Ergonomics of Classic Recording Studio Gear

Is anyone familiar with the old, analogue standards of recording studios that would have made legendary master recordings like Pink Floyd DSOTM, Mobile Fidelity, Chicago Pro Musica etc.

Relating to another thread on the design and look of audio equipment, I have a vague idea that there was a series of studio components that featured BIG, back lit, push button switches, perhaps for the transport functions of a reel to reel machine? Studer machines, perhaps?

This also comes to mind as I read threads on Red Rose music. When Mark Levinson first opened that store, he had some exotic SACD player that had a similar look and feel.

Just curious if anyone has any thoughts, information or links to pictures. Thank you.
Rent, or buy the DVD "Pink Floyd at Pompeii, the Directors Cut" Circuit City just had it on sale for $12.00. Therein you will see much of the EMI Abbey Road Studios, even Rick Wright laying down some of the piano tracks that were used on DSOTM. You will be shocked and awed at just how primitive the gear is. There are also great live performances of "Careful with that Axe, Eugene", "Saucerful of Secrets", etc. But it is the work, at EMI on DSOTM that really amazes.
Here's a link to a website featuring photos of classic 24 track recorders. Click on
the links on the left side of the page under "information" to
see photos of mic preamps, compressors, mixers etc.

Viridian is right. By today's standards DSOTM was recorded using near
primitive equipment. It just goes to show that it's the skill of the
musicians and the engineers and not the equipment that makes great

Getting warmer - yes, the Studer stuff is what I had in mind - a variety of big buttons for the transport and other functions, with some of them back lit and labeled with tiny letters.

I am not sure what you guys mean by "primitive", but the older I get, the more I am less convinced of "progress" in the audio world in the last 30 years or so, other than just a few exceptions here and there, and once in a blue moon, some decent sounding digital gear.

There is no doubt that the musicians and engineers for the records we mentioned were highly skilled, but I would also argue that the equipment had to also be amazing or those recordings would not still sound so good in 2006.

If DSOTM, from 1973, can still challenge the best audio equipment we have today in terms of complexity, low frequencies, detail, imaging, dynamic range and contrasts, spooky realism etc. then how could it be possible that it was recorded on "primitive" equipment?

One of the reasons that inspired me to write this thread was the wish that new equipment might perform, look and feel as good as the "primitive" pieces in the link you provided.

Thank you for your posts.
Huh, I don't find DSOTM challenging at all. Sonically, I find it rather thick and murky, in spite of all of the really cool musique concrete. I have four LP copies, regular Mo-Fi, British Harvest, German EMI and Japanese Pro-Use half speed. I had the UHQR on loan from a friend a couple of years back as well and I have no idea what you are talking about. None of them can hold a candle to recently recorded material for clarity, dynamics or detail. Maybe the recent CD version has something going on that my LPs lack, or maybe my system sucks. More likely, I am just going deaf.

Having reviewed a few of your threads, I have great respect for your experience, opinions and in particular, your choice of "all time greatest" speakers.

So perhaps you should have your ears checked?

Im not saying that DSOTM is the holy grail of recordings for the rest of time, but let's face it, it ain't bad and it is still used as a "reference" recording by many audiophiles.

Please do give us some suggestions for some recently recorded material that blows it away for clarity, dynamics and detail. Extra credit if the music is any good.

And it would be really interesting to know what type of equipment this newly recorded music was made on.
Primitive doesn't mean it wasn't capable of excellent sound. DSOTM was recorded on multitrack analog tape and to make edits the engineers took a razor blade to cut and splice the tape. Compared to modern digital audio workstation where you can electronically cut and paste with unlimited levels of "undo" this bit of early 70s technology is primitive.

Here's some comments from one of the engineers, Alan Parsons, regarding recording DSOTM:

The album was recorded on 16-track and effects weren't so readily achieved in those days- nearly everything was done one way or another with tape. On one of the tracks we needed a long stereo echo and that was achieved by running one of the eight-track machines at 7.5ips [inches per second] and then feeding the replay output from the first two tracks into the input of the second two tracks and so on. The album was actually mixed for quadrophonic reproduction and we had echoes coming from all corners. The effects loop on 'Money' was also mixed to move around the speakers.

There's plenty of old equipment that is highly prized today for their sound quality, but that doesn't mean the equipment is better than what's available today. The old stuff was frequently very hard to maintain, the sound changed from one recording take to another, no two pieces sounded exactly alike (a critical problem for stereo recordings) and they constantly broke down. Skilled engineer still made wonderful recordings with this equipment, but people who actually worked with the equipment on a day to day basis aren't all that romantic about the good old days.

It's not unlike motorcycles. Would you rather have a mid-50s Triumph or one of their current bikes? If you want to use the bike to ride regualarly, the answer is obvious.
Good answer! And thanks for the Triumph reference.

I understand more now, but still think the looks and the spirit of a lot of the old gear was very cool compared to what is made today. Which is why I post all these weird look, feel and ergonomic questions.

With the growing popularity of PC based audio, I think this situation will get worse before it gets better, which is another reason I am preoccupied with the topic.
I too like the reference and, in case I was not clear regarding taste, I love DSOTM. If you want to try something really great there is a bootleg that has been floating around for years under various names, but "The Screaming Abdabs" is what it is usually titled as. It is a recording of Floyd doing DSOTM live, supposedly before the album was recorded. Truly amazing stuff. They manage to throw in pretty much the whole bucket of effects, except Rick Wright keeps the keyboard sound much purer, with less processing. There is a general laxness in the time signatures that actually seems to change the meaning of the opus. Imagine, for a moment that you have been looking at the Mona Lisa all of your life, and one day you wake up and she is scowling. Paradigm bending at its best. A must have. For a boot, sound quality is excellent, apparently coming from a feed on the board, but in absolute terms, it makes "Born To Run" sound like a direct disc. As for current well recorded efforts, with good music to boot, I really like the work that Chad Kassem is doing at his Blue Heaven studios. His Analog Productions Originals series of blues musicians recorded both on tube two track and direct-to-disc are truly excellent. Chesky is doing some nice work as well on CD, the Dave's True Story stuff is excellent, as is David Johannsen and the Harry Smiths. But, truth to tell, a lot of commercially produced albums sound good today. I just bought the Sundazed LP mastering of Laura Cantrell's first album, which is clearly from digital media, and it is a stunner. Classics mastering of Norah Jones second album is also a stunner, again from a digital source. And you are correct, I am still deaf!
Regardless of what era it was made, a great sounding recording starts with four things. A talented musician, a good sounding instrument, a good sounding recording space and properly placed microphone(s). The mics and the rest of the recording equipment do not have to be very high quality. Good engineering will easily overcome the deficiencies of the equipment. One of the problems I see with how modern records are made is that they have lost touch with these four essential elements and engineers are trying to use technology to compensate. It's not the fault of the equipment, but how the equipment is being used that results in modern recordings sounding relatively bad. The equipment is only a tool.
Not sure what you mean by classic...

Some of the names mentioned in this thread, such as Chesky, Abbey Road studios, Astoria Studios (James Guthrie, Pink Floyd's sound engineer) and many others used and still use ATC speakers, many for 25 years or more (maybe this qualifies them as "vintage" gear)