Preserving the stories of significant individuals in sound recording generally and magnetic recording specifically is a major project of MOMSR. The Museum’s goal is to document the stories of those persons who contributed significant inventions, manufactured equipment and who engineered and produced audio recordings, especially in the areas of music, broadcast, film/video and science. These interviews will be available on MOMSR’s web site and in the permanent facility when it is created. These interviews have also been made available to the Audio Engineering Society (AES) and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (Grammy’s).
Ok guys, here is the final skinny....
I had a good idea that I had possibly A&M's ex Scully 284-8 deck on which all of their sessions were done on until 1971 when I saw the Holzer Audio Engineering sticker on the back. After I received the rest of the boxes from my shipment I found that I had a lot of master reel with the name Bill Aker on them: one of the famous "Wrecking Crew" musicians! Bill, as I found is still alive and well and, luckily for me, on facebook. This is what he had to say:
Hey Bill, I am not sure if you got my last message. I recently bought a Scully 284-8 deck off of Brad Sorensen and had it shipped all the way to me (in WV) from Idaho! I run an all analog studio and have been searching high and low for a Scully. Anyway, I have a bunch of tapes with your name on it and I was wondering if you want any of them back or if nothing else; could you shed a little light on the history of this machine? I am a huge enthusiast when it comes to vintage gear and I am slowly getting her up to speed so I can track on her! Anyway, I am a big fan of everything you have done and I am honored to have this machine..
Bill: Those ta[es were no longer needed after they were mixed down to the 15 IPS masters. The only one that was never mixed down was Johnny Rich's vocal on 'The Early Morning Hour' because he died in a motorcycle accident before we could produce another side. The Skully was used to record the eight trck pre-mix master of 'Gyspy Woman' by Brian Highland. Del Shannon and I recorded quite a few of the songs we wrote together on it along with a lot of other artists. When Del died the equipment was willed to me and when I retired, having no further use for it I passed it all on to my ex-son in-law..I gave him the tapes to erase and record over because the tape was so expensive and he wouldn't have to buy any. Biggest pain in the butt is keeping the 8 amplifier relays clean which required puling the amps, disassembling them, etc. There should have been a sel-sync unit with the deck and a vso unit. I gave it all away at one time. Hope you get good use out of it because sound quailty s excellent.
Me: Awesome! Thank you, yes I do have the SelSync remote and also a Quantum Audio Labs QM8 mixer with it. I have a receipt for the heads being reconditioned in 1981 to a Studio B in Burbank CA with the attention to a Jim Brown- I can't find anything on them. Also, I noticed that there was a tag for the Holzer Audio on the back, and I know that Howard Holzer was the head engineer at A&M Studios and they used a Scully from 1968 to 1971 so I wondered if it might have came from there.
Bill:In 1970, Chico Vasquez and I did a dual guitar album for A & M and Herb Alpert decided to upgrade to a 16 track after the sessions. I didn't have the room for so Del bought it and we stored it at his place in Valencia. The album was re-released in 2008 by Dominion International in London. Got a great review the second time around in Billboard. Sadly Chico died in 1995 and never got to see the re-release. One of the songs we did for the album was 'El Choclo' and two old family friends Les Paul and Chet Atkins joined us on the cut. Long story... lol
So in the end: not only was this the main multi track recorder at A&M from 68-71 but was then owned by Del Shannon then on to Bill Aken and the last session that A&M did one it had Chet Atkins and Les Paul... Um WOW!
I believe those machines that we are looking at, one is a 280-4. The other is a 284-SP14-4.
Now has to the mirror imaging of the transport... this could have been an in-house bastardization? Or it could have been an attempt by Scully, to create something akin to the Ampex 400 series transports? Those Ampex 400 transports were mirror images of the Ampex 350/351 transports. Except that the 400 series transport, pushed the tape, rather than pulling the tape. Not sure who thought that one up? As the pusher machines, word dogs. They were actually higher in flutter than, pulling the tape. I don't fully remember the reasons why, they wanted to push the tape rather than pull the tape? It's an enigma. For sure, for sure. So maybe Larry made a couple of similar one offs? Or someone took their 284-SP 14 and flipped the deck plate over? Reassembling it so that the supply side was on the right and the take-up side was on the left. Still pulling the tape and not pushing it? Or maybe not?
The Reeves photos were fabulous! That's back in the time, when recording engineers, had to be actual, real engineers. Not fake engineers like we have today. Not recording school grad engineers. But the real deal. People that actually had to know, what was inside the equipment and what made it tick. People who actually understood circuitry design. Mechanical design. Acoustical stuff. And all that of testing and aligning and maintaining the equipment. Like myself.
Many of us custom-built up our own equipment. Sometimes combining our own stuff, with parts and pieces from other commercially available equipment. Kind of like tinker toys and Legos. Only this stuff actually works. I custom designed and built our own 24 x 8 x 2 with four FX send console, in 1978. From a box of parts and pieces of parts. I also built up a 3M 8 track machine from what had been a 3M 4 track transport. Modified for one inch. Using Inovonic's, third-party electronics. Which is what ya did back in the day, when a simple two track machine would cost as much or more as a new car. And where an eight track machine could cost as much as a house. In the good old days LOL. And that's how we did it.
Even looking at those custom RCA consoles. That were custom-built by RCA engineers. You'll notice that many of them have API faders and 550 equalizers. With the 312 microphone preamps on cards. Which is a similar way to the way, I built up my custom console. That's how ya did it. That's how you would customize it for your purposes, for the studio's purposes.
It's too bad that people today don't follow that same paradigm. If ya can't buy it? Then you won't have it. And you're unable to make it, for yourself. No one can think out of the box that way, anymore. It's something they should teach, at the recording schools but they don't. They teach you what to purchase but what not to build. It's the dumbing down, of everything we see today. The total homogenization, of everything. It's so sad. Look what everyone is missing out on. They're missing out on becoming honest to God, real engineers. They just want a piece of paper that says they're real engineers. And they're not. Not by a long shot, not.
What you gain by experimenting and building your own stuff, is confidence of understanding. The need to know. The reason to learn. The passion to build and design. And not just a piece of paper. That you spent $80,000 to get. To learn how to plug in a microphone, adjust the volume control and press the record button LOL. I'll teach ya that in a one hour studio session you book with me. And since I like to blab (as everyone here well knows). You'll also learn a boatload of other stuff, they don't teach in school. As I am very happy to do descriptive based music engineering. Which is a hell of a lot different than the blind, leading the blind. Like recording schools have. Engineers that know how to Pro Tool, themselves around an automated hip-hop and rap session. We're no actual recording occurs other than the vocal. Were they teach you how to use all of those software plug-in emulations, that emulate that what you see these guys doing in those pictures. And what is an emulation but an imitation. Today we have authentic imitation recording sessions.
I know what the stories have been about the 270 series playback machines. Especially coming from an earlier participant, related to the creation of these machines. And where it was said, that an excess of 270 series transports, later became the 280. (Gasp) I really don't see how that's possible?
The 270 deck plate is not like the 280 deck plate. Though the playback card was the same playback card, that the 280 had. And there was never a factory sanction 270 recorder. But remember those pictures from the Reeves site. A lot of custom fabrication was being done, at virtually every recording facility, corporate or private. People would have new parts and modifications, professionally machine. Just like George Barris customizing cars. The cars were built at a factory. But ya couldn't buy those cars from a factory. Everything else was custom fabricated. Multiple carburetors were added. Superchargers were added. Turbochargers were added. Exhaust headers were customized. Chassis modified. Drive chains modified. All built on say a Ford, Chrysler or GMC chassis.
So the question still really remains... what came first? The chicken or the egg? The 270 or the 280? Remember, these other folks, were well retired during these reminisces. And memories have a tendency to get a little juggled up.
Personally, I believe, that both the 270 and 280, were created at the same time. One was most definitely designed simply for radio playback purposes. Machines that never would be needed to be recorded upon. While machines had to be manufactured, in which to make the tapes, to play back on these machines. And what was Scully originally known for? They were known for making RECORDING LATHES! So naturally... their first foray into magnetic tape, would have been to make another, Recorder. And not the other way around.
Of course this is through my own hypothesis and extrapolation, based upon experience and my time with Scully. Even though I was at the end of its run.
So when I die... you can be sure... I'll be hunting down Larry, to get the real story. Then I'll haunt you.
Mx. Remy Ann David
July 2, 2015
The 280 always had sync. The 284 and 288 machines also had the SyncMaster controller. The basic chassis of the electronics remained the same. But additional circuitry did have to be added. And that's your empty space that you see.
You should also know that there were two types of Scully 4 track machines. One was a simple 280, for FT-2 & 4 tracks. Then there was the 284-4 & 8. Which also included the SyncMaster. Which for music production purposes was a lot more desirable and functional. Some of those 280-4 machines, never did music production. Those were used for commercial purposes and high speed 1/2 inch duplication masters. That were used on the Electro-Sound high speed duplicators and others. Which never needed a SyncMaster. Since trying to do a punch in without a SyncMaster is a two-handed event. And has to be done on the face of the machine. And was rather awkward.
None of these Scully's that weren't designed to be used with the SyncMaster, will have automatic input/repro switching.
Otherwise they're all great.
Remy July 20, 2015
Many of us have crossed paths with Bob and Ham. Mine starting in the early 1970s.
I take issue with the concept that the mic preamp was an afterthought. Considering that their earlier competition over at Ampex, were putting microphone preamps into professional recorders, well before the Scully's. Like the Magnacord's and Presto's, RCA's, that we also used.
Now we must realize here that, when these microphone preamps were installed. They were most absolutely intended to be used. But they weren't designed for high output condenser microphones, on guitar amplifiers or screaming vocalists. They weren't designed for tight miking purposes. No. They were designed to have a nice, low output classic ribbon and/or dynamic microphones and tube condenser microphones, which needed no phantom, as it did not exist. And essentially designed to record a symphony orchestra. With the microphone a substantial distance from the orchestra, hung from the ceiling of the performance hall. They were not designed for rock 'n roll, with modern-day recording techniques.
You must understand that Bob and Ham were mostly catering to the pop music industry, more so than that of the fine arts recording industry. So there is a substantial difference there.
Now you may have been in want of API or Neve. If they had existed at that time. They didn't. Well while they did, in all actuality, exist, at that time. They were the new guys in town sound. And where the Scully's basically existed before their introduction proliferated. So you're comparing apples to an oil change on your car. And you're obviously not all that impressed with that piano recording you made. But I was very impressed, by the symphonic recordings I heard, I also made, from the studios, that recorded them.
So a pair of microphones and voilà.. You had a lovely, broadcast ready, orchestral recording, that could also be later sold as commercial recordings. And they sounded glorious. I still have some of those recordings in my possession. They played nationwide on NPR affiliate stations. No EQ, no other gobbledygook necessary. Just a little editing to tighten things up. A little leader tape. Then ready for duplication and distribution.
So depending on what you wanted to record and how?you could have beautiful sound or you could have bloated overloaded, saturated flat, sound. It's all about the gain staging of that preamp. Which is locked with and incorporated with the input volume control. Meaning, you had to know, what equipment you wanted to use. How that equipment worked. What its intended purpose was for. Before you started willy-nilly plugging stuff in. This is what real engineers that did not have the title recording, within their engineering degree, plainly understood. This is what I was taught and raised with, going back to the strictly tube days. Before these nasty sounding transistor started getting installed into professional audio equipment.
In the end, it wasn't hard to understand what Bob and Ham stood for. They wanted to sell product. They wanted to sell new product. They wanted to sell a lot of new product. In that you wouldn't want just two microphone preamps, no. You wanted 16, 24, 32 microphone preamps. And an equal amount of small program equalizers, but were not like those single channel huge thingies. So of course they would intimate the wishy-washy nature of the Scully preamps. Especially since they had none of those Scully preamps, to stick into consoles. Instead, they had these other preamps, that were on cool little cards and miniature boxes, you can stick into a frame and add as many as you want it. Of which they would be happy to sell you, lots.. And they did. Audiotechniques was awesome.
I'm also a person from Scully. Just like Ham and Bob. Using those machines for nearly 10 years, before I went to work for the company. Ampex scrambled to catch up. Jeep was making Ampex clones, in Fort Lauderdale. And 3M, the guys making the tape. They were delivering mostly their machines to military and government purposes. Then thought it might be nice to compete with those other few guys out there. For work other than tracking purposes and analog computers. The first military and government satellite data, were recorded on those 3M and Ampex machines. Scully really wasn't interested in that. He had been making record lathes for music purposes.
Someone really needs to go back and look at the history in its entirety. Before making generalizations that don't necessarily apply.
I'm not saying I'm the same kind of expert that Bob or Ham were. I'm not. But I'm not far off either. I specialized in operatic and orchestral recordings before devoting greater intensity to pop music recording. With all the fun knobs and dials and every piece of equipment you could possibly use, to make a recording with. You can see why its popularity grew with other things. So when you see a fork in the road? Take it. Either fork up will get you there.
These preamps aren't any less than any API or Neve. These type of preamps are known as simple topography preamps. Which meant, your entire op amp, was 4-6 transistors. The differences lie mostly in the configuration. Pad switches. Input level controls. Gain controls. Output level controls. Which was the compromise within the Scully's. That's really the only difference between the hard-nosed electrical engineering design concepts, well-established, early on. So the 280's didn't have those pad switches, phase inversion switches, separate level controls throughout. And phantom power that was introduced after these machines were invented. Besides, phantom power was not an American creation. These machines were all apple pie American.
So to make these preamps compare with those precious API and Neve preamps. You separate the input volume control, from the gain control over the preamp. You add additional switches.. You include different switchable metering points. And you'll see and hear they compare very nicely. Which, essentially, makes Bob and Ham incorrect, in their subjective opinions. As it does not apply across the board, to that preamp design. It's all in how you put it all together. With preamp designs, very similar to each other's.
Mx. Remy Ann David 072815
I don't know how I missed this e-mail? Sorry to take so long to get back to you.
It sounds like this may have been a transitional machine? From acquiring Scully in Bridgeport, Connecticut. To the move, to California.
It sounds like this transport may have actually come from another later Dictaphone machine? And that the original transport, may have been an early original Bridgeport transport? Which the earliest ones did not have the automatic tape lifters nor motion sensing. And that the studio that may have gotten a newer Dictaphone transport, may have married it with the earlier germanium silver faced, Bridgeport electronics? This would not be completely unusual, as I have done exactly that with my original 280.
My original 280, from Bridgeport, silver faced electronics, had the earlier transport. I had acquired a later Dictaphone transport that did not have the electronics. Whereas the later Dictaphone transport had the automatic tape lifters and motion sensing. It had also been likely used, to create masters, for high-speed cassette duplication purposes as it was a 3.75/7.5 IPS capstan motor version. So I also swapped the capstan motors to give me a 7.5/15 IPS capstan motor with the earlier silver faced, Bridgeport electronics with the germanium transistors. Making it a hybrid Bridgeport/Dictaphone 2 track machine. And you might be looking at a similar thing right now?
We all remember when Dictaphone came out with the lower noise, improved beige colored, silicon transistor version. And where tape noise and electronics noise, was a big factor for lots of folks and studios. The silicon versions were noticeably quieter and that a tighter sound. Then those of the older noisier and warmer sounding germanium transistors.
But everything has come full circle today. With the crappy edgy sound of PCM digital, everybody is now grooving on those older warmer, noisier, germanium, boutique items. Just to smooth out the sound of those nasty PCM converters. So what is old is new again.
I also think that Dictaphone had acquired all of their new old stock of equipment. So that some pieces had that combination of both new and old stock. With identification plates that indicated Scully, Bridgeport, Connecticut.
When you said that the transport has the Scully name in script. Is that also a gray plastic? Or is that the aluminum with the black crinkle paint finish? As Dictaphone used their little logo that was a little circle with a left pointing triangle emblem in the middle, made out of aluminum. That wasn't an original Scully emblem but that of Dictaphone Corporation.
Some folks didn't like the old gray plastic transport button covers. Particularly when they saw those new brushed aluminum and black crinkle paint transport button covers. Plus, occasionally, with wild goings-on in some control rooms. Some of those gray plastic covers, got cracked and broken. They didn't make those anymore so they were replaced with the Dictaphone aluminum ones.
When things like this are done, it certainly causes much confusion. Especially to enthusiastic users and collectors like yourself, when everything doesn't quite jibe as you think it should. Totally understandable.
These machines today, aren't too different, from those of classic car collectors. You might find yourself a 68 Camaro that had a straight six engine in it. The engine was pulled out and a 350 V8 installed. Looks good. Runs good. Not the engine that was originally installed.
So how is your machine doing now? Let me know?