SH Spotlight Studio Historians - 1950's-'60's typical recording studio setup & use

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Tim S, Mar 9, 2007.

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  1. vonwegen

    vonwegen Forum Resident

    Sounds like a patented SH EQ trick... if the reverb is on the mixdown tape, that is.

    Thanks for reviving this thread, Steve. Great stuff.
  2. salleno

    salleno Forum Resident

    So. Cal.
    WHAT! I thought that was impossible to do (if the reverb is on the mixdown tape, that is.)!!
  3. JA Fant

    JA Fant Well-Known Member

    Superb photos!
  4. lukpac

    lukpac Senior Member

    Milwaukee, WI
    Didn't catch this the first time around...

    Didn't it have more to do with retaining the ability to balance the centered vocal with the backing? Obviously there's no reason why a soloist/vocalist couldn't have used a single mic which was then split between the channels. 3-track just delayed that step.

    FWIW, despite what Les has said, it wasn't designed by him. Apparently he didn't even come up with the idea. Ampex's Ross Snyder has indicated that Ampex came up with the idea, presented it to Les, then did all of the technical design.

    As far as Tom Dowd goes, I think the ability to have 8 channels of Sel-Sync was just as important as having 8 channels.

    I've been told the 3-track reductions were used for the stereo mixes but not the mono mixes. I'm not totally clear on everything, though. Things on bootleg indicate there was some tape to tape bouncing going on during some overdubs. It isn't clear how the 8-track fits into that.
  5. John DeAngelis

    John DeAngelis Senior Member

    New York, NY
    For anyone interested in recording studios and their lore, here are 2 essential books:

    "Studio Stories" by David Simons (Backbeat Books)
    "Temples Of Sound" by Jim Cogan and Willima Clark (Chronicle Books)
  6. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    Two good ones, yes but so much is left unanswered and unphotographed. In those days one just didn't take an interest in merely technical things. No glamor in it, I guess. A shame because some of the wonderful studios that used to exist have virtually have no photo documentation at all..

    By the way, stereo recordings didn't have a dedicated phantom center microphone in 1953-56 era. It was considered not to actually work which always confuses the heck out of me because it obviously does. The illusion is quite strong.
  7. Beatle Terr

    Beatle Terr Super Senior SH Forum Member Musician & Guitarist

    I have to ask since I don't have any where I could compare them but on the "Peggy Lee" CD the Latin one. I'd say you took out some of the reverb that I seem to recall hearing on her original vinyl records as my Dad was always playing them and of course since I liked them my then little ears seem to recall there being a lot of reverb on those recordings.

    Hence would I be right in believing that you did take off or out some of the reverb on those recordings from that remastered CD on AF ?
  8. kozy814

    kozy814 Forum Resident

    Outstanding thread! It's amazing to think they got all the great music from the 3 and 4 track studios of the 50's and 60's. And without the use of endless overdubs. These guys were the true artists :righton:
  9. Sneaky Pete

    Sneaky Pete Senior Member

    Great thread I don't know how I missed it before. Thanks for all the great information, links, and photos.
  10. Tim S

    Tim S Senior Member Thread Starter

    East Tennessee
    Thanks for bumping the thread and the new posts!
  11. You may need access to multis/dry session reels :shh:
  12. Grant

    Grant In holiday HELL

    United States
    Steve does it with master mixes.
  13. Interesting, what releases did he do that on?
  14. lukpac

    lukpac Senior Member

    Milwaukee, WI
  15. edb15

    edb15 Forum Resident

    new york
    There was some significant talk in the 1950s that stereo should be three channel, and Klipsch at the time demonstrated with three speakers using a synthesized center.
  16. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    That's funny because them giant horns were the worst at holding a convincing phantom center channel. Stands to reason they would argue for a middle speaker. Didn't they develop the La Scala or something just for the center?
  17. lukpac

    lukpac Senior Member

    Milwaukee, WI
    I noticed that the 300-3 in the 1963 photo of United had Sel-Sync. Would that have been an exception? It seems odd that Sel-Sync was in the United-Western studios yet all of those Beach Boys overdubs were done bouncing from tape to tape in the early days.

    On a related note, I came across some interesting Ampex literature from 1959. Here are two chapters from the 300 manual:

    Section 6: The Ampex Magnetic Head [PDF]
    Section 7: Electronic Assembly [PDF]

    There some good discussion of Sel-Sync, and while a 4-track head was available, it was special order only.

    And here's a great document that discusses stereo and multitrack recording methods:

    Technical Notes on Multi-Channel Recording [PDF]

    Discussion of 2-track stereo vs. 3-track stereo, Sel-Sync, and the 300-8 used by Les Paul and Atlantic Records. I find it interesting that 8-track is talked up somewhat ("if three channels are good, six or eight may be better"), yet Ampex did not seem interested in marketing it at the time.
  18. Perisphere

    Perisphere Forum Resident

    I think you're thinking of the Heresy.
  19. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    The Ampex 351-2P was $2,325.00 at the beginning of 1963. That is a great deal of dough. The eight track was more money than a house..

    United had SelSync, Capitol didn't but United did stuff other than straight music recording. They did radio commercials, etc. I never saw a three track reel from United that had a Sel-Sync notation on it from that era. I'm sure it wasn't used for music recording.

    The studios that had their "three track" consoles were stuck with that format unless they wanted to scrap everything after just a few years. Some started recording the mono safety on the fourth track, others (like Capitol) just stayed with good old three track recording until 1966 or so. Western went four track and eight track around the same time which makes no sense but we have to understand that most engineers did not see the need for so many channels. They mixed on the spot and saw remixing as extra work that wasn't really needed. That all changed after PEPPER.
  20. lukpac

    lukpac Senior Member

    Milwaukee, WI
    Ties in a bit to something else I found earlier:

    A lot more information, as well as photos, at the link.
  21. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    Added reverb, actually. The original tapes were recorded dry. Used one of the chambers at the Capitol Tower. Same quality of reverb just not so much of it. More of a 1953 reverb sound and level than a 1960 reverb level (if that makes any sense). The 1953 Capitol reverb balance level is just perfect in my opinion. I try to duplicate that when I add echo to dry Capitol recordings. The 1960 reverb levels are way over the top and hinder the music, especially with an intimate singer who hugs the microphone like Peggy Lee..

    In the 1950's at Capitol the "binaural" three-track recording setup was simple, so simple that one had to patch to get a left or right channel. You can hear that purity of sound on the recordings of that era. Amazing sounding. My only complaint is that they are way under miked. Sometimes the mono versions are superior in almost all ways except soundstage. All depends.
    .crystalised. likes this.
  22. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff

    Here's a video and two audio clips from a session I worked on recently that involved a restored 351-2 and 300-3: Click here.
  23. indy mike

    indy mike Forum Pest

    Heresy was designed for center fill (Klipsch was looking at work Bell Labs had done in the 30's in regards to stereo reproduction), La Scala was initially used for a Rockefeller campaign P.A. speaker.
  24. indy mike

    indy mike Forum Pest

  25. SgtMacca

    SgtMacca New Member

    This is the kind of threads I really like :edthumbs:.

    Can I request something?? I'd like to see pics and comments about 80s technology in the studios... i.e, early A/D converters, typical console desks in the 80s, monitor speakers, the first DAWs, etc.
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