A Word about Vintage Audio Gear
I have been maintaining studio equipment for over 40 years.
My main speciality has been MCI equipment. I have always
admired their design philosophy and sonic performance. The fact
that much of this gear is still going when so much other gear less than
half the age has been delegated to the skip bin is testament to their
quality. These days in Australia at least, the high end music
recording industry is practically dead and I no longer do much work in
In this section, I am sharing some of my experiences about a few random
Some people think that vintage gear is the magic bullet needed to produce
a hit record. It's not. The song, the performance, the
production - anything but the equipment it was recorded on is what makes
it good. A good sounding recording helps.
These days, you can buy vintage consoles, tape recorders and outboard
gear for a fraction of what they once cost. On the other hand,
people pay stupid amounts of money for some revered products such as the
Urie 1176 Limiter and Neve 1073 Mic Pre/EQ module. Studio owners
have trouble selling large consoles and tape recorders for good
- I have had some owners quietly confess that they have realised that
their classic vintage console actually doesn't sound as good as their
- Large analogue consoles and tape recorders were always high
maintenance and expensive to run.
- These days when we are talking about 40+ year old equipment, it is
highly unlikely that it is performing anything like it once did.
Many parts are unobtainable. Major work such as replacing all
electrolytic capacitors is mandatory - if you don't do it, they can leak
acid, eating away circuit board tracks and eventually destroying the
equipment. Same thing with gear that has batteries soldered onto
circuit boards. Then you've got dirty switches, dirty and worn out
pots, dirty connectors and dry joints. All of this adds up to a
fortune to repair (if you can even find someone competent enough to do
the job). And you always run the risk that something vital might
fail that cannot be replaced. Buying stuff from the mid 80s/90s
is even more of a risk because as they crammed more electronics into a
smaller space, it ran hotter and the lower grade capacitors would often
fail in as little as 10 years. Some units from this era had
sealed RAM modules with internal battery backup - obviously the battery
eventually dies and even if you can replace the unit, you may never be
able to get the thing up and running again without the data (and the
company if it still exists will tell you that the product is no longer
supported). Similarly, anything that runs on a floppy, hard disk
or requires a specific external computer like an old Mac could leave you
in big trouble these days, even if the gear itself is OK.
That low purchase price might not be so attractive after all!