, post: 413381, member: 1 wrote: Sounds like something Neil Young would use.

Chris, I thought about watching that cool video that gave you a nice slow first person tour of Neil's vintage goodies too. I found two outdated links to the video, which doesn't appear to be on his website anymore. Bummer, it was vintage gear heaven.

I looked through the equally cool catalog from the 2012 auction of Les Paul's vintage guitars, mics, and electronics. (wow)

[[url=http://[/URL]="http://www.preserva…"]Preservation Sound[/]="http://www.preserva…"]Preservation Sound[/] is a good place to try to jog your memory.

And when Shure signed me up they give me two big books full of Shure history back to 1925. It's full of artists, old ads, etc. Lots of info on the Vocal Master, but no add-on preamp/EQs mentioned like Donny has described.

DonnyThompson Mon, 04/07/2014 - 05:46

It was older MXR stuff.

I'm pretty sure now that this came from someone's garage or basement bench.

Like I stated, it could have been Mike Battles who did it. He was famous in this area for turning out hand-built prototype units. To my knowledge, the only one that ever took off on a mass scale was the Echoplex.
But, that didn't stop him from experimenting with other stuff. I think it was a labor of love for him. He built gear with the same passion of those that used it.

The scenario I envision is that he - or someone like him - built this thing, took it to a local music store in the hope of getting orders for more. The school came into the store, bought a PA, and the store either sold it to them or threw it into the deal because they didn't know what else to do with it.

RemyRAD Mon, 04/07/2014 - 21:15

I have a couple of those 1567's.

Those 4 track Ampex's are all using 351, electronics. With the 350 series transport.

The faceplates of both the original Ampex 350 and the later 351 look identical. Except for the meter. On the earlier, metal tube 350's, the external frame to the meter faceplate is rounded at the corners. On the 351 series, with the miniature dual triode, small glass envelope tubes, the VU meter frame had more squared off corners. That was the only visible and distinguishable way to identify the different 350 from the 351 series machines, without looking inside the electronics. I have an AG-354. Which is a stereo, early foray, all germanium transistor stereo machine. It has a modernized looking 350 transport, still with manual lifters.

Dark blue? Delta Lab, Bucket brigade, analog delay? I have a pair of EffectTron 2's, the go to an 1024's. But there were no tubes in those.

Mystery equipment
Mx. Remy Ann David

DonnyThompson Tue, 04/08/2014 - 04:49

Like I said earlier, I'm beginning to think that this was a prototype built by Mike Battles at Battles Electronics in the Kenmore section of Akron. He built lots of stuff in the 50's and 60's, though his most famous piece was the Echoplex.
His prototypes turned up all over northeast Ohio over the years... and from time to time, they still do. And, not all of it was labeled or logo'd.

Like Chris said... I smell hot solder and picture a guy like Mike, hunched over a bench in a lonely workshop at 3 am, early '60's... ;)


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