3M tape machines. I am best known for working on 3M tape machines. I have about 8 tons of spares for 3M machines and I am always interested in buying obscure parts for these machines, e.g. the Vactrols, VTL1A3. I will buy any quantity for any reasonable price! I also buy damaged machines to rob for spares. I hope to provide a full service and spares backup for these great sounding machines for the foreseeable future.
Studer tape machines. I break Studer (and Revox) machines for the same reasons. In addition, I have a full set of setting gauges for Studers. These are essential for setting up the tape path on all of the machines that Studer made. I am reccommended by Studer UK.
Otari tape machines. I have worked on MTR90 and MX80 machines and on several of the earlier machines. I have the special setting gauges and tension measuring equipment necessary for the alignment of these machines.
Other tape machines. Almost all tape machines follow patterns set by early designers, such as Ampex and EMI. I trained on these machines and so consequent designs present no problem. In addition, I have worked in the domestic ‘Hi-Fi’ field and have worked on Ferrograph, Vortexion, Philips, Grundig, Tandberg, Truvox and all of the rest of them. At one point I even specialized in the small Uher 4000 report machines that were used by journalists. Recently (the last 10 years) I have been working on the Teac 4 and 8 track machines.
EMT reverberation plates. I also have specialized in EMT 140 reverberation plates. I carry the special dual capacitors for the valve stereo amplifier and have had made a batch of the wireforms (springs) by which the plate is suspended. I also stock all of the valves. I have been known to fix the occasional EMT 240 gold foil as well!
Trident consoles. My partner in Audio Solutions Ltd. was Barry Porter. He was a genius and one of the best audio designers I ever met. Consequently, I service Trident ‘A’ range desks (designed by Barry) and have several modifications to improve RF immunity. I used to look after a TSM for 4 years and have worked on many other Tridents including Series 80 and fleximix.
Helios consoles. I had a valued friendship with Richard (Dick) Swettenham (the man who said ‘lets put an EQ on every channel’) and worked at Olympic studios for over 5 years as the Chief Engineer. I understand the concepts behind the design of the Helios recording consoles as they were derived from designs that Dick had originally made for Olympic. Consequently, I service Helios desks and can suggest modifications for them in keeping with the original design. I have also rebuilt original Olympic modules from the original studio 2 desk. These were virtually the same as the earlier Helios input modules except that they ran on –24volts instead of the more common positive supply.
Other consoles. Almost all of the older desks, such as Neve, Raindirk, Cadac, Tweed and so on, are relatively easy for me to fault-find as I grew up with them. I have worked for Cadac on their test bench and have done some development for them.
Quad amplifiers. I was the recommended service agent in London for Quad equipment for many years and have a letter of recommendation from John Walker which I have framed and it hangs upon my wall. When Quad was bought up I was no longer on the list of agents but I still service all their equipment. In particular I carry spares for Quad II, 22, 33, 303 and 50E amplifiers. I quite often have 50Es for sale and they make excellent foldback and talkback amplifiers.
Other equipment. Older equipment like Vortexion, Sound Techniques, Ferrograph, Fairchild, Teletronix, Telefunken and so on, are easy for me as I studied them whilst training at the BBC and after, and still have test equipment from that era, such as a valve tester.
I can solve any maintenance problem that you have. I have even repaired Lexicon 224 and 224X digital reverbs. If you have equipment that other engineers have failed to repair, bring it to me. If I cannot fix it, at least I will be straight with you.
2) Restoration of Vintage Equipment.
Far more than merely repair! Classic pieces of vintage equipment can be stripped down and restored to perfect working condition. Printed boards are cleaned and all components even slightly out of tolerance are replaced. Wiring that is old, damaged and possibly brittle is replaced, preferably with better quality than original. Switches and pots replaced and lost or damaged control knobs replaced. Everything tested to original specifications. I have worked on tape machines (Ampex, 3M and Studer), mixing desks (Olympic studio 1 desk, Trident ‘A’, Helios, Raindirk Series III, DDA), Microphones (Neumann and AKG) and outboard equipment (Fairchild 660 and 670, Teletronix LA2A, United Audio 1176 etc.). Not cheap, but for that valuable piece of kit: worth it. Perfection is the only compromise!
From my earliest days at the BBC I took an interest in Acoustic Design. I have read extensively and have concluded that although there are a few mysteries to acoustics, most is predictable and can be measured and problems can be corrected without resort to black magic!
As soon as the Ivie equipment was available from Bauch in the early 1980s I bought the complete set and can consequently measure the sound decay curves in your studio or control room. This is one of the more important parameters in studio design. In addition I have a computer program that will model rooms and predict the resonances. This used to take some time with a calculator and lots of paper! The other advantage this gives is the ability to search for better dimensions within the given parameters: a task that would have previously taken a considerable amount of time.
The reason for all of this is that the dimensions of rooms control their low frequency response and if the dimensions give rise to coincidental resonances, no amount of acoustic treatment will cure the problem. I can just optimize the dimensions for your room if that is what you wish. Everything else is fixable.
The service I offer is to work with your designers (if you have one) and engineers to optimize your control room and studio design with the benefit of over 40 years of experience in both the acoustic and operational areas.
Having been involved with the construction of many studios over the years I can arrange for everything in the build process from meetings with the designers (if it isn’t myself) and any architects and builders involved, to de-bugging the finished studio. With smaller projects I am no stranger to saws and planes and I have a great amount of woodworking and building equipment. I also spent my first year at the BBC training as a wireman-mechanic. In the past, on site, I have modified desk jackfields by extending them, involving precision metalwork, modified the metalwork of consoles to accommodate extra equipment such as automation etc., and even cut cableways in concrete floors with a 9 inch anglegrinder!
With the build of the studio in 21st. Street in New York, (Chelsea Studios) the process took 3 years and involved me from the beginning of the design process. I saw the project through to the end and left with the first sessions being recorded. I supervised the wiring, rebuilt the desk and several pieces of outboard equipment while helping other engineers on the site and assisting them with their areas of work. I made sure that the air-conditioning made its noise limits and that the finish of the floors, walls etc. was to the customers satisfaction I left the studio a fully equipped workshop, files containing the manuals for all of the equipment and a full wiring schedule that any subsequent engineer could follow with ease.
If you have a large project and don’t want a corporate design, then I can be your interface between the designers, architects, engineers and equipment suppliers. May people work better if there is someone who understands their business and can keep an eye on them, in a friendly helpful way of course! I can make sure that everything comes in on time and that the work is done properly. If there are problems, and even in the best designed and planned projects there probably will be things that no-one could have anticipated, I have 40 years experience and can find solutions that hopefully will not be to expensive.
When the owners of Chelsea Studios in New York were buying equipment I sat at a bench with my test equipment and checked all of the vintage equipment that was bought in. You would be amazed at how much was rejected! The cost saving was considerable.
I can make all of your wiring schedules so that you have a permanent record of the cabling; essential for speedy maintenance.
I can discuss the air conditioning requirements with your HVAC engineers and check if the specification has been met.
I have not yet come across a problem that I cannot either solve or find someone who can solve it. Even small studios can be helped by suitable control and supervision.
6) Miscellaneous problems.
EMC. (Electro-Magnetic Compatibility) This can be a problem if you use traditional electronic instruments or vintage equipment. The siting of a recording facility can be compromised if there are electrical or magnetic fields nearby. These can cause hum and clicks that can ruin an otherwise good recording. I can come with an analyzer and search coil and look for hum fields and advise upon the siting of your equipment… not too close to the power distribution, for example.
Hum Loops. Less of a problem with the latest equipment as most of it has fully balanced inputs and outputs. Vintage equipment, however, is more of a problem. Most of the inputs and many outputs are unbalanced. I have a system of de-humming a studio that I have used many times. It involves disconnecting everything from the desk and, starting with the monitoring, re-connecting one at a time and solving the problems as they arise. Certain equipment cannot be de-hummed and there I use wideband transformers which I can supply. Works every time! Some recording desks even have built in hum loops which cause external equipment to hum when connected. Simple re-wiring can correct the problem here.
Power problems. I have Dranetz mains monitoring equipment and a range of electrical test equipment. I can find everything from intermittent spikes which can damage your studio equipment and computers, to poor earths. If they are big spikes then they can be caused by poor connections at the distribution box and that can be found with a Prospective Short Circuit Current (PSCC) tester. Small spikes can usually be solved by suppressing the equipment that causes the problem such as fridges, air conditioning compressors etc. External spikes that cannot be controlled can be stopped by the K-Mart Interceptor for which I am an agent. Brownouts (sags in the long-term voltage supplied by the mains) can be solved by UPS’s (Uninterruptable Power Supplies) or Constant Voltage Transformers if the source is outside your control. Otherwise the bad connections which cause the problems must be found.
Also less known is the problem of overvoltage which can lead to shortened life of your vintage equipment. Certain Telefunken amplifiers (V72, V76 etc.) were designed to work on 220 volts and should be given their own stabilized supply.
After your equipment is installed you or your engineers may need to learn how to maintain it. For the tape machines I produce a range of ‘crib sheets’ showing, in non technical language, how to set up the machine. These are available from me at no cost. On site instruction can be arranged.